8 Principles for the Modern Blog …at least for 2009

A few years ago, Julio Garcia suggested I redesigned my blog, I should have listened, he was right. Yesterday, I finally took his advice and launched a new blog design, in which I contracted Web Designer and Developer Mitch Canter to complete.

We involved the community in the iterations of the design, and frequently asked for feedback. I even used controversial crowdSPRING to crowdsource my banner design, (thanks to Dragos Mirica, see his site)based on Mitch’s wireframe and logo creation. In the end, a majority of it came from my vision, a great deal from Mitch, and the rest from the community.

Although this blog redesign process has taken a few months (I’ve been very busy, as has he) I’ve come to learn there’s a few principles that have changed since I started my blog back in 2005. (BTW: Here’s the old version, if you want to jog your memory) Here’s what I think are appropriate for 2009, yet I expect this list to change in just a few years as new technologies and the media landscape shifts.

8 Principles for the Modern Blog …at least for 2009

1) Baseline: Have Valuable Content
This one isn’t anything new. You have to have relevant content that’s either helpful or interesting to your audience, or you can forget the rest of the principles. Content still rules the royal court, and without it, you can’t move forward. Ideas, insights, perspectives aligned with an appropriate publishing frequency to your market is baseline. Don’t read ahead ’till you do that.

2) Know your Audience
If you’re just writing for yourself, this principle doesn’t matter. A few years ago, blogging didn’t have a strong business objective, but now we see many companies involved in blogging, so it must impact company in a positive way. So, if you want your blog to grow and spread your ideas and knowledge, then you likely have an objective. In order to be successful for your ideas to be effective, you should first know what your readers want. I know through a formal survey that most of my readers are interactive marketers, so I’m attempting to give them what they want through content and website experience.

3) Distribute the Content…
In the end, I believe web destinations are irrelevant, as we should fish where the fish are. The goal of a thought leadership blog, is often to get your ideas to spread to other locations. In the most extreme example, take Jason Calcanis, who temporarily stopped blogging and shifted to a dedicated email newsletter, it worked, as people ended up blogging his content for him. I’ve highlighted email subscription, and a host of tools at the bottom of each post that enable you to share the content elsewhere.

4) ..Yet Aggregate the Conversation
If you’re successful because of the two principles above, your content will start to spread to other locations on the web. It’ll be discussed on Twitter, tagged in Delicious, rehashed in Friendfeed, talked about in Facebook, and maybe event submitted to Digg. As a response to content distributing (Principle 3) then as a response to help to re-centralize your thoughts, you’ll need to aggregate your social content. This builds a reef for the fish to centralize around. As a result this accomplishes three things: 1) Helps people to find opinions in a single place 2) Helps you to manage the conversation 3) Provides a social reward to those who spread the content.

5) Highlight Community Conversation
While I know that in Principle 1 it’s about the content, for some blogs, highlighting the community around you is key. For example, in this blog redesign, we’ve given nearly equal attention to the comments and conversation. We’ve aggregated Friendfeed conversation (and soon Facebook), as well as given each commenter the ability to show their icon. (sign up to Gravatar if you want your smiling picture to appear in the comments), you’ll even notice the prominent comment bubbles next to each blog title. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that the collective commenters say some really brilliant stuff –let’s focus on the collective voices.

6) Reflect a Personal Brand
Whether you like the concept or term, expect the desire and need for personal brands to increase during a global recession. As people become sensitive that they may be positioned against a dozen other candidates, demonstrating thought leadership to be found, a built in audience, or a living resume of their knowledge and how they interact with others is key. We’ve provided a variety of ways for people to connect with me via email, social networking sites, and even an embedded Twitter ticker tape below the header. This means that having a visually aligned personal brand with your goal is important, why? The way you represent yourself is an indicator of how you’ll represent your employer and clients.

7) Get Serious, Hire a Pro
This project was more ambitious than I could have taken on in my busy schedule or antiquated UI design background. Therefore it’s important to hire someone who knows what they’re doing, in fact read Mitch’s behind the scenes guest post, there’s only 7 images on the blog design, in an attempt to optimize the site. Mitch does this professionally, and it was worth the money to hire him to lead this project. I don’t have the time to learn it, nor do I want to risk messing up the blog.

8] Got an Principle to Share? Leave a Comment
I won’t profess to knowing all the principles, so I’m leaving this one open to the community. What principles for the modern web blog need to be factored in?

By the way, I’ll be working on the popular posts section, making it a quick reference guide to those that quickly need the most helpful content. Stay tuned.