Your Blogging Success is Based on Conversions, not Page Views

If you listen to the masses, you can only enjoy success in your blogging if you’ve got pageviews. The establishment has been setup this way and the theory is shoved down our throats from the very first day we start blogging. This theory is peddled by advertisers looking for impressions, the elbowing that occurs among bloggers trying to display their endowment and networks who build their businesses on such (Disclaimer: I work for a blog network).

I wonder if the whole establishment is backwards though.

I think the real value for bloggers, particularly business bloggers but also personal bloggers on a different level, is in the ability to “convert” readers and make them “buy in”. The old adage that “content is king” is usually used in the debate over the importance of aesthetics over the importance of hard, quality content. I think, however, that “content is king” really counteracts the establishmentarian mindset that the real value in having a blog is in the traffic that it sees.

As time goes on, it is becoming increasingly difficult to follow the breadcrumbs to where and how your content is being used. On the nefarious side, content scrapers are lifting RSS feeds and blatantly repurposing them into splogs, or spam blogs. On the completely legitimate side, content is being consumed into applications sitting behind corporate firewalls or used in industry newsletters (I can think of one such case where my content is being used in a low-tech email distribution to lawyers trying to understand social media).

This stuff can’t be tracked, and you can bet that a large portion of those eyeballs never lay their eyes on my site. Does my content be become devalued to advertisers and readers if those eyeballs never rest on my site? I think not.

Businesses have to understand that ideas are, by nature, open source and that the content they write will represent them, no matter where or how it is being used. I’ve come to a point where I don’t care if spammers use my content, because at the end of the day, I remain the authority on the topic and my reach is increased. My content is all distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 so, while spammers are not explicitly permitted to take my content and repurpose it, I am overtly encouraging the use of my content to extend my reach.

And that’s where the value comes in. Reach allows you to influence and shape the minds of others outside of what you would normally reach. If you insist on stipulating the use of your content from within the comfort of the four walls of your blog, you will reach your target audience, but you’ll never influence anyone outside of your target market.

Reach gives you the chance to develop new business, become a thought leader outside of your market, and extend your influence. The internet is increasingly becoming more open, despite the best efforts of over-reaching government. Just as newspapers have to deal with more people getting their news online than ever before, you have to deal with the the fact that more and more people are reading your content and engaging your ideas in unknown centers of the globe. To the winner go the spoils.

Using Images Legally on Your Blog

Everyone likes to use images to spice up posts, right? Posts without images are boring (except mine, of course! :-)). The question comes up alot, “How do I use images in my blog posts legally?

It’s a very valid question and more and more people are getting in trouble for using images that are copyrighted. Let me be clear, it’s Theft!

While, I’m not a lawyer and my advice should not be construed as real legal advice, it’s becoming more and more critical that bloggers understand the ramifications of copyright infringement. And while I think that copyright law is laden with crappy case law and even crappier legislative law (let’s hear a big boo for DMCA), violation of such laws carry hefty fines and penalties. And while individual infringements probably do not mean problems for the blogger, they can carry penalties of anywhere between $200-$150,000 per infringement in the U.S. (USC 5-504(c)).

It’s a dangerous game to play. If you don’t own the right to an image, you need permission in writing to use it. Often times, the “permission in writing” is a Terms of Use agreement or a license agreement at the site you get the picture from. In the case of individual copyright holders, you may have to send an email and get permission directly.

So where can you get legitimate photos?

Creative Commons provides a means to search for CC-licensed work. Creative Commons licensing mainly constitutes an attribution clause which requires that you cite the author. It’s pretty open. If your site is for-profit, your search should include the checkbox for “Commercial works” which will give a for-profit entity permission to use CC images licensed as such. If you’re someone who likes to modify images, you’ll also want to check the box allowing for “Derivative Works”. The social media community is all over Creative Commons. Share and share alike is sort of a defacto motto. Ironically, the real evangelists of Creative Commons are in the podcasting and video communities where the most legwork is performed to produce their media. Even if you don’t produce Creative Commons media, supporting this movement is a strong way to help legitimize it in the eyes of mainstream folks.

Flickr is a great source of photography and a large part of it falls under Creative Commons or public domain. Search your term, and check out if the image you want to use from your search is actually freely licensed. In most cases, a link to the image page is perfectly valid attribution and is a highly respectable way to utilize these free images.

The U.S. Government is not allowed by law to produce copyrighted photography. All images available from the U.S. Government are in the public domain. This site has a list of lots of government resources but note the disclaimer that the feds themselves may have purchased the right to use a photo in the publication, so check the licensing. Almost all the photos are in the public domain.

stock.xcng may be my favorite source of free stock photography on the net. Most of the images are free to use, however there are a few that have specific requirements by the photographer such as “Ask me first” or “Go ahead and use it, but I’d like to know that you did so I can see it in action”. The last theme I had here at Technosailor came from this repository. The rider on the license was of the “Ask first” variety. I emailed the photographer who lived in Australia and within 12 hours, he had emailed me back thrilled that I wanted to use his image. So it’s really not hard to get permission.

iStockPhoto provides inexpensive hi-res imagery (very good quality stuff) for as little as $1 per shot and at most $20 shot. All images are royalty free so feel free to use them as well.

Deviant Art is another long standing citizen in the world of graphic arts and photography. Not all, but many of the photos available there are also Creative Commons licensed and I’ve found many great images there. Check them out.