Guest Speaker – William Johnson of Legal Insurrection

Yesterday our class listened to guest speaker William Johnson talk about his conservative political blog Legal Insurrection and how he’s managed to sustain it. After listening to Johnson speak, there were a few things he brought up that I found to be particularly interesting:

1. Maintaining content – I’ve always found the need to consistently produce new and interesting content to be one of the most daunting aspects of running a blog. I know that I’ve personally tried and failed many a time to keep blogs going outside of those I’ve had to create for classes, solely because I have nothing to write about. Keeping in mind my own experiences, Johnson’s ability to sustain a blog on his own for two years (having never even heard of blogs before he started his) was impressive to me. What was also impressive to me was how he explained his method of generating and maintaining content as a “staircase concept.” Johnson has a dedicated schedule of posting at certain times during the day and he always works to build on what he posts. He adds to topics and ideas that have been mentioned in previous blog posts and works to always create more content than he has been, rather than less. It really made me admire the perseverance and passion that Johnson has put into the blog.

2. Social media presence – Nowadays social media presence seems to be everything. Regardless of the kind of organization/company/brand, utilizing social media to reach an audience is seen as important and necessary in today’s society. Not only is social media supposed to help an individual engage with their audience, it can also be a useful tool for sharing content. Because of the modern-day emphasis placed on social media, Johnson’s aversion to it was surprising to me. He did acknowledge the power of Facebook in generating lots of traffic and being a “more organic” way of bringing in content (as opposed to having others link to your work). Despite this he claims that he has no desire to expand Legal Insurrection’s social media presence. He mostly justifies this by saying that his target audience rarely uses social media platforms and his readers even get upset about using it to push content. While this is a valid approach, I can’t help thinking that Johnson’s blog would see even more success if attention was dedicated to building a social media presence. Not only would it help with disseminating content in general, I think it would be the blog’s best bet at appealing to a different (namely younger) audience.

3. Who you know – Before Johnson’s talk, I’d never thought of networking as a part of blogging. He made it clear that a large part of being successful in the blogging world actually has to do with who you know/who’s linking to your content. Obviously having larger outlets link to posts being made on your blog can help drive traffic to your blog and get your content out there to a wider audience, but Johnson also acknowledged that larger outlets aren’t always beneficial. He specifically cited an instance in which The Drudge Report linked to a story that Legal Insurrection had broken. While it was great for Insurrection‘s content to be featured at the top of a prominent site like The Drudge Report, the traffic from the site was too much to handle and crashed Johnson’s server. By the time the site was back up and running, Drudge had already changed the link to redirect to a more well-known site that had picked up Insurrection‘s original story. This segued into the larger issue of bigger blogs/outlets not directly linking to blogs that may originally have reported a story, which I found to be unfair to the individual who creates the content. To break a story and then find that your blog is not being directly linked to once the story gets picked up by the mainstream can be disheartening to a blogger.

Overall, it was great to hear about the realities of blogging from someone who actually does it on a larger scale. It helped give me an insight into just what it takes to successfully maintain a blog of that size and how rewarding it can be, despite the difficulties.

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