Case Study: 3 Months to a Better Blog

by Dan Blank on August 6, 2009

From April-June, I partnered with Broadcasting &Cable to see if we could increase the performance of one of their blogs. I’ll start at the end, here are the results:

A few things this chart tells us:

  • It took a single month to double page view metrics.
  • It took another month to establish this as a reasonable benchmark.
  • By the third month, page view metrics were more than triple where they started from.

The blog we focused on was Fates & Fortunes, authored by Paige Albiniak, contributing editor for Broadcasting & Cable. While Fates has been around since December 2007, Paige only began blogging for it this year. She wrote the Beyond the Box blog for years, and has been a consistent contributor to B&C in many other ways.

In March, I spoke with the B&C team – Ben Grossman, Melissa Grego, Joel Topcik and Stephanie Robbins about their blog strategy and ways that we can support a blogger such as Paige. We ended up with a three month plan to partner with Paige and see what could be accomplished with a concerted effort. The lessons below describe our approach from both a strategic and tactical level.

In the past three months this is what I have learned:

  • It Takes a Team

    Broadcasting & Cable is an incredible team of journalists, and the best part of a project like this is to be able to work with folks like Ben, Melissa, Stephanie, Joel and Paige.

    But their time is precious, which is why we tried to establish clear roles in the beginning. Everyone was involved for the initial strategy discussions – Melissa shared topic ideas, Stephanie worked on the marketing strategy, etc. After the project was underway, Joel and I tried to focus on tracking the blog’s progress, and individual team members lent a hand when needed.

    The team also enlisted the help of Ashley MacDonald of RB Interactive, who was instrumental in creating a newsletter to support this effort, as well as other web operations needs.

    The division of labor seemed to work well, leveraging a broad set of resources, without taxing anyone unnecessarily. And let’s face it, Paige did 99% of the work!

  • Everyone Loves a Schedule

    Joel, Paige and I created the following schedule which we stuck to pretty closely:

    • Kickoff meetings, as mentioned above.
    • Bi-weekly: Joel and I spoke about progress, ideas and stats. I would try to pull metrics twice a month and send them around with comments.

    • Monthly: Joel, Paige and I spoke to discuss metrics from previous month, elicit feedback from Paige who is really in the trenches, and brainstormed potential opportunities and tactics for the next month.

    All seemed to work well from Paige’s perspective. She feels that every blog needs an editor, and was really enthused that the brand was so supportive of her. Overall, I think the key was to find a way that we could be helpful, without being in the way.

  • Have Goals

    This sounds simple, but it is often overlooked. There is a temptation to feel that because you are making an effort, because it is hard work, that in fact, you are going in the right direction. But without measuring results, you are flying blind.

    We let Fates & Fortunes create it’s own benchmark, seeing how it did after the first month, then the next. The fact that page view metrics doubled so quickly and sustained this was a good sign.

    In each monthly meeting we discussed what metrics could be possible in the following month, and things that can be done to give them a bump. Some of these spikes can be luck (a hot news item), but bloggers can also create their own luck by creating really great content and marketing it well. That’s what Paige focused on.

  • Just Show Up

    Update frequency is a critical component to blog success. The first hurdle Paige went after was to post consistent high quality content. She hit her rhythm pretty quickly, and was able to sustain this as she understood more and more what worked for her and her readers.

    Because of the frequency, Fates became a bigger presence within B&C and readers had more opportunities to discover and find value in it.

  • Use Best Practices for How People Read Online

    Over the course of the pilot, we often discussed topics, headlines, images, formatting, and other best practices attuned to how people read online.

  • Create Content Types

    The Fates & Fortunes blog could be very dependent on the news of the week, so we discussed ways to supplement this with evergreen, useful posts.

    We considered why people read the blog and related topics that would serve the needs of her readers. As Paige puts it:


    "You need to feed the beast, but still post high quality content, not just every thought that enters your head. Over time, you get better instincts."

    She also created "roundup" posts to cover smaller news items in an efficient manner. This is how she described the post types she settled on:

    1. Standard employment switches or job changes.
    2. Deeper profiles and things that people are doing other than job changes.
    3. Commenting on slices of life stuff, which can include celebrity news.

  • Bloggers Need to be Marketers

    The B&C team integrated the Fates blog into their other products, and marketed it through newsletters, the web, etc. Paige leveraged her network through social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. She has 705 Facebook friends, which means she’s cooler than you and me combined. It’s like High School all over again!

    A profound change in journalism is that content creators now need to take an active role in not just creating an audience, but interacting with them as well. Call it branding, call it marketing, call it community – but either way, it is serving Paige well.

  • Tie it to Business Opportunities

    B&C’s Publisher Larry Dunn and Associate Publisher Louis Hillelson were instrumental in combining the success of Paige’s blog with a related product launch: Television Careers. This brand launched on July 27, and includes a section of the B&C website that provides job opportunities, as well as a newsletter that will feature Paige’s content. Louis brainstormed the idea to marry this with job classifieds (thanks Mark Abbott!) and content from the Cable & Television Human Resources Association. A win-win situation.

  • Always Have a Plan

    We ended the three month pilot by analyzing what we have learned (see above), and discussing the next three months.
    Joel, Paige and I have reviewed the next 90 days to consider what we can expect in terms of benchmarks and goals. For this blog in particular, the Television Careers launch will have a big affect on performance. We also talked about things from a process perspective to see if we can tweak things to better support Paige. And of course, Joel and I also talked about spreading this model to other B&C blogs.

A HUGE thanks to Paige, the B&C team, and colleagues in RB Interactive and RBI who are responsible for the growth of this blog & and tying it to larger business strategies.

For more ways to improve your blog, check out these posts:

  • http://www.zacharyadamcohen.com/farmtotable Zachary Adam Cohen

    great stuff here. As a blogger entering my fifth month of bloggin I am totally thrilled by all of this new vocabulary and the lexicon of blogging, marketing and branding.

  • http://www.zacharyadamcohen.com/farmtotable Zachary Adam Cohen

    that being said: http://www.broadcastingcable.com/blog/Fates_For… this post has a really poor visual feel. The type is not consistent and the sizes are different? is this what the blog usually looks like? what kind of traffic are we talking about here? I think the article would be more effective if you cite actual numbers. No reason to be opaque.

  • sdavis2702

    Oh wow that IS poor visual feed. I almost lost my vision getting lost in that sea of text!

  • http://ubiquitense.com/ NarenUBi

    Well, it depends on the post frequency and the quality of the posts, as you've mentioned. I think it also depends on the luck of the blog 😉 jus kidding!

    So, 've got a query about the reader best practices that one must follow.. What do the readers like? Long posts or short and sweet ones? You got any analytics on this?

  • http://www.danblank.com DanBlank

    Thanks Zachary – welcome to the world of blogging!

  • http://www.danblank.com DanBlank

    Zachary: I appreciate the feedback. One thing I think I was trying to get across in the blog entry above is that there are so many things that one can do to improve their blog metrics. Yes, the “best practices” that include the use of images and formatting is certainly one, but there are others too. Also, not all blogs are alike – especially in B2B media, which is the world I am rather obsessed with. I'm sorry, but I can't share any traffic data.
    Thanks again!
    -Dan

  • http://www.danblank.com DanBlank

    🙁

  • http://www.danblank.com DanBlank

    Hi – I can just say that for a B2B media brand, their readers need information that can be used to push their business forward. Sometimes this is breaking news, exceptional filtering, or a keen insight. I can't share any specific metrics, but I can say that readers prefer content that is USEFUL, regardless of its length or tone.
    Thanks so much!
    -Dan

  • sdavis2702

    You know that I wasn't talking about you, right? lol

  • Bestwords

    The graph actually communicates nothing; there are no anchor points on the Y-axis.

  • http://www.danblank.com Anonymous

    Very true. I couldn’t share the actual data, but wanted to share the story. Thanks.

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