Liveblog: ‘The Cult of Blogging’ at BlogWorld Expo

Nov 9th, 2007 | By | Category: Podcasting Events


Liveblogging the Cult of Blogging session at BlogWorld expo.

We were expecting this panel to be one of the highlights of BlogWorld. Panelists were to include Om Malik of GigaOM; Mike Arrington of TechCrunch; and ubiquitous video podcaster Leo Laporte.

The session got of to an inauspicious start, though. Malik apparently dropped out because of a back injury. Mike Arrington didn’t have as good an excuse, though. According to panelist/keynoter Leo Laporte, “Mike Arrington says he forgot.”

ijustinetv.jpgImprovising, the BlogWorld Expo folks asked gorgeous young lifeblogger Justine Ezarik of to sit on the panel.

So, Leo says, if you want to promote yourself, and create a cult of dedicated fans online, do these two things:

  • Add multimedia to what you do;
  • Create a community to talk and share about what you do.

“Focus on passion, on what you’re passionate about. To really work, your blog work has to come from your heart.” Leo says. “For some people, that passion is about making money.”

How did you first get become involved in online activities?

Leo’s first experience of online community was the WELL, when in his 20’s. He vividly remembers the epiphany that there were “thousands of people in the world able to commuicate with one another.”

Justine got her start online in sixth grade (!) when she made a Tripod webpage about a mean kid who kicked her at school. Way to make me feel archaic, Justine.

(How) do you make money? How do you build community among your “cult”?

Justine hates the word “monetize” (yay-I don’t like that word, either), but says the last time she had a “real” job was a year and a half ago. She uses Revver to generate revenue with her videos. Her video about her giant iPhone bill was a viral Internet hit. She says if she’d stuck her ad pre-roll, she would have generated even more bucks.

TWiT started on cable, and when it was cancelled, Laporte had a built-in audience to take to the web. Asked for folks to support the show with small, monthly recurring donations. About 5,000 people (out of audience of 470,000) donate a total of about $10,000/ month via Pay Pal. It insures that Leo’s rent is paid, and that his producer gets a salary. People are very supportive when you ask for money, but the percentage is small.

Justine gets some “tips” from visitors, like a small donation with a wish “go get yourself a cup of coffee.”

Justine has a parcoeur video with her roommate. Is launching a Ning social networking website; she tracks people via Twitter. Leo uses Jiku for his microblogging (aka “presence stream”), for his “hardcore fans.” The hardcore fans are your apostles, who spread the word on what you’re doing, Leo says.

Leo: “Building your cult of personality requires geting your inner circle of apostles,” and then spreading your message and brand via Facebook and other social networking tools.

If you’re in a more serious profession (doctor, lawyer, mortgage broker), do you need to be careful not to look frivolous in your online persona?

Leo: Yes. You are creating a persona, and it is tricky. I talk a lot about creating a cult of genuineness, authentic persona, but a person doesn’t want to see their doctor in their boxer shorts on Facebook. And your persona has to be who you really are, people have a strong radar for fake-ness.

Justine: The current people you’re working with are on all these platforms, too, and you can use them to stay on top of what everyone is doing.

Leo: You need to get the innovators to adopt you, and then the rest of the world will follow. Example: the innovators didn’t adopt the Newton, and it died. Innovators embraced the iPod, and it became a household name. Same goes for people.

Privacy, Transparency, Dealing With Negative Attention:

Leo: When you write a blog, you put yourself out there, and open yourself up to negative attention. Many people turn off comments on their blog, or their Twitter stream. People will be nasty to you, about you. I took the comments off TWiT, because I didn’t want people to click on a podcast post, and see 18 comments about “this is the worst podcast ever.” Because some people will do that every single time, regardless. Other people, like Dave Winer, just close comments to stave off stupid comments. If you want to create your “cult,” prepare to get “hated on.” The 90% of positive comments wash off in the face of a handful of “you’re an asshole.” You can’t get in a shouting match with them. Protect the integrity of your persona.

Justine: Kill them with kindness. After a few email exchanges back and forth, the detractors feel “heard” and become your supporters, oftentimes. Originally, when JustinTV was doing his thing, lifecasting, I was one of those snarky commenters. When I got started doing my lifecast, I realized, wow, that’s harsh.

Leo: Privacy is an issue…. if you want to be private…. when I first blogged, I was embarrassed by the whole process. It feels very egotistical, very self centered…. You are exposing yourself. You get over it, and you keep doing it. By being in this medium, we take that step, and say, I’m going to be a public person. If you’re genuine, and showing passion, people treat you with respect most of the time.
But there’s the issue of people doing/saying creepy things about your family, so you need to think carefully before you blog about them.
Even if you only have 10 readers, you open yourself up to them, and you have a relationship with them.

UStream, StickAM allow you to stream live video. UStream is in the front row, streaming the event. Justine likes Mogulus (which is in closed beta right now), which is like a tv station. UStream lets viewers send back live video responses.

Justine: I’ve been doing this for about six months. I’m not doing it at this exact moment, because my battery died! It’s so funny, scheduling and planning where to go based on whether I can find an outlet.

Who else is “building the cult” masterfully?

Cali Lewis, Geek Brief TV
Chris Pirillo – uses every possible form of media to promote his brand
Jonathan Coulton
Matthew Ebel (Justine originally met him on Second Life)

Leo: I’m starting to make money on my podcast, because every advertiser I have, they come back again. My listeners listen to my podcast, they take it seriously, they buy the product. I charge $35 per thousand cpm, which is probably under-charging. I use Podtrac for my advertising, so I don’t have to be in sales or client service.

I only accept advertising from sponsors whose products I like, and use.

Update: Mike Arrington writes “Here is why I didn‚Äôt attend Blogworld in Las Vegas this week. I never agreed to attend the conference.”

“The problem here is that Leo said on stage that ‘I forgot’, which is inaccurate and sensationalist,” adds Arrington. “At this point I‚Äôm pissed off.”

On the other hand, Valleywag points out that Justine Ezarik is “far, far easier on the eyes than Arrington or Malik.”

Update 2: Show organizer Rick Calvert says the misunderstanding is his fault.

And that he’s “going to ask Mike to come out for the 2008 event.”

No Responses to “Liveblog: ‘The Cult of Blogging’ at BlogWorld Expo”

  1. […] Leo does two podcasts every day of the week, has 470,000 people listening. Asks for donations – gets $10,000 a month. This was amplified in another session, on “The Cult of Blogging”, as blogged on Podcasting News. […]

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