Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Erica Reitman's 11 blogging tools

Useful stuff from a thoroughly entertaining webinar with Erica Reitman during a recent MediaBistro Social Media Marketing Bootcamp. (Good course. You should take it.)

Uber blogger Erica Reitman says the key to successful blogging is having the right tools. She is the founder and owner of the highly successful blog, Her blog gets over 500,000 page views per day. She employs 14 writers, and one managing editor.

The tools Reitman uses, ranked in order of importance:

1) Skitch
Skitch is a screengrab and lightweight photo editing software. Skitch is a Mac and Android tool. Use Skitch to make your photos fun and interesting. Reitman is obsessive about using an image in every blog post. (TL Note: TechSmith's' Jing is a roughly equivalent tool for the pc.)

2) Evernote
She says she uses Evernote to organize her life. It is like an "online notebook on crack." You can tag stuff as you capture it online. In addition to capturing online notes as you surf the web, you can use Evernote to:
- store scanned copies of driver license and passport.
- store passwords
- collect story ideas, information for blog posts
- brainstorm future projects
- links for useful tools.
With a $5 account you can share notebooks with other Evernote users.

(TL Note: I think the Evernote Essentials book is required reading. You can install and use Evernote instantly, but to get the most out of it, I suggest you plan on setting aside a day or two learn how to use Evernote. Later, you might decide to start using some of the cool programs and tools that work with Evernote.)

3) Pinterest
An addictive visual notebook. Reitman says it is a cross between a photo album and notebook. Space to save ideas. Also a social network. Good for lifestyle blogging. Save images for blog posts, image search tool. Social network for lifestyle focused folks. Images inspire post ideas.
(She says she is "a super fascist about including a picture with EVERY SINGLE POST".)
Reitman likes Pinterest as a place to search because the photos are curated. It's also a good way to discover neat blogs and people.

4) Outbrain
Outbrain is a tool for publishers and marketers that ensures none of your site's content is dead RIP. When you publish a lot of content, valuable content can disappear into the "old" category and never be seen again. Outbrain reposts "old" content on the front page of your blog. Site visitors have access to content even after it has cycled off page. All posts link back to other related posts on blog. You can make $$$ off Outbrain by selling ad space.

5) Zinio
Zinio is a Mobile reading app for magazines (ipad, iphone and online.) Reitman likes to keep all her magazines on her ipad. You can transfer your existing magazine subscriptions to zinio and have your magazines with you at all times.

6) Morguefile
Free photos by creatives for creatives.

You can use these images on your blog without permission or attribution. Morguefile is a public image archive by creatives for creatives. When you use Morgue file you can stop worrying about photo credits.

7) Flickr pool is a way to let your readers, friends or family take photos for you. Then you sit back and relax. You can start a group (pool) around any topic you want.

8) Disqus (prounounced discuss)
Social media commenting system. Add photos, etc. across social media. Disqus helps you build a community on your site. Strangers don’t see all your comments. (Do I need a Disqus account to use or view the disqus home page? See the Wikipedia page for disqus details.)

9) ISocketLinkSelf-service tool for selling ads on your site. Easy way for bloggers to sell ads. With Isocket you can manage your own ad sales. You can set up a self service area for people to set up their own ads and check stats, etc. The system is super easy from a blog publisher's standpoint. A good way to get exposed to people who want to buy ad space on your site.

10) Kapost
“A way to manage content when you have more than one writers on your blog.” When you have several people working on columns and stories on your blog, managing all this quickly becomes a second job. Kapost is an "online newsroom for web publishing that handles everything from pitches to payment."

11) Editorial calendar.
An editorial calendar can be a simple as an excel spreadsheet. On the calendar, mark the days and times when you intend to publish. Reitman says you must have an editorial calendar for your blog. The goal is to make sure that you post at regular times . The calendar gets more important the bigger you get.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Portable MFA in Creative Writing - excellent eBook

The eBook version of the New York Writers Workshop's Portable MFA in Creative Writing is (no longer free) on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble. H/T to Jason Boog at GalleyCat.

The Portable MFA in Creative Writing is a remarkable book. It contains excellent, practical advice on plotting and writing your novel.

The introduction honestly describes most creative writing programs, and why they come up wanting. I've attended dozens of creative writing classes so I know a tiny bit about this world.

If you want an MFA's worth of knowledge in writing and you don't have $50,000 and a couple years to attend university, this book is for you.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Interactive story app -- walking tour of Paris

This clever iPhone app takes you on a walking tour of Paris. Using an app to tell a story is a challenging and potentially game-changing option for writers. Become a backer, and for a few dollars you can follow the progress of the project and learn how it's done.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Recipe for viral video

From Kevin Allocca presentation:

Recipe for viral videos (if there is such a thing as a recipe). All the really viral videos have these qualities.

1. Entertaining
2. Engaging
3. Effectively leveraged
(leveraged means you need to work--apply elbow grease--to get it out to people. this would include keywords, platform, optimization, etc.)
4. Non-oppressive

Viral within a subculture

Videos can go viral in a specific location (Austin, Tx) or subculture (gaming). Here are two community and subculture related viral videos that did well in June- July 2011 as discussed in a Kevin Allocca presentation.

PS: I really liked Don't Talk!

1. Don't Talk. (Movie culture)

2. Ocarina of Time. (Gaming culture)

Top trending video ads from 2011

Three most successful videos put out by a brand so far in 2011 as of August. All funny, engaging, interesting, topical, and subtle. They actually had a global audience. You don't have to speak English to understand these ads.

1. The Force Volkswagen commercial.

2. T Mobile Royal Wedding

3. Unbelievable David Beckham

YouTube Insight

YouTube Insight is a reporting tool you can use to find out who is viewing your videos, when they are viewing them, and where they are viewing them.

How videos go viral

The man ways Videos accrue (get huge viewer numbers). Notes from a presentation by Kevin Allocca of YouTube.

1. Embed
The video gets embedded in many places. Optimize your video for embedding, including multiple resolutions and sizes.

2. Searches on You Tube.
YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Optimize your video for search. Properly identify your video and select keywords.

3. Sharing
People share video on all social media platforms. When you script a video, think about how to make it easy to share.

4. Related/surfing
People click on the "related" videos on the side of the screen as they surf YouTube videos. Keywords you choose are hugely important for this.

5. Subscribers.
If someone with a large number of subscribers feature your video, you get strong exposure.
To get an idea of how important this is, consider that Ray William Johnson has had more than a billion views! He puts up a lot of videos, and he works hard to promote his channel.

6. Paid Promotion
Straight up promotion where you buy search placement for your video.

You Tube Memes over the years

You Tube Trends -- a tool to track videos

You Tube Trends is a constantly updated and human-edited website that tells you what is trending (going viral) now.

The You Tube Trends website describes itself this way...

"YouTube Trends, is a destination for daily insight into the zeitgeist of the world's largest video site.

"The idea for YouTube Trends started with our desire to find new ways of identifying the viral and newsworthy content people love to share and packaging it in an easy to digest format. With over 35 hours of video now uploaded to YouTube every minute, we wanted one place to distill the videos people were sharing and discussing with their friends as well as understand what YouTube could teach us about our culture and current events."

Cinch for easy podcasts

Cinch is an easy way to create interactive audio podcasts from your phone.

Cinch is essentially an audio twitter. There are Cinch iPhone and Android apps. You can take a photo or type text and attach your audio to it, and post the resulting photo/text/audio on your Facebook page.

Robert Scoble uses Cinch very effectively, here.

Dell Laptop lessons

I have two Dell laptops. A newer Vostro 3500 for daily work, and an old Vostro 1000 as a backup. Both of them died last month, right in the middle of an online course.

Lessons learned:

1. Dell power adapters die often. Keep a spare on hand.
2. Dell power adapters come in two flavors, 65 watt and 90 watt. Upgrade all adapters to 90 watt versions.
3. Lithium batteries in backup laptops need to be charged regularly.
4. The cells in multi-cell lithium batteries can short out. If a Dell laptop boots up and says "Cannot charge this battery" or "Cannot identify this battery" there's a good chance that the battery has failed. Best option is to remove the battery and run the battery-less laptop from a 90 watt adapter while you wait for a new battery to arrive.
5. Carbonite automatic online backup works. It lets you retrieve your files when your computer dies.

Links for Social and Viral Video

Articles on social and viral video, from the MediaBistro social media marketing boot camp.

I really urge you to watch all the videos at these links--even if you are not interested in making a viral video. Many of them are simply wonderful.

If you ARE interested in making a viral video, they are "essential reading."