Advice from an editor on how to get your work promoted

At Maine on the Blogs our main goal is to highlight the most important information, tips, tricks, and trending topics about blogging that we think will help you to be a better blogger. The most asked question we get is how to get your BDN Maine network blog promoted on the homepage of bangordailynews.com.

I talked to Dan MacLeod, a BDN editor for the Portland area on traits in a blog post that make it a good candidate for promotion.

Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod

We all know that blogging and journalism are two different worlds. How do you see blog posts fitting into the puzzle of the BDN homepage?

Blogs make the most sense on our homepage or on our social media pages when they address a timely issue or idea from an authentic point of view. A journalist generally looks at a story from the outside, whereas a blogger might be living it.

What is the anatomy of a promotable blog post for you?

The author has expertise and/or passion. The post is interesting. It has character. It’s honest. The writing is clear, free of errors and easy to read. It ideally has a video or some other kind of media. The headline is clear and accurate, and it focuses on the most important or interesting part of the post. It might relate to something going on in the news, or something that we know our Maine-based audience cares a lot about.

[Tweet “BDN producer Dan MacLeod gives advice to bloggers on getting their work promoted”]

What kind of advice do you have for bloggers trying to get their posts featured on the homepage?

If your goal is to get a ton of people to read you, then take a look at what people want to read. What’s trending on Facebook or Twitter? What’s the top story on bangordailynews.com? What are all your friends and family talking about? Can you add something new to the conversation based on our own experiences?

On the other hand, what is no one talking about? What’s something that local media missed but still matters in your neighborhood, town or region?

A blogger that has an authentic voice and a credibility in a certain subject, and can explain an idea in a clear and interesting way, will almost always get promoted. That’s especially true when the subject is topical or is related to something that BDN Maine and its audience care about (homesteading, the outdoors, explaining local issues).

Are there opportunities for bloggers to be featured in print?

I work for the digital-only side, so my first priority is making sure we’re connecting your work with the best audiences on the web. But my team sometimes recommends posts to the print editors of weekly sections — like Maine Review, Homestead or Outdoors, for instance.

[Tweet “If your goal is to get a ton of people to read you, then take a look at what people want to read.”]

Could bloggers ever pitch a story for pay to the Bangor Daily News?

We find that bloggers who are the best fit for our network are people with a passion they want to share with our audience — hundreds of thousands of people who care about Maine. For writers looking for paid opportunities, the newspaper occasionally has positions for weekly columnists and part-time reporters, which are separate from web-only blogs. We also have a sponsored content program that matches bloggers with paid writing opportunities for our advertisers.

In the current climate of the industrialization of the personal essay do you think that blog posts will become more influential in targeting BDN audiences?

Yeah, the Internet has moved to a really personal place. Social media has driven bloggers and publishers to write things that are more digestible and shareable. So in that sense, getting the people of Maine to tell their own stories from their own point of view is part of a natural evolution for news organizations. The web doesn’t just allow reporters and editors to write for people — it allows people to write for people.

Are you a fan of a particular blog (either at the BDN or at another site)?

I’m a fan of particular writers, like Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic and Neil Irwin at the New York Times. I’m a pretty obsessed fly-fisher, so I read blogs like Gink and Gasoline and writers like Kirk Deeter at Field and Stream. I also read a lot of data analysis blogs, like Visual Statistix, and sites like FiveThirtyEight and Wonkblog.

[Tweet “A blogger that has an authentic voice and a credibility in a certain subject, and can explain an idea in a clear and interesting way, will almost always get promoted. “]

I’m not picking favorites here, but I make a point of always reading people like Trish Callahan, Alex Steed and George Smith. They do a great job of raising important issues or picking interesting angles on big news stories.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you became an editor and what your job entails?

I started as a reporter, first in Maine, then New York. At BDN Maine, I work on a digital-only team with Erin Rhoda, Tony Reaves and Seth Koenig. All of us write original content, look out for great blogs to promote and try to find new ways to attract audience to BDN Maine’s bloggers and journalists.

Right now, I focus mostly on southern Maine, as well as finding new ways to cover big topics that pop up in the news. That might mean writing something, pitching ideas to contributors and bloggers or editing a reporter who’s covering a story.

If you could put a standard on blog posts, what would it be?

True, interesting and honest.

Headlines are the worst. Do you have any advice for bloggers on how to create headlines that are promotion worthy?

A good rule of thumb is describe what you’ve written in one sentence. Say it out loud like you’re talking to a friend. Whatever comes out naturally is probably the best choice for a headline. “Here are all the ways to keep your chickens warm in the winter.” “This video changed my mind about how we should respond to the heroin crisis,” etc.

More broadly, your headline should always highlight the most interesting and important part of your post, and it should be specific.

If you’re having a lot of trouble coming up with a headline, re-examine what you’ve written. What are you trying to say, and why do you want people to care? Think of the headline as a sales pitch. You have this amazing idea or story that everyone needs to read. The key is presenting its value in a way that’s both accurate and interesting.

(Side note, but still important: If getting a post promoted is important to you, familiarize yourself with our general styles for headlines. Don’t Capitalize Every Word, because we’ll just undo it if we promote it, and avoid using exclamation points, because they’re basically never needed.)

If you have a blog idea then please don’t be shy! We want to hear about it. You can contact us on our pitch page here. If you don’t know how to pitch then don’t worry, we have you covered with this blog post that gives you some great tips. And if you have any questions feel free to swing by our Facebook page, Twitter page, or leave us a question or comment below.

Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Scary Mommy, Disney’s Babble, and Momtastic. Sarah runs a popular Facebook page, @Housewifeplus where readers laugh and share stories from the parenting trenches. She is a co-author in several books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine and National Public Radio.