Niche Blog Assessment: The Story of a Weblog

The purpose of my niche blog Day One was to explore the storytelling of news, and ultimately try to discover a new way of communicating news stories online, both creatively and journalistically.  I aimed to compliment the more ambivalent nature of Insert Future Here with at least one answer to the blog’s opening question, Where is Journalism Going?  I think this was a very ambitious goal to set myself, but I do think that ultimately, the direction of the blog has stayed true to its origins.

It was always my intention to interweave creatively-presented journalism with a serial piece of creative writing.  As a former newspaper reporter with a creative writing degree, I felt this was a strong ‘niche’ topic for me.   What is more, people seemed genuinely interesting in the idea when I pitched it to them.

I launched the blog with a piece of creative writing, which was somewhat ambiguous in nature as I purposefully did not explain in a blog post (only in the About Me page) what I was doing or why.  I wanted the post to set a tone of creativity which would remain a consistent thread throughout the blog’s life. 

Day One was not only about experimenting with the storytelling of journalism, it developed into a social experiment on a larger scale.  As the hits began to pick up around December time, I decided to branch into more socially contentious subjects to see whether their SEO strength would affect my site statistics and comments. 

One of my most recent posts was a reflection on the diet industry of today and how it is handled in the media.  This post received around 20 hits within 24 hours of going live, as well as two comments.  These were judged by WordPress to be spam as neither were particularly constructive and one was downright abusive about some of the personal information I had put into the post.  I had decided to include this information as a means of engaging readers, in the style of the bloggers I had sourced for research, but in light of the response I see this was perhaps a bit naive. 

One of the best examples from Day One of my exploring different and creative means of newsgathering was my Story from an Iphone post.  I had covered the Cathays Sex Attacks story already for a CJS assessment, and wanted to experiment by very roughly putting the bare bones of the storyline onto some footage shot on my iphone.  I think the result showed an interesting interpretation of a news story, but the post did not gain as many hits or comments as I would have liked. 

In my niche strategy I mentioned that I would attend and review creative events in and around Cardiff as a means of ‘supporting my community.’  I didn’t want to just write a review, as I have done in previous blogs, I wanted to communicate these events differently.  As a result, I began building a Google map showing some of the alternative places to go and things to do in the city for people interested in exploring the creative side of life.   Cardiff, A Little bit Differently proved very popular as soon as it was published, and it continues to bring in hits as I update the information on it.   This was my blog’s most successful attempt at supporting my community through a creative method.

My most popular posts on Day One as well as Insert Future Here (my course blog) dealt with contentious subjects such as domestic abuse, binge drinking, the diet industry and the role of social media in journalism.  This was not only good for my blogs, it proved my point in terms of social experimentation – that posts about subjects that people care (and therefore search) most for will get more hits.  

My most popular post for Insert Future Here was my Capture Cardiff post, which continues to gain hits daily (currently 121).  I think this is a mixture of good SEO tags and categories, good sources and topical subject.  The post which I am including in the links below, however, is my very first one discussing Claire Wardle’s lecture to CJS students.  This gained the most comments out of all my posts, which I think shows that good use of links, a concise point and a good story to tell are the essentials needed for interactive blog traffic. 

My Day One post with the most hits (88) was my most recent, Tutors could be putting Students at Risk.  The content exactly reflects the headline, there is a link to more information, and a Soundcloud upload of an audio interview cementing the story’s validity.  As well as being a genuine piece of original journalism, the story is topical, contentious and relevant to my audience.  

I considered experimenting with social media differently to tell this story, but I judged that using the bare minimum of tools and letting Rebekah’s interview speak for itself would be the most creative approach ultimately.   On reflection, this approach clearly engaged readers as the post got 68 hits within a few hours of publication, and continues to gain popularity.

I did comment on some of the blogs and sites listed in my niche strategy, which in turn probably earned me a few more hits.  But I wasn’t as active with this as I had hoped to be – mainly because I found that I was not getting comments on my blog in reply.  This is something I will try to improve.

I did not post as often as I would have liked.  The complicated nature of my strategy meant that I became a bit perfectionist about my posts, I wanted each one to really earn its creativity.  I do plan to continue the blog though, as I would like to see its following increase, develop my strategy of creative journalism as well as the serial piece of creative writing.  This – which tells the story of a family struck by cancer – was originally intended to be a piece of fiction, but has turned autobiographical. 

I liked the idea of drawing readers to the blog with the creative journalism posts and then giving them a flavour of something completely different which they would, hopefully, then want to read more about.  This following is something I will continue to build on in order to gain a fledgling place in the niche of creative writing blogging.

Links: Social Media: Power to the Pimpled

Tutors could be putting Students at Risk

Cardiff, A Little bit Differently


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