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Lessons from The Daily Post bloggers

Hi folks. Remember me? I’m the guy who used to pummel you with ideas for blogging every day. I’m back…

Hi folks. Remember me? I’m the guy who used to pummel you with ideas for blogging every day. I’m back with a report on the awesome things I’ve watched happen here since I left.

Two years ago this blog began as an experiment (see The Daily Post’s first ever post). I started with some coworkers at WordPress.com. We wanted a way to share what we knew about blogging, while learning at the same time, and the daily post competition was a simple way to start. As things rolled along SaraDaryl, and Erica joined in with posts about photography and writing. And by the time I left the company in May 2012 it was clear there was something valuable here, but we all knew something was missing.

In July 2012 Michelle Weber and Cheri Lucas joined Automattic’s editorial staff. Michelle led the charge to reorganize and refocus the entire Daily Post project. And the results have been dramatic. Traffic and engagement at The Daily Post have more than doubled. Which is awesome to see.

dp stats focus

I bet many of you want similar things to happen at your blog.

With that in mind I spent last week interviewing your band of Daily Post hosts and here’s what you can learn from them:

  • Ask your readers. If you remember, back in August DP posted a survey and shared the results with you. This helped Michelle and the Daily Post crew refocus the project. It’s easier to create popular content if you know what your readers want. Merely asking your readers’ opinions in a poll is a way to get people who haven’t engaged before to vote, making it more likely they’ll comment or click like something next time.  
  • Have a schedule. The biggest change I see, from the outside, is how Michelle not only puts together a schedule each week for all the contributors, but acts as a shepherd, nudging and shaping all the contributions to fit together, and to do it on time. Blogs are like newspapers or TV shows in that having a schedule and sticking to it gives readers a rhythm to expect, which makes it easier to tune in and participate. The hosts use a private P2 themed blog to plan future posts and co-ordinate the work.
  • Have a team. With eight people making contributions there’s more resources and energy to go around. Depending on what your goals are, partnering up with a few people who have the same interest can transform three fledgling blogs into one vibrant one.
  • Find partners. There are definitely advantages to having friends with blogs. Daily Post has gotten some exposure in the sidebar of blog.wordpress.com and a few other places. None of these are ads exactly, since with Daily Post’s renewed focus the content here fits well with what visitors to these other WordPress.com pages are looking for. There’s a good marketing lesson here: exposure to 1000 random people isn’t as valuable as exposure to 100 of the right people who are already interested in what you’re doing.
  • A simplified redesign. Over time blogs grow in ways you never expect when you start. As Michelle explained “before, when you landed on DP, it was hard to figure out what it was *for*. Why am I here? What am I going to get out of this?” The redesigned theme clearly states what the team thinks readers want, since now they know after 2 years of running this place. It’s not a grab bag anymore. Daily Post now uses a customized version of the premium Linen theme.

dp originaldp now

I’m very happy to see The Daily Post doing so well and I hope to drop by with a post now and then. Happy Blogging.

57 Comments

  1. Posting 2-3 times a week is plenty for my readers, but I love The Daily Post for inspiration. I participated in your “2012 – A Year in Review” and it was a big hit!
    Congrats on your two years!

  2. I agree with Susielindau
    I post when I have time to do it, not as a daily deal.
    Mostly I want to have my work available and accessible for those interested in reading it after I do live readings at local venues. If other wordpress members click in that’s fine too!
    I truly appreciate the service provided by wordpress.com

  3. These pointers are very valuable. Through my short experience in the blogosphere, I would extend two of your points in the following ways:

    –Asking for feedback: Figuring out a way of subjective feedbacks along with the objective methods (polls etc.) helps. Directly asking what people want helps but blending in your questions in a natural way with the posts works in a more nuanced way. Also, readers react well if you acknowledge your acceptance of their pointers and make it clear how you’ve taken their constructive criticism.

    –Scheduling: If you have a blog that’s going in a few clear, related but different directions, it could help posting topics related to separate things on fixed days of the week so readers know what to expect. I’m struggling to get a grip over my own blog with this issue but I’m thinking this might help.

  4. I have committed to daily posting and love this site for ideas for days that I hit the writing wall. Keep up the good work!

  5. I’m still at the ‘Why Am I Here’ stage. I keep thinking I’ll shut it down and use the time for other things, but I’m stil here. I wonder how long it takes to create the type of environment that feels like something is being accomplished.

    1. I was just wondering the same thing yesterday. My initial focus was building an audience, since I’m writing a memoir, but it doesn’t seem like readership is growing fast enough. I got almost 2, 000 views sine October. I’m gonna keep going though. Maybe I will do a poll as this post suggested.

    1. True, Andreas, but the more we practice, the better we get. I don’t use the prompts for my blog, but I do use them for creative writing challenges when I am feeling lazy.

    2. I can understand what you are saying. The temptation is to just ramble. I think we need to be aware of the need to revise, rewrite, and ask ourselves “who is my audience? Do they really want to take the time to read what I have written?” Perhaps using the DPs for personal inspiration and working on something until it is really worth asking you to take the time to read it is what we need to do. I’m not worried about the space on the internet. I’m more concerned about writers respecting their readers enough not to post nonsense.

      1. I have this concern too. I blog about dating and relationships a lot, and although some of the daily posts are really interesting, I don’t think some of the topics are what my readers expect from me.

      2. The thing is, and given my recent absence from my Blog, I probably can’t say this with any authority, but a Blog can be anything you want it to be about. I have sectioned mine into “pages” (I’m still not good with the the whole formatting with a Blog). This way I can post under different headings. Some readers like it when I chat a bit about daily life. Others look specifically for anything I’ve written toward my memoir. Others like the creative nonfiction essays I try out in the space. Others like the photos, or the cooking fun. Just do it. Let your readers settle in to what it is they look to you for.

      3. Great advice. The thought of setting up more pages is daunting. But I’m going to write a general post, letting my readers know that soon, I’ll start positing non-fiction excerpts or themes from my memoir, and I’ll set up a different tab specifically for that. I have all my posts in one feed now. Is there any way to move them to a new “page” without losing the comments?

    3. There were millions of books published before you were born: does their existence create a problem? I don’t think so. All of us will read and consume a tiny percentage of what was written before we were even born. The existence of another blog or book doesn’t change that fact very much.

      But for even a handful of people that find a book or blog or movie or poem that moves them, it will matter. And even if no one reads it, having the confidence to hit publish can change something for the better in the mind of the person who wrote it.

    4. I’m a little picky about what I post. I try not to ramble, so I don’t respond to each and every writing challenge. I do, however, save them for later dates, for a time when I am more focused or motivated to write my best response. But I agree — the practice of writing is essential for improvement.

  6. I will occasionally post on the Daily prompt. I have not seen a significant reaction from my readers, but perhaps my choice of topics is inconsistent with their interests.

  7. I love the DP challenges. I haven’t taken part yet. I’ve been saving the writing prompts for when I settle into a new rouotine. I don’t think my readers would read a daily Blog post from me. If I could just get myself discipline in order and post twice a month, we’d all be happy. I’m ging on a long trip from February. I’m going to Blog daily while on the trip. I’ll see in real time who actually wants to read my blog posts more frequently. Thanks for hosting the DP though. As a writer and teacher of writing I can see how fabulous this is.

  8. Thanks for the tips. I’ve been thinking about getting my blog more organized. At the moment, I have a tag cloud in my side bar so readers can see what I mostly post about. But I would like more structure. Simplifying my blog is on my to-do list!

  9. I enjoy the Daily Post. I probably respond to a prompt once every one or two weeks, when they “spark” a subject I wouldn’t have otherwise written about or photographed. I’m trying to post a picture every Wednesday and its fun to tie them into the weekly photo challenge, even though my pictures are not particularly skillful.

    It was REALLY fun trying out writing fiction this week in response to the weekly challenge on ‘starting over.’ I wrote about a zombie getting back into the dating game!

  10. I’ve been using the Daily Prompt for awhile..I don’t do it every day but if one interests me and I think will interest those who follow me…I use it. But I think it’s great to give ideas for blogging.

    Having said that when I began blogging I basically intended it to be what I want to write about. I couldn’t for example ask my readers what they want because I can only write what I feel. I don’t want to be a machine just rolling out blogs without any desire for the topic….

    1. Good point. I’ve been blogging regularly since October. I’m going to poll my readers and ask what THEY think the blog is about, and based on that, what, if anything would they like to see more of.

  11. Reblogged this on Go Green WNY and commented:
    Hey all, I thought I would reblog this because I thought it would help some of those who read my blog, yet didn’t see this post from word press daily bloggers. Such as:

    How to get more comments
    How to get more page views (based on research by Stanford University)
    How to turn you blog into a book
    How to get more traffic

    I know these are all topics I am interested in and most bloggers I know are interested in finding more information about.

    It also mentions fine tune and re-tune until you find that happy spot. I am in that space of retuning my blogs now. I hope you that red my blog (now two blogs) are liking the retuning I am doing. You seem to be as I am getting a few more followers and a few more likes on my blogs. Let me know what you like, Feel free to comment and even leave me some ideas.

    Until then – Safe surfing, Healthy Marketing, and Many Blessings!

  12. I enjoy the Daily Post– it’s a great way to meet new bloggers, as well as stretch the boundaries of your blog theme. Not that I have that particular problem, usually I’m trying to create blog boundaries, haha! But yes– this place is awesome for a variety of reasons, and now that I know how much magic Michelle has worked I’m even more impressed by her! Kudos and thanks to all you lovely DP bloggers for making WordPress such a lovely community!

  13. WordPress just grows and grows in such a user friendly way. Your informative Daily Posts are helpful in small bites so I can absorb and use them, without being overwhelmed by too much information at one hit. 3 years ago help in forums and support was good, but if I didn’ know what was new, or how to use it, I now know I was missing out on lots of the action.
    Thank you WP team for creating such a great community. I’m addicted to you.

  14. WordPress employees…..I want to say thank you for all that you do. Without you, none of us would have blogs. You do a fantastic job. Your work allows us to write about what we are passionate about. Thank you again!

  15. I always get more inspired whenever I participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge. These challenges are a great way to look further into your own work while getting to see how others react to the same idea. I try and post once a week to give my readers content to check back in on. I think your idea about partnering up with others that do similar things is a great idea. It’s very inspiring to see what an idea 2 years ago has evolved into, great job!

  16. I really appreciate this valuable advice you have packaged for us in a nutshell. I have been away from blogging for about 18 months. I am happy to have Daily Post prompts that stimulate ideas and generate multiple topics for conversation. Congratulations to the team on their continued success.

  17. I find the Daily Post prompts to be boring, pedantic, and uninteresting. Who would be vain and presumptuous enough to think anyone would care to read about their favourite flavour of ice cream? Topics like the one posted today, on the discussion of politics and religion in mixed company, are topics worth discussing (there may be a hidden tautology there.).

  18. I enjoy very much the Daily Readers but I never see my own answer at all … it like I am banned for some strange reason .. and this is as well on other daily things at wordpress . I can go to other bloggers but not here?

  19. I enjoy the Daily Post challenges, but only enter them if they fit in with my blog which is really a “work in progress”. They do help make contact with other bloggers, which is quite difficult for newbies. Sue

  20. I like Daily Post because it gives me an excuse to post every day. I had been feeling guilty about barraging my readers with posts EVERY SINGLE freakin’ day, but now that y’all have given me carte blanche, as it were, to do it, I darn well haul off every day and let ‘em have it. Not to say that I use the prompts; I don’t. I have enough junk jostling for space in the attic of my mind; all I need is permission to vomit it out on, er, paper; oh, you know what I mean. Thanks for the validation, and love all y’all.

  21. I post on a schedule, three times a week, but add posts as necessary in between—sometimes using the daily post. But I depart from the suggested one-theme suggestion, preferring on CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS to develop a magazine style, which includes multiple topics and genres, mostly written myself but occasionally posting a guest writer.
    Yesterday my site reached 198,000 visitors, but my subscriber list is woefully small. I’d like to improve on this.
    I like the idea of a poll, but will have to figure it out to do it.
    Thanks for the great work on post-a-day and other prompt ideas.

  22. I am just getting my blog started. In part, because I feel it will be a good discipline measure as i start a new writing project goal. Secondly, I have a lot of life experience in a vast array of real life: Recovery, an adult child that is schizophrenic, failed marriages with some true novella moments, saving lives, witnessing death, cumulative effects of “always being the strong one” until one day I wasn’t. Friend-stories, near death experience, living with cancer, having an attitude of gratitude, and having thoughts of life ending. Pulling myself up from the boot straps and wallowing in self pity and depression. Hearing and going and being deaf. Just to name a few. I am ready to start!

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