A provocative title about the future of blogging was an immediate drawcard to a function of Heavychefs, who had invited two high-profile bloggers, Seth Rotherham of 2Oceansvibe, and Rich Mulholland of Richard Mulholland Blog, and led to a turnout of more than hundred bloggers at the offices of Deloittes last week.
The challenging talk topic was set to the speakers by Heavychefs, a company offering a platform for persons interested in digital marketing to meet monthly in Cape Town, Johannesburg and London. They had seen that Facebook and Twitter usage was on the increase, and felt that readers were not able to spend so much time reading blogs, due to other time competitors, and also the large number of new blogs being started, and therefore chose the topic.
Seth Rotherham was a delight, many bloggers attending to see and hear the blogger that has become a cult – I was one of them too, not having ever had the opportunity to meet him in my two years of blogging. Seth established his sense of humour almost immediately, and told the 2Oceansvibe case study, relating how he had progressed with his blog over the past nine years, from it being a fun means of sharing information with his friends, to being the leading blog in South Africa. His focus was to find “the common enemy”, and cyclists with their odd gear (‘prawns’, as he calls them) were one of his first targets. He called this ‘moblynching’, and it became a fun way to attract readers to his blog. Seth won the SA Blog Awards Top Blog of the Year for most of the years in which he entered (he sat out some years when he was a judge, and did not make Top Blog in 2010), and found that he faced huge criticism for calling his site a blog as it carries advertising. He told the audience that he and his mates often fabricated comments, to get the debate going. Seth did not want to write about topics that newspapers wrote about, such as politics, but rather about the topics that people would talk about over dinner at home, such as celebrity news. The 2Oceansvibe site is so successful that he had 300000 page impressions in September, and has 55000 unique readers per month, putting his blog at one of those with the highest traffic in South Africa. One quarter each of his traffic comes from Google searches and from referrals, while the remaining 50 % comes from direct access to the site.
Blogging is an easy way for Seth to say what he wants to say, he told bloggers. His definition of a blog is that it allows comments. The 2Oceansvibe site has been updated a number of times, and he candidly admitted that he has matured in the past few years, so his visuals and content have ‘matured’, away from ‘sexy’ content, with resultant benefits in attracting advertisers. The ‘new improved’ site has multiple writers, who are paid on the basis of clicks per story, ensuring that they add content that drives traffic to his site. A few months ago Seth set up 2Oceansvibe Radio, which broadcasts from Cape Quarter, an opportunity that presented itself when M-Web introduced uncapped ADSL, proving how smart a business person he is! I had the luck to chat to his girlfriend Sam, who writes the blog Pop Ya Collar, and was most flattered when she expressed surprise at the name of my blog, and when she told me that Seth wanted to meet me – we were fellow Top 10 finalists in the Most Controversial Blog category in the recent 2010 SA Blog Awards, the category which he won. Seth has decided to not enter future SA Blog Awards, wanting to give newer bloggers a chance to participate and win. He gave me such an amazing warm hug, and provided support and guidance for the abusive Twitter campaign, which he had not heard of before we chatted about it. There was no ego and no arrogance, something one had heard others say about him. I felt much better when he told me that he receives hate-mail regularly, and sees this as part of the Social Media ‘package’, and that one must just grow a thicker skin! All controversy is good for increasing readership, he said.
Richard Mulholland is proud of controversy, and introduced his talk by proudly claiming to be the first blogger in South Africa to be sued for disparagement, an expensive lesson he learnt, he said, but he stood up for the rights of bloggers. Richard absolutely denied that blogging is dead, and highlighted how bloggers can influence politics. For example, 5FM presenter Gareth Cliff loves controversy, and his recent letters to the government attracted more than 800 comments, an amazing boost to the traffic to his site, and gives him a voice. Blogging creates the content of one’s social media communication, while Twitter is the billboard that announces the new content, by providing the link, he said. Richard said that RSS feeds are dead, and that “Really Social Syndication” is now needed, whereby followers and friends spread one’s messages. He encouraged bloggers to work even harder at their blogging, and to write the best that they can. He encouraged bloggers to be controversial, saying that “those people that want boring are spoilt for choice”! Richard says his readers settle in to their social media catch-up in the morning, and he schedules his Tweet linking to his new Blog post at 9h05 every morning via Hootsuite, to reach the maximum number of readers. Richard advised bloggers to register one’s name on every new platform that develops, even if it does not take off, to ensure that one can transfer one’s brand to the new medium.
More than hundred bloggers left the meeting delighted that they will not hang up their blogging shoes anytime soon!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter : @WhaleCottage