This is a Guest Blog by William Cain.
Blogging has come a long way since the days of the teen’s personal Livejournal account. Blogs as journalism, blogs as advertising, and even blogs as storytelling have become accepted parts of our society. However, there is still a perception that a ‘blog’ is a creator’s own property, driven by a singular voice. There is certainly something to be said for this approach, but there is a more collaborative effort that should be considered as a way to develop a lively, interesting, and prolific blog presence.
Consider the website Gaming as Women, which examines issues of gaming culture and the roles women have in that society. They tackle larger issues such as the nature of anti-harassment policies at large conventions, smaller ones such as the best way to handle difficult subject matter in a gaming environment, and more esoteric fare such as releasing a game built around the concept of sweeping social change.
This is a lot of material to cover, but to be fair the topic they have chosen for themselves is indeed one with broad implications. As a result, the blog has become a platform for multiple authors. Each has a different area they specialize in, but all comment on every issue in some measure. The effect is very similar to the Op-Ed section of a large newspaper, with essays steadily being presented on a number of issues, but with no one author being asked to ‘carry’ the site.
Another example is Skeptic Blog where a collection of some of the bigger names in the new Skeptic community (including Brian Dunning, Michael Shermer, and Steven Novella) cover issues ranging from debunking paranormal tv shows to the dangers of modern medical quack therapies.
Skeptic Blog is a great example of a thriving collaboration, particularly because it has such a lively comments section. Since many of the articles are about controversial topics, the comments are a source of extensive debate and criticism. Of course, each comment is a visit to the site, and high readership drives successful blogs.
So how should you approach building a collaborative blog?
First, start with a theme. Collaborations are more difficult to pull off than singular efforts because each party brings a different perspective and desires to the table. If there is a core theme that each of the writers is passionate about (BEFORE they start the blog), then getting them to work together on-message is much more effective. Develop a theme each of the writers you bring on is comfortable with and eager to write about, and you have a solid start.
Next, with the understanding that the content is to be written within the core theme, let each author develop their area of special comment. This isn’t to say that only this author writes on such things, but rather that they should be allowed to focus their content on a particular sub-theme of the site’s main message. People tend to be better at writing content they are eager to focus on, so allowing this kind of specialization will help their writing grow. In addition, each writer’s focus on a particular field of content will allow them to attract a particular subset of readers who enjoy their work.
Third, engage with your fellow authors. If a collaborator writes an article that resonates with you, perhaps go beyond making a comment and writing a response expanding on their idea or analyzing a specific part of it. This kind of dialog will increase your content and give your readers a reason to check out multiple authors on the site.
Finally, each author on the site should have their own individual blog as well. This allows for a synchronicity among the readership. Readers of their individual blog can be referred to the collaboration, and vice-versa. The personal blogs don’t even have to be about the same specific subject matter as the collaboration – this allows someone interested in the specifics of Michael Shermer’s science education on Skeptic Blog to discover his writings on other materials, and creates a ripple effect of discovery.
As always, there is no magic formula that will make a blog succeed over others. If you get a good team with great chemistry together though, you might just find that lightning strikes and you have a real winner on your hands.
William Cain is a freelance writer living in Apple Valley, California. He specializes in branding and blogging content, and is available for traditional and ghostwriting assignments. Check out his personal blog or contact him at wcain [dot] applevalley [at] gmail [dot] com.