My experience in blogging as part of a blogging network is very limited but based on what I have experienced thus far, there is a very strong focus on creating content because the content drives traffic which in turn, drives advertising revenue. The question I have is this, is content the only thing that matters?
I’ve noticed publishing systems which have seen better days, publishing systems which are way out of date sometimes by over 4 version releases, things that are broken and after notifying the guy up above about the problem, the broken thing is still there after 7 days, front end designs which could really be improved to not only highlight what is going on on the website as a whole, but increase accessibility of the backlog of content these blogs provide. Hell, some of these sites don’t even have a proper archive setup. Does none of this matter?
I realize that most technically savvy people browse sites now a days through their favorite RSS reader, but people still come to the site itself and I don’t understand why more emphasis is placed on the frontend and backend of a particular site along with the content that is published on it.
Are any of the things I mentioned above money makers or potential increases in revenue if the improvements were to be done? I would think with an archive page, it would make it easier for people who actually visit the site to find stuff in the backlog. With a focus on community through a recent comments block, you tell visitors that people hang out here and actually discuss things, with a related posts block as well as an area which highlights 5 or so random posts, you give visitors a chance to see something ELSE that might catch their eye, keeping them on the site longer and perhaps turning them into a subscriber if they weren’t already.
As a blogger, I could just as easily do things on my own. But my own blog doesn’t rake in any money and I have no experience or desire to mess with adwords, adsense, sponsored posts, text ads, direct advertising, and all of those other methods of monetization. So I write for others. As I have found out, it is tough to write for sites which in the back of your mind, know they could be so much more than what they are or have been in the past but because of ownership and the way things work, things just don’t work that way.
I guess the bottom line which I have had to cope with is this. The blogs I write for are not mine. I am hired on to write content for the blog, not much else. I can give suggestions, critique, comments, or whatever else, but I must not make demands and just because I say something, doesn’t mean it will happen. Writing for someone is not like Burger King where you can have things your way. It’s their way or the highway. I respect that, considering it’s not my site, but I wish it wouldn’t boggle my mind how making improvements to a brand or website and trying to take the site to it’s fullest potential would be pushed aside because none of those things make money. Sure, they don’t make money DIRECTLY, but I think I could make a strong argument for changes like what I described above to make money INDIRECTLY.
Has anyone else here ever written for someone else? Either an individual or for a blogging network? I wonder if you have gone through the same situations as I listed above. If so, how did you deal with those?
7 thoughts on “Is Content The Only Thing That Matters”
Many sites seem to have an “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” approach. However those sites eventually crush themselves under their own mass.
I work as a paid advisor at a web design forum. The forum is totally awful. The owner says they are keen to improve the forum to make it better, but they aren’t willing to make any big changes. They seem to agree with my advice about site design, but they never bother to implement any changes – presumably because they don’t know enough about web design to do it – ironic considering they are running a web design forum! The owner seems to be very good at milking money out of advertising, but if they knew just a little more about usability and design they could make a whole bunch more. The forum is almost dead. I assume anyone who sticks around quickly realises how poorly the site is designed and leave.
They recently did a total design change, but it is obvious that they didn’t seek any outside help beyond getting a basic graphic design. Many of the design flaws which were inherent in the original design are now present in the new one. I assume this is because the owner requested for these ‘flaws’ to be included in their new design.
I’ve given up offering advice now and just do my advising/moderation job as paid. I rarely talk to my employer (he’s an idiot anyway) and do the bare minimum not to get fired.
…. hopefully it doesn’t read this blog comment!
excellent post Jeffro
@Steven Hodson – Thank you Steve, the trials and tribulations of working for someone other than yourself :P
@Ryan – Wow, sounds like you and I know where each other is coming from in regards to these issues.
First off — my e-mail reply to you got lost when I transferred one of my accounts from POP to IMAP in my mail account — if you are still interested in my responses, I will write them up again (sorry for taking so long to tell you that — stuff gets crazy, as I’m sure you know).
Secondly, great post! I understand completely what you are talking about. At Weblogs, we are in a slightly different situation because have an awesome, awesome team of guys who are responsible for the CMS we use (which is proprietary, though AOL did eventually buy it after they bought Weblogs, and it is used on a few non-Weblogs properties like TMZ.com) — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still frustrating, for the blogger, when your site design is pushed back because another site takes priority, or that the mobile version of your site crashes the iPhone. What is most frustrating is getting e-mails from readers (or comments on our talkcast) complaining about UI issues, and being utterly powerless to fix it. I know how hard our CMS guys work (and I’ve met and hung out with them and they are truly great guys) and I cannot imagine having to manage as many sites (and some BIG sites at that) as they do. They truly understand the importance of other elements other than just content, and they work hard to make stuff the best that it can be, but it takes time, and the waiting can be difficult. I also understand that even with unlimited resources, you can’t be all things to all people.
For many bloggers, I think that not have control over the reader experience — especially if you are used to doing your own thing — is what is most frustrating and difficult to adjust to. I handle it by just trying to work with the system the best way I can, report any bugs I see, work to make my content work well with the system and then tell the truth when people complain — “I understand, I’m sorry that it isn’t as good as it could be, I’ve reported it to the right channels and we’re working hard to make it better.”
But I think in general, you make very, very good points. Content IS king, but if the content can’t be accessed easily and in a nice looking way, and if that content isn’t secure, it can’t really do what it is supposed to do.
Nice post Jeff, you got a lot of good points there and as someone that owns many paid and free sites focus to make money from the content, I have to tell you that I agree in part. Web site usability is indeed important to make a site content more accessible to readers or visitors. But quality unique content is the number one thing in a blog or information portal, content is the reason people visit your blog, not to see your new header image, or your new pretty background, content is the your natural search engine traffic generator, content is what makes people come back to your blog.
One web designer told me one time “The design and usability is what makes any site successful”, but, most respected marketer will tell you that this mix is wrong, the right is “quality content, a lot of easy to understand content, content that is targeted to the readers need, and usability is what makes a site successful”, specially is you are looking to monetize the blog.
Web design is just an online development strategy to increase the blog or site owner’s ego, and does it.
Don’t believe me here is an example: Go to Google and search for “Make Money Online”. and you are going to see that the two of the best sites on the results are 2 ugly blogs that were created using the Free Blogger.com system one is in first position and the other one is in the 5th spot, one of them have poor or bad usability, and they still manage to make 5 figures income every month… All the other sites there are top corporate websites:
http://moneymakerinfo.blogspot.com and makemoneyforbeginners.blogspot.com
This two blogs are there to make money, and they manage to make friends because their content is top notch, and visitors respect that.
RSS, is a great tool to increase branding awareness by making it easy for readers to access your content. But, blog marketer have a problem with RSS marketing, because is hard to monetize content using this technology. RSS is great to keep you in the mind of your readers and if your content is good enough you will hope to have them refer your blog to others, but what marketers really want is for them to come back to the site, where advertisers are.
I think usability is important and those two free blogs can increase their revenues by applying it better… But, maybe this is why blog networks put content quality first before usability.
Content is King…
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