@andrewchen

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I want more tools to reach my readers, not monetize them!

I am often pitched with new blog widgets and services to try out. Most of the time, I won’t try it, unless it falls into one of two categories:

  1. It helps me build my readership and audience, particularly email and RSS subscribers or Twitter followers
  2. Or, it helps me understand my audience, and even better, creates a way for me to start a dialog with them

The best tools do both. If you have one like that, then send me a note at voodoo at gmail. I am likely to try it out!

Money doesn’t matter
Note that monetization doesn’t factor into my decision above – and that’s because I didn’t start this blog to make money ;-) Instead, I am writing it because I enjoy the process, it helps me structure my thoughts, and I often meet interesting people through my blog.

When I’m thinking about a problem and am willing to make it public, a quick post or two about the topic often brings world class people to the forefront, and it’s a lot easier to learn from people who are much smarter than me than to try to figure things out from first principles in a vacuum. 

Plus, making money from writing a niche blog is hard, with the only viable method being direct monetization via ebooks or something similar. You definitely need scale to make advertising work.

For the above reason, over time, I’ve come to trust on a number of tools that I can’t live without:

1) Feedburner, for email subscriptions
There are certainly better email feed managers, but I built my initial audience with this, and it’s working well enough. Every time someone subscribes by email, they enter in their address. This becomes a valuable clue and I often will google email addresses or look them up on Linkedin, just to know. And sometimes, it becomes a trigger for me to send an email and introduce myself. That’s pretty good. The biggest plus would be if there was a way to

2) Twitter, for follower bios
Twitter has a similar affect, except people are much more likely to follow on Twitter than give you their email address. Similarly, Twitter has a nice “bio” that you can eyeball for details about the person. I’ve also recently discovered Tweepsearch, which lets me do things like search for any of my followers who do iPhone work and contact them. The point is, it makes it so that blogging becomes a great tool for me to massively (but passively) build a big business network – and the corners of this network may not be helpful today, but maybe one day ;-)

3) LinkedIn, for business backgrounds
LinkedIn has some of the same properties as above, but also has detailed info. On the other hand, it absolutely skews towards marketing and business professionals. I often find that a lot of engineers don’t have Linkedin accounts.

And by the way, Google Friend Connect sucks
I recently tried out Google Friend Connect, and it definitely sucks using the values above. If you go to my blog now, at the bottom there’s a “Social Bar” where you can “join” this blog (whatever that means). Since implementing it last night, I’ve had a couple people join, but it’s basically worthless. There’s really no profile to speak of, and there’s no way for me to reach out to interesting people, even if I could figure out whether they were interesting or not. What’s the point of having people join then, if I can’t do anything with the audience I build?

Disqus has a little bit of this also – people often comment on stuff, and sometimes their comments will be really interesting. But when I go to a Disqus profile, there’s often little to know information, and certainly no way to contact them. Instead, I just have to reply in the public comments, which is pretty kludgey and certainly not a “passive” way to go about doing this.

Stop focusing on monetization, at least for 99% of bloggers!
My uber point on this, ultimately, is that 99% of bloggers don’t make any money from their blogs, and the rewards for their work are meeting interesting people as well as building up a following. Things that help pierce the veil of anonymity (with reader consent, of course) are the most useful since it helps on all the non-monetization goals.

Anyway, if you have a useful widget or plugin for me to try that fulfills any of the above, please shoot me an email.

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