They say there’s strength in numbers. The worth of your blog is defined by its visibility, its loyal readership and its fan base. We’ll look at how to measure & monitor these in detail, in a future post. But before that, let’s look at one way to expand your blogging presence.
I started with one blog, back in 2004. A year later, I had expanded that to five different blogs (a chick-blog, a review blog, an office-stories blog, a poetry/confessional blog and my ‘main’ blog). Yet another year later, I found myself wondering how I could grow in this medium and in my craft (of writing). The answer came to me in the form of group blogs.
Group blogs are blogs that have multiple contributors. They could be topical, geographical, objective-based or just a collective of people who know each other.
Advantages of a group blog
- Focus: Collectives exist for a reason. In the recent years, there has been an upsurge of cause-related efforts on social media such as blood donation requests and offers, citizen media aggregation during the terror attacks etc. As you continue to write, you may find yourself meandering and losing your readership, as a result. A group blog gives you the impetus to stick to a topic or style and brings consistency to your posting.
- Discipline: There is a definite upsurge in motivation to blog when you’re part of a group (well, that’s actually true for most things). You may be a small group and each of you eggs the others on so the blog stays fresh, which means every one of you has to contribute on a timely basis. When you find your interest flagging, check into your groups.
- Readership: The most obvious reason to be part of a group blog is the fact that each contributor brings their readers to it (even if they’re just your parents or best friend). Once a reader is at the blog, they have access to posts by all the other contributors too. The resulting combined readership helps everyone– the larger the contributor base, the higher is likely to be your readership.
- Synergy: Many group blogs succeed on the synergy principle of the total being greater than the sum of all parts. Aside from number of readers, this is also true of online visibility (searches leading to your content) and reader interaction. It is a community, after all, and somehow readers get drawn into discussions easier at a group blog than if they think there’s just one person behind the site.
- Support: Some group blogs actually have a structure of people in place. You may not need to worry about the technical aspects of the site, there may be editorial assistance available and even broad guidelines for you to shape your writing. Some of the popular group blogs have really taught the blogging community, its culture. Being a part of a group blog is a learning experience for any blogger for all these reasons.
Finding the right group blog
There are any number of community blogging initiatives available online but here are some things you could look out for, when scouting for the right group blog for yourself:
- Purpose: Does the blog have a specific purpose and one that interests you sufficiently enough to be able to write more than a couple of posts?
- Community members: Who are the other contributors? A group blog that has at least a few big names on its roster can claim high visibility. But do check the Authors section and also the frequency of their posts on the blog.
- Cross-posting: What is their policy on cross-posting? Be very clear on this before you sign up for any group blog. You create your posts so be prudent about who you decide to let access and also how they do it. Will they allow you to post the same to your own blog too? Do they require ‘first publishing’ rights? And if so, does the visibility that the group blog brings you, merit that early exclusivity? Do they credit you adequately (see Authors section, profiles under each post)?
- Discussion: Does the blog enjoy a healthy discussion in its comments? This obviously goes for any blog relating to topics that could encompass multiple opinions and points of view. Healthy discussion would include a high degree of participation from the readers, moderators and other contributors of the blog.
- Trolling: Does the blog get trolled a lot? There is a viewpoint that says that trolling is an indication of popularity, a backhanded compliment in its own way. But to most people, it’s a rude shock when they are the victims of malicious attacks, slander, flaming and the other nasty things that trolls do. You might want to consider this question very clearly. Even if the group blog does get trolled a lot, look at the moderators policy. Do their comments have a filtering mechanism? Does it seem like the founders/moderators support their contributors from the more vicious detractors? Remember when contributing to a group blog, you are part of an organization but it is only really a community if it takes care of you.
Watch-outs for a group blogger
You may find yourself loving the concept of group blogs so much that you want to start one yourself! Or there just may not being a community effort towards your pet idea. Here are some things to remember when setting up your own group blog:
- Maintaining a group blog is a whole lot of boring, nose-to-ground plodding. There’s tech support and serving as helpdesk to newbie bloggers who haven’t figured out their way around your site as yet.
- It is a time-consuming effort. You may edit, monitor and schedule. Or you may just moderate comments. In each of these cases, because it isn’t just your content, you will be held responsible for having everything done yesterday.
- It’s a lot like being a manager but without the salary or the authority of a big boss. Bloggers are just people. Readers are just people. And people fight, get upset with each other, forget to do things or do them wrong. When you’re running a group blog, it will be your cross to sort out each of these tangles.
- If you think being disciplined about posting to your own blog is difficult, wait till you run a group blog. Take your own excuses, multiply them by 20, toss in some soap-opera scripts, blend in brainless fantasy and then you’ll start to get the picture. If you start with 20 people agreeing to post, assume only 10 actually will try, only 5 will do it on time and only 1 may actually sustain. But your site will still need timely content so it will be your responsibility to bring in more people or keep at the existing ones to get them to post. Good luck being the person everyone hates!
My personal experience with group blogging
I’ve probably scared you off the concept of group blogging so let me tell you about my own experiences. Here are some of the group blogs that I’ve been a part of in the past few years:
- IFSHA: my first every group blog and it’s special that way. IFSHA was an open discussion on religion, feminism, life and spirituality. I found my way around topics for the first time and its founders were tremendously supportive with whatever I gave them.
- Desipundit: was one of India’s best loved filter-blogs and a real badge of honour for any post that got featured on it. A panel of Desipundits scoured the Indian blogosphere each day and linked to the best of their reads. Patrix put out a call for new Desipundits one day, I answered it and got taken on for a month and I stayed on till the site closed a few months ago. It was a very different experience because a Desipundit’s job was to curate rather than create content. I got a bird’s eye view of what was popular among readers, once got into scrapes over poorly chosen posts and was bailed out by the gracious founders.
- Mumbai Metroblogging: was the site that my blog wanted to grow up to be a part of. Metroblogging is a collection of cityscapes with a chapter for each major city. I was already writing about Mumbai and I really wanted to be part of this major reference point on the blogosphere. When I came on board, there were three other contributors. Arzan, the captain, provided the overseas (literally) view of Mumbai. Sakshi brought in the masala Bollywood flavour. Viewer gave Mumbai a face with her great pictures and I took our readers with me on trains, suburban bylanes and street-side shopping. Mumbai Metroblogging continues to be very close to my heart and I’ve been proud to expand the community by bringing in other contributors.
- Desicritics: was another site that had a lot of aspirational value. Dealing with a rather broad purview of culture, politics, sports and media and addressing the south-Asian segment, Desicritics has a legacy of Blogcritics/Technorati (both international forums). Desicritics has the most contributors of any of the group blogs that I’ve ever been a part of. It also has a panel of editors (I am now one) who scrutinize each post and mentor new contributors. Both I and my blog have benefitted tremendously from being part of Desicritics.
- Gaysi Family is a topical blog focusing on homosexuality, its interpretations and ramifications in India and among Indians. A friend who is also a contributor asked me to join and I said, “But why? I’m straight!” Undaunted, she replied, “So come be the straight voice of a gay blog!” Now what writer can resist the challenge of that? I have the unique privilege of playing devil’s advocate and talking for but also back at the community that the site goes out to. The site’s founders have been nothing short of welcoming and good-humoured through the passionate and sometimes differing views that come up. Gaysi, in my mind, represents the spirit of healthy conversations online.
Each of these experiences have been rewarding and have added to my growth as a blogger and writer. Many of them are open to new contributors too so if this article has interested you, drop into the blog that calls to you and get in touch with its founders to find out how you can join. Keep blogging, become a part of the community and I’ll see you around on the blogosphere!
“IdeaSmith is the online avatar of Ramya, an ex-business analyst on sabbatical. She loves stationery but she bid a fond goodbye to office spaces a year ago. Now she alternates between sampling panipuris, winning Monopoly games and airing her grievances on the Twitterverse.