Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Increasing blog readership: first steps

Key Lessons
• Write a post about an issue that you know will be of interest to a specific audience
• Leave a short comment on relevant posts with a hyperlink to attract readers
• Reply to comments in a timely fashion to continue the debate
• Write about similar issues to maintain a reader’s interest in your blog

The readership to Matthew Cain’s blog has increased exponentially over the last few days. This wasn’t a coincidence but a direct result or employing some simple, tried and trusted methods to recruit readers.

How I increased readership

Last weekend I received an embargoed copy of a report from the Media Standards Trust regarding the Press Complaints Commission. I’ve a long standing interest in this from running the right to reply service in 2006/07.

When the report launched, I blogged in support of the Trust, with a simple, relevant and obvious headline and a post of around 700 words. I then wrote a couple of lines in the comments section of all of the stories which criticised the report. It was just a simple two line comment, along the lines of: The Trust does not favour government regulation, just a better regulator. It’s a shame the PCC aren’t willing to engage in the debate:

The next day I noticed a conversation between two people I follow on Twitter: @JTownend who writes for and @currybet who blogs at JTownend was asking for ideas of how the PCC should be reformed. I blogged with some ideas for reform and Twittered with a short link to my entry. @JTownend noticed it and kindly included a link to my article from – generating over 100 clickthroughs to my blog.

That evening, I had an email from a friend drawing my attention to a email newsletter from Compass. He pointed out an unfortunate proofreading error. I knew that fellow Hackney blogger Luke Akehurst had previously written criticism of Compass so if I was to also criticise Compass, I would need to get his attention. I didn’t think there were too many other bloggers interested.

I wrote a brief post criticising Compass. It was nearer 700 words but I used bullet points to make it easier to read and chose a pithy title. I then put a link to my blog on one of Luke’s old posts – about the direction for New Labour. Luke moderates his comments so I knew that he would read it himself if he had time, but it wasn’t as intrusive as an email to his work address.

I then did a search for Compass using Google blog search and made a similar comment on a couple of other sites, along the lines of: I’m disappointed at the lack of new thinking produced by Compass. If that’s the future, we’re all doomed:

Luke picked up on my post and wrote a new blog entry. At Newscounter we estimate this happens about every 1 in 20 times you leave a comment on a personal blog (excluding newspaper sites or forums). After Luke wrote about it, premier parliamentary blogger Tom Watson (an offline friend of Luke) saw his post and welcomed me to the blogosphere – the last time I will ever be mentioned in the same breath as Sir Tim Berners Lee and the Queen. I found out that Tom had written about me because his blog appeared in my pingbacks window in wordpress. I then posted on Twitter to express my surprise that Tom had posted about me.

At this point, the blog started to take off. The post currently has 18 comments and has had over 600 views. I replied to each comment as quickly as I could, which not only encouraged most people to post again but actually elicited more considered views from three or four people, which was rewarding.

I kept an eye on my pingbacks box and left a comment on the site of everyone who wrote about me. I tried to be as polite as possible and engage people in the substantive issues.

On Sunday I noticed remarks by David Cameron about the funding of political parties, published on ConservativeHome, which appeared on the PoliticsHome ticker. Given that this is my specialist subject, I wrote a quick post urging Cameron to do the right thing and left a comment on the ConservativeHome article, something like ‘Cameron will regret it if he fails to reform party funding:

This post attracted over 500 readers, 17 comments and a few returning commenters from the previous post.

The challenge now is: how to sustain the readers through this week.

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