Thursday, August 22, 2013

12 blogging tools from Erica Reitman (re-posted Aug. 2013)

Erica Reitman is the founder and owner of the blog Fucked in Park Slope. She started her blog from scratch, posting irreverent comments about her Brooklyn neighborhood. Fucked In Park Slope now gets 500,000 page views a day and employs 14 writers and a full time managing editor.

This list is taken from notes I made during a talk Reitman gave to a social media marketing boot camp I attended last year.

Reitman says the first thing to understand about blogging is that it is a huge time-sink. One of the keys to coping with the work load is having the right tools. She recommended these:

1) Skitch
A screengrab and lightweight picture editing program. Use it to do quick edits (crop, add callouts, etc) to make photos fun and interesting. Mac only. For the PC she suggested Jing.

2) Evernote
Evernote is a powerful online notebook for everything you find online. You can tag stuff as you capture it. She uses it to keep story ideas, information for the blog, and links to useful tools. With a $5 Premium account you can share notebooks with others. (Highly recommended.)

3) Pinterest
A visual notebook. Pinterest is a cross between photo album and notebook. It is a great space to save ideas. It is also a social network. She uses it to save images for blog posts, and as an image search tool. When she needs a quick idea for a post on her blog, she browses the images for inspiration. Pinterest is a good place to
search for images because the photos are curated. It is also a good way to discover neat blogs and people.

4) Morgue file
A source of royalty and credit free photos you can use on your blog.Moguefile is a public image archive "by creatives, for creatives." Reitman says she is a "super fascist" about having a picture with EVERY SINGLE POST. So... I went to morguefile, searched for "Brooklyn diner" and found this attractive image.

(Morguefile also has a "paid" side to their website where for a small fee you can buy rights to even more images. And if you are going to publish the photo for money, check the rights.)

5) Flickr pool
Once you build a following on your blog, you can ask your readers take photos and post them in a Flikr pool. You can start a group (pool) around any topic you want. Fliker pool can also be a good source of royalty free images.

6) Disqus (prounounced discuss)
A social media commenting system. People can add photos, text, etc. Discus helps you build a community on your blog site. Strangers who are passing by cannot see the comments.

7) An editorial calendar
Reitman said "You must have an editorial calendar!" On the calendar write a schedule of what you plan to post, and when. The calendar gets more important the bigger you get.

8) SMO Books
Nifty little pocket-size log books with a few concise how-to pages in each book. They help keep you on track for making regular and effective blog posts. (SMO books were suggested by one of the class members.)

9) Kapost
Kapost is a way to manage content when you have more than one writer on your blog. When you have several people working on columns and stories, managing everything quickly becomes a second job.
Update: 8/24/2013. A friend who is starting an online magazine tells me that Kapost is a heavyweight product (Reitman's blog gets over 500,000 hits a day) and minimum service is $1200 a month. My friend chose Binfire instead, which is suitable for  her website, at $30 a month.

10) isocket
An easy way to sell ads on your site. Allows you to manage your own ad sales. With isocket you can set up a self-service area on your blog for people to set up their own ads and check stats, etc. The system is super easy from a publisher standpoint. Good way to get exposed to people who want to buy ad space on your site.

11) Outbrain
Outbrain is a tool that ensures none of your site's content is dead. All posts link back to other related posts on blog. Site visitors have access to content even after it has cycled off page. (Outbrain has tools to increase revenue, but I have not used them. -tl)

12) Zinio
Keeping up with your reading is important, and Zinio can help. Zinio is a mobile reading app so you can read all your magazines online. Transfer all your existing subscriptions to Zinio and you have your magazines with you at all times. Works with iPad, iPhone, Android, Mac & PC.

Topics vs ideas -- from "Follow the Story"

When you have to use the word "about"  to describe your idea--for a book, film or story--you are in trouble.
Image of James B. Stewart
On page 28 of his excellent book on how to write nonfiction, "Follow the Story," James B. Stewart describes the difference between a topic and an idea:

 "...a topic is not an idea. I have had to make this point to students and writers on countless occasions. Topics are inherently boring, because they pose no questions and incite no curiosity. They are like encyclopedia entries; interesting only if it happens to be what you want to look up. "Women in law" is a topic. "Welfare cheats" is a topic. "South Africa" is a topic. Reporters would come to me with the most earnest demeanors and say something like "I want to do a story about how oil companies are causing explosions at natural gas facilities."  When I stifled a yawn, their outrage would be apparent: "How can you not care about something so important?" The answer was simple: anytime someone had to use the word "about" I knew we were discussing a topic, not a story. I would urge the reporter to come back with something more specific: What company? What explosion? Some topics are more interesting than others, but they should never be mistaken for ideas."