Blogging well can be tricky because there are so few rules. The whole point of blogging, in a way, is that anything goes. But that doesn’t mean that anyone will want to read that anything. As a working journalist in the last five years, however, I’ve been forced to reckon with blogging — and I have come to like it. It can be profitable — maybe not lucrative, but some places do pay you to share your thoughts, depending on who you are and what your thoughts are. (I’ve made at least a few dollars by blogging for Vulture, Bitch, Dame, USA Today, Hollywood.com, and Cosmo.) Here, a few things I’ve learned about making a thought, observation, idea, or news bit into a blog post:
1. Have a peg. This holds particularly true for that profitable kind of blogging, rather than your own personal blog. (Note that here on my own site, sometimes I’m reacting to news, but often I’m just sharing whatever’s going on with me today. There are good reasons to do that, but most of them will not net you a paycheck.) A “peg” is the word we use in journalism for the kernel of news that sparked the item, that we’re “hanging” the piece on. (Get it?) It’s the answer to, “Why am I reading this now?” For example: Even when I wrote for Vulture about my favorite Mary Tyler Moore Show episodes, it wasn’t just because I had a book coming out about the show; it was also because the women from the show were reuniting on Hot in Cleveland.
2. Make a broader point. News travels fast on the internet these days, so you’ll need your own “spin” or “angle” on the subject to make it unique. Leave the straight news-briefing to wire services and major news organizations; you can link to those (reputable ones, ideally!) and then make it a little more relevant to readers. After all, what are blogs good for if not spouting opinions? Even better if you can legitimately back up a unique opinion. For Bitch, for instance, I opined that perhaps Betty White Mania isn’t 100-percent good.
3. Cite evidence. The difference between a rant and a reasoned, interesting piece? Research. You don’t have to do 30 interviews and conduct original surveys, but gosh it’s nice to see detailed analysis and links to strong sources that back you up. I was pretty happy with how my recent Dame column on why people hate Girls‘ Hannah Horvath so much came out: It has lots of links to previous discussions on other sites, and even a screen grab!
Got those three things? Boom! You’ve written a solid blog post. Anything more is just icing.