The Art and Business of Online Writing

Book Notes

Purposeful repurposing (and hopping on the next ship) #

The ship has sailed for me on Ship 30 for 30 in this cohort. I’ll give the challenge another shot next month.

One great thing to come out of it was reading Nicolas Cole’s “Art and Business of Online Writing”, where he shares how he built an audience with previously written content.

However, I had been writing daily on Quora for almost three years, and had amassed a library of content at my disposal. So, I started taking all my old material and republishing it on Medium, one article per day. Between 2017 and 2020, I wrote less than 30 original pieces on Medium. All of it was previous material from my library, just with a new title and a new picture—and in my first year on the platform, I accumulated tens of thousands of followers, millions of views, and became a Top Writer in more than 15 different categories.

It’s certainly giving me some ideas for repurposing things I wrote by turning old posts into threads.

Now, my material isn’t as good as what Cole had with his Quora writing. But I have a few hundred posts across a few blogs. They can’t ALL be bad, right?

… right???

Ramblings: Info Diet Journal (5/7/21) #

Using the unstoppable Cold Turkey Micromanager + MarsEdit combo to write and publish.

I just finished reading Nicolas Cole’s excellent The Art and Business of Online Writing as a bit of pre-reading for the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30, which starts next week. The book had a very big reframe for me.

  • If you’re trying to write online, don’t start with a personal blog

Blogs are good as a secondary thing as content marketing for something you’re selling. But if writing and making entertaining, informative content, there are better places to start. (Spoiler: it’s Twitter today.)

It reminds me of something Shaan Puri (host of the My First Million podcast) says, and I’m going to butcher it because I don’t know exactly which episode he said this in, but…

  • If you want water, you can go to a desert and work hard to find it, or you can go to a waterfall and just get wet

There’s whatever, a trillion pages on the internet with clusters of interesting things. Most of it is a giant void where people don’t wander around. After you do the 1-click install for your personal blog, congratulations, you’ve set up a tent in that void.

You can write there all you want. (Maybe with posts like info diet ramblings…)

But it’s going to take work to drive people there. And most of that type of work isn’t work that improves the writing itself.

Then you do get people to show up, but the writing isn’t good (because your attention was split) so they don’t stay.

You’re in a desert working hard to find an audience.

  • Twitter is the waterfall for getting wet

Similarly, you can set up an account and nobody will just stumble straight into it. But you’ve set up your tent next to a waterfall instead of out somewhere in space.

You can share ideas quickly. You can start dipping a foot into the waterfall by replying to people. You can connect with others starting out with you and get your first 10 readers.

This isn’t easy either.

But it’s easier than the cold start on a personal blog.

  • Quora and Medium work similarly

Writing somewhere with some kind of network and discovery engine is important to give yourself a chance at building an audience. The audience, even a small one, is critical for improving writing because they provide feedback. Feedback helps you improve.

  • I’ve experienced both sides of this

I’ve had variations of a personal blog for as long as I remember having the internet. From FTPing .html files without CSS files accompanying them to a Movable Type installation to b2 to WordPress 1.0x something to whatever the current version is.

My most successful period writing online was in 2014, combining the blog with social platforms: Twitter and Medium. Nicolas Cole has the top Medium writer credential.

I have a much worse credential that I’m still proud of: something like a top 100 Medium writer for the month of August 2014. Actually it was a top article so not me, just the article was in the top 100 for a month.

I just distracted myself looking up any evidence of this. All I could find is that it’s a top 300 Medium for the full year of 2014.

I’ll take it.

(And start writing on social platforms again. But I’ll keep rambling here because I enjoy doing it.)