Being competitive in a saturated writing market
Ever heard the old advice for fledgling writers: “write what you know”? Take a moment and write it down on a piece of paper. Got it? Good. Now crumple it up and throw that piece of paper into the trash bin. Let any memory of the idea fade from your mind. Throw it away along with that piece of paper.
No one cares what you know — unless it’s something they want to learn. Writing is not just about providing a service to potential readers, it’s about fulfilling a need. Writing should always be considered reader-driven.
And yet, how often has this situation occurred? You sit down at your desk, the first cup of coffee of the day in hand, ready to write your daily blog post and the ideas just aren’t falling into place, or it is crunch time, an hour before you clock out and you’re struggling to get something online in between a dozen emails that need to be sent, a communication’s plan that needs to be finished and an expense report that needs to be filed.
Whether you’re new to blogging or an old hand at it, you’ll eventually struggle to find something to write — and you’ll resort to something that is easy, something that you know a lot about or, even worse, something someone else has already said.
After a day or two, the Google Analytics page just doesn’t return the kinds of numbers that it should.
Blogs are often criticized for becoming an echo chamber, however there are writers who are required to produce new and interesting content on an hourly basis: journalists. Many reporters are paid to write five or six articles a day, while competing with other news outlets to publish the most interesting content first.
Here are some of the ways they do it:
The easiest and hardest way of getting readers interested in what you are writing about is by being the first one to post it. This is difficult for two reasons: first, you need to know something before anyone else does and, second, you need to be able to write about it quickly. If you manage that then, for a few hours, you are the only source for that information.
You don’t need confidential sources to stay ahead of the game. If you regularly check Twitter and empty your inbox then you can keep up to date on developments in your field or in your niche. If you see something interesting, don’t file it away until you have time to write a blog post about it. Take 15 or 30 minutes and write about it immediately. You don’t need anything long, just 150 to 300 words. Don’t wait until you have all the information. Write what you can now. When you know more, you can either update the post, or write another blog post about it.
Also, set up Google Alerts on the topic so you can see what others are talking about.
2. Add Value
If people are already talking about something, don’t simply regurgitate what they are saying. If you can’t be the first one to post, then make sure you have something new to add to the conversation.
What information is missing? Is there another side to an argument that hasn’t been covered? Do a little digging online or maybe pick up the phone and call someone involved. Ask questions.
If too much information is scattered around the Internet in too many different places, then writing a summary of everything that is available is a way of adding value. Put everything people need to know in one place.
3. Write to Answer a Question
Remember when your teacher in grade school or professor in university told you to ask if you had a question, no matter how stupid that question might sound, because if you were wondering about something, chances are other people in the class were wondering about that too?
If you have a question about something, you’ve got the beginning of a blog post. Rather than ask yourself “What information do I have to write about?” ask yourself “What information do I want to know?” Answering that question will give you everything you need to write about it. Chances are good that other people are wondering about the same thing. If you already know the answer, chances are good that most other people do too.
Always Google your blog post idea before you start writing. If you can’t immediately find the information you want, then you’ve found the opportunity to fill a void. If you find too much on the subject and can’t think of anything you can add, set the idea aside and think of something else. Just because you could write about it, doesn’t mean anyone will read it.
4. Ask the Experts
The experts in any given field aren’t only a good source of information to answer your questions, they are also a great way to think of new questions. Someone with years of practice and study on a subject will know the terrain better than you will. They’ll be able to tell you what the latest issues are and what are the most important changes happening in that field right now.
You might feel embarrassed asking them about it, after all it could betray your own ignorance of a subject, but everyone has to start somewhere. And more often than not, they’ll be happy to talk to you about it. Don’t be afraid to contact them.
Also, here’s an idea: ask them what they would want to read on your blog.
5. Ask Your Readers
This should go without saying. Your greatest asset is being able to find information that others don’t have time to find. So find out what they want you to find for them. Regularly ask readers to send you ideas to write about, keep a record of questions asked in the comment section and encourage people to email you responses to your posts — maybe even offer to post the best ones to your blog as guest posts.
Rather than treat your blog like a personal soap box, make it a dialogue with your readers.