February 13th, 2007
Last week, I got reconnected with one of the first people I met when I moved to DC ten years ago, Eric Wingerter, only to find out that the poor guy has been bitten by the blogging bug. More than that, after just six weeks, his site is already attracting a healthy and growing readership of several hundred people per day. Plenty of folks have talked about the impending “maturity” (in market terms) of the blogosphere — that the major niches are taken, leaving less room for new voices — yet Eric is clearly finding people to listen to what he has to say. What can we learn from his experience?
- Pick your niche. Eric is writing specifically about Venezuelan issues, with an eye toward countering what he sees as an anti-Chavez bias in the U.S. media. Even if he occasionally branches out into broader foreign policy questions, his site stays focused on his main subject.
- Be a new or distinctive voice. Eric saw a real lack of writing in the States that was sympathetic to Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution”, so he realized that he could be putting out a point of view that people might actually be interested in hearing. He didn’t try to start the umpteenth site recycling the same opinions as everyone else.
- Write often! BoRev.net generally features several new posts every day. Of course, it helps that Eric is freelance writing rather than working a 9-to-5, but the results are what matters — if you want to be read, you need to be cranking out the words to earn it.
- Choose your adversaries well. Who’s Eric taking on? Essentially, the entire right-wing blogosphere and media echo chamber, along with a big chunk of the mainstream media. Nice! With that many opposing voices, he’s never going to lack for source material to write about. And, his targets are often people who yelp nicely when hit — it doesn’t hurt when your critics send traffic to your site, as long as they get the URL right.
- Being inflammatory can be fun, and useful. Eric ain’t one to pull his punches, and every one of his sharp critiques has the chance to draw a response, which is usually accompanied by a link, which in turn draws more readers…
- Being connected at the start doesn’t hurt, either. Eric used to do press work for a Venezuelan-government funded project in DC, so he already knew many of the reporters and policy people who write about the country. When he launched BoRev.net, he started getting in touch with his contacts to let them know about the site, building a base of potential readers from the start. I did something similar when I launched e.politics — I made a list of about 100 folks I knew in the online advocacy, marketing and P.R. worlds and started emailing them (laboriously and one-at-a-time), which really helped get people reading it right away.
Cool stuff! Eric’s already been mentioned in the Huffington Post, on C-Span and in a discussion board on the Financial Times site, so the word is clearly spreading about what he’s up to. Obviously, the days of starting a blog and having people flock to your door right away are long gone, if they ever existed, but despite the talk of the death of the blogosphere, Eric’s experience (and mine with e.politics, frankly) demonstrates that you can still get your ideas out if you work at it. It’s the “work” part, though, that’s hard to sustain over the long run. Oh, and the whole “having something interesting to say” part, too.