Posts Tagged ‘writing’

How NOT to attract traffic to your blog

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Log in to your blog. Wait for the statistical figure to show. Fingers crossed—wish Total Views number surprisingly skyrocketed. “What the hell is wrong with people? Why don’t they read what I write?” You wonder.


Yong checking his blog view statistics

Almost all rookie bloggers fit into the profile I just described. Don’t feel ashamed if you are one of them, even if you are already a veteran blogger.

It is human nature to be noticed, cared, praised or criticized, and liked or hated. Your blog is part of you. It wants spotlight as well.

Basically, every blog is important to at least 5 people: your father, your mother, your husband/wife, your kid, and of course, yourself.

But you want more people to read what you write up there, make their comments, or just leave a smiling face like :-).

How to generate traffic

So you learn to write online, fighting some old habits of so-called “good writing” in the traditional sense.

Thanks to David and Paul, two funny lecturers who specialize in online journalism, I now have some golden rules for online writing, including blogging.

  • Write for Google search engine (SEO).
    Over 40% of all traffic to a site comes from Google search. This doesn’t include those who first know your site through Google but later visit your site by typing the URL or clicking your URL address in their bookmark.
  • Key words for headlines
    and less than 60 characters. Jacob Nielson acclaimed BBC News for having the best headlines
  • Keep sentences short and simple.
  • One idea per paragraph and keep paragraph short.
    Why? Because it’s easier for online readers to scan. (I know there are two ideas in the above line. No need to remind me.)
  • Use sub-headings after 5-6 paragraphs.
  • Use list or bulletin points.
  • Cut, cut, cut and cut again.
    or, shall I say cut just once and cut the other three cuts?

Dailyblogtips gives 30 traffic generation tips. I would suggest Jacob Nielson’s Writing for the web before worrying about the number of your blog visitors.

How NOT to generate traffic

It’s always easier said than done. And persistence requires even stronger mind.

I could have finished piling up what I want to say in a lump within 15-20 minutes, but one hour later, I’m still here writing because I’m trying to follow those golden rules.

Back to the headline of this blog, how not to generate traffic, or how to lose traffic, the answer is very simple: Do not follow any online writing rules.

You can tell I’m kidding, right?

Well, I noticed some habits, or “mistakes” over the past few months that might cause bloggers to lose readers.

  • Write about things of not much “value”
    You can write about your own life, but unless you are a celebrity like Opera Winfrey or Brad Pitt, you should not expect people to be interested in your blog.

    Jonathan Morrow from Coypblogger wrote a touching story On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting for Your Ideas that best makes clear this point.

  • Force” readers to visit your site
    Many people now read in RSS readers such as Google Reader or Blogline. Some set their feed export to “abstract” or “headline” instead of “full text”.

    What makes you so confident that you write better headlines than BBC News or irresistible first paragraph (with a few more lines, usually considered “abstract”) so that people would click on the feed and go to your site?

    Most probably, they will just never bother checking your feed or simply cancel their subscription of your feed.

  • Bolden sub-headings
    Sub-headings not only function as road signs all the way down your post, but also gives tags to Google search.

    If you just bolden the sub-headings, they are actually still body texts put in that <p> tag.

    You have to set them into Heading 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 according to your blog layout. Headline 1 is usually reserved for THE headline. This gives a <h> tag that Google spider catches.The Headline block usually is located in the style tool bar, next to other layout buttons such B (bold), I (italic), U(underline), etc.

  • Update blogs irregularly
    “Sorry, I’ve been busy these days so I didn’t update.”People don’t care about your schedule.

    If they come to your site on day 1, and see no new blog, then on day 2, still nothing, then there is a slight chance they might still come on day 3, but if then they still see no updated blog, they might never come back.

    And on day 4, you feel like writing, and you publish 3 blog posts, or 4, or even 5, but sorry, the gone readers are gone. They are not coming back.

All in all, blogging is about quantity, but more about quality;
it’s about talking to yourself, but more about interacting with others;
it’s about following hot topics, but more about offering original idea; and
it’s about finishing assignment for the Online Journalism module, but more about polishing your writing and getting prepared for a journalism career.


Hope and fear, the world of Murielle

November 30, 2009 3 comments

A Chilean girl dreamt of becoming a poet grew up as a journalist who went undercover to reveal a gang of pimps in Concepcion, the second largest city in Chili. She almost got herself raped. “I try to keep fears to myself; I won’t do things like this again,” said Murielle Gonzalez Oisel.

After 8 years as a Chilean magazine journalist, Murielle is now studying in London for a master degree of Journalism. She is proud of herself having the guts to come to a foreign country where everything is new to her.

“My biggest fear is failing the course and not getting my diploma,” she said. But the same woman has the courage to fight against crimes.

A fearless warrior

In 2007, Murielle worked on a story about a pimp gang recruiting countryside girls to work as prostitutes in Concepcion. She went undercover for three weeks and successfully published her investigation in NOS magazine she worked for.

“I got myself into trouble, and the situation was so dangerous,” the fear at that very moment seemed to strike her again before she continued, “I won’t do things like this unless there are more protection measures.”

Despite the great courage she demonstrated in work, Murielle said she didn’t like challenges in general.

A strong woman

She was a distinguished student and everything worked fine for her, but she somehow got lost after she left college and started her career.

“I used to live in a bubble when I was a student, but the real world is quite different,” Murielle said, “I made many stupid mistakes, and I was afraid sometimes.”

She is not the kind of person who talks to people about her problems. “I put fears inside myself, and I want to be strong outside, now matter how fearful I am,” said Murielle.

Hope and fear

But she used to have somebody to talk to.

“When I was afraid, I used to talk to my mom, but she died in 2001,” she looked up for a moment to keep tears from dropping.

“Now I can talk to my boyfriend. He is willing to do everything for me, even giving up his well-paid job in London and move to Chili with me, if I can’t find a job here after graduation,” Murielle smiled.

Hope and fear. This is the world in Murielle’s eyes. This is also why she likes this verse in Whiteman’s poem: “Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done.”

Rewrite: Southern Weekly’s interview with US president

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Southern Weekly did an exclusive interview with US president Barack Obama during his visit in China last week.

The newspaper editor-in-chief and one of its senior journalists conducted the interview and the 6 questions they asked are:

  • Favorite part about visiting China
  • Whether have spare time to play basketball
  • China-America cooperation in Asia-pacific region
  • Timetable to acknowledge China’s market economic status
  • US restrictions on high-tech export to China
  • Policy on not restraining China’s rise

Sensitive issues such as China’s human rights, freedom of speech, internet blockage, etc. were not raised, or at least, not published.

According to Xing Lieshan, one of the newspaper’s senior editors, the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China was angry about the interview and instructed that no other media or websites should republish the interview.

One reason is that the department was not informed before the interview, the other reason is that the department was not happy about certain issues talked about in the interview.

Mr. Xing explained that interviews with visiting leaders were usually conducted by Xinhua News Agency or CCTV (China Central TV), the two most loyal mouthpieces of the Communist Party, but this time, Mr. Obama handpicked Southern Weekly, probably because of its reputation for speaking for the people and exposing government scandals.

He said the Publicity Dept. is an organization of the Party, and it’s inappropriate for the US side to raise interview request with them; instead, the US delivered request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was not the newspaper’s fault that the communication between the ministry and the department broke up.

As for those sensitive topics, the newspaper was left with no choice but cutting them out before publishing. Everything happened at such a short notice that they had to leave half of the paper in blank.

However, the newspaper is very clever. They put two lines  in the centre of the blank implying China’s censorship. It says:

No everyone can become a big shot, but all can understand China right here.

PS: This is a revised version of the last post. I tried to apply general writing rules and also online writing rules. Which one do you think is better?

Writing tools: 50 essential strategies for every writer

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Writing tools: 50 essential tools for every writer, as the title indicates, is a handy tool book written by Roy Peter Clark.

Roy is vice president and senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, an esteemed school for journalists and teachers of journalists.

Full texts of all handy tools were originally published as blog posts on Poynter website.

When Roy decided to publish them as a book, all posts were shortened to abstract. Nevertheless, you can still read a quick list of these tools, and even download podcasts of some of them. Here’s a few of the tools:

  • Begin sentences with subjects and verbs.
  • Activate your verbs.
  • Fear not the long sentences.
  • Cut big, then small.
  • Get the name of dog.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • Write toward an ending.

I’ve read all these tools years ago when there were on the web, but sadly, I failed to practice them since then.

I read them, but I didn’t own them. As the last writing tool says: “own the tools of your craft”, I have to use them whenever I write; otherwise, I won’t be able to make them my own.

So, I bought a copy yesterday for £5.82. In 2 days time, it will arrive. Can’t wait to read the book.

This is the “Lead” I’m talking about

November 6, 2009 Leave a comment

According to Melvin Mencher, author of News reporting and writing, there are two kinds of leads: direct and delayed.

Direct lead usually presents who did what at when, and sometimes where. This applies to most hard news stories.

Delayed lead usually buries the key theme of a story somewhere in the body texts (though not very down, usually in the second or third parapraph). The purpose of the lead is to attract readers to find out what actually happened. This often applies to feature stories.

There are two examples I liked so much, both of which were written by Edna Buchanan, a Pulitzer Prize-winner from The Miami Herald.

The first story was about a man with prison history named Gary Robinson. One day, he went to fried-chicken outlet and wanted to jump the line, but he was persuaded to stay in line. When his turn came, he found that the fried chicken  he wanted were sold out. What happened next was that he assaulted the woman at the counter, and a security guard shot him. Buchanan’s lead was:

Gary Robinson died hungry.

The second story was about a drug smuggler who died from broken cocaine-filled condoms he swallowed.  The lead was:

His last meal was worth $30,000 and it killed him.

Random thoughts on blogging

November 4, 2009 4 comments

Suddenly got stuck on the blogging way after meeting Gordon Brown. Couldn’t think of anything to write about.

What’s the problem? I guess the reason is that I still haven’t decided the theme of this blog. I tried to focus on news, but I definitely did not want to be so niched.

Now I see why it’s hard to keep blogging about one thing. All that requires is persistence, above everything and anything else.

Shall I continue focusing on my learning of news writing and report, here in this blog?

Tags: , , ,

Learn from BBC news

October 30, 2009 Leave a comment

On Wednesday 28 October, an explosion in a crowded market in Peshawar in Pakistan killed over 90 people and injured more. BBC journalist Orla Guerin reported the story, and below is what I observed and learned from this video clip.

  1. The warning text at the beginning served two purposes: one was to alert people about coming “graphic images”, and the other  was to, most probably unintentionally, lure people to keep on watching. It is human’s nature to be curious about uncommon phenomena.
  2. The journalist didn’t waste words on elaborating the images. Images themselves told the story, such as ruins, smoke, flames, injured people, shouting, running, and so on.
    The first line “Chaos and carnage returned to Peshawa, shops ablaze and lives destroyed.” set the best footage for the chaotic scene. The journalist didn’t describe what was there in the images; instead, she provided information that images couldn’t tell, e.g. location of the explosion, a burning shop that had already been ruined.
  3. Sentences were loosely connected. That pause left time for images and sound that dragged audiences into the story by providing on-site experiences.
  4. “Locals tried to find survivors, then this.”–destroyed buildings collapsed. This was the power of images. In newspaper, all you could say was “As locals tried to find survivors, destroyed buildings suddenly collapsed, roaring dust chasing people who sprinted for lives.” Well, newspaper journalists undoubtedly could tell the scene a thousand times better than I did, but they still couldn’t defeat the live images. This was  a big moment. Lucky for the journalist, though disastrous for the suffering people.
  5. When it came to Hillary’s press conference, it was obviously post-production work. Even the size of the images were different. I guess Hillary’s images were from news agencies.
  6. No interviews. People were busying saving lives. The journalist could have someone before the camera to express their sadness and anger, but that would be inappropriate. Maybe she did, maybe not. I don’t know. This was an issue of ethics.
  7. Piece-to-camera on the top of a fire truck. That’s the privilege you get when you work for an influential media organization.
  8. Altogether there were about 18 shots. They came in various formats: fixed camera images (11, symbolised with – ), tilt down(2, + ), pan(2, & ), and track (3, * ). These different formats, together with various time allocated for every shot, provided a comfortable watching experience. Using above stated symbols, the clip was presented in the following way: – – – + – & * – – + & – – * * – – –
  9. Hillary’s soundbite was 15 seconds long, and the journalist’s ptc 20 seconds. Typical standard.
  10. The journalist used plain words, even for verbs. Except for “shops ablaze and lives destroyed” in the first line and “then this” before the collapse took place, there were not many “listening-to-me” words, as Wynford said in his book English for journalists. The journalist did say “coffins were rushed in…” but the images didn’t show that. Check for yourselves. There were places that could be improved. For example, “A rickshaw brought this man to hospital.” In fact, the rickshaw left the second when the man got off, which showed how urgent things were going on out there.

This is a great piece. There are so much for me to learn. I need time to watch news, but I need more time to study them in order to learn better.

God, please give me more time.