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How do you Find Stories for Your blog? – Open Mike

Posted By Darren Rowse 1st of February 2007 Writing Content 0 Comments

On the weekend I asked readers to submit their tips on how they find readers for their blog in an ‘open mike’ discussion – the results were pretty good (it’s done pretty well on Digg today – I hope some of those featured got some good flow on traffic).

Today I’d like to open up a discussion around another question.

Where do you Find Stories for Your Blog?

I’m interested to hear from bloggers of all varieties (news bloggers, tips bloggers, business bloggers etc).

  • Where do the ideas from your stories come?
  • What tools do you use to find them?
  • What blogs/sites/offline sources do you use to track them?
  • How do you work out which stories to write about and which to leave out?

I’m really after any tip that you’ve found helpful in keeping your blog up to date with interesting, useful and unique content. There’s no wrong or right answers – no tip is too simple or advanced.

Looking forward to reading your wisdom – hopefully we all can learn a thing or two in the process.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. It’s a little tough, my Blog is about a highly secretive sport, where stories tend to come from a single source and be rehashed all over the internet. Thus, unless it’s big breaking news I tend to stay away from reporting news because I’ll usually be behind the original source.

    Since my blog is about a racing driver and team, I try and keep in contact with them and those who I know are in contact with them to try and piece together my own stories. Most people are very open and happy to help.

    I’ve found it’s better to be a little different rather than just reporting a story, so I try and explain what it means, how other things relate to that and what effect it could have on the future. I’ve done that at my blog and on another F1 blog, a lot of the time I’m wrong but it’s different to what the main stream F1 websites do (post a quote and build a pretty useless story around that).

  2. The way I find and develop ideas and stories to write about, which is unique from other ways you can read above (such as google, technorati), is in two ways:

    1) From textbooks, since I’m in my last year of college, I have to read many textbooks and get different ideas from that that might not usually come up in general newspapers, google alerts or other online blogs. Textbooks are a good sources because they are pretty thorough in everything that they cover, so I always find ideas that will be of interest to my readers.

    2) Specialized industry news – there are still many industries, including the psychology and neuroscience fields that don’t have blogs and don’t have an easy way to distribute their new material. So finding a way to follow this will generate a lot of new content. I found an easy way to do this is to twice a month read go to the local college library and see what new journals or reports have come out and quickly scan the “summaries” for each report to see if it might be interesting.

    3) Bonus Idea: If you’re invested in an industry for a long time and stay on top of what’s going on, you will start making connections that other people have not made or it hasn’t occurred to them because they might not be long in the field or because they might be in it only for profit motive.

    Hopefully some of these are helpful.

  3. I get ideas for posts primarily from:

    1. Forums and listservs I belong to
    2. My readers. Manyt times I respond to a comment via another post, if I think it has broad enough appeal.
    3. About once a week I go to a coffee shop and sit with a notebook and “sit for ideas”, where I brainstorm on topics for the upcoming week.
    4. Other bloggers. I dislike “linkblogging”, but often one topic will open up and lead to another topic.

    Thanks for such a wonderful site.

  4. “Heart” — or writing about what’s stirring inside you — is the key to a successful blog that does not burn you out, or bore your readers. How does what’s in your heart fit with what’s in the top stories in the news and on blogs? If you dig deep, you can often find some point on an issue that crosses your readers, top stories, and what you feel strongly about. Write this story. Let it sit for a few hours, and soon, new ideas will flood your mind to make the story stronger. Link relevant blogs that cover your topic, and you’re done for the day.

  5. I try to consider what big events or issues are happening at the moment, and write about them from a unique perspective. For example, last May everyone was talking about The Da Vinci Code movie. There were protests about the film’s content, early word was mixed on the film itself, Hollywood was abuzz about the box office returns relative to its religious content. Basically, there was a lot being said about a few key issues related to the movie.

    But all that was on my mind was how ludicrous Tom Hanks’s hair looked in the movie. Hence, Grading the Career of Tom Hanks’s Hair was born. I got the piece linked on BestWeekEver.tv, then Colleg Humor and Ebaum’s World picked it up. Less than a week later 75000 had showed up to read the piece.

    From that point on I took the approach of “Big Event, Unique Perspective” to create a niche for myself in the blogosphere. This approach has worked on multiple occasions, and I whole-heartedly reccomend it.

    Here’s what the Tom Hanks piece looks like, in case you’re interested: http://www.thejay.com/2006/05/17/grading-the-career-of-tom-hankss-hair/

  6. Lots of good ideas here, definitely worth bookmarking this post! I can definitely relate to James’ point about listening.

    I get a lot of inspiration from the recurrent questions, problems and goals I hear from my coaching clients and commenters on my blog – by definition these are the things my target audience is interested in.

    I’m also trying to listen to myself during coaching sessions, and catch some of the things I find myself saying over and over again to clients – answers to questions, mini-rants, stories, examples etc.

  7. For me, it has to be fast and quick. I use the Google homepage (google.com/ig) and have it loaded with all the sites I normally read via RSS feeds. Sites that don’t have feeds to them like alistapart.com I’ll use services like feedwhip.com to be notified when a page changes and if I really like the site, I’ll get an email newsletter. I have played around with using Thunderbird as an RSS reader but the ability to do it all in one browser window of Firefox makes my life so much more simple.

    I visit Digg a lot, I have them in the Google homepage and look at the upcoming stories.

    I keep a small amount of scrap paper held together with a binder clip for a poor man’s notebook (it is smaller and easier to get pieces out) in the car, at work and in the home office for ideas that just randomly come to me.

    Live life. Often times life itself will give you more then enough to write about. An experience, a situation, a moment – all have the ability to blog about and give a story. If I’m going that route, I’ll google my thoughts to see if anyone else may have a story similar.

    Products I use on a daily basis, if I find a neat new Firefox extension, I’ll write about it. This not only gives traffic back to the extension itself but will possibly help someone else use a new extension that they could be otherwise unaware of. Same can be said for anything from sneakers to a pepper mill in the kitchen.

    Lastly, major news outlets like news.google.com, bbc, Reuters, etc. The really good stories are always on digg but there are a lot of gems in those sites as well. I’ve found my writing style will often reference an article and then be a 2-5 paragraph tangent on why I do or don’t like said item being discuses in the original article. Most all news sites do not have the option to reply to a story, this is my way of commenting.

  8. I don’t chase news so I don’t have to worry so much with keeping abreast of RSS feeds on subjects etc.

    Most of my posts come from seeing a problem and then seeing a solution. When I do comment on the news story du jour it usually is to chime in with some advice. If anything I’m always looking for problems to solve to help readers. Some of my best posts have been solutions to problems I was having, or to try and explain something.

    Blogging success is all about readers, and giving the readers something that can help them is the best way to reward them with taking the time to pay attention to you.

  9. It’s been mentioned once before, but I would like to emphasis Delicious.

    It seems to be a far better way to get the ‘pulse’ of the net than Digg.

    Digg measures what a group of people, many of whom are making deliberate attempts to game the system, find popular.

    Delicious measures what people without an agenda (spammers aside) actually want to remember and come back to.

  10. what happens to me is that, many times, i start writing about a topic and there’s tons of ideas flowing in that are only somewhat related. if i were to include all of them in one post, it would become too long and it would lose focus.

    as a result, i try to limit myself at only mentioning them. i write them in my notebook and thus i have something else to write about later on.

    by doing so i mange to accomplish three things:
    1. keep my posts shorter;
    2. keep them focused and, the most important
    3. have material for later on.

  11. Meme Trackers are wonderful sources of material, especially Megite that offers custom memes like the SEO/SEM meme based on Toprank’s list of related blogs.

    Sites such as Digg

    Emails from readers or comments from readers – I plan to add an “Ask Andy” contact box soon.

    I read 200+ feeds in my Feed Reader, although a lot of it I skim quite fast, especially since I started using Megite.

    Subscribing to readers own blogs, in particular my Technorati Favorites (I have a reciprocal favourite policy + my favourites are featured on my site) – it is good to write about things your readers are doing, and you can also quite often help them solve their problems or add something to the conversation.

    Lots of Google Alerts for topical news keywords.

  12. When I set up my blog, My Year of Getting Published, three months ago, I had planned on simply writing about how I was progressing as a writer. But the blog grow a voice of it’s own, and I find that most of my posts are now aimed at letting myself and others know about articles and posts of interests to writers. I guess it’s become something of a reference and link site. But I also post about my writing efforts, book reviews, and anything that seems to relate to the needs and interests of the writer. Cheers, Liz

  13. I find ideas basically from my studies and profession. I have a passion for books, I get Ideas from them and also I do research on Internet for information. I love my local library.

  14. I feel rather low tech after reading some of these responses. I use RSS feeds and I use Google alerts. The single largest source for ideas for my blog come from forums on the topic. The questions people ask and even the answers others give. This often sets me off on one tangent or another.

  15. Have you ever marvelled at a rainbow?

    Do you sometimes get frustrated in traffic or in a busy shopping centre?

    Have you ever thought about what you’d do if you won a million dollars?

    There are many experiences in life that we can call ‘universals’. They’re things to which most of us can say, “me too”.

    My work in radio has helped train me to look for the universals that we all share. Once found, I need to write about those universals from a unique perspective. I try to write posts about things we all experience but from my own point of view. I can find those universals by reading the paper, other blogs, my ride to work each morning, time spent with my family and a thousand other ways.

  16. I’ve got to admit, Darren, your input has made a tremendous effect on how I come up with stories for my blog. Your post about where you talked about how Signal vs Noise creates stories really got me thinking that instead of regurgitating stories from other sites, come up with some interesting and unique content of my own. I’ve started looking at aspects outside of blogs and news sites for inspiration. My site is about making positive changes in career and business. I’ve noticed recently that there is wisdom to be extrapolated from “makeover” television shows like What Not To Wear, Queer Eye and Extreme Makeover Home. My wife watches those shows and if I’m paying close attention, I’ll pick up a nugget of wisdom that I can use for a story on my site.

    I also have gotten into using Google Alerts to bring me information from news sources and blogs. I try not to use the information directly, but I scan a lot of stories and I can always find something to either link to or help generate an idea.

    As far as picking what stories to use and what to leave, I try to do this before I write anything because I’m not big on wasted energy, but I’ll take a basic idea and brainstorm the outline of what I want to write about. If it seems pedestrian in nature, I’ll leave it be until I can come up with a better idea.

    I got to give Problogger, Copyblogger and Shoemoney a lot of credit. Between those three sites, I have collected a lot of great information which I hope is making my site better each day.

  17. My niche is rather small, making beer and wine, so new ideas and products usually don’t happen everyday. I get a lot of ideas from reading books and magazines on my subject. I occasionaly get ideas from readers that e-mail me. I also get ideas from just making and experimenting.

    Tool wise, I generally use Google reader and check a few feeds every couple of weeks and the occassion Google search whenever an idea strikes me.

    As far as stories go, I try to keep it simple. If a post is going to be long or have a lot of concepts in it, I break it into a series of posts. Most posts are designed to print out on 1 page.

  18. I’m fairly new to blogging so I’m still learning a lot about finding stories for my blog. So far I’ve noticed that I get inspired by one of the following steps:

    1. Visiting various news sites, including sites in foreign languages – usually they pick the best stories in their news section.

    2. Going through the sites in my bookmarks list – that was the original idea of my blog – write about what I find interesting on Web

    3. I’ve subscribed to various RSS feeds, and I find many interesting topics to talk about from other bloggers.

    4. From posts like this one :-)

  19. […] Guess what? Even professional bloggers run out of ideas for their blogs. But being so experienced in blogging they know how to come up with not just one idea at a time, but hundreds of them. Kudos to Darren Rowse for coming up with an idea of an “Open Mike”, when he asks his readers to share tips with him (and of course, other blog visitors). Today his question is “How do you Find Stories for Your blog?” […]

  20. I am German, please excuse my poor English.

    My Blog is partly a litblog, so finding a good story is a difficult but enjoyable undertaking.
    I have just two bold points to make, which my previous speakers didn’t point out yet:

    1. Writing for fun – which we all should do – means for me to have a free (but not empty), stimulated mind. Sometimes it needs jogging, whine or – which works surprisingly well – black tea to get in the right mood.

    2. My blogpartner.
    We try to create our own world with our blog, with own insiders and terms.
    In our best moments, postings seem to write themselves. It’s fascinating, how the creativity of two people adds up to a greater, more stable creativity.

    Sorry again for the poor language, have a nice day.

  21. […] Se pregunta Darren Rowse que de dónde saca la gente ideas para escribir en sus blogs… Qué cosas, nunca me lo había planteado. Siempre he escrito “según me sale”, sobre todo en este blog. Pero pensando un poco en ello, tendría que establecer alguna diferencia. […]

  22. The ideas racing through my head and keeping me up at night turn into my best stories. I started keeping a notebook bedside and writing them all down.

  23. In my life, I have found out that the bathroom is a good place to create good ideas. Especially in my previous job, whenever I had a problem that seemed difficult to solve, I went to the toilet. While there, the solution came into my mind.

  24. For japaneconomynews.com, RSS is essential, pretty much the be all and end all. I use bloglines because I can use it anywhere. I tag and bookmark some items to del.icio.us from there, since I may use the same item on another Japan blog I co-write for (transpacificradio.com). But, because I’m translating a lot from Japanese, I need to watch the Japanese and English news sources in my RSS. The problem is that the Japanese end is much less developed. Things often get published on Japanese government sites that have no RSS, and don’t hit the Japanese RSS at a news site (like Kyodo) until Bloomberg or someone else (or anyone at Google news through RSS) already has it translated into English.

    I find Word Press pretty much rocks. With my own server I’ve developed my own core version of it that allows it to run a lot of blogs simultaneously, to keep things slim. Paying for a server and building it myself was much cheaper over two years than paying for hosting multiple sites. The only issue is they’re all on the same IP address. I can live with that. The content is what drives them, not the tricks.

  25. For unique content I try to look for inspiration outside the internet; books, people. If your always looking on internet its harder to create unique content. The other thing I like to do is write in a coffee shop with no access to internet. When you have internet acces, its too easy to get distracted checking email e.t.c. If you have no internet, all you can do is write.

  26. Offline, I use events from my working life to give me ideas and material for posts.

    Online, I watch conversations in relevant newsgroups, mailing lists and bulletin boards. I use feeds from Google News for relevant keywords cropping up in mainstream press, and Technorati for the same in blogs.

  27. i have just started blogging.new to everything connected with blogging.
    i intend using life experiences for contents.i am all over the NET gathering information and knowledge.
    reading all the suggestions above-great for beginners.

  28. My blog is called Food for the mind and is about anything that interests me basically, and on which i can put my own spin.
    It goes from film reviews to guitar lessons etc

    If i’m stuck for inspiration, i check my MySpace friends bulletins and pages, and usually, something will attract my attention and i’ll follow a few links and might come up with something i get really excited about.

    I also constantly check BBC News website and will comment if something really strikes me.

  29. Most of my stories i use are either original text i write myself, or reused stories i get from the copyright owners and authors.


  30. Where do the ideas from your stories come?
    listening to Coast to Coast AM, reading books, talking to people on forums

    What tools do you use to find them?
    coast to coast am website, various forums, google news/blogs, reader comments

    What blogs/sites/offline sources do you use to track them?
    google news, god like productions forum, above top secret forum, various podcasts

    How do you work out which stories to write about and which to leave out?
    If a story gets me to ask questions and go off on my own to research (via google), then I write about it. If I don’t give a tory any second thought, then it’s not worth writing because others probably wont care about it either.

  31. enjoygame says: 04/21/2009 at 4:05 pm

    Where do the ideas from your stories come?
    listening to Coast to Coast AM, reading books, talking to people on forums

    What tools do you use to find them?
    coast to coast am website, various forums, google news/blogs, reader comments

    What blogs/sites/offline sources do you use to track them?
    google news, god like productions forum, above top secret forum, various podcasts

    How do you work out which stories to write about and which to leave out?
    If a story gets me to ask questions and go off on my own to research (via google), then I write about it. If I don’t give a tory any second thought, then it’s not worth writing because others probably wont care about it either.

  32. enjoygame says: 04/21/2009 at 4:06 pm

    Where do the ideas from your stories come?
    listening to Coast to Coast AM, reading books, talking to people on forums

    What tools do you use to find them?
    coast to coast am website, various forums, google news/blogs, reader comments

    What blogs/sites/offline sources do you use to track them?
    google news, god like productions forum, above top secret forum, various podcasts

    How do you work out which stories to write about and which to leave out?
    If a story gets me to ask questions and go off on my own to research (via google), then I write about it. If I don’t give a tory any second thought, then it’s not worth writing because others probably wont care about it either. http://www.air-shox.com air shox

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