On daily blogging and building up a post reserve

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The write stuff.

I seem to have inadvertently caused some confusion. About a week ago, I announced that I was stepping down from a blogathon gig and was taking a hiatus from videos due to health issues. However, the daily posts kept right on coming. How is that possible? I have a reserve of posts at the ready. A reserve? Yes, indeed. If you’re wanting or needing any other help or advice, such as finding domains or which blogging platform could be the best for you, have a look on helpful websites such as Site Beginner and others.

I thought it would be helpful to share my process for blogging. I hope it will clear up some confusion as to how I am able to build up content for daily posts and create a buffer for vacation, illness, etc. Not many solo movie bloggers keep up a daily schedule for posts (Lindsey of The Motion Pictures is one in the classic film category) but if you can manage it, it’s a great way to build up a devoted readership.

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How do I do it? First of all, know that even though I post every day, I do not write every day. In fact, I did not write at all for most of the month of October. I was in South Korea and did not have my laptop with me. Instead, I wrote like a maniac in the months before my vacation and planned a post for every single day that I was gone. The WordPress app is not perfect yet but it got the job done and I was able to control the site with relatively few hiccups.

Since announcing my slowdown, I have been dipping into my post reserve. Perhaps only one or two posts since the announcement have been entirely new content. The rest were posts that I had created weeks or months before and kept in reserve. I have a few reasons for holding back posts. First, I may write something that will be more relevant later. (For example, I held back my 1960 Peter Pan review for several months so it would publish just before the recent live broadcast of the play. My William S. Hart theme month was planned almost a year in advance.) Second, I tend to write in bursts and it makes no sense to publish five posts one day and nothing for the next week.

A post reserve is important as my job has unpredictable hours and my health is usually so-so. I don’t know if I will always have the time or energy to create content so I plan for the worst.

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There are two exceptions to all this: blogathons and videos.

Blogathons by their very nature are done in real time and require quite a bit of TLC to pull off. Participants need their questions answered, rosters need to be updated and the event needs to be marketed. This is not something that can be done in advance.

Videos take an entirely difference set of skills from written reviews and they do tend to take over my life when I am working on them. Plus, my voice needs to be in shape to narrate. My immune system is not the best and I am prone to throat infections, getting several a year. You see the problem.

So, while I can build a reserve of reviews, GIFs and other goodies, videos and blogathons are not really meant for that sort of thing.

But let’s focus on the positives. I am going to share how I create content for a daily blog.

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A Super Jewel production!

First, I have two categories for posts and they are very similar to the classifications used to by silent film studios. I have the programmers, the small items, that are much faster to create and I have the specials, the longer content that takes a lot of time and effort. Fun Size Reviews, GIFs and shared YouTube videos are programmers. Specials are full-length reviews, After the Silents, Silents in Talkies, video reviews, long articles and the Cooking with the (Silent) Stars series. Generally, I try to have at least two specials every week and one of them is always a full-length silent film review.

GIFs

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As I watch silent films for review, I keep track of the times of sequences that I think would make good GIFs. After I have watched the movie, I go back and create the GIFs. I generally try to make three GIFs or more from every movie but I always make at least one. These GIFs go into my reserve for later use. At any given time, I have between 50 and 200 unpublished GIFs on hand.

Usually, GIFs will debut in one of my quippy Animated GIF posts. After that, it may be reused to illustrate a humorous point, to embellish a Fun Size Review or be published as a Silent Movie Rule or whatever else I think of.

I try not to publish too many GIFs from the same film in a row because I like to keep variety on the site.

Fun Size Reviews, Trivia Cards, etc.

Click to view in lightbox

With shorter posts that follow a particular format, I like to use an assembly line approach. For example, when I make Fun Size Reviews, I generally write anywhere from five to ten in one sitting. I have a master list of all the movies I have covered (no film gets a Fun Size Review before a full-length review) and use it to make sure I do not skip or repeat a film. The trivia cards use the same Photoshop template and I also create between five and ten in a sitting.

My master list tells me whether the film in question has GIFs (some of my older reviews do not have GIfs to go with them so I have been going back and creating them), whether it has a Fun Size Review, a trivia card and whatever other related series I might create in the future. This is a great way to draw attention to older content that new readers may not have seen before without boring established and long-time readers.

Full-Length Reviews

Unlike my shorter posts, silent movie reviews are a definite risk when it comes to time spent. Some movies make it a challenge for me to even write 1,000 words (my minimum review length) while others have so much juicy detail that I have to cut myself off. There are also (seemingly) simple films that send me down the research rabbit hole.

Cough cough, Surrender, cough.

Oh dear.

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Oh, all right. I’ll tell the story. I was happily writing away and decided to add a few details on Ivan Mosjoukine, the film’s leading man. When researching something or someone, I often stop by Wikipedia to see what the average Joan is going to have read on the subject. Something seemed off with the narrative being peddled and down the rabbit hole I went.

Here is the article as it appears at present. I have highlighted the errors in green.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

I thought this was supposed to be about Ivan Mosjoukine. Someone has a little Valentino fixation and it sure isn’t Carl Laemmle. (The whole debunking is in my Surrender review.)

The problem is, I don’t know when a Surrender is going to come my way. I generally try to keep at least a month or more of reviews in reserve but if a I fall down a rabbit hole, I burn through that reserve quickly. As a result, I try to keep a mix of films I have never seen before and films I am already familiar with. That way, I know what I am letting myself in for at least some of the time.

Long Articles

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Longer articles on myth-busting and general silent film knowledge are written on an as-needed basis. When the topic is fairly non-controversial, I post them soon after they are completed. However, if the topic is a hot-button issue or if it reflects badly on a beloved star, I may hold it back so that it can “cool down” and perhaps be revised so that it is not unnecessarily inflammatory.

Does it always work? No. I did lose subscribers over my discussion of The Wind and its “bastardized” ending (spoiler: Lillian Gish is a great actress and a shameless fibber) but I don’t really think they were the sort worth keeping. While I try not to give offense, there are some fans who definitely prefer a black and white narrative filled with heroes and mustache-twirling villains. I’m sorry to be curt but there’s really no point in conversing with people who hold such a childish outlook.

Cooking Posts

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The Cooking with the (Silent) Stars series is the most expensive and time-consuming series on the site. It involves purchasing ingredients, preparing them, taking photos and videos and finally writing up the article. In order to minimize expense and time, I try to plan out cooking days. Basically, I choose recipes with overlap in ingredients and then I get cooking.

In June, I ended up house-sitting for a friend. Their house is relatively remote and it was just me and the dog. I took it as an opportunity to make some of the weirder foods in the cookbook. I purchased ingredients and had a marathon cooking session. My tummy did not appreciate it, believe you me, but I ended up with a fat selection of cooking posts all ready to go. I still have several in reserve and you will be seeing them over the next few weeks.

Taking the plunge

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So, maybe you have decided to try daily blogging. I hope knowing my method has helped you. Here is one more piece of advice, one I give to all would-be bloggers.

Before taking on the task of a blog, don’t post anything yet. Instead, write as though you already have a blog and save those posts. This will allow you to see if you are able to maintain a regular post schedule and it will give you a nice collection of posts to share if you do decide to launch. It also gives you a great chance to research the best time to post content. Just like on other social media where, for example, you need to understand the best time for instagram posts, you also need to know when would be the peak time for your readers to see a new post has gone live on your blog. This can take some time, but the rewards are worth it.

If you are a blogger who wants to pump things up to daily posting, try keeping your current schedule (whatever it is) and also writing the number of posts you would need for daily blogging. Test drive this for a month and see how you do. If you decide that it’s not for you, fine. You have a stack of posts in your reserve and no harm was done. If you decide that it is something that you would like to continue, make an announcement that you are adopting a daily post format and get cracking!

I hope all of this has clarified how the blog runs behind the scenes. Thanks for reading!

How to broaden your blog’s audience (expanding it beyond your loyal niche followers and possibly ruling the world)

Take a look at your own site to see how you can expand its appeal.
Take a look at your own site to see how you can expand its appeal.

I blog about a niche topic within a niche topic. Classic movie blogs are niche enough but I specialize in silent movies.

Want to know my favorite kind of comment?

“I have never seen/wasn’t interested in seeing/only have seen a few silent movies but I want to see this one.”

It makes me so happy to read this. But how do you get people to take that first look at your site? I am going to share some of the tricks that have worked for me. Some of them have already been covered in my post on increasing your blog’s traffic but I am going to revisit them with broadening blog audiences in mind.

How widely do you want to spread your blog?

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Spreading the word about your blog.

That is the most important thing to consider is how far you are willing to spread your blog’s topics. If you blog about cooking, would it make sense to add sections on gardening, entertaining or travel? Only you know the answer to that.

Let’s cover some risks of stepping out of your niche:

You risk alienating your core fans: If your most devoted fans only want to read about cooking, suddenly adding a lot of semi-related posts will make them less likely to return.

You risk unfocusing your blog: If you add too many new topics or topics that are not closely related to your main theme, you risk losing focus on your blog. A new visitor must be able to immediately know what your blog is about. And if your blog is purposely eclectic, say so on the landing page.

Here are some rewards:

You might get readers who may never have visited your blog otherwise: Sure, you have loyal readers for your articles on French cheesemaking but adding reviews of supermarket cheeses will give you access to a much broader readership.

You might find yourself having fun: Writing a regular blog is a challenge, even for the most passionate. Thinking of ways to expand your topic can make your blog new to you once again.

In conclusion:

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Would you like a kitten with your giant pin of a chili pepper? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eclectic content and off-topic posts are fun to write and read. However, when you are expanding your content, never forget the original purpose of your blog. Venture out but don’t forget to come home again.

(Of course, there are cases of blogs changing their purpose entirely but that was a decision made by their creators, not the result of too many topics. And, again, some blogs are purposely eclectic.)

Adding new topics and features

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Try something new!

What new topics and features? Again, it depends on your blog. In my case, I wanted to make silent movies more real and relevant to modern viewers who may not necessarily be film buffs. Figure out your target and then try to come up with ideas that will appeal to them.

Samples:

You have a blog on classic English literature. You decide that you want more non-readers to take a look at your site. You decide to start reviewing modernized film versions of the classics.

You have a blog on fine cooking. You decide that you want to appeal to the busy mom/dad reader. You decide to start posting about quick and easy shortcuts that bring gourmet food to a busy household.

In my case, I started reviewing modern sound films that featured silent movies in their plots.

Varying post length and branch into other media

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Try out new media!

If you are regularly writing 1,000+ word posts, consider interspersing smaller, more digestible posts. Someone who is new to your blog may hesitate to commit to a 2,500 word review but will be more than happy to look at a 350 word feature. Plus, the challenge of having fewer words available is a great writing exercise.

Also consider varying your content. What do I mean? Well, if you are a passionate blogger, you are using the written word. Have you considered adding images to the mix? Movie stills, vintage illustrations, animated GIFs…

By the same token, if you are an image-centric blogger, maybe consider adding a small amount of written content to mix things up.

Videos are powerful and search engines love ’em. Just be sure that the video is either in the public domain or is otherwise authorized to be posted. Of course, your own videos would not have copyright issues, assuming you follow the rules of your video hosting service. (Here is the official word on Fair Use; the actual definition of it varies from site to site.)

Test drive your content

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Make sure your content looks its best!

I’ve mentioned before that I belonged to a small writers group and that it helped my writing a lot. Here’s why.

The group consisted of four women, not including me. We were all from different backgrounds and were different ages. We all wrote on different topics. Only one of the ladies had ever seen a silent film. What did this mean? I got to test out my reviews on an audience who did not know Wallace Reid from Sessue Hayakawa. If my references were too vague or too obviously intended for insiders, they would tell me so.

You see, as a fan of your subject, you may take for granted that your audience will understand your references and jokes. Am I advocating talking down to your readers? Heavens, no! What I am saying is that it helps me a lot to try to imagine a newcomer reading one of my posts. Would it be clear and fun to read? It should be.

While I no longer belong to a writers group, I think I benefited from my membership. In addition to helping with the basic craft of writing, it also helped me to see my work with fresh eyes.

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