Innovation and Consistency have firmly established Right Wing News as one of the top political blogs on the net. John Hawkins shares his blogging secrets and thoughts on the Left.
John Little: The 2004 Presidential election will be the first RWN has covered. Do you have any special features or shifts in your content planned?
John Hawkins: Other than some more blogosphere symposiums on the election, I don’t have anything special planned. But as we get closer to decision time in 2004, I’ll do more and more posts about election related topics. Let’s hope it goes as well for the GOP as the 2002 elections did.
John Little: RWN has a large following. What advice would you give to bloggers who have the content but just can’t seem to make that jump up from 30,40, or 100 visitors a day to the next level?
John Hawkins: I’ve done several articles on this subject including…
But in a nutshell:
1) Be consistent so that your readers will know what to expect. Do 1 post on Monday, 5 on Tuesday, none on Wed, 3 on Thurs, etc and you won’t be able to build an audience because they never know what’s coming.
2) You have to pump out enough material to make your page worth reading. One or two posts per day, unless they’re VERY long aren’t going to cut it.
3) Have a distinctive style or topic that you cover. You have to do something to stand out.
4) Understand that even if you’re doing good work, it takes months and possibly even years to build an audience.
5) Write about the blogosphere. Bloggers are egotistical and they love to link posts talking about what they do.
6) Don’t be stingy with the outgoing links. I can’t tell you how many blogs I discovered by seeing a link from them on my stat tracker.
7) Look at successful blogs and try to figure out what makes them popular. Then try to adapt some of their strategies for your own use. I’m not saying copy them, just learn from them.
John Little: You’ve landed some big name interviews, Phyllis Schlafly, David Horowitz, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter. Do you have any tips for bloggers who want to do the same?
John Hawkins: People ask me that all the time and do you want to know my secret? Ok, this is top-secret so don’t tell anybody…are you ready? Are you sure? I ask them =) Probably 7 out of 10 say no, don’t reply, or agree to do the interview and never follow through. The rest, I interview. I spend an hour to an hour and a half preparing questions and then if the interview is over the phone, it takes hours to transcribe on top of that. But to me, it’s worth it.
Honestly, I’ve never understood why there aren’t more bloggers doing interviews. Heck, even if people are intimidated by the Ann Coulters and Mark Steyns of the world, they can start off with well known bloggers and work their way up. The worst that can happen is that they’ll say no.
John Little: Can you tell us who you would like to interview next?
John Hawkins: Let’s see, if I could interview anyone — setting aside people in office since they’re hard to get — My top 15 would be…
Muhammad Ali, Dick Morris, Jonah Goldberg, Rush Limbaugh, Margaret Thatcher, Joe Scarborough, Matt Drudge, G. Gordon Liddy, Bill O’Reilly, Ex-FBI Profiler John Douglas, Bill Kristol, Neal Boortz, Bill Bennett, Oliver North, & PJ O’Rourke.
John Little: How significantly did the events of September 11th and the recent war with Iraq impact the general public’s view of blogs and bloggers?
John Hawkins: Perhaps more journalists and a few more hard core news junkies discovered blogs because of 9/11 or the war in Iraq, but I don’t think 99% of the public knows we even exist yet. The blogosphere is still growing and our day will come, but we’re still small fish in a big pond right now.
John Little: Lack of editorial oversight in the blogosphere is perceived as both a benefit and potential credibility issue. What responsibility do you feel you have to your readers and do you find yourself struggling with editorial decisions often?
John Hawkins: I hear that “you bloggers don’t have editors so you’re not credible” sort of thing all the time, but I don’t buy into it. The worst thing I remember a big name blogger doing in the last couple of years was the Agonist ripping off Stratfor without giving them credit for their work. But does that compare to what Jayson Blair did at the New York Times or what Andrew Gilligan did at the BBC? It’s not even close.
Furthermore, you have to consider that bloggers as a general practice tend to link to their sources, whereas the websites of dead tree papers usually don’t do that. On top of that, the blogosphere as a whole tends to be self-correcting. If you screw up, there will be plenty of other bloggers and commenters who will be positively delighted to point it out.
John Little: Conservative bloggers have received a fair amount of media attention since 9/11 and especially so during the war with Iraq. How would you rate the Left’s attempts to gain a foothold in the blogosphere and on the web in general?
John Hawkins: I’d say they’ve achieved parity with conservatives on the web — at least. You want to know who I think has really taken advantage of the web? Libertarians. Percentage wise, Libertarians only pull a tiny percentage of votes compared to conservatives. But the libertarians actually have a stronger presence in the blogosphere than conservatives. Personally, I think that’s because many libertarians view the web the way a lot of conservatives looked at AM radio back in the eighties. They believe it may be the best way to get their message out and they’re probably right although Neil Boortz has done a great job on the radio as well.
John Little: Do you find that there is a disconnect between the general perception of the Left as the advocates of compassion and understanding and the material and comments you find on sites that cater to the Left?
John Hawkins: Definitely. You’re not going to find a lot of compassion on most left-wing websites today unless it’s faux compassion they can use to bludgeon the GOP, Bush, or America with. You want to know what the left on the web is about today? Pure, unadulterated, hatred of George Bush & the GOP. They’re absolutely eaten up with it and they can’t help but let it show.