One morning recently I was sitting down sipping coffee at my favourite coffee shop, reading an old fashioned magazine, the ones with the glossy covers, having pages with glamorous ads about great watches or holidays in exotic destinations (especially the extra glossy one in the centrefold that holds each half together), containing all those articles, telling great stories about whatever is of interest to you, and then those community pages showing upcoming events etc. that you may consider attending. Then it struck me how blogs and magazines are so similar, yet so very distinct.
- The front cover, with publication name, showing the latest articles on offer (depending on the design of your blog).
- A way to navigate to articles of interest.
- Contact points.
- Some text that tell you about the publication.
- Advertising (if you have taken the opportunity to monetise your blog).
- They provide commentary, not news.
- Blogs are mostly written by one person rather than a team.
- No edition date (articles have dates but blogs are mostly undated).
- No cost (Blogs don’t cost anything but the time to read them).
- Letters to the editor (hmmm…).
- No Editorial (although it could be argued that some Blogs are all editorial).
- No mis-numbered pages (Hyper-links don’t normally go wrong).
Should a Blog become more like a magazine?
This is an interesting question, indeed when looking at content it is already true that they share an audience. Excellent blogs can certainly have a similar appeal to magazines, I will go back to the ones I like time and again for information precisely as years ago I enjoyed those magazines. Today content is primarily available on the web so if you have a blog the visual appearance matters so much. For your blog you should be prepared to play with the themes available and make them look like you are publishing a professional magazine, it isn’t hard to do. Of course quality of writing is first and foremost, material must be researched, and be presented well, which means it has to be visually appealing and content should be posted regularly.
Making content visually appealing starts with the theme you adopt and there are some great themes available and the beauty is that many do not cost anything to adopt, it also continues with presentation within each article.
Stylistically I find those that provide the home page to your Blog with a style or layout that provides easy navigation through all recent articles you have produced to be the most attractive of blogs. The vision of the blog changes over time as new articles are added and the older ones disappear from the top of the page, using featured article facilities of other tools offered by your theme the home page can look very much like a magazine. It also means the reader can simply ignore the post on wood eating ants in preference to the one featuring the spring rebirth of the humble bumble bee and jump straight to that page with the aid of the hyper-link provided, possibly being attracted by the pictorial layout of the home page of the blog, which can have a similar impact to the Magazine’s front cover
Do Not Use the Default Layout
Many bloggers are in a rush to get that first post published, thinking they can look at how their blog is styled later, but in truth never change it even after they have published 50 of 60 articles. Part of the problem with default layouts being adopted as the landing page is that the site visitor sees one post laid out underneath another which means when accessing other posts requires access to either drop-down menus or the need for the long scroll down in order to get to the content they wish to read. It is not a practical approach to take.
You should get the impression by my words that it can be a lot of effort for the reader and a key reason why a writer needs to investigate the different themes available, doing so can make or break any site. It is easy to change the layout, just look for a theme or style that suits your personality and the material that you publish.
Encouraging the Reader to Stay on your Site
The layout and style of your blog must be of a type which encourages the reader to stay after reading the one piece that attracted their attention in the first place, you need to provide them with an urge to stay and explore a little, show a little of what you’re site is about.
I gathered some statistics for a site I once managed for a client, at the start each visitor read an average of 1.3 pages (most of which consisted only of text), once we altered the home page to include a slider each visitors read an average of 2.9 pages, and after several changes to make the site more visual (including adding pictures, diagrams, or other images to old pages) visitors were reading an average of 4.7 pages. One goal of any blog should be having people stay and read multiple pages, and have them come back next week for more.
Bloggers should use a slider, feature, or magazine based themes. This way your blog can have a front cover that makes the site look like a magazine, with quick links to whole articles, just like your magazine. The role of the theme is to give your site a personalised look and feel, many themes will encourage you to use pictures and select a featured image for each post which will make your Blog main page physically more appealing and much more in the style of a printed magazine. You should also consider changing colours, visual layout, fonts and other options, they are simple to change through the theme options. Here are some appealing blog home pages:
The photographic impact of the home page cannot be understated, this picture came from a blog about presenting photo and of course every new post brings with it a new photograph that can be featured, so the blog develops over time.
Letter to the Editor (Or Comment)
The letter to the editor seems to be a thing of the past, yet any blog owner should encourage contributions by others as a way of spreading their reach. Firstly with Blogs you should have the comments turned on and you should have your site protected by Askimet or engines to monitor for spam or advertising based comments in order to block undesirable material. Secondly with every piece you write you should specifically invite comments by your readers.
Thirdly you should speak with other bloggers you know and have them write a piece for your site, a guest publication, this way they will spread the word about their article and the popularity of your blog will grow if you have several guest writers. I am open to other writers contributing here, I am specifically inviting contributions about the challenges people have writing, what in their lives stops them pursuing their passion and how they circumvent that problem. Also be prepared to write for other people’s sites in return, there should be a quid pro quo in respect of cross linking both sites, cross linking has a positive impact for blogs and their visibility on search engines.
There may never be the real equivalent of the letter to the editor in a blog, but comments and guest articles are certainly a good idea for building an audience that returns whenever you publish something new.
Cost, Monetisation, and Donations
Obviously running a blog does cost money especially if you have a .com address as opposed to a free Blogger or WordPress address, to monetise your blog you will need to pay for upgraded services. This topic is however a subject for another discussion.
Buy Peter B. Giblett a coffee as a thank you for contributing his thoughts on the power words can bring. All images used here are either owned by Peter Giblett or are CC0 Public Domain, sourced from Pixabay.
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