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Blog Trends: The Power of Newsletters

Hey there dear friends and welcome to the next installment of Blog Trends (#20blogtrends) where we examine 20 trends-of-the-moment in the world of blogging. If you’ve missed the first 3 installments of this 20 article series, please visit the links at the end of this post to catch up. Today, let’s talk about newsletters. Yes, newsletters. Those old school things you think you really don’t need. You do.

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First, I don’t mean RSS feeds or subscribing to an email digest of a blog – those are essentially just delivering blog content to your inbox or feed reader without visiting the actual blog. And they work fine but from my experience, are definitely not the best way to reach (or keep) your readers attention and very difficult to monetize unless you write a lot of sponsored posts. One of my main problems with these types of subscriptions is that if a company decides to pull the plug like Google did with their RSS reader not so long ago, you can lose tens of thousands of your subscribers overnight, like I did, and there is no way to get them back. What happens if Bloglovin’ does the same? Also let’s not forget social media platforms like Facebook while we’re at it. For example, if Facebook decides to involve fees in maintaining a business page, or a community page, what then? They already have put the pressure on us to pay to extend our reach to those who have liked our pages, right? I’ve spent a lot of money on Facebook trying to reach all of my fans but does that really even make sense? It’s sorta stupid to be honest.

That’s why I believe that the old-fashioned newsletter is the best way to not only keep your your community updated but also retain it more or less indefinitely. How so? Because your subscribers’ email addresses are stored in a database, whether you use an internal newsletter, e.g., a plugin for your blog, or an external company such as MailChimp. This means that even if the newsletter service bombs out, drastically changes its fee structure or decides to inject their own ads or the plugin you’re using is no longer maintained, you still have your precious contacts.

I was the editor of my school newspaper for years and later, after high school and college, I launched several newsletters for the companies that I worked for and acted as Managing Editor for each. I’ve always loved reaching people by any means possible – and today, through my blog and social media channels. The point is, you do whatever it takes to reach your readers and potential new fans of your work. Not everyone wants content delivered in the same way or even through a blog, Facebook post or Instagram photo. So you have to try and try again until you land on a ‘sharing formula’ (as I call it) that works for you. Makes sense, right?

Look at goop. A good example of a newsletter (or lifestyle publication, as they call it) that works well. Once a week, you feel like Gwyneth Paltrow and her best friends are sending you an email sharing the best of the best. You feel like part of her “It Girl” club. And everything links back to her website so you are immersed in all thing Gwyneth. If you like that sort of thing, then it’s the best lifestyle newsletter out there. The thing is, she had to get smart about her business which is why she is building an Ad-Sales Team at the moment. This is something we bloggers could do well to imitate.

Remember the Daily Candy craze, particularly between 2004-2006? Oh my goodness, when the founder still owned that site it was the bomb and also just a newsletter with links to the site. Sadly, the wrong people got a hold of it and ruined the whole thing – it’s gone. But why not pick up where corporations are falling? Why not think of smarter ways to build and maintain a newsletter that will work for your brand?

In my last Blogging Your Way e-course, Nichole Robertson from Obvious State taught about the power of the newsletter so I want to include a few points from her lesson below in case you wonder what sorts of things you could talk about in your newsletter to make it different from your blog – and interesting enough for readers to subscribe to.

Weekly Roundup
Some people subscribe to newsletters via Tinyletter.com. If you create an account there, you can send a personal letter at the end of the week to your fans that includes your favorite links, what you were up to that week and other goodies. Even if your fans didn’t read your blog all week, and they didn’t have time to check you out on social media, the once-weekly newsletter helps you stay in touch with your tribe.

Personal Newsletter
Our emails are jammed with marketing messages. How cool would it be to receive something that starts with a dear, ends with a sincerely, and feels personal? Seth Godin sometimes sends newsletters like this and I always look forward to them. Colloquial language is key here. No headlines, subheads or calls to action necessary. Go old school and stand out.

Behind the Scenes
Everyone loves bonus content. Share special content with newsletter subscribers only. This works well when you are launching a book or traveling, for instance. When Nichole from Obvious State wanted to share her new book, The Paris Journal, she sent newsletter subscribers the first three chapters for free several weeks prior to launch and they loved it.

Do you subscribe to any newsletters? If so, which ones? And do you have a newsletter for your blog and if so, what types of things do you share?

You may also like:

* 01  Blog Trends: Slow Blogging
* 02  Blog Trends: Become Your Own Blog Star
* 03  Blog Trends: Earn Money Without Guilt

(Text: Holly Becker, Nichole Robertson. Editor: Thorsten Becker. Graphic: Leslee Mitchell)

Posted in blogs on February 12, 2015

Blog Trends: Earn Money Without Guilt

Let’s talk about another trend in blogging – or at least a trend I want to see very soon – Earn Money Without Guilt! Oh and remember, if you’ve missed the first two posts in this series, you can catch up by reading them here: Slow Blogging and Become Your Own Blog Star. And if you’d like to continue this discussion elsewhere online, including Instagram, you can link to this post (shortlink: http://wp.me/po210-3iu) and use hashtag #20blogtrends. Ok, good. Let’s get started!

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See this lovely lady above? She is a mother, a wife and a blogger. She works from home. She also just won her first blog award from a prestigious Dutch design magazine. Her name is Holly Marder and she writes once monthly on decor8 (her column is called Homes With Heart) and on her own beautiful blog called Avenue Lifestyle. She has high hopes to do more and with her talent she is likely to reach her dreams and even soar beyond if she keeps at it. Her goal is to earn a living as a blogger, stylist and photographer. That is the goal for many bloggers currently.

The question is, as readers will we allow that? Or will we stand in her path?

A blog doesn’t just have to be about sharing pretty things for free, day in and day out, with no financial reward for the effort poured into it. We all need to eat and pay rent. And most of us really do love blogging and feel a genuine passion for it first and foremost. Yet, when you add up the hours and resources involved to produce beautiful blog content, no one can keep at it post after post, year after year, without eventually needing to earn some money to sustain it all.

It isn’t nice or even fair to demand from talented people who write beautiful blogs to just pump this stuff out for free and to get upset when they start online shops, publish books, produce downloadable content (for a price), etc. Sure, it wasn’t this way in the beginning for all bloggers but also remember, in the beginning, blog content wasn’t where it’s at today. We didn’t see magazine-worthy recipes, professional-looking styling from weddings to interiors and beyond, gorgeously shot food, amazing travel stories, expertly crafted DIY stories. It was mostly text and tiny images and since blog platforms, templates, even digital cameras weren’t where they’re at today, the average blogger couldn’t produce magazine-worthy content at home.

Time changed that. We all learned and grew together. We bought books, we took classes, taught each other tricks and tips, bought the latest cameras and software programs for photo editing. We leveled up.

When I started blogging nearly a decade ago, we didn’t have a crystal ball to predict all of this.  But with a lot of drive and enthusiasm, we moved blogging to where it is today – into a new form of media, the people’s journalism, a community of inspirers who, together, have a strong global conversation on topics every single day in which our passion and often our talent, flows. When I hear readers complain that they see so much of the same stuff on blogs lately I think that we really are influencers because if we can get so many bloggers to pick up a topic and write about it, my god, how amazing to join voices in this way! How amazing to have this kind of social influence! Woot!

But one problem still exists – the stupid elephant in the room…

MONEY.

We don’t need to stay stuck in the mindset of the past when everything online was free so it should always should be free, do we? Are we really selling out if we earn a living by doing what we love and through sharing our talents online? A sell out is a person who compromises their values for money. That’s clearly wrong. A sell out isn’t a person who earns money without compromising their values and does it with class and integrity.

See the difference?

Everything shouldn’t be cheap or free, because often you get what you pay for (or aren’t paying for). I’ve taken a lot of $10 e-courses that gave me nothing more than some pre-recorded content and not much interaction from the students or teachers otherwise. They were the online equivalent of reading a how-to book in most cases. I’ve also taken some online courses that were a lot more money (like $100+) and the videos were top notch, I learned a ton, and I felt a part of a larger community. I definitely got what I paid for with no regrets.

I’m frankly so bored with this old-fashioned mindset of everything being cheap or free. While, as a reader, I may not want to pay to read individual blog posts, I may be happy to support the blogger in other ways. Maybe they have a shop, products, books, podcasts, videos, exclusive content, online magazines or other things that enables them to earn a living. If the content is exceptional and there is great takeaway, paying for that is a non-issue. Or perhaps your favorite bloggers have some sponsored posts from time to time (of course with full disclosure in the opening paragraph and at the bottom of the post), or some ads. Is that really so terrible? Or are we being a bit judgmental?

Let’s stop guilting our blogger friends. Most of the blogs we read are not run by wealthy people looking to take advantage of us. They are run by people just like us, who want a better life for themselves and their families and are willing to work very hard for it, by working for a living in an ethical way that brings value to OUR life. Because the truth is, for blogs that spend hours on creating meaningful content, our appreciation has to run deeper than merely pinning their images to our pinboards.

Currently, I see a big burn out “mass exodus” on the horizon, bloggers posting less or giving up altogether, if we don’t get clever and new find ways to support what we do (monetarily) without audience push back. The “everything is free on the internet” mentality has to go because only then can the quality of content drastically improve, which drives competition, change, innovation and new ideas.

For 2015, let’s all join forces and support this trend of earning money as a blogger but beyond that, let’s spread a new way of looking at blogs – as the new media they really are – and as a righteous path for career seekers to explore and to not be shamed if they earn revenue in ethical ways while blogging.

So there, I’ve put it out there. Discuss if you’d like. I’d love to here your thoughts, of course. #20blogtrends

(image: hanke arkenbout)

Posted in blogs on December 23, 2014

Blog Trends: Become Your Own Blog Star

Hello friends! Last Monday I kicked off a new 20 week series (#20blogtrends) to run on decor8 where I talk about some of the blog trends I’m seeing. My first column was all about Slow Blogging – quality over quantity. What did you think about that topic? I really enjoyed reading the comments, it was an interesting discussion! This week, let’s talk about another trend – becoming your very own blog star or web celeb.

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This is the exact flip side of last week’s slow blogging trend discussion, but pushing for fame is very alive and well and for those who aren’t interested in the slow movement, and you want to hustle like hell, you could jump on the extremely fast track and go from zero to hero pretty fast thanks to your talent, some good ideas, follow through and a ton of hard work.

I see lots of bloggers who have and are currently becoming web celebs, i.e. their own version of reality stars by simply using their blog, social media platforms and/or other services like YouTube, Vimeo, etc. These ambitious folks aren’t satisfied with merely writing a blog post. OH NO. They want to become a pretty big deal (good for them!) and are willing to put in the time for it at any cost, even sometimes to their health, family life, social life and LIFE in general (many I’ve talked to say that outside of their web life they don’t have much else going on). BUT still. For some this is totally worth it and they are pushing because they want to accomplish certain goals for themselves. Some are producing their own photo shoots, hiring props and teams of people to produce videos for their blogs, opening up studio spaces and getting staff, partnering with companies for products to include in their posts to pay for their more elaborately produced content, starting their own product lines, pumping out fancy classes that they can then turn into even fancier blog content, doing amazing things on their YouTube channel… the magic goes on and on.

When it comes to becoming your own blog star, the key thing is that EVERYTHING BECOMES CONTENT. Your lunch with a friend. Your calligraphy class. Your mani pedi visit. Your dressing room try-ons. It’s all one big blog post, video, selfie, Instagram moment. For some people, particularly those who have a bit of a reality star trapped inside of them, this really works. I see some become pretty influential and cranking in 6 figures each year. If they are continuously providing value to their audience and can keep the pace, or even increase it, their fame quota and earnings become a byproduct of all of those amazing selfie shots, how-to vids and photos of their cute kids.

If you think you’d like to be your very own blog reality star or web celeb, I advise to look at the bloggers out there who are doing it already and see what you could add that would make your approach unique and fun. What do you want to share? I also advise to not over think things. Then fear takes away what could be a really beautiful spontaneous moment of enjoying that “I have nothing to lose” approach. You may want to think of a few ideas and just start doing one of them and see where that takes you, right?

So what bloggers do you think have done this very well and what do you like about what they are doing? Or do you have questions on this topic? What are some problems with blogging with a goal to really become a big name? Remember, you can comment below and also keep the discussion going online elsewhere by simply using hashtag #20blogtrends.

(image and lettering: Hannah at Pommel Lane)

Posted in blogs, Top Trends on December 15, 2014

Blog Trends: Slow Blogging

I’ve decided to start a blogger series called Blog Trends #20blogtrends that will focus primarily on creative blogs so design, art, food, entertaining, floral, craft, decorating, wedding, you get it… With a new year approaching, it’s a timely topic for us to not only examine the current state of affairs but because doing so will help us as bloggers to plan out a fresh, new approach for the year ahead. You can count on this column to appear once weekly on Mondays for the next 20 weeks. If any of these topics hit you as interesting, or you want to start your own conversations about them on Instagram, Twitter, etc. please use hashtag #20blogtrends so we can pool our thoughts and have one big global conversation.

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The first blog trend I want to talk about is called Slow Blogging or, quality over quantity.

This trend is a biggie but it’s met with some fan and advertiser/sponsor displeasure, that’s for sure. It’s when a blogger consciously decides to start producing quality content on a consistent basis but not at a frenetic pace as was the case in the past. Posts go from 5 times a day to 5 times a week or less, for instance. More thought travels into what’s being thrown out into the world. It used to be that blogs were esteemed if they churned out streaming content 24/7, the time when posts were scheduled to go live every few hours (I remember being a fan girl to some blogs like this). Currently, such blogs are at the top of field earning crazy revenue dollars but to the rest of us who read blogs for what we can learn and find inspiring, blogs like that come across lately as tiresome to keep up with, old school, uninspired and muddy/unedited. Some readers want streaming daily content and get upset when their favorite blogger slows down. But many of us have a lot of responsibilities in our life and just don’t have the time to read blogs for hours each day.

I love a good, slow blog.

I frankly can’t read blogs that post more than once or twice a day because I use Friday afternoons to indulge in catching up on blog reading for the week and if a ton of posts have mounted up from a fave blogger, I am instantly overwhelmed. I then half-heartedly scan the content and don’t feel that excited because it’s just too much to take in. Even worse is when every post is “Click here to read more”. I don’t have time for that if I’ve missed the last 20 posts and they are all good! Whereas if I only have maybe 5 or 10 posts to look at from my favorite blogger after a week’s time, I feel excited to read them. Even better is if there are only 3 or 5 quality posts because then I savor and even share them. And for the really great blogs that I have to stay on top of each day, I simply subscribe to them to be sent to my inbox if they have this option so they get read along with my daily email.

Quantity (number of posts) was key when I started blogging 9 years ago but today quality (posts that stand out) opens doors to bigger things: book writing, magazine work, lecturing, working with advertisers, television, video, etc. It also increases exposure and helps you get your name circulating much faster. Hustling has begun to look desperate in my eyes at least. I don’t think you need to hustle to make it in this business as much as you need to have an opinion and voice it and if you can create other things outside of great words, like photos, DIY projects, videos, recipes, etc. then even better.

When it comes to frequency of posts, it’s the difference between dinner out at your favorite Michelin star restaurant vs. an all-you-can-eat buffet for $7.99. At least to me. While there is nothing wrong with either and some who comb blogs for a living (magazine editors and publicists for instance) seek out the buffets, I personally want to dine on blogs that take time to craft each meal (post) – either with thoughtful words, a great how-to, an instructional video, an interesting series or column, beautiful photography, recipes or a combination of some or all.

Oftentimes, my favorite posts are those that have great story telling. Beautiful photos abound online but those stories of love and woe, parenting issues, travel tales, home renovations and the problems encountered, health issues and how one feels (told in a frank way), behind-the-scenes of how a blogger did something interesting, that’s all content that I get into. Of course, every blogger has a different mission, some have advertisers to please, and not everyone has a great story to tell daily or even weekly.

The web is filled with distraction and noise – and a lot of junk. There are also a ton of copycats and things that look all look the same lately – including the stuff on blogs. Which is only normal because we are all inspiring one another – it’s impossible to not find similarities between us. Similarities in aesthetics isn’t the problem though, the problem is when voices all begin to sound the same.

Imagine squeezing tubes of acrylic paint onto a palette. Individually they posses a district color. If you blend them all together you are left with one big brown pool of muddy paint. This is what happens when we all claim to think the same way and like the same things and keep the real stuff we wish she could share behind the scenes. But those things we don’t share are the gems that help us to carve out our niche. We love people like that, who follow their own beat – like Zooey Deschanel and Iris Apfel. Even Jenna Lyons, she definitely does her own thing and has created an iconic American fashion empire in doing so. When we follow protocol too closely, take a formulaic approach, walk the easy road and stop taking risks that becomes the greatest risk.

Note: The Slow Blogging trend is not for everyone, especially pro bloggers who make their living serving millions of hungry readers each day. But I think even a pro blogger makes that decision – no one is forcing us to pump out a billion blog posts. Usually this comes from an overwhelming need to succeed coupled with fear of losing readers, fear of losing advertisers and worry that you’ll no longer hold the spotlight. Is this what blogging has to come down to though? Is this all that matters? I don’t judge either way, I only know what feels right to me and that’s a decision each blogger needs to make without regret.

What are some blogs, in your eyes, that have a blogger behind them who has a strong vision and voice? Which bloggers do you think have great photography and styling? The best videos? I’d love to also hear what you think about this topic in general. Comment below and remember, if you comment elsewhere online or want to extend this conversation, please use hashtag #20blogtrends

(image: holly becker for decor8)

Posted in blogs on December 08, 2014

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