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October 2011

Why I Don’t *Really* Blog About Zombies: How to Pick a Great Niche


I have way too much fun with zombify photo tools...

Zombies are a five billion dollar industry. Five. BILLION. I’m not making this up. 24/7 Wall Street estimates that zombie movies, video games, novels, comics, merchandise, events, music, art, and more all combined to add $5.74 billion to the economy – so really, it is close to six billion dollars than five. Zombies are trendy, but in a growing cult kind of way that suggests that this isn’t some kind of passing pop culture love affair.

So, when it came time for me to develop a direction for my new blog, the idea was simple. I wanted to blog about zombies.

Yet I don’t really blog about zombies. My site, Blog Zombies, is actually about blogging. It’s just zomie-themed, which means I use a lot of metaphors and fun games that involve the undead to teach others about blogging. I love zombies. I love blogging. It seemed like a natural direction for me.

But I already blog about blogging as part of my job here on the BlogWorld blog. So why not just blog about zombies?

Zombies are rad. They’re popular and fun. I love anything zombie-related. They just don’t make a good blog niche. For me. Picking your niche is super important, and is part of the reason your blog might be failing or find success. Let me give you a few reasons why I chose a zombie-themed blog about blogging, not a zombie-themed blog about zombies:

  • I like zombies, but I’m not passionate about sharing information about them.

Zombie-related stuff fall into the “hobby” category, and while I’m always ready to watch Dawn of the Dead or dress in a zombie costume, it’s not what I would call a passion. Some zombie enthusiasts spend every single day engulfed in zombie culture. I don’t. I’m not an expert, and it’s much easier to monetize your expertise. Because I’m not as passionate about this topic as many people, I don’t really feel as qualified to blog about it, at least in a professional sense. Someday, I may get the itch to start a hobby blog about zombies, but when it comes to business, a blog that you hope is profitable, passion is important. I’m super passionate about the topic of blogging, so that’s the best fit for me.

  • Zombies are entertainment.

You can certainly make money from an entertainment blog. Lots of people earn affiliate and ad income blogging about celebrities, movies, music, and more. It’s a different mindset from the start, though. People don’t need entertainment. They need things like good health and a liveable income. It’s much easier to make money, especially with informational products like I enjoy creating, when you blog about things people need, not entertainment topics. Like I said, you can certainly make money blogging about entertainment topics; it’s just a different process, and I’m more comfortable with another type of plan.

  • I connect better with blogger than zombie lovers.

Part of monetizing a blog well is understanding and liking your audience. Nothing against zombie lovers. I love a lot of zombie fans like myself. But with a topic like that, you’re also going to deal with the worst of the worst online. You deal with a ton of trolls, attacks, and other negativity. When your target market is other bloggers…well, you still run the chance of dealing with immature people, but these are generally people on the fringes of what is otherwise a great community that I’ve come to love. In general, I would rather go to dinner with a group of randomly-selected bloggers than a group of randomly-selected zombie fans. You might feel differently, and that’s okay – but the point stands that you should choose the community that is most attractive to you.

So, in review, picking a niche for your next professional blog is about:

  • Finding a topic that you passionate love
  • Making sure it fits into your monetization plan
  • Enjoying the community you’re trying to attract to your blog

Zombies are awesome, just not for me at this point. I think the niche I’ve chosen for Blog Zombies is awesome! Now it’s your turn: Give us your best niche-picking tip by leaving a comment!

How to Seriously Rock the BlogWorld Virtual Ticket


Wow. When I started working with BlogWorld to reinvent the Virtual Ticket, I knew it’d be cool but I didn’t count on the amount of buzz we were going to create and how many people would be interested in it.

I also didn’t anticipate how many people would have questions. Many, many, many questions.

So as a service to everyone who’s signed up (or everyone who is thinking about it, or anyone with a live pass who wants to add the VT), I figured it might make sense to answer some of of the questions we’ve been asked about attending BWELA from the comfort of your own home, your office, or a construction site Port-a-John.

Here we go:

Q: What is the experience of attending BlogWorld through the Virtual Ticket like?

A: During the conference, you’ll be able to follow the action at the actual live event by watching our social media and a private Virtual Ticket site for video, photos, and other updates. Since I’m your host, the idea is that I’m there “for you” and will stream or upload sporadic video of people I run into or backstage-type situations I get myself into. All of this video goes into the VT website, so you won’t need to watch it live.

As the days go on, you can interact with me and henchwoman Jess on Twitter and/or through email and can send us questions or hurl insults. We also encourage you to connect with other VT attendees.

Then, as we process the videos of the session recordings, we’ll add those to the site and you can begin making your way through the 100+ hours of individual conference sessions. (This takes a while, so note that session recordings will be available about a week after the conference ends.) 

Remember, the Virtual Ticket always moves at your speed. There’s a ton of material and you can watch some of it live or you can spread its huge volume of content it out over weeks, months, or a full year if you’d like. Your way, on your schedule.

Q: What’s the best way to follow the action while the conference is going on?

A: If you’d like to simulate some of the “being there” feel of the live event, the best way to keep tabs on things is probably by following the Twitter account we set up for the Virtual Ticket to get photos, video, and updates. You can also keep an eye on your email and on the private Virtual Ticket site, as well as Facebook. (We’ll tell you how to do all of this when you register.)

Q: Is attending the VT like being there live in terms of time commitment? Should I block off a few days to “attend” virtually?

A: Most of the content of BlogWorld is in the conference sessions, and we can’t stream every one of those live. So no, there’s no need to take large blocks of time away from work and family to attend, which is one of the beauties of virtual attendance. If you’d like to check in on the live event as we recommend, keep an eye on Twitter, Facebook, and the VT site as you go about your business, but otherwise there’s no real need to mess up your normal schedule.

Q: Will I miss anything if I can’t watch any of the live (or quasi-live) stuff?

A: Not really! Everything we record (including the on-site stuff) will be archived on the VT site. To get the most “experience” of BlogWorld as possible — to be able to chat about conference goings-on and be able to ask questions — we suggest going through the day’s “recorded live” material each evening or whenever you have time. However, you’re the boss, just like Tony Danza. So if you wanted to wait until three months later to look at any of the material, that’s fine too.

Q: Do we get access to ALL of the conference sessions?

A: The answer is a qualified yes. We’re recording them all, but sometimes we lose one to tech glitches between recording and posting on the VT site (which typically takes about a week), so we can’t guarantee that each and every will be there. But most will, which is one of the reasons the VT is great even for live attendees! When you’re there live, you can’t watch two sessions that are scheduled at the same time… but if you have the Virtual Ticket recordings, you can.

Q: How long do I have access to the Virtual Ticket?

A: You get access to absolutely all of the material (including the on-site and behind-the-scenes footage and the VT bonuses, like exclusive interviews) for a full year.

So there you have it… your complete Q&A guide to the BlogWorld Virtual Ticket!

BlogWorld & New Media Expo LA starts next Thursday, so if you’ve been wishing you could attend but can’t quite manage it, you might want to sign up for the Virtual Ticket so you can experience the next best thing for a fraction of the cost.

You can register for the Virtual Ticket here.

(And if you bought a live ticket and would like to add the Virtual Ticket to your registration for $49, send an email to registration@blogworldexpo.com to request it.)

See you in LA!

Well, I’ll be in LA. You’ll be at home, probably in pajamas or something.

Johnny B. Truant is the host and M.C. of the newly-redesigned BlogWorld Virtual Ticket. You can connect with him on Twitter as @JohnnyBTruant.

Cirque du Soleil® IRIS – Special Promo Code for BlogWorld Attendees


Cirque du Soleil® is offering BlogWorld attendees a special promotional code to experience their newest show … IRIS, a Journey Through the World of Cinema™ on either November 2nd or November 6th.

Created exclusively for the Kodak Theatre, IRIS offers a new take on the art of cinema as only Cirque du Soleil could imagine it. By combining dance, acrobatics, live video, film footage and interactive projections, the show illustrates both the mechanics of cinema and its extraordinary power to deceive the eye.

The show’s two young heroes – Buster and Scarlett – find themselves plunged into the joyful chaos of a film set, and their escapades are supported by an orchestral score composed by Grammy Award-winner Danny Elfman. IRIS is written and directed by French stage and film director, artistic director, dancer and choreographer Philippe Decouflé, who created the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1992 Albertville Olympic Games.

Your Printable, 18-Numbered Packing List for BWELA


You do realize you’ve got less than a week to make sure all your affairs are in place while you’re away at BWELA, pack everything you need to pack, and make sure you don’t forget anything, right? Right!?

Are you the kind of person who always seems to forget something when you pack? Tip #1, don’t wait til the last minute to get everything zipped up. That’s probably the number one reason things get left behind. Tip #2, take this list below, and print it out. Check things off as you put them in your bags, and remember that many things you may forget could be available from the hotel or a nearby convenience store, but here is a complete, comprehensive list (from a 5 time attendee) of what you absolutely must remember to pack for your trip (yes, many of these are clearly obvious, but a checklist is a checklist afterall, and wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t list “underwear”).

  1. Comfortable shoes – Daytime can be sneakers, flats, or sandals, and some people bring dressier shoes for the parties. Regardless, make sure they’re comfy.
  2. Socks, underwear (see?), t-shirts, lingerie, pajamas, etc. for as many days as you’re traveling.
  3. Casual, business casual, and dressy tops/dresses, for women / Casual tee’s and shirts, buttoned shirts, for men
  4. Slacks, jeans, skirts, and a light sweater for chilly nights or a too-cool convention center / Blazer, jeans, slacks for men
  5. Tip: Try to make the most of your wardrobe and pack things that can be layered with each other in different combinations, so you don’t have to pack so many clothes. Many people are traveling for 4-5 days, and trying to pack 5 shirts, 5 pants, 5 sweaters, 5 dresses… way too much! Bring 3-4 tops/shirts, 3 bottoms/pants, and 1-2 dresses (for ladies). See if you can cut it with only 2-3 options for shoes including those on your feet the day you depart (they’re bulky). Ladies, accessorize to make your lightweight black top look different on Saturday night than it did on Thursday afternoon. Scarves and jewelry are great for this. Guys, one blazer that goes with multiple t-shirts is better than trying to pack 4 blazers without needing a steam iron for them all. Travel-size spray bottles of Febreeze are fantastic for keeping things fresh even though you wore them already, or you can use the hotel’s laundry service.

  6. iPad or Laptop bag with laptop, power cord, peripherals (mouse, keyboard, stand)
  7. Camera and/or FlipCam, batteries, charger, extra memory cards (I put these in my laptop bag, since it’s carried on.)
  8. Cellphone and charger (I always forget my charger!) – If you’re coming in from another country, some people grab pay-as-you-go cellphones and credits right at the airport when they land or at a nearby store, so as not to spend as much on their own line with roaming charges and international fees. You can always sell it on eBay later, or keep it for the next time you come to the States.
  9. Toothbrush/paste/mouthwash, shampoo & conditioner, soap/bodywash (in approved 3.4 oz. bottle sizes unless you put them in your checked bags). You can always rely on the hotel for some of this, but many people like to have their own brands, so if that’s you, don’t forget!
  10. Cosmetics and grooming items. ‘Nuff said.
  11. Business cards (I put these EVERYWHERE – my suitcase, purse, laptop bag, and carry on.)
  12. Mini-notebook or bound index cards and pens for taking notes when you don’t have your computer open in front of you but want to take notes on who you met or remember a website or a piece of advice someone shares.
  13. Snacks, powdered drink travel packets (I love adding these to bottled water for some variety), gum and mints, etc. Bringing your own snacks and getting water (stay hydrated, especially if you’re imbibing each night!) at a conveninece store ensures you don’t overspend on them in the hotel, and gum or mints is just polite, given all those you’ll be interacting with!
  14. Medications, vitamins, OTC remedies (ibuprofen, cold/flu/icky tummy meds, etc.), energy drinks (hehe), and hand sanitizer. Traveling takes a toll on the body, and with all the people you’ll meet and shake hands with, you’re sure to pass around some germs. Make sure you have your health covered.
  15. An 8.5 x 11 envelope. Yes, an envelope. In it, you’ll put all your receipts (after you take a photo of them for backup, and for tax purposes), handouts you want to keep, business cards you receive, and so on. Trust me, there’s nothing like trying to search for this stuff when you get home, and it makes for great filing later on once you’re back in the office.
  16. A printed out schedule. Many people go to conferences and “wing it” but I like to have a loose (ie. sure-to-be-changed-later) plan. Know what sessions you want to attend, when they are, and what room they’re in. (You can get this info here.) Also make note of the parties, their times and locations, and any other meetups or networking events you want to be sure to get to.
  17. Cash, ATM/credit cards, traveler’s checks (if you’re coming in from another country), and so on. Be prepared for unexpected expenses, or to buy a drink or two for your new friends.
  18. Copies of all your travel arrangements, phone numbers for the hotel and shuttle/taxi/hired car service you’re using, and registration confirmation email (this one’s important!) so you can keep track and in case you lose them. Yes, most people can access this stuff from their laptop or phone, but who wants to waste time booting up or searching? Just have it packed in a folder (or additional large envelope) and then you’ll know right where it is on a moment’s notice.
  19. Extra bags are great for carrying home the swag you’ll get from the expo hall, plus we’ve got a bookstore on-site with loads of great stuff, and you may want to buy a few (and have them signed by the authors) and bring those home too. You might get away with just leaving extra room in your suitcase, but even a foldable, reusable grocery bag works in a pinch and stays compact on the way home in the event you don’t need it. Alternatively, you can consider donating anything you don’t really love.

So there you have it, your 18-item list of all the things you need to remember to pack for BlogWorld. Have I forgotten anything? 😉

SoundCloud for iPad Released


SoundCloud provides you with a way to create and share sounds across social networks. There’s SoundCloud for iPhone, for Mac and for Android and now – SoundCloud for iPad.

The company made the announcement today via their blog.

There’s one particular iOS app you all have been asking and patiently waiting for. Everyday, we read your tweets, comments and messages asking us when we’ll be releasing an official iPad app. They say that ‘good things happen to those who wait’ so today, we’re super excited to tell you to it has finally arrived: SoundCloud for iPad. It’s gorgeous.

And here are a few of the highlights of SoundCloud for iPad:

  • More intuitive: Flowing screens to help navigate and discover sounds more easily along with simplified ‘stream’ and ‘activity’ tabs.
  • More waveform: More space to interact with the newly designed waveform allowing you to add comments directly to the waveform and see them scroll as a sound plays.
  • More social: Easier to ‘find & follow’ people and now record dedicated private messages to someone with a single tap.
  • More visual: Larger profile images throughout the app.

You can see the app in action in this video they put together.

Introducing the SoundCloud iPad app from SoundCloud on Vimeo.

What’s Hot on Google+


Google+ unveiled a new feature today which lets users know what people are sharing and getting excited about on their social network.

They say that Google+ users share billions (yes, with a b) of items everyday and sometimes we just want to find something cool, whether it be a picture or breaking news. That’s why they released – appropriately called – What’s Hot.

Here’s a video with one of Google’s engineers explaining the What’s Hot Google+ feature, where to find it and how to use it.

Google+ also announced two more new features. Google+ Ripples and Google+ Creative Kit. Here’s a brief description of each with the corresponding video.

Google+ Ripples

There’s something deeply satisfying about sharing on Google+, then watching the activity unfold. Comments pour in, notifications light up, friends share with friends (who share with their friends), and in no time at all there’s an entire community around your post. We want to help people re-live those conversations—both to rekindle that initial excitement, and to learn how posts flow across the network. That’s why we’re launching Google+ Ripples: a visualization tool for public shares and comments.

Google+ Creative Kit

Nothing tells a story like the perfect picture, so it’s only natural to want to make yours really, really, really, ridiculously good-looking. Unfortunately, photo editing is too often a chore, requiring specialized software and lots of patience. We want to help everyone put their best photo forward, so today we’re introducing the Google+ Creative Kit, a fast and friendly way to make powerful edits to your photos.

So, what do you think? Does Google+ continue to release great and useful features that make you want to keep sharing and using their social network?

Facebook Introduces New Features Aimed at Strengthening Security


Security on Facebook is a hot topic, especially with all of the changes they’ve made lately.

October is “National Cyber Security Awareness Month” and in support of this, Facebook is introducing a few new features which are aimed at strengthening security. They want their 800 million users to feel comfortable sharing on the social networking site.

Two new features they announced include Trusted Friends and App Passwords.

Trusted Friends

Losing access to your Facebook account can be annoying. That can easily happen if you forget your password and try to log in too many times, resulting in being locked out. With “Trusted Friends” you can designate two to three of your friends who can help you gain access again.

Facebook said, “We’re excited to begin testing this new tool to help you in case you ever get locked out of your account. Similar to other features that help you prove your identity through your friends, you can now select three to five trusted friends who can help you if you ever have issues accessing your account. It’s sort of similar to giving a house key to your friends when you go on vacation–pick the friends you most trust in case you need their help in the future.”

App Passwords

Do you have some reservations about giving your Facebook password to third parties? A lot of Facebook users do and if you’re an avid app user, you find yourself doing this all the time. Well, not anymore. Facebook will now allow you to generate a new password for the apps.

Facebook said, “There are tons of applications you can use by logging in with your Facebook credentials. However in some cases you may want to have a unique password for that application. This is especially helpful if you have opted into Login Approvals, for which security codes don’t always work when using 3rd party applications.”

For those of you who love infographics (yes, I would be one of those people), Facebook released one “To better illustrate the full range of these features and show how they all work together to keep you safe while on Facebook”.

These new features will be available in the coming weeks, possibly in conjunction with the public release of their new Timeline.

Do you feel Facebook is doing a good job addressing and providing solutions for privacy concerns?

How to Miss a Podcast and Make it Work For You


It was really easy for Casey Kasem when he wanted to take a week of America’s Top 100. There’s an expectation in radio (and to a certain extent on TV) that you will get the occasional guest host standing in. This has lead to some great moments the world over – John Peel taking over the BBC Radio 1 lunchtime show and continuing to play his usual late night mix of new and undiscovered bands instead of bland “popular” music is one close to my heart — but what happens on your podcast when you need to take a break?

It’s all about planning ahead, and deciding what option you’re going to do.

The easiest choice is to go dark. Depending on your style of podcast, you can prep the audience on why you are going away, when you are back, and ask them not to be too disappointed. Sometimes this is the only choice, but it goes against many of the main rules of thumb for successful podcasting, the biggest being “keep it regular”.

It’s possible, again depending on your format, to pre-record an extra show or two and have them in the can and ready to go, either by hitting publish from a mobile browser while you are away, or setting a publish date in the blogging software running the podcast to make the post and podcast live at the regular time. This is a strategy advised by many for those with text based blogs, and the same is true for podcasters.

Of course many podcasts are based around news and current events, and that makes a pre-record a bit trickier. You could always resort to a “Best Of” clip show if the cover is for a single show, otherwise you need to think of another way. If you have a group discussion podcast, it’s usually a simple matter to cover one missing pundit, but what if you’re running solo (at least to your listeners)?

Well, you’re back to Casey Kasem, it’s time to draft in a substitute. If you’ve been interacting with the community around your podcast and the area, you’ll know the people that are switched on enough to do a show. Some of them may well be other podcasters (and you’ll know this because you are listening to the competition, aren’t you?). A quick email asking if they would like to be involved and do one show, and not only are you working with your community to benefit them, you’ve an option to reach out to new listeners (the followers of your stand-in host).

That’s a win all round.

In the big game that is social media, podcasting, and the internet, there are very few problems that cannot be turned to your advantage. Going on holiday is one of them.

Pat Flynn Speaks About “Being Everywhere”


Session: How to Be Everywhere: Building a Profitable Brand by Thinking Outside the Blog
Speaker: Pat Flynn

Pat Flynn will be presenting at BlogWorld LA on how to be “Be Everywhere” – which means that as a blogger you have to consider your blog as the “home” for your brand – but your brand doesn’t just stick to one platform. Pat will show you how to expand your brand using free and inexpensive ways to reach out, expand your brand, become more of an authority, diversify your content, and become more than just a blogger.

Hear what else Pat has to say:

Watch more videos and see why other speakers are attending BlogWorld LA. See all Speakers here.

Learn more about BlogWorld LA and register Here!

Georgia Getz Speaks on How to Raise & Train Your Blog


Session: How To Raise & Train Your Blog
Speaker: Georgia Getz

Georgia Getz will be speaking at BlogWorld LA about how the acquisition of a blog is not very different from the acquisition of a pet! Topics like blogproofing your home, naming your blog, basic training, early socialization, and more.

Hear what else Georgia has to say:

Watch more videos and see why other speakers are attending BlogWorld LA. See all Speakers here.

Learn more about BlogWorld LA and register Here!

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