Thursday, March 22, 2007

BlogHer Case Studies Large and Small

BlogHer Business was cooking today in NYC. I'm trying to keep up with the case studies featuring small business bloggers, a solopreneur, a media blogger and an enterprise blogger. Please excuse the jumping in and out of voice. The Web access here has been a bit dodgy. The veteran bloggers tell me that's the hazard of trying live blogging at conferences.

Small Business Blog

Susan Getgood questioned Shirley Frazier of giftbasketbusiness.com.

Shirley says she went kicking and screaming to Web 2.0. She now has three blogs.

Giftbasketbusiness.com - These owners are a super niche on the Web. Shirley doesn’t own a giftbasket business, but she has tips for these owners. This is a $4.8 billion industry. (Who knew?) It helps these owners do business. She uses Yahoo and Google alerts for articles that are relevant to expand content. She speaks around the country on the topic.

Solobusinessmarketing.com - This site is for independent professionals, for people who work alone but who can’t figure out what to do first in terms of marketing. What can I do on my own? She has a book coming out on this topic, so she started the blog to build a fan base.

laughingchow.com - Is all about photography tips. Shirley says most of the photo blogs are kinda technical and this one is basic photo tips. It's experimental so far.

How have you been able to measure the results of your blog? Sale of her educational materials. (Many people use their blog to tell people about a book or CD.) Her educational materials are moving, so she believes the blog is working. She can see stats on how folks are moving from the blog to the site.

Passive revenue – Her sites are peppered with Adsense and Conterra. The giftbusinessbasket blog pulls a good portion of my revenue. Third way that I can tell things are working out, I’m getting more speaking engagements. I’d get about 25 speaking engagements per year. I’ve doubled that.

Media Blog

Elana Center interviewed Caroline Little, CEO of Washington Post Newsweek Interactive.

We publish washingtonpost.com, newsweek.com and Slate. They had their 10th anniversary on the Web last year. Initially, they were just repurposing the content on the Web. The Post was a local newspaper; now 90% of the users are from outside the region, so it’s a very different project. We’ve made some mistakes along the way, but if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying new things.

What were the risks? The risks weren’t that great. The journalists were pretty excited about reaching new audiences. Where we’ve gotten a lot of grief – when we have bloggers who are not from the Washington Post newspaper. People say, "You’re representing these people as being from the Washington Post and they’re not."

Mistakes? We had a situation where one of our writers (not from the Post) had alleged plagiarism incident. That was hard for all of us. The coverage of politics can get really heated. Some of the comments are mean, useless and they threatening the journalists, so we shut down the comments section and got slammed. We were the first big newspaper to do this, so we thought we might get a bit of slack, but we got slammed anyway.

In my view, the Web is like a party; you’re not going to talk to just one person. Our role is to help navigate, so we do have links to other stories, sometimes by other news sites. We hope that we’re providing enough context that they’ll come back to us. A lot of other news sites won't link away from their content.

How are you evaluating if this experiment is working? I evaluate it based on things like the national Emmy we won last year and we've gotten lots of awards from the White House Photographers’ Association. Audience and revenue continue to grow too.

How are journos reacting? It’s across the board. Some people feel it should be a reflection of the paper, while others think: “This is the coolest thing. When can I shoot another video?”

The newspaper brings most of the revenue so that’s dominant. But things are changing.

If a blogger links to your story, you put them on your site. Yes, that’s the benefit. People are talking about important issues. (They’re sometimes talking about pretty unimportant issues too :-)

We have 12 million people reading the Post now, online.

What is the biggest surprise from when you started this? In some ways, the more successful you get, the harder it is. I’ve been surprised at our success in the multimedia area. And I’ve been impressed -- there’s an intimacy that comes with a blog. It’s not unlike doing video on the Web. It’s like us talking here today.

(I got to chat with Caroline for a bit during cocktails, she's an impressive woman, but very down to earth.)

Solopreneur

Lena West interviewed Carmen VanKerckhove from New Demographic, which is a company that conducts anti-racism training seminars.

Carmen has two blogs and a podcast and started blogging to support her training business. She has an anti-racism site, Racialicious, which is at the intersection of race and pop culture. She also writes antiracistparent.com, for parents committed to raising kids with an antiracist outlook. Her weekly podcast is: Addicted to race."

Why did you choose to open a public free for all about race in America?

Some days I’ve wondered. I’ve gone a little stricter on the panel moderation. I had no strategy when I started this. I kinda stumbled into it. I started the blog because I was inspired by this blog called angryasianman. I originally thought it would be interesting to take a look at the implications of race and mixed race relationships. We don’t make it a scary subject. It can be funny, and a lot of it can be absurd.

My tips: don't forget about your traditional email newsletter. I'm starting to do tele-seminars. Because I've been aggressive about trying to build my newsletter list, I'm getting good response to those alerts on tele-seminars. And on your site, make it really obvious who you are and how folks can contact you.

Large Enterprise Blog

Maria Niles interviewed Staci Schiller from Wells Fargo Bank.

(I got booted offline here, so I missed some good content.) Wells Fargo is a 155-year-old institution. Staci closed with this, but it makes for a good set-up of her overall point. If Wells Fargo can do it, you can do it too. One of the folks at her table asked (incredulously): WELLS FARGO HAS A BLOG? It's rewarding that the blogosphere has embraced us. It shows that even though it's a big company, I'm a real person and people can come to me for advice. Here's an overview of their two blogs and a virtual world.

One blog is Guided by History, which is a community preparedness and response blog. It grew out of the last earthquake. They've also got a site for helping make the student loan process less intimidating: The Student LoanDown. (How smart - making a bank accessible.) Incredibly, they've also got Stagecoach Island, an online community to teach teens smart money management.

Staci: Since banking is regulated, compliance reviews every post I put up. That's just a fact of life for me. You have to build in a couple of extra days for reviews, but I know they're doing that to protect me and that's just the way it is.

What kind of results have you seen that have inspired WF to dive into social media? In terms of the student loan blog, we're getting a lot of traffic. In January you get a lot of people seeking advice for the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid application) and we're there to help walk them through the process.

In the beginning, she was spending 20% of her time blogging and now its 50%. They're promoting their blogs internally, so people who are dealing with customers will talk it up.

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