GroundReport's Ten Commandments
Dobbs Ferry, New York -- People will look back at 2006 as a watershed. They will divide the media business into two epochs: Before and After GroundReport. Thousands of doctoral theses will be written about the early days of the platform and the characters that animated it. Historians will ponder how just ten commandments were able to bring down Murdoch.
1. Write about things that you have observed firsthand. GroundReport was created to give ‘voice’ to people’s firsthand experiences. As an intern at the United Nations, Rachel Sterne was shocked at the disparity between what she heard firsthand attending the Security Council and what she read about those same sessions the next day in the traditional media. She realized that mainstream journalists just didn’t have the time or access to report on things that they have actually experienced and understood. Most mainstream journalists just rehash the ‘spin’ being fed to them by governments, lobbyists and ideologues because they are on deadline.
2. Achieve ‘groundedness’. Rachel Sterne was deeply influenced by September 11. As an incoming freshman at NYU, she lived through 9/11 on the ground, in the shadow of ground zero. Once you have smelled a fire burning for three weeks, you understand the power of being at the source and you are ready, you are compelled to have ‘voice’.
3. Be witty. The most effective way to make a point is to make people laugh as evidenced by the success of Jon Stewart. People want to be entertained while they are being informed. Remember the old Washington DC adage, “Everything has been said, it just hasn’t been said by everybody”. Delivery is as important as authenticity.
4. Pace yourself. Don’t publish all of your material at once; it will get lost in the clutter of the Internet. It is much more effective to publish according to a predictable cycle like once per month or week. Take a cue from Alan Abelson of Barron’s, who has built a career by poking fun at Wall Street -- once per week. If you write a novel, publish one chapter per week and your page views will be a lot higher than if you publish the whole work at once.
5. Know your word count. Every writer has an optimum word count. Some authors are in the ‘zone’ at 250 words like Sparrow; others like me peak at 1,000 words. Find your word count and stick with it.
6. Mention lots of people by name. People love to read about themselves – good or bad. People love to Google themselves or get Google alerts – good or bad. The more people that you mention by name in your article the more readers you will have.
7. A good story opens and closes with the same hook. Try to start your article with a hook or play on words. A well-written story will end on a variation of the opening hook or play on words and create a sense of closure.
8. Exploit the ‘long tail’. Writing about something that is of interest to only a small group of people is very effective on the Internet. I only write about two subjects, the Village of Dobbs Ferry where I live (population 10,471), and the Open Source software industry where I work. Yet writing about these niche topics, I have been read 6,800 times in less than one year writing one article of 1,000 words per month.
9. Exploit Google. Google prioritizes web site that serve its ads in its ranking algorithm. Since GroundReport serves Google ads, your article will get a surprisingly high organic Google search ranking.
10. Covet thee neighbor’s bots. For every one human that visits GroundReport, the platform is scanned by nine bots or web crawlers. That means that your article is being bookmarked by hundreds, if not thousands of other web sites, and your reach is being vastly expanded.
Tags: Groundreport , New Media , Long Tail , Rachel Sterne
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