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 centre-fold that holds each half together). Containing all those great articles. Telling fascinating stories about whatever is of interest to you. Then there are 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.
Some text that tell you about the publication.
Advertising (if you have taken the opportunity to monetise your blog).
They offer commentary, not news.
Blogs are mostly written by one person and not a team.
No edition date (articles have dates blogs are mostly undated).
No cost (Blogs don’t cost anything but the time to read them).
Letters to the editor (hmmm…), well there are comments.
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. When looking at content it is already true that they share an audience. Popular blogs can certainly have a similar appeal to magazines. Going to the ones I like time and again for information precisely as years ago I enjoyed those magazines. Read them cover to cover, then keep them for a while.
Today content is primarily available on the web so if you have a blog the visual appearance matters so much. For your blog be ready to play with the themes available. Use one that helps your site look like you are publishing a professional magazine. It isn’t hard to do.
Quality of writing is a primal consideration. Research your material, and present it well. A good visual appeal is vital for your content. Post regularly.
Making content visually appealing starts with the theme you adopt. There are some great themes available. Most do not cost anything to adopt. GobbledeGoox uses a paid theme, and has added options available. Presentation matters for each article you publish.
Stylistically, those providing the home page with a personable style or layout are best. The must provide easy navigation through all recent articles. Your vision of the blog changes over time as you add new articles and the older ones disappear from the top of the page. Featured article give an immediate focus for the visitor. The style offered by your theme (particularly the home page) can look very much like a magazine.
It also means the reader can simply ignore the post on wood eating ants. Necessary where their preference is the one featuring the spring rebirth of the humble bumble bee. They 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. One thought they can look at blog style later. STOP!!! Get it right!
In truth few change it, even after they have published 50 or even 600 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. This means, for the reader to access other posts requires either drop-down menus or a long scroll down the page. Not reader friendly. They wish to get to relevant content, which they wish to read. It is not a practical approach to take.
The reader may need to take a lot of effort to navigate the page. It can be of-putting. Too much effort. They will go away. The key reason a blog writer needs to investigate the different themes available. Having the right one 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.
Encourage the Reader to Stay
The layout and style of your blog must encourage the reader to stay after reading the one piece that attracted their attention in the first place. Provide them with an urge to stay and explore a little. Showcase a little of what your 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 featured post slider each visitors read an average of 2.9 pages. 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 is having people stay and read multiple pages, and have them come back next week for more.
Bloggers should use a slider, feature, or magazine basedthemes. 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 is an appealing blog home pages:
The photographic impact of the home page cannot be understated. This picture is of a blog about presenting photos. Of course every new post brings with it a new photograph that can be featured, so the blog develops over time.
Even if your blog is mainly textual there is no reason it cannot use illustrations or pictures to convey the impression that should be shown. Pictures enhance text. There are plenty of public domain images that you can use to enhance the value of your text.
Letter to the Editor (Or Comment)
The letter to the editor seems a thing of the past. Should it be? Every blog owner should encourage contributions by others as a way of spreading their reach.
Firstly with Blogs have the comments turned on. Ensure you protect the site using Askimet or other software to monitor for spam or advertising based comments. Undesirable material is therefore blocked. 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. Encourage guest contributions, this will help spread the word about your blog. They may simply wish to show their article but it brings new readers. They will stay if your blog looks good. Popularity of your blog will grow as you build guest writers.
Personally, I am open to other writers contributing here. I specifically invite 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. A quid pro quo in respect of cross linking both sites is a positive effect, it raises 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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