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How to Start a Blog

A good friend of mine asked me to please send him notes on how to start blogging. I laughed because this dear friend used to give me ten tons of shit about having a blog, and so I was highly amused that he wanted to know how now. Then I was informed the info is "for a friend."

Uh huh. Suuuuuure.

Anyway, after I wrote him an email I thought it was worth reposting here. Maybe not, but I'm doing it anyway.

HOW TO START A BLOG

First, you have to put your blog posts and pictures and stuff somewhere, so you have to pick what is called a blogging platform. Plenty of them are free and awesome. No need to pay for one. There are lots of fine options. You can use Blogger.com, Typepad.com, Wordpress.com, but the one that I think is the easiest, the prettiest, the most likely to get a new blogger read and by far the hippest is Tumblr.com.

Just go to Tumblr.com. Fill out the quick three screen registration. Then it will guide you through the setting up process. You'll get to pick a category to put it in, then choose a name for the blog itself. This is pretty important. Make it unique and something people will remember. Not like, "Ashley's Musings" or anything bland like that. Then it will create a URL for the blog. It will be something like, http://mynewblog.tumblr.com.

You can pay to get rid of the tumblr part of the URL for pretty cheap by registering a domain. Tumblr makes this an option in the setting up process. That way you can have AshleysMusings.com, but for the love of God, no one should call their blog that.

Then you get to pick what it looks like. Tumblr has a buttload of themes you can pick from, half of which are free. They are very nice looking. It is fun to go and look at all the different "skins" your blog can wear. I recommend picking a theme instead of trying to design it yourself (which Tumblr allows you to do). Leave it to the pros. You can also spend like $20-$100 for a nicer theme which will be less common since, duh, it's not free. That can give a new blog a nice edge, but totally not necessary.

After that it's pretty much go time. This is the part where, after one post, people freeze. This is the part that is actually blogging.

Bloggers-blog

You have to write. Or if you're not writing you better be posting photos. Or podcasts. Point is you have to make something. This can be pretty much whatever you want. I assume if you want to start a blog you know what it is you want to publish. So, get your ass in the chair and do it. Write your first post. Tumblr will make it obvious how to do so. It's as easy as using Microsoft Word. VERY IMPORTANT: Don't get intimidated. Just write the first post and hit publish. Just get it out there. Then immediately write a better, second one. Then publish that, too.

Blogs don't have to be perfect. They are better if they are not. Publish your first draft. It's not like anyone's reading it yet anyway unless you have had some kind of ribbon cutting party where you handed out the URL on gift bags.

Then keep doing it. Then read other blogs and comment. Market your blog in whatever way you see fit. But you have to keep updating it. Regularly. That's it.

That's how you start blogging.


Nodding Furiously Over Here

...the best writers left their websites for jobs with established media companies; established media companies asked these writers—along with many who really shouldn’t be in these jobs—to make content sound blog-ish; cross-site discourse fell off, with the power to shape a conversation aggregated among sites from which so much content now flows down a hierarchy; memes and traffic-generation schemes quickly eroded what had once been innovative ideas; a shared conversational tone predominated, suggesting that certain content was supposed to sound certain ways; a once open and growing system became a series of echo chambers as writers and readers congregated in various places where they could feel good about participating with each other. Websites have grown incredibly stale as a result, and most with passable content have lost differentiating elements.

Worst of all, as these changes crept across the internet and cemented a way to do business, so to speak, they reinforced the notion that everyone can be an expert while staying at home and living life behind a series of screens. [emphasis mine]

-Family Business (read more) [via Ned Hepburn]


Hey, You Wanna Hear a Good Story?

Eve Batey and Justin Beck were very nice to ask me to talk to them about why I decided to leave social media as a career and go back to waiting tables and writing. The conversation was recorded for their media podcast Punching Down. 

Eve and Justin came all the way to me in the Mission, and Justin even brought beer. And not cheap Miller, neither. 

It only took one Day Beer to get my big mouth moving. 

You can listen to me talk Nashville is Talking, what happened after I flounced out of WKRN in a huff, how my work translated in San Francisco, how taking that job in New York was a mistake and why after a short stint in San Jose I said, "Fuck it. I'll just wait tables and write."

Hear all that stuff here.


Want Authenticity in your Brand? Take a Tiny Risk.

"Use social media to be authentic. Use social media to show you are human. Use social media to show a little personality."

These are mantras, orders, directions, suggestions, broken records heard in corporate environments 'round the world, but bosses, managers, directors, head honchos are unsure exactly how to do that. What does one mean by "be authentic"? Hasn't his hard work day in and day out been authentic? He thinks it has. He isn't wrong.

Show I am human?, she muses. I am an on-air host for a TV station. I move and talk and walk and investigate in front of cameras. How could I be any more human than I am already? It's not a stupid question. And personality? Her title is television personality. 

I think what they mean is this.

You see, The Today Show has a Tumblr. That's already a smart move. This Tumblr blog links to, among other things, videos on The Today Show website with short little quips or still images added, making it more micro-bloggy. These posts flow into Tumblr users' dashboards and Today Show videos these users would have never seen otherwise get watched. Why is that?

Because someone updating The Today Show Tumblr took a tiny risk.

Hellobeautiful
Not only did the author of this Today Show Tumblr post take a tiny risk by expressing opinion about a guest's appearance, he or she also tagged the post with the term "delish." 

That's funny. It's also brave for a morning news show. But they know that Tumblr users are not their traditional audience and by being familiar with the ways that people use that medium (by employing tags like "delish", etc.), they were able to endear themselves to an entirely different group of individuals than those who normally watch The Today Show.

The reaction was glee, lots of reblogs and plenty of heart clicking. When a Tumblr blogger jokingly asked, "OMG TODAY SHOW WHAT ARE YOU DOING," the Today Show Tumblr author didn't freak out and delete the post or apologize and backpedal. He or she responded with, "We’re just doing what you’re already thinking."

Which is honest and playful and further endearing these users to The Today Show brand, all because this author did something unexpected, a little brave and stuck by the post.

Newsweek even chimed in with "Media Tumblrs: WE ARE PEOPLE TOO!"

Which is true. Tumblr users know how Tumblrs get made. Even the ones for major television programs where the stars make many, many millions of dollars. It's one or two people, maybe a small team--maybe--deciding what to publish and how to do it and how often and how come. To pretend that the author of that Today Show Tumblr post doesn't have an opinion or a sense of humor or a mind of their own is dishonest. This is what they mean by "be authentic." It kinda just comes down to "don't lie." 

We know that is an attractive actor. They know that is an attractive actor. Saying it aloud in the right forum--one where the audience can recognize and appreciate your tiny risk--is not a danger to your company's bottom line. It just isn't. 

To the first set of mantras and orders listed at the head of this post I'd add, "Take reasoned, tiny risks." It's what people do. It's what people have to do as humans. In this way your company can be more like the people it aims to reach. And the payoff can be tremendous.


Blogger is not a bad word. Don't let journalists convince you otherwise.

Last night I went to this event for local bloggers called Swagapalooza. It was specifically for bloggers. I introduced myself to a guy in a blazer while my friend Brock ran to get more taquitos. We exchanged names, I sipped my vodka and soda and asked, "Are you a blogger?"

His reply? "For lack of a better word."

Immediately, this guy made my shit list with a bullet.

"Actually, I am a journalist," he said with a straight face.

"Journalists can be bloggers and bloggers can be journalists," I told him, instead of punching him in the mouth.

"Not really," he countered. "You see, journalists report facts, and bloggers write opinion."

I sipped again my vodka and soda.

"Plenty of bloggers report without adding opinion, and film critics and columnists--journalists--write mainly opinion," I countered.

Soon after, Brock returned, and I told him about my conversation.

"Now I'm pissed," he said.

Brock is a professional blogger who excels at both reporting and opinion. He and other people who blog as a career have every reason to be pissed.

Blogger is not a bad word. Don't let journalists convince you otherwise.


A Long Rambling Post about the "Going Dark" of Nashville is Talking

There was once a blogger meet-up in Nashville in early 2005. I had never been to a blogger meet-up before in my life, even though I had been blogging for around six years. It was at Jackson's in Hillsboro Village. I remember sitting in my car, in the driver's seat in the parking lot of Jackson's, scared to death to get out. Strangers were in there. Strangers scared me. But I somehow managed to pop the handle, squeeze out of the car and walk inside.

Once my legs managed to make their way to the event, things were fine. Relaxed. I chatted with people I'd read before, and nibbled nachos and drank vodka tonics.

The event was hosted by WKRN, the ABC affiliate station. They bought those nachos.

Blake & Tim

I stood around talking to Tim Morgan and the Saucy Librarian when a suit from WKRN handed me his card. He seemed very, very interested in what I wrote about in a way that was different from everyone else. When we finished our chat and he told me to call him I assumed he was hitting on me. I stuck his card in my purse, and forgot about it.

The Saucy Librarian blogger wrote me not long later to say that WKRN has asked her if she was interested in blogging for the station. Since she liked her Saucy Librarian job she wasn't, but she suggested that I might like to. I was waiting tables and freelancing and looking for full-time work. I remember the TV man who handed me his card, and winced. He wasn't hitting on me...he was recruiting.

Mike & Kerry

The next thing I knew I was in Mike Sechrist's office on Murfreesboro Road talking about how I "had my finger on the pulse of the internet" (oh my god) and how I didn't think the web was for making money. Hahaha. I'm surprised he didn't show me out right then, but instead he smiled, nodded and said, "Well, we're going to try to make some money."

I don't think we ever did. Nashville is Talking, the website I was hired to write after that meet-up at Jackson's, never did pay for itself to my knowledge. In fact, some would say that WKRN cost themselves a whole lot in terms of risk by running Nashville is Talking at all.

Day 36: Project 365

Why is that? Well, because while I had a journalism degree and published clips, I had never worked in a newsroom in my life. And Sechrist gave me free reign. I was allowed to use first person, be loudly opinionated and to stir shit up. Countless phone calls and letters and emails streamed into the station in the time that I was there, many of them calling for me to be fired. One person repeatedly came to the station seeking my termination.

The journalists who had spent years trying in earnest to remain neutral and without opinion were kind to me. They were obviously shocked, and many you could tell disagreed with much of what I wrote, but they were nice. That doesn't mean that there weren't plenty of overheard whispers, and to tell you the truth, I felt very isolated in that job, because while I had co-workers, I didn't have any colleagues to speak of.

Day 2: Project365

It was exhilarating doing something so new and "cutting edge." I was happier than a pig in shit to be reading all day long the profound essays from locals that regularly made me cackle with glee or tear up in sympathy. I loved blogging, and then I got to get paid to do it. I think I let some of that go to my head, and I was more arrogant than I should have been.

Before the WKRN job I had no idea that Tennessee was so filled to the top with political blogs. Holy crap, is that state opinionated about politics. Suddenly I was reading right-wing blogs with some really extremist views, but I think I can safely say those people thought my views (not everyone at Gitmo is a guilty terrorist, pro-choice, etc.) were just as out there and abhorent. Suddenly I was communicating with conservative bloggers who weren't just guys with strong views, but some that were entrenched in the GOP. I had never blogged about politics prior to the NiT gig, and it showed. I was divisive in what I linked to, dismissive in my commentary and unwilling to change my mind very often. It was a product of being young and green and too often driven by emotion. But it brought the readers in in droves.

Shauna & Pea

Turns out people liked the combat, to some extent. Controversy and adversarial comments make for great reading. Who knew? Well, I did. But there were costs associated with it, too.

I remember spending one Christmas unable to breathe because of threats to my job that came after a post had displeased some people. I remember being called fat. And stupid. And in bed with terrorists. Every time there was a new comment, I would hold my breath. Some of them got really vicious. But, I brought many of them on myself.

But when it wasn't awful, it was wonderful. I remember discovering Aunt B's blog, and I nearly passed out from the awesomeness. Then Kleinheider made me consider conservatism in a whole new way, with found facts and quotes from rappers making his stuff compelling and unique. I hesitate to start naming the bloggers who awed and inspired me, because they are too numerous to remember them all.

group shot 3

It was always about the bloggers. They were the reason why Nashville is Talking got the buzz that it did. Sure, Sechrist and Terry Heaton were ahead of the game in coming up with the NiT concept, but it is because they knew that there was so much talent around us going untapped that they were fools to ignore it. Astute observations, neighborhood reporting, hilarious essays, gripping tales of parenthood--it was a tapestry of all kinds of writing, but all of it came from one location. There was power in that. There were suddenly sparks being made and connections being forged that exist to this day, stronger than they have ever been.

rex & a.c.

I don't know how to talk about the end of NiT without talking about it from my perspective. I could do some bullet point post about how I think NiT changed the landscape of media in Nashville or round up links to all the coverage on Editor & Publisher or make grand proclamations about what is to come, but I think that is best left to the Social Media Gurus. For me it was a daily enterprise, an uncharted path that took some serious blazing, resulting in many cuts and bruises as I hacked away as best I could. I didn't know what I was doing--only a little--but Sechrist trusted my voice and the voice of the people in Nashville, and that hands-off approach birthed something strange and beautiful. And temporary, it turns out.

I didn't write Nashville is Talking from an arm's length away. I cared about these people's children's broken bones. I cried when their mothers died. I giggled along with their stories every morning and screamed at the monitor when I disagreed. I was into Nashville is Talking as deep as you could be in it. And maybe that was why the end of my tenure there ended in such a terrible way.

Megan Made Me A Painting

The comments mattered. The slings and arrows didn't bounce off, they were buried deep, and they added up to too much in the end. Perhaps had I kept my distance it would have ended for me differently, but I don't think the fire of NiT would have been stoked had I done that. And besides, I did it the only way I knew how.

I will always think of my opportunity to run Nashville as Talking as a little miracle in my life. It changed the course of it, for sure. I am now in a city I would have never lived in had I not taken that job. I wouldn't know half the people I do. I wouldn't have this special experience under my belt that changed things and people, more important than any headline it might have generated.

Jon, Kat and Kay

I am passionate about publishing on the web. News is secondary. To me, the magic lies in the ability of any person who can find access to a computer to have the opportunity to be heard like never before. That still blows my mind. And to be able to work to highlight and promote those people? I am a lucky girl.

I write this today, because Nashville is Talking is going dark. The current GM at WKRN, who is not Mike Sechrist, calls the site a "quaint reminder." Maybe for many people that is what it is.

For me it was a life changer.

Others on Nashville is Talking's finale:

random mublings - On Friday, the Talk stops

for lack of a better word - RIP NiT.

Pith in the Wind - Nashville Is Talking No Longer

Cup of Joe Powell - Farewell, Nashville Is Talking

Terry Heaton - “Nashville is Talking” to close

Newscoma - Nashville Is Talking R.I.P.