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New Media News Break: Blog Detectives, Apple’s Ebook Woes, and More

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It’s Wednesday afternoon and you know what that means – time to take a break from work and catch up on all the new media news you may have missed in the past week. So grab that afternoon energy drink and sit back to check out some of these news stories.

Blog Community Bands Together to Help Police

Who says all blog commenters are trolls? This week, readers of automotive blog Jalopnik banded together to help police with a hit-and-run in Waynesboro, Virginia, where victim Betty Wheeler died after being involved in a hit and run. The only piece of evidence left behind was a piece of the alleged killer’s car. So, a Jalopnik blogger asked readers to help identify the piece – and in a matter of minutes, they did. This information was sent to the police investigating the case. It’s great to see the power a blog community has. Does your community have this kind of teamwork ability? If not, what can you do to strengthen your community?

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Facebook Buys Instagram

Of course, the big story this week is that Facebook bought Instagram for an astonishing $1 Billion. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has noted that although they will be working closely together, Instagram sharing won’t be limited to Facebook, nor will the company be absorbed by it’s parent company – it will remain its own entity. Although some users have already voiced concerns, they have a lot of support as well – and Instagram has shot to number one in the app store thanks to Facebook’s announcements. It will be interesting to continue watching this story to see how Instagram changes now that it has an overlord and more funding than they could have ever hoped for. Will the service improve photo sharing abilities? Will we see major problems? What do you think?

Ebook Publishing Policies Probed in Court

Recently, the U.S. sued Apple and a number of publishers, claiming that the companies colluded to unfairly fix ebook prices. While these companies claim that their publishing policies “enhanced competition in the e-book industry” which was previously dominated by Amazon, the Justice Department is investigating just how Apple worked with publishers to change the way they price ebooks for the iPad, which currently allows publishers to set the end price for consumers and give Apple a commission, rather than allowing the retailer to set the price. The problem is that it’s alleged that executives conspired to fix and raise prices through most-favored-nation provisions in their contracts with Apple so no other retailer could offer lower prices. The Justice Department held a press conference today, announcing an antitrust settlement that, if approved by the courts, will allow retails like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to reduce their prices, effectively terminating anticompetitive most-favored-nation agreements publishers have with Apple. This could mean that we see a vast reduction in the price of ebooks in the near future.

Google+ Gets a Makeover

Today, Google announced a brand new look for Google+, giving the network a much needed face life. New profiles feature better navigation, a drag and drop system, new ways to find interesting conversations, a dedicated page for hangouts, a new chat list sidebar, and more. Although many praised Google+’s initial sleek look, I think a redesign was in order to keep the network competitive, especially with Facebook. Sharing content is now easier than ever on this platform, but the question remains – with Facebook holding strong, Twitter continuing to grow, LinkedIn holding the professional attention, and Pinterest gaining ground with leaps and bounds, can this network survive?

The ListServe Allows You to Email Millions

What would you say if you had a million people listening? That’s the question a group of NYU Students are asking with their new social experience, The ListServe. According to reports, this service allows anyone on their giant email list to enter a lottery where, if won, they get to send an email out to the rest of the list. The email can literally be anything from what the person has for breakfast to funny kitten pictures. Well, almost anything. Each email will be reviewed to ensure it doesn’t contain porn or viruses. But it’s an interesting concept, and one that marketers may be able to use to reach new audience members. Though I have to wonder, is getting another email every day worth the chance to send a blast to a random group of people?

In Case You Missed It

Here’s what you might have missed on the BlogWorld blog in the past week:

Awesome from the Archives

There are some golden posts in the post hidden in the BlogWorld archives. Here are three of my favorites that I think you should check out:

Check back every Wednesday for a New Media News Break just when you need it!

Why Your Comments Aren’t Driving Traffic

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Back when I first started blogging, I remember that people were comment-crazy. I got my start writing for someone else’s blog network, and one of the things they drilled into our heads in the writers’ forum, employee training, etc. was that if you want to grow your blog readership, you need to leave comments on other blogs in your niche.

Not exactly the traffic you were expecting?

Comments are awesome. I love getting comments. When I feel passionate about a topic, I love leaving comments. But the truth? Comments don’t drive traffic.

Several years ago, I started my first blog, called the Millionaire Blogger, where I tracked my efforts to make a million dollars as a blogger (total, not per month or anything). One of the most popular posts I did there was a case study I did. For one week, I went out and commented everywhere. My goal was to leave 100 high-quality, helpful comments on blogs in my niche, and by the end of the week, I had exceeded that number. I tracked my stats very carefully. The results? I saw a very, very, very minor bump in traffic. The traffic wasn’t sticky at all. I didn’t receive more comments on my own posts than usual.

So why aren’t your comments driving traffic? It likely has very little to do with what you’re actually saying. Someone who leaves crap comments that are filled with backlinks will likely piss off the blogger and the community where you’re leaving those comments, but someone who leaves a helpful comment isn’t going to see much better results in terms of traffic back to their own website. It’s not about your content.

It’s about community.

If you wander around your niche and leave comments randomly, people may read your comment and enjoy it, even respond, but they don’t know you. They’re on that blog because they’re part of that blog’s community. They are looking for a new community. They care about your in the context of that blog’s community, but they have no push to get to know what you’re doing outside of that community.

The only way to change that, to make them care about who you are outside of that community is if you become part of it. If you’re there every day giving awesome tips and adding to the conversation, if you’re part of the forum, if you’re active on Twitter within the community, if you start showing up on the blogs of other commenters…then, people will start taking notice. Naturally, they’ll become curious about you and check out your site, and maybe even become part of your community.

In my opinion, though, commenting is not a good traffic-driving strategy. Don’t comment on others’ blogs because you’re hoping to see traffic back to your site. It’s a highly inefficient use of your time. Comment on others’ blogs because you actually have something to say and want to be a part of their community.

Top 10 Worst Comment Mistakes EVER

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As bloggers, we all have readers that make us want to groan. It’s just a fact of life – you aren’t going to like anyone. Today, I thought I’d have a little fun and talk about the worst comment mistakes I’ve ever seen. These are my biggest pet peeves. They make me want to pull out my hair.

10. Off-topic comments

Let’s be honest; we all ramble sometimes. There’s a difference between getting off-topic a little in a round-about way of making a point and being downright nuts. Once, I wrote a post about real estate on a finance-related blog and some commenter told me this entire story of losing their cat when they moved to a new house. Every so often I get comments that just make me say, “What in the world…”

9. WRITING IN ALL CAPS

C’mon kids, this is Internet 101. DO NOT WRITE IN ALL CAPS UNLESS YOU WANT TO SHOUT AT SOMEONE. See, this is so annoying that I had to write-shout that tip at you. On a more practical note, comments in all caps are hard to read, so if you tone things down a little, more people will listen to what you have to say. You’ll only see me using all caps when I really mean to “shout” something.

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Listening vs. Waiting to Speak: Engaging Readers

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In the evolution of blogging, one of the major steps was allowing readers to take part in the conversation on your website. Prior to the existence of comments sections, we could read what someone had to say and even email them about it if they provided an address, but it was just one-on-one interaction, not part of the site. Today, comments sections drastically increase the value of any blog, so engaging readers through comments is important.

Excessive Talking

I was once taught a very valuable lesson. Several years ago, I was going through a rough patch in my life on many fronts, and I really leaned on a friend of mine for support. He was great, and very patiently listened to my problems, offering advice and hugs when needed. I was pretty tunnel-visioned by everything going on in my life, and was too self-centered to realize that he was dealing with some problems himself.

One evening, he got fed up with me, and pointed out that I wasn’t actually listening to him. I was just waiting to speak. And he was right. It was a really humbling moment of my life, to realize that every time he was speaking, I was just planning in my mind the point I wanted to make about my own problems. I wasn’t offering support as much as changing the subject to reflect what I wanted to discuss. Excessive talking isn’t just about being the person who speaks the most.

Listening to Your Comments

Since then, I think I’ve gotten a lot better at listening instead of waiting to speak. It’s something I actively think about whenever I’m in a conversation with someone, especially about a serious topic, and it’s something that bloggers need to actively think about as well. Your comments section isn’t as valuable to your site if you’re just waiting to speak.

This goes further than just making sure you reply to comments. I do think it’s great when bloggers reply to comments, but I’m also of the opinion that not every comment needs a reply (some bloggers disagree, and that’s fine). To me, it depends on the situation. In any case, engaging your readers through listening is all about hearing what they have to say and replying to their comment thoughtfully, not just using what they say as a jumping off spot for your own argument again.

Listening Tips for Bloggers

So how can you ensure that you’re listening and not just waiting to speak? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay conversational. You’ve made your point in your blog post, so there’s no need to constantly restate it, even if your readers are leaving negative comments. Remember, your replies should add value to the website, so grow and expand your thoughts on the subject as your readers leave comments.
  • Consider using a comment as inspiration for a new post. You can even contact the reader who left the comment to co-author a post, do a guest post, or be interviewed. Keep the conversation going.
  • Understand what your readers are saying. When you post an opinion, there will always be people who disagree, but negative comments can have value, too. If your readers are constantly confused to turned off by your posts, they won’t come back, which defeats the purpose of blogging professionally. By listening to reader comments and changing slightly to accommodate, you can drive more traffic and please a larger number of people.
  • Stay civil. In many niches, readers can be biting and rude. If a comment makes you upset, turn away from the computer for an hour or two to calm down a bit before you reply. Try to see the person’s underlying point, even if they say things in a mean way. Remember, conversation.
  • Be an authority on your subject, but also approach readers on the same level. Just because you know more about a specific subject doesn’t mean that your readers have nothing to teach you. No one likes when someone speaks down to them, so consider all of your readers on your level, not “below you” in some way.

Learning to listen is a skill that you’ll improve with practice. We might be born with the ability to hear, but it takes decades to perfect being a good listener, especially when it comes to a written medium, like a blog comments section. It’s something I’m still learning, too. What tips do you have for making sure you’re a good listener, rather than just waiting to talk?

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She still talks waaaaay too much and often too quickly, but hopes you’ll find this quality more endearing than annoying.

Image Credit: sxc.hu

5 Ways to Encourage Blog Comments

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You’ve been blogging for months, but no one’s responding. It’s as though all of your great writings are wasted.

Shirley George Frazier of SoloBusinessMarketing.com Years ago, I found myself with the same problem, but readers started responding with blog comments when I tested ideas shared by BlogWorld Expo attendees.

So, before you ditch that blog, follow these five tips to get people talking.

  • Ask a question.

    Do you end posts with a summary statement or a method that encourages reader interaction? Questions get people thinking, and that makes their fingers type a response.

    All of my posts donít end with a question, but most do, and it’s almost guaranteed that someone will share their views or experience. Forming a question in the last sentence is just as easy as writing a statement. Try it in your next post.

  • Tell a story.

    There’s a reason why great stories are passed down through generations. People enjoy putting themselves in the storyteller’s shoes to virtually re-live the experience. This works best when describing a situation that relates to your readers.

    One of my highest-commented posts occurred because of my rant about running a business and sharing a car. The advice poured in. When readers relate to your story, they happily get involved.

  • Offer a prize.

    You’re thinking “this is bribery,” right? Not really. Prizes are linked to contests, and contests are a blog favorite to such a degree that the event can deliver huge notoriety through tweets and other social media postings.

    Ask readers to submit a comment or video about your blog’s topic, and add the prizeís value so that more people participate.

  • Critique another person’s post.

    One way to get people to visit your blog is to comment about a topic featured on someone else’s blog. Most bloggers allow this soft-siphoning technique as long as your feedback relates to the original post and doesn’t resemble a spam comment.

    This is one of the methods I trusted to bring readers to my blog, resulting in more comments and RSS feed subscribers.

  • Expose the truth.

    For years, I’ve encouraged my sister to start a blog about her expertise, which is the sweet-and-gentle craft business. “Everyone’s blog talks about how fun crafts are,” I told her. “Let your readers know what it’s really like to deal with unruly customers, horrible booth neighbors, and overnight security that helps themselves to merchandise.”

    There’s another side to every topic. If you uncover it, your blog will become a hot spot.

Which of these tips will you try right away to get blog comments?

Shirley George Frazier is chief marketer at SoloBusinessMarketing.com and author of Marketing Strategies for the Home-Based Business: Solutions You Can Use Today. Read Shirley’s Solo Business Marketing blog, and follow her on Twitter @ShirleyFrazier or Email info@solobusinessmarketing.com.

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