I'm John Fischer and I run this blog, All About the Jersey. It was called In Lou We Trust until last summer; but it's the continuation of the site that started on Blogger in October 2006, moved to SB Nation in late 2008, and has remained ever since about the New Jersey Devils. As it's ever closer to my ten-year anniversary of blogging about the Devils, I've been increasingly reflective about blogging in general. I'm very proud of this blog; it's one of the best things I've ever done. Since it is the offseason, I don't mind sharing more about it. I've touched on it over a year ago and went more into a "mission statement" when the new name was put into place. As there was interest in the recent post about the site's rules, I intend on a few meta posts about blogging in general.
I want to stress that these aren't rules or guidelines. These are just my opinions (not SB Nation's, not anyone else's here) on what it takes to put together a good blog. Let's begin with the concept of blogging. Namely, what you should consider if you're thinking about doing it. There are a number of key points that you should hit before saying, "Yes, I want to do this, so I will make or join a blog."
What You Will & Won't (Probably) Get Out of Blogging
Like a lot of things in life, what you get out of blogging is what you put into it. However, it won't always get you what you want. I don't want to say "never," because that's so final and there could be some cases where you may get more than what I think you will. But based on my experiences and what I've seen, I feel confident in these points.
What you won't probably get is a job replacement. Sure, blogging can and has led to full-time jobs in some capacities. But for the majority of them, there really isn't a whole lot of money to be gained. As ironic that I write so much about the Devils getting paid, it would be a bad idea to reveal what I get for this. So I won't do so here. But I will say that I absolutely have to have a real job - and I do. And it's the case for a lot of bloggers that this is something they do on the side. That's all well and good, but if you're in this with the sole intention of making money, then you may be disappointed. After all, this is the Internet where devoted fans of, well, anything have been and are willing to write at length about what they're into on message boards, newsgroups, sub-Reddits, Facebook pages, Twitter, Tumblr, and other areas - all for free. As such, it's difficult to demand and command a wage when replacements are seemingly available everywhere. If you've been exceptional and do something few or no one else is doing, then that's a different argument. But my point is the same: You shouldn't get into this with the hopes of the blog supplanting your day job.
What you will (or should) probably get is a lot of personal satisfaction - particularly if you blog about something you care a lot about. I approach blogging like it is a hobby. Something you like to do about something you already like. For me, getting my thoughts about the Devils out there and knowing that people read and react to it does feel good. When I meet someone at a game or elsewhere and they say that they read and like what I do, I appreciate that a lot. More so when someone brings it up for me. It's not a feeling I've got used to in ten years and I don't want to get used to it.
I will say that if you keep at it and you do a good job, you'd be very surprised as far as what opportunities can come. While I cannot say I'm famous or anything like that, I've had a few occurrences of people going, "Oh, that's you who does In Lou We Trust/All About the Jersey." I've had members of the Devils management reach out to me in the past. I've been asked to contribute to the Hockey Prospectus multiple times. I even have been asked to appear on a few shows, most notably Hockey Primetime on Sirius XM. Basically, a bunch of different things have happened to me from blogging that I never would have expected. And they wouldn't have happened if I didn't get into it and put in the effort to make the blog something worth reading - not knowing what could come out of it. My experience may not be your experience.
Have a Purpose - And A Passion
About fifteen years or so ago, the Internet was still built more around sites than communities. They built up over time, with Facebook becoming the juggernaut that it is today. But there was a scene of E/N sites. E/N stood for Everything/Nothing. As in, what was posted was Everything to the writer or owner of the site and what they were interested in; but it meant Nothing in particular (or to the readers). They weren't terribly focused and those that stood out were the ones that, well, did or had particularly strong personalities behind them. My point is that while a blog can be about anything and even multiple things, if your intention is to write something for others to read, then I would recommend having a clear focus and a purpose.
Again, these are suggestions and some purposes will inherently be unfocused. A personal blog, for example, will certainly jump around different topics. But if you're looking to do something more like what I do, then I really can't stress the importance of having a purpose enough through words. Imagine me waving my hands to emphasize its importance and talking excitedly and loudly. Setting a purpose for the blog makes it so much easier. It's easier to make content for it when you know what it should be about. It's easier to get an audience of readers because they would presumably be interested in what it is about. Setting up the blog itself is even easier. You can always change or adjust your purpose as you work on the blog; but have something set in mind to start. It's not a coincidence that the most popular blogs on this network and elsewhere tend to be focused on a particular subject. So you should do that.
Just as importantly, you should be passionate about this purpose. I love the New Jersey Devils and could talk about them for hours. For years before the blog, I would spend time reading and writing about the team with like-minded fans on message boards. So it made sense for me to start a blog about the Devils. Because I care so much about them, it really reduces the feel of it being a "grind" and the feeling that it is "work." I approach this as something I would do anyway, only not in a written format. Someone, who may not be as passionate about the Devils, would have to hear about all of this instead. Poor them. With a blog, I can just write what I'm thinking about the team to people who want to know what I'm thinking about the team. I keep that focus of this being a Devils blog and this remains a success. (And those people who would hear about it tend to ask me about the blog and we have a conversation instead of what amounts to being a one-way talk. Another win.)
Most of all, writing about what I'm passionate about makes this hobby worthwhile. If you're forced to write something you're not so passionate about or the passion changes or fades, then this really does start to feel like a job. And that makes this whole thing not so worthwhile. So take it from me, blog about something you love, whether it's the Devils, video games, wrestling promos, or a review of every major Civil War battle. And focus on that. You can do more than one subject, I just think that's harder on all involved, especially when you're just starting out and you want to grow the blog. That's my recommendation.
Know Your Content
For lack of a better term, everything that is posted is content. An opinion, a reaction, an analysis, a preview, a recap, an argument, a rant, a spiel, a screed, a bleat, a counter-argument, a Fisking, and so forth are all content at the end of the day. Content is king. It is what is actually at the blog. It's what gets seen. Before starting one up and after establishing what you want the blog to be about, you should answer the question of "how do I want to blog ?"
For the most part, blogging is great for writing. Pictures, audio, and video content all has merit and can be really powerful in addition to the writing. But for the most part, if you like to write, then blogging is the way to go. If you want the blog to really just be an organized place for content like videos or audio, then you can do that too. Adding additional thoughts to the blog for that content that is not elsewhere would help make the blog be a place where people should go. That said, if you're more interested in doing audio or video, then you may not necessarily need a blog. YouTube is a great example. A lot of people on YouTube just stay on YouTube, using social media to let their people know when new videos are up and there can be a community formed from that. If that's what you're interested in doing, then focus on that instead of the blog. But if you want to do that in addition to writing, then try to make both work if you are able to do so.
Be Honest About Your Situation
The reality is that if you want to have a blog where there's new content up on a regular basis, then you need to make sure you have the time, the energy, the availability, and (depending on what you do) even the money to do so. You can - and should - define what that regular basis may be. But if your purpose is to build up a blog with a readership on whatever it is your passionate about, then you need to accept that this isn't something that you can just do every so often and hope for the best. A good blog requires good work. Good work requires good discipline. And that all takes up some of your resources and your schedule.
My situation when I started was amenable for blogging. I was a graduate student at Rutgers University. While I had classes at night and I worked at the university in the day, I had plenty of time to watch and eventually write about the Devils. I had no financial issues then. I definitely had the energy then to do so. Over time, plenty changed. I got my first real job. I moved from Blogger to SB Nation, where the blog became more of a "side job" than just a hobby. I became a season ticket holder. I became a season ticket holder for other teams. I got another real job. I moved to a new place. I started and have met people and started relationships. I still maintain other interests. Basically, my life became busier and so did the blog. I reached out and thankfully have received help from many volunteers for the better part of the last ten years. Even so, I spend plenty of late hours after games and good chunks of my non-game evenings and weekends still preparing for and writing posts. I truly enjoy doing it. But I have to balance my time and my life with it. I've had to sacrifice some things for the blog and sometimes sacrifice the blog for other matters. I've been fortunate to have the financial security and that I still have the energy to still do this for as much as I do it.
The point isn't that you should be a secure college-age young adult, grow into blogging, and fit other parts of life with it like I did. The point is that I had to and still have to ensure that I am really able to blog to the level that I want to. Since life has a funny way of introducing new things, I'm sure at some point in the future I'll have to adjust how I blog further. Or even step away from it. As I've stated earlier in this post, this is most likely going to be a hobby more than anything else. As with most hobbies, enjoyable as they may be, there are more important things in life. So if you're not sure about whether you can fit blogging into your situation for whatever reason, then I would err against doing it for the time being. Or at least adjust how you want to blog, something I'll probably cover in a post or two.
Most of all, be honest with yourself about your situation before you jump into having a blog. As rewarding as it can be, it can take up quite a bit of your resources. I would recommend against having it at the detriment to your family, your partner, your friends, your real job, etc. any more than any other hobby.
Make Sure You Are Not Your Own Roadblock
One of my biggest regrets with blogging is that I did not start it sooner. I could have. I knew about blogging since 2001. I knew that Blogger was a perfectly free platform. Yet, I mentally created every possible excuse from blogging until I just went ahead and jumped into it in 2006. Some were legitimate - my main memory of 2004 was basically engineering school, eat, sleep, repeat - and others were not in retrospect.
The thing is that if you can get online, then in theory, you can be a blogger. I don't believe everyone should be a blogger. That depends on what it is that you want to do and, again, if you can fit it into your life and manage it. But if you have an Internet connection, you're able to do it, and you want to do it, then you can practically do it. You can. You can even eschew all of this and decide just to give it a shot and see how it goes. It's up to you. As far as I know, there's no penalty for starting a blog and leaving it if you don't like doing it. And there's no requirement whatsoever to getting started beyond signing up - for free! - with Blogger. There's no limit on how many blogs there can be on a particular subject or what subjects are covered.
I could have been a Devils blogger earlier than I have been, and I feel like I missed out for doing so. Especially now that I know what it became. So don't be like me. Learn from my erroneous indecision. If you're thinking about doing this, you're still thinking about doing this after reading all of this, and you've seriously thought about the things to consider, then my suggestion is simple. Pull the proverbial trigger. Turn the proverbial key in the ignition. Press the proverbial play button. To quote Nike, just do it. Don't let your own self-doubt stop you from getting into this. If you want to tell me your hang-ups, I'll listen - and still suggest to give it a go.
I know this is a whole lot to take in, but again, this is what I think should be considered before jumping into this past time. The bold areas are really the main takeaways. This covers what you should consider doing before starting up a blog. The next post will go over what you should do when you actually do start one up. Things like names, getting off on a good foot with a first post, and so forth.