Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beatles, bobbles, and blogs

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jim Higley at The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois. Jim is an interesting guy, and his personal story can be an inspiration to all of us.

Although you can (and should) read more of his background at his website, the quick summary is that he managed to turn personal tragedy (a bout with cancer) into a totally new career.

The daily journal that he wrote for his three children as he recovered from cancer eventually became a book, which he titled, “ Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew”, which will be released on Father’s Day.

As he started the process of getting his book published, he discovered that it wasn’t an easy thing to do if you weren’t already a well known author or public figure. It turns out that there are a LOT of people who are following the dream that The Beatles sang about a long time ago:

I want to be a paperback writer

The net result is that there are 2000 books published EVERY DAY in this country. There are a number of organizations that can help you get published (my hometown has a group called Evanston Writers Workshop), but if you don’t have a unique message (or a unique “platform”) you’d better stick with your day job.

In January of 2010, Jim discovered blogging. Although there are several free sites that you can use to publish your thoughts on line, the one created by Google ( seems to be the easiest to use. In addition to his own blog, Jim also became a regular contributor to TribLocal (Chicago Tribune’s online blog), and now writes a weekly column for the site.

When Jim started his research on blogging, he discovered that blogs cover a WIDE variety of topics. For example, there’s a blog site devoted primarily to beetles in Arizona

Even Jesus has a blog site, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The most accurate estimate of the numbers of blogs in existence is 185,000,000. However, since that estimate is from February of 2008, it’s safe to say that there are probably closer to 250,000,000 in existence around the world today.

My introduction into blogging came about due to the fact that I sold a Nissan Armada to a young lady in the fall of 2008. Once we discovered that we had a mutual interest in writing, she published about a dozen or so of my articles on her site before I figured out how to branch out on my own. Subsequently, I’ve published a few articles written by other people on MY site, and I also have contributed to another site that was set up by some old friends in Minnesota.

As Jim mentioned this past Sunday, there’s no set formula for a blog. If you want to use it as a daily journal, that’s perfectly acceptable. Our neighbor up the street went on a three month humanitarian trip to India earlier this year, and put down his daily thoughts on HIS blog.

Since most people seem to have a need to express themselves, online publishing (via blogging) can be a lot of fun. Because he is a regular contributor to TribLocal, Jim has roughly 2,000,000 “followers”. Even if you never get THAT famous, the joy of being read by people around the world (most of whom you’ll never meet) is an experience that will always bring a smile to your face.

To truly understand the future of blogging, as well as the future of newspapers, it’s vitally important to consider events of the past.

William Randolph Hearst entered the publishing business in 1887, when he took control of the San Francisco Examiner from his father, George Hearst. Ultimately, he controlled 28 newspapers in America. Oddly enough, he never made much money from that industry, but it became a very useful platform for expanding into other areas.,

What set Hearst apart from other newspaper publishers at the time was his expansion into non-traditional areas of publication. He was the first media figure to expand into magazines, radio, newsreels at movie theatres, and television, and his life story makes fascinating reading.

Although William Randolph Hearst is no longer with us, he has a modern day counterpart in the person of Philip Anschutz, a Denver-based billionaire business owner.

In 2004, he bought Hearst’s flagship newspaper, the San Franciso Examiner, as well as the rights to use the name., He also started, which is strictly an online newspaper. At the end of 2008, the newspaper offered local and national news in 60 markets in America.

Denver-based was relaunched on April 14 of 2008, and immediately started looking for bloggers (known as examiners) to contribute to its site. Like newspaper reporters, the contributors are experts in their particular field, but are paid in a substantially different way than traditional reporters are. For one thing, they all have other full time jobs that they devote most of their time to.

Traditional newspapers aren’t going away any time soon, but they are going to continue to change in fairly dramatic fashion. One of my favorite newspapers, The New York Times, was the first newspaper to charge people to view its online version, and I’m happy to report that I am now a paid subscriber to a service that I used to get absolutely free.

If you’re VERY interested in starting your own blog, the
2011 national convention
of “Netroots Nation” and “RightOnline” is being held this week in Minneapolis. The main topics of discussion will be the current and future roles of bloggers and online journalism, as well as print and broadcast media.

As a general rule, I like to write in quiet surroundings, and rarely listen to music while I’m typing. However, if YOU like to write while listening to music, you’ll write A LOT faster if you’re listening to Rock and Roll music.

Happy writing !

1 comment:

  1. Love this! 2008 eh? seems like a lifetime ago, what a good idea that was!!