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SPECIAL EDITION: 16 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Zombies


Brilliant Bloggers is a weekly series here at BlogWorld where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every week, we’ll feature three of the most brilliant bloggers out there, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Zombies

Here are BlogWorld, we want you to be totally prepared for the zombie apocalypse, so today’s Brilliant Bloggers is all about being preparing for the horde of undead threatening to break down your doors and eat you alive as you sit at your computer…

…just kidding. It is April Fool’s Day after all.

Yet, zombies are so hot that lots of bloggers are using them as metaphors to explain their own points. It’s a fun way to keep people interested in whatever you’re saying. I should know – I have an entire site about blogging and social media called Blog Zombies.

Since it is April Fool’s Day, I thought it would be fun to collect all the new media-related posts I could find that use zombies to help explain their topic of the day. Hope you guys have fun today – and don’t get pranked too much!

Okay, today was about having a little fun, but a take-away message from all of this is that you can cash in on a trend you enjoy (like zombies) by finding a tie-in with you blog’s niche. It’s a way to make your blog more interesting for readers…and to have a few laughs yourself as you’re writing posts.

We’ll be back next week with a new Brilliant Bloggers edition that has nothing to do with the undead. I promise!



Imperfection Makes Perfect


On of the things that I found surprising when I started out in podcasting was the value that imperfection can bring towards your production. I’m about to start my yearly coverage of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – a daily show that runs each day of the month long festival featuring news, chat, reviews and interviews. This will be the sixth year that it runs, and each year of course has lessons for the following year (be it thing to do better, and things that should never be done again.

I want to go back to my second year to illustrate a point. The first year of the Fringe, I was recording while out and about, finding quiet corners in bars, alcoves in the streets, dark alleyways just out of the volume of the street performers to do the interviews. Mostly because this was 2005 and I didn’t know better, but also because I couldn’t get a "base" to work from that I could set up equipment and get really good sound quality.

Everyone loved the shows though, and it gained popular and critical acclaim (and six years later has a crowd of people eagerly waiting for it to return and performers lining up to get on the show). And in year two I had more time to plan the show, and was doing some volunteer work at a local community radio station. Which meant I had access to an honest-to-goodness real studio. Mixing desks! Microphones! Comfy chairs! Tea and Coffee making facilities!

Perfect, I thought, and proceeded to book in the performers to the studio, rather than a bar that was close to their theatre space. The audio quality was good, the quality of the interview was better than the year before (that’ll be a year of experience talking)…

Yet after a week I got a few listener emails all saying the same thing. They loved the interviews, they loved the people that were on the show (and some were buying tickets on the strength of these spots), but they missed something. They missed the hustle and bustle in the background, they missed the feeling that they were right in the thick of the excitement that the Fringe brought to Edinburgh. They missed the moments I had to stop and let a very loud bus pass before I could ask another question.

They missed the imperfection, and it was that imperfection that created the flavour that the rest of the podcast drew its energy from.

I cancelled the studio, moved back onto the streets, and to this day have continued to do the interviews wherever I as in Edinburgh, be it a quiet coffee bar, the busy Royal Mile, or in the middle of a Bouncy Castle which is being used as a stage to put on a performance of Dracula.

It also led to a special show that I do once a year, where I literally stand on The Royal Mile, switch on the recorder, and just stop and ask people "why are you here?" for 45 minutes to bring over the spirit of the Fringe. And that’s the one I get asked about the most!

The lesson? Pay attention and talk to your listeners, and never be afraid to throw your plans out the window if you’re presented with a more appropriate option. In the long run, it will be improve you and your show.

Image Source: Leith Podcaster, Creative Commons.

In The New Media World, “Experienced” Doesn’t Always Mean “Better”


We all have our blogging and social media idols. They’re the people who first got us into this whole crazy new media industry, the ones who taught us what we needed to know to get started. Most of the time, these idols are fixtures in the industry – everyone interested in new media (or your specific niche) knows their names. They’ve among some of the most experienced out there…and to this day, they give great advice.

Maybe we can teach one another, if we're willing to listen.

Sometimes. For some people.

I’m in a weird place in my new media career. I first started blogging (professionally) in 2006. Well, I kept an online journal as early as 1999, but it was completely private – I actually remember that it was really weird if someone who was even a friend of a friend (not my direct friend) requested to view my blog. There was certainly no Twitter or even Facebook, and definitely no talks of branding or monetizations. So really, I’ve been blogging as we know it today since 2006, or about five years. Next to some, that makes me a baby in the new media world. Next to others, I’m a dinosaur. You might be in a similar situation.

In this situation, I come across two extreme groups. The first is made of people who know nothing about the new media world and are looking to me as a mentor of sorts, just like I looked up to people when I first became interested in blogging. It’s scary, but also really cool, because I like to help people and have a lot of opinions to share. The second group…well, they’re a little different. They don’t consider me a valid source of advice because I’m not experienced enough. I’ve only been blogging for five years and I don’t have a massive Twitter following yet, so I must not know what I’m doing.

I wonder, sometimes, if these two groups couldn’t learn a thing or two from one another. Because I don’t know about you, but my personal experiences in the new media world have shown me that being experienced doesn’t always equate to being better at something.

I’m not going to get into the debate about whether or not you should be calling yourself an expert, but what I want you to think about is this: The new media industry is changing at an enormous rate, much faster than most industries. With all this evolution, isn’t it possible that someone who just entered the industry has better ideas than someone who’s been around for awhile? Sometimes, the experience you have can really help you give solid advice. But other times, we’re so set in our ways and what we know that as things change, fresh minds can adapt more readily to new ways of succeeding as a blogger.

One of the things that really bothers me is when people talk in absolutes when giving new media advice, feeling as though they’ve been doing this long enough to do so. I disagree because frankly, I don’t think anyone has been doing this long enough to say, with any amount of certainty, that the advice they’re giving will work for every blogger. You can absolutely say what works for you, but lots of bloggers out there are breaking the rules…and making their millions anyway.

Point in case: one good piece of advice that I commonly see is that you have to define your niche when blogging. If you just blog about your life, you won’t be successful or interesting to your readers. Except the Bloggess has a wonderfully successful site where she just talks about the shenanigans of her daily life. So obviously, although I agree with the importance of defining your audience and niche, it doesn’t always work that way for everyone out there.

Also, as someone with experience, what worked for you might be horrible advice for someone else. People who have tons of experience an are considered a-listers in a niche often have some of the oldest blogs in that niche. When you’re the first of something, the rules are a little different. On top of that, what works for you to bring in the traffic and make money now isn’t going to work for  brand-new blogger necessarily because they don’t have the built-in fanbase or Google ranking you do. So, while you advice might be good for some, it is definitely not good for everyone.

If you’re a new blogger, I encourage you to go out that and read as many blogs as you can, both in your niche and in the blog-about-blogging/internet marketing/social media niche. Then, form your own opinions from what you read, even if they aren’t the popular opinions shared by others. No one ever got famous for being really good at following the directions!

And if you’re an experienced blogger, I encourage you to visit one new blog a week. Just one! Surely, you have time for that. Look at a blog from someone who isn’t super experienced in the industry, and see if there’s something you can learn. If you stop learning, you start becoming irrelevant in your niche.

Stay Outside Your Comfort Zone


Stay outside your comfort zone!

It’s one of the most important things you can do with any new media site, be it a blog, podcast or customised video channel. You can change the product at any point. It could be radical, or more likely it will be a little tweak here, some reworking of an element there, and the website continues on it slow evolutionary path.

But to do that you need to keep the ideas text file full of things to try out? What’s the best way of keeping your mojo flowing? Apart from thinking that BlogWorld LA might be a neat idea?

For want of a better word, keep grazing around the Internet like you graze a Conference’s Exhibition Hall.

Take Facebook as an example – with your lists of friends, and the status updates and links they post, you’re going to see, well, everything you’re expecting to see, things that you’ve told Facebook you like. If none of your friends are listening to "Anke Engestrom’s Podcast of Sand" then it’s super-unlikely you’ll ever stumble on it when staying inside your circle of friends. You need to actively go out there and "find the new."

And then you need to make a point of reading, listening (or watching) this new material. With an open mind. Just because you have no interest in pan-continental singing contests, you might learn something from a podcast about Eurovision that you can apply to your daily Major League Baseball round-up show. You’re not listening for content, you’re listening for technique. How do they handle background music, reading out URL’s, listener interaction, sponsorship messages, content structure, and everything else that goes into making a good podcast?

Where to start? Well, iTunes is a good place, primarily because of their "people listening to this also listened to" feature. Start at your favourite podcast, click on a random "people also listen to" choice… three times. Okay where are you now? That’s a good question. There’s probably a handful of ‘casts listed, so even though you’re not strictly here for content, might as well go for the most attractive one.

Do this once a week, and not only will you find some lovely little gems and broaden your horizons, you’re also going to expose yourself to a huge range of styles, techniques and the occasional "must make sure I never do that" shows. Keep a track of everything, good or bad, and listen to your own shows with that same critical process.

Oh and while you’re at it, drop an email to whoever you’ve ended up listening to. They’ll appreciate just as much as you do when you get fan mail. After all, isn’t it all about making human connections and sharing knowledge in the end?

Image Source: Rachel Clarke, Creative Commons

Get Your Blog Ready for BlogWorld New York


You’re probably going to this week’s BlogWorld NY to meet people, to forge new links for your business, to put yourself “on display”, or a mix of all the above. Before you head in to the Convention Center, you’ll probably check yourself out in the mirror, making sure you’re at your best.

Have you done the same for your online presence?

Just before you get on your flight to BlogWorld, take five minutes to look over what everyone else will check out once they’ve met you. The first impression in the real world counts, but so does the first impression in the online world. Are you making the best use of that first moment?


Let’s start with your blog. If it’s not frequently updated, now is the time to put up a fresh post. My own blog is more a map to my other activities around the web, but in advance of BlogWorld, I’ve put up a short post saying that I’ll be at the conference, the best way to get in touch with me while I’m at the conference, and what I’m looking for while in New York to start the ball rolling before I even land..

It also has a recent picture of me, so people who do want to find me know what to look out for. That might not be as important to me (after all, “look for the kilt” isn’t going to turn up too many false positives)

Next up is my Twitter account, and specifically the main web page. Is the background showing what I want to show, is my avatar reflecting what I want it to reflect, and will it match with what people see after they meet me? I think it does. And is the 140 character bio still suitable?

To a certain extent the same goes for Facebook. Depending on your privacy settings you might want to keep your timeline clear of any pictures from a late night in Dusseldorf with a Maltese pop star (ask me over a pint, I might tell you then). If you’re going to be hitting the social scene at BlogWorld, keep an eye out for the tagged photo that causes mayhem. One trick you might like to employ is to create a “banner image” at the top of your profile that uses all five images to create one image (how to do this? Shane Richmond has the details). Striking and discrete at the same time.

Finally, and the one that quite a few people forget about, is LinkedIn. This is much more business-like and always feels like a “living CV” to me, but it’s one of the largest social networks out there. I’ve always got a handful of projects going at any one time, and it’s always good to make sure everything is up to date in LinkedIn with those achievements.

An event like BlogWorld for me is about making initial meetings and starting relationships – it’s one of the big reasons that I don;t mind doing a four day transatlantic trip. I want to make an impression on all fronts, and to make sure that people who want to meet me, and perhaps work with me in the future, are getting the true story no matter where they turn.

So cast an eye over your online presence – even if it’s just in the departures lounge of the airport. There’s always room for improvement!

Learn to Talk on Your Podcast by Listening


What is a podcast? I’m going to be asking that question at next week’s Blog World Expo in New York, and I suspect there will be a different answer from everyone I ask. What I am pretty sure about is that when you look at the content, it’; going to boil down to people talking to each other.

Be it a formal interview, a panel discussion on the latest news on a specialist topic, most podcasts boil down to people talking to each other, be it the aforementioned interview, a round table discussion, or stopping someone in the hall of a blogging conference. Unfortunately there isn’t a "Dummies Guide for Talking to People and recording the conversation".

But help is at hand! It’s all around you in the podcast world! People! Talking to other people! Unlike "how to set up an RSS feed," there isn’t a set of bullet points to follow, but there are a lot of practical examples out there, and a number of rules of thumb that I’ve gleaned.

Okay, the first one, the most obvious, and the one that seems to be missed by those starting out. Listen to what others are saying, and let your lines flow from that. The next question is always in the last answer – the skill is leading into question two from question one, via the answer, and getting the flow right between the two people involved in the conversation.

I’m never a fan of having all your questions completely written out before an interview, mainly because you can’t react to what is being said, and listening is just as important a skill to use. You need to be able to make it all sound natural, and you can’t do that with a fixed script. By all means have notes, but do what every good blogger does, and #tag the questions you want to ask. That way you can make sure that over the whole interview, but all your questions will feel natural when they come up.

For me though, one of the best things you can do is to listen to other podcasts, listen to other formats, and absorb as much as possible. Here’s three podcasts that I’d recommend you pop on your listening list for the technique as well as the content:

  • Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (NPR)

    A weekly sports quiz show, where the questions are already known to the panellists, but there is an easy spontaneity on show, and it’s an excellent example of how a chairperson can keep control of a panel of guests, and stay on course for time and content while everyone else goes for the jokes.

  • Tech Weekly (The Guardian)

    A nice descriptive title, covering the weekly news. Lots of structure on show here, with a clear goal, but at the same time it stays fresh and never hard to listen to.

  • Best of Today (BBC Radio 4)

    One of the most surprising things for me watching US media is how gentle your interviewers are with their guests. How are you meant to get any new information that way? Time to listen to aggressive interview technique when the subject is not as forthcoming.

On top of all this, there is one guide, one reference points, there is one sage that I would turn to before any others. Someone I turned to over six years ago when this all smelt like a new car.

Johnny Carson.

Seriously, grab a decent collection of old Tonight shows (here’s my suggestion) and while you enjoy the fun, listen to Carson, and watch how everything just works and clicks together. For me, that was the gold standard to aim for when I started. Now, you have a lot more to choose from and learn from.

But if you;re asking me for advice, it’s simple. "Heeeeeere’s Johnny"

One piece of advice? Do it live.


When people who are starting out in podcasting ask me for one piece of advice, I don’t talk about equipment or applications, technology or social network marketing. I go for something that’s even simpler than that. Something that can not only get them started down one fruitful path of podcasting, but one that will continue to reward them outside of podcasting – no matter if it is their hobby, passion or profession.

Do it live.

By that I don’t mean go and set up a Ustream channel, and have everyone listening at the same time around the world (although that is an optional benefit), but gather everything you need around you, from a script and guests, to musical cues, audio stings, sponsor messages and the occasional special effect… I keep a kazoo next to my microphone, for no other reason than sometimes it can be funny to throw it into the mix of a chat show.

I’ll be the first to admit that if you’re starting on your podcasting journey it will add to the workload, but these are the formative days that are going to shape your brain, so start doing it the most productive way.

Yes, productive. You will always have the safety net of a post recording edit, but it’s far quicker to simply catch a stumble than it is to re-assemble twenty different readings like some demented wave-form of a jigsaw. That means less time in post-production, less time while recording (a thirty minute show will take… thirty minutes), and while you’ll initially need to spend more time in prep, that investment will pay off.

And long term you’ll find more benefits. Starting off with a more natural sounding show, you’ll also start to multi-task better, talking and reading at the same time, but you’ll also gain one of the most important things possible.


Initially you’ll just feel this behind the microphone of your own show, but as you spend more time podcasting, you’ll find that this is one of those acquired skills you can apply to many areas in your life. The obvious one is public speaking – you’ll need less of your brain to actually do the talking part, while the part normally juggling sound levels, jingles and other areas an now be spent focusing on the audience, thinking about other areas of the presentation, and making sure that you enjoy the talk!

One of the other areas that I found an improvement in was when I was being interviewed by other people. It was easier to try and keep the interview on the subject that I wanted to stay on, to get over my ideas, and to be able to think about the bigger picture while answering small details.

Finally, and one that now seems obvious, if you move on to other media, especially radio or video podcasting, you’ll find it much easier to feel comfortable and come over more relaxed – which is good as these areas are a lot more unforgiving of errors than pre-recorded audio.

To sum it up, I think that “going live” has a bundle of benefits that will become clear over time. That’s why it’s my big piece of advice to anyone who asks.

Overheard on #Blogchat: The Late Edition


Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

I’m running late with Overheard on #Blogchat this week for two reasons: 1) my email exploded for some reason and I woke up to ten times the usual emails I receive this morning and a bunch demanded immediate replies and 2) woah mama was there some excellent chatting going on last night! I think maybe it was because it was a “slow week” relatively since so many people were watching the Super Bowl instead.

So instead of my usual #blogchat post, where I give you one quote and my opinions about it, I’m going to instead copy and paste a bunch of awesome pieces of advice and some quick notes. Check out these people on Twitter, leave your own comments about these tweets, and please, please, please join us next week!!

Without further ado, some awesome advice from #blogchat:

HoodedMan: I post about ten times a month, if I’m up to it and have something to say, quality before quantity, of course

I think it’s great advice to focus on quality, to always have something to say. Be consistent, but you don’ t have to post every single day to have an awesome blog.

amndaann: I’ve started putting opinion on my blog, instead of staying objective as a result of reader feedback

This is awesome advice. Whether you’re adding opinion, stories, or some other personal touch, having an 100% objective blog doesn’t work in most cases because readers can get information anywhere. If I want to learn…for example…how to program my TV remote, I’ll search on Google and head to the top resource. If your blog is informative, awesome. Thanks for the information, but I’ll never be back. If you’re informative PLUS entertaining in some way, I’ll likely click around to read some more posts and maybe even subscribe.

thetrudz: I keep a running list of things I may be interested in writing. As soon as idea pops in my head it goes in Apple Notes.

Key point: WRITE THINGS DOWN. If you don’t, you’re going to forget. Also, realize that although you might be passionate about a topic at the moment, you don’t have to write about it right now. If you typically post twice a week and just recently updated, save that great idea for later or schedule the post to go up later so that you stay consistent.

_ChelleShock: niche can also be the audience you speak to, not just what you talk about.

LOVE this tweet. It might be my favorite of the night actually. Niche is important, but it goes beyond the topic of your blog.

CatsEyeWriter: I publish one quality guest post a week right now. Make sure it’s outstanding, because your reputation depends on it.

Good point – just because you didn’t write it doesn’t mean that your readers won’t hold you responsible. Once, someone sent a guest post to me that was loosely related to my blog, but not really in my style or super relevant to readers. I said no thank you, and he got upset, saying he doesn’t understand why because it can only help me, not hurt. That’s where he was wrong – a crap guest post (or even a well-written guest post that doesn’t fit your niche or style) can definintely hurt your brand.

bobbyrettew: Found lots of success with certain posts on my Business Facebook page and *SOMETIMES* on personal Facebook page. Depends on topic

That’s important because, after all, Facebook is about connecting with friends, not about pitching crap. You can have a page for promotion, but you’re going to lose real-life friends if your personal page is all about promotion too.

TodaysWomanCo: Remember to be sure and check the licensing on any photo or image you wish to use before using it on your blog.

Seriously, don’t steal pictures from Flickr or other sources. There are tons of places to find free imagines to use legitimately!

ActiveIngreds: dont forget, you set your own standards for your blog

Yes, yes, a million times yes. It’s your blog. You don’t have to take anyone’s advice, not even mine, if you don’t think it will work for your blog. This is a brand new industry, relatively speaking, so it is evolving quickly and different things are working for different people.

On that note, I’ll end this post – but you should check out the full transcript and join us next week for some great chatting!

Is 'Write What You Know' Bad Advice?


Beyond being a blogger here and at my own sites, I’m a freelance writer who works with a number of clients to provide web content, ebooks, and other pieces of text. So, naturally, I follow a number of freelance writing blogs. One theme that keeps popping up for freelance writers and bloggers alike is the idea that you should write what you know when creating content.

It makes sense. When you write about topics that you understand inside and out, you’ll save time. In the freelance world, that also means that you’ll make more money, since you’ll be able to do, for example, five $50 articles per day instead of three.

When you write what you know, you’re also able to give better advice, since you have experience or a broad knowledge base. Relying on other websites for research about a topic can be your downfall, since not every writer out there is accurate, honest, or complete. This week, we’re featuring the medblogging community, and I’m sure you’ve all seen health-related blogs that were clearly not written by doctors. For someone without much experience using the Internet for research, those blogs are actually dangerous, since they give poor advice that will be followed without the supervision of a doctor.

A third major advantage to writing what you know is that the writing will be easier. This point is especially important to bloggers, since starting a blog – even one that isn’t updated more than two or three times per week – means that you have to be able to post hundreds of times every year. If you don’t know a lot about your blog’s topic, that’s going to be rather difficult.

So, there are a lot of really excellent reasons to post about topics that you understand and enjoy. There’s a reason that almost every freelance writing blogger out there covers this tip – it makes sense.

Most of the time. Continue Reading

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