If you decide to blog, respect the format

Revenue Today (www.revenuetoday.com), the magazine dedicated to affiliate marketing, launched last year and i am impressed by the quality of most of their articles, and the fact that they provide some valuable content on their website as well, for the months between the quarterly issues. In a fast-paced industry, a print magazine, not to mention a quarterly print mag, can become seriously dated within a few months, so it’s a smart move to try to have up-to-date, often changing content on the website to keep their subscribers interest.

But…

Revenue decided to try their hands at blogging, without really taking a look at the medium and applying the basics of blogging. Let’s take a look at their efforts step-by-step:

1. First off, the blog section remains this undefined and underrepresented part of the website, hanging loosely in between editorial articles, industry resources and “Affiliate tips”. It’s not linked from the navigation menu, only in a bottom box on the homepage. Why not give it more prominent placement and integrate it more into the website?
E.g. they have a section called ‘Affiliate tips’, which offers affiliate strategy articles by outside contributors. The articles are current, interesting and could spark discussions if readers would be allowed to comment. This could be integrated into the blog section to generate traffic (just think trackbacks…) and conversation.

2. The Revenue blog section has no respect at all towards the format and feature standards of blogs. The entries in the blog section do not have permalinks, comments, not even archives. Even worse, there is no link to the individual blogs themselves (of which there currently only seems to be 1 in fact), just the general blogs page which lists the recent entries. I don’t intend to go into the what’s a blog’s definition or what makes a blog, the format or the content discussion, but I think the bare minimum that a blog should have to really be a blog, is a homepage, archives and permalinks. Comments, trackbacks and the like would be the next step, but without even the bare minimum, the effort gives a rather poor impression.

3. The whole concept of the Revenue blogs section is confusing to say the least. I think their goal was to start a revenews-like blog site where several industry voices discuss relevant issues. However, the directions they posted on the site on how to join the blog section is quite unwelcoming: you need to send an email to the publishing company of the magazine (to a very generic info@… email address no less), with a suggested user name and password to establish an account. And: “With your request send us your first blog and we will post it for you when we establish your account.” Now, this really is odd, isn’t it?

4. They also say: “We want to promote thought-provoking discussions.” How can you expect to have lively discussions when there are no archives, no per post linking ability, no comments, no trackback and no RSS feed?

Currently the only blogger is the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Lisa Picarille, and her entries are interesting and up-to-date. But a blog is a product as well, which won’t sell itself. It’s content, that you need to ‘sell’ to the intended audience to make it work. Ok, i’ll use the biggest cliche of website building, but it applies: ‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t work in 2005.

She seems to really try to sign up more bloggers for the site (or so i assume) by such comments at the end of most of her entries “So check out the results, then start blogging and let me know if these results impact you in any way”, “So start blogging and tell me what you think”, “Feel free to pick up the slack and start blogging”. What she doesn’t seem to realize is that most of her readers won’t want to blog on revenue’s site (especially not with the current state of the blog section). However, they would most likely be very happy to comment on her entries and discuss what she’s blogging about.

The Revenue blog in its current incarnation isn’t doing the job. The idea behind it is great, there is potential, but they are killing it in its infancy with the lack of basic understanding of (or care for) how blogs work.

PS: If anybody from the Revenue mag team happens to be reading this, feel free to contact me to discuss this (or leave a comment). While gathering my thoughts for this entry, numerous other ideas popped up on what else Revenue could do to make blogs work for them, but the entry is too long already. I am here if you need me. ;)

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