Friday, May 01, 2015

Blogging About Blogging

(Back from vacation! Thank you all for waiting.)


TK recently had an occasion to speak with a close friend, who was thinking about starting a blog for his start-up company that would mix the business and the personal. AAK! is not much, but it's not nothing either--and in the near-decade that TK has been running this blog, he has gleaned a few pointers that might help one's voice be noted a little more. 

Below is some of the pointers. Please note that these are aspirational, and should not be taken to mean that TK actually has followed or is currently following all these pointers.

- You have to be a good writer.  This is a prerequisite; without good writing, you cannot hope to have an impactful blog. You don't have to be a good writer right now, but you must at least grow into one. There is so much writing on the Internet for people to read, and people will not spend their time deciphering a confused piece of article. Your writing should be well-organized and clear, with carefully selected diction and examples.

- You have to write a lot, regularly.  Keep writing, and write regularly, even when you don't want to do it. Writing regularly makes you a better writer. More writing means more content, which means more opportunity to be noticed through search engines, Facebook shares, retweets, and so on. Regular writing also means regular readers, who expect and anticipate what you have to say next.

- Nothing beats clickbaiting.  If all you ever wanted was to have a website with a lot of traffic, sell your soul and get into clickbaiting. There is a reason why so many of Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Distractify, and other garbage sites of their ilk exist--it is because when they publish a million pieces of trash, people click them a million times every time. Write fishing headlines, put out "listicles," put up cat pictures and set up search engine optimization. Write only about bullshit evergreen stories, like weight loss, interracial dating, and crap that what people should do in their teens to prepare for their deathbed.

If you prefer not to sell your soul, don't get discouraged just because a clickbait gets more traffic than your site. McDonald's will always sell more hamburgers than you, but it does not mean your burger tastes worse than McDonald's.

(More after the jump.)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at

- Short/Impactful, or Long/Analytic.  If you are not into soul-selling, you should strive to be short and impactful, or long and analytic. The shortest of the "short" is around two to three sentences. The longest of the "long" is around 3,000 words. (Beyond that point, you should break up your posts into series.) It is possible, and preferable, to do both, in different platforms. (More on this below.)

"Short-impactful" and "long-analytic" are in a proportional relationship with each other. That is to say: the shorter the writing is, the more impactful it has to be. The longer the writing is, the more analytical it has to be.

A special word of encouragement for long read writers: your form is not dead. Far from it. Although blogging is not what it was five to ten years ago, there is still plenty of demand for thoughtful, long pieces. You just have to dig deeper, and provide more insight, as the word count increases.

- Curate, explain, seek empathy.  As a blogger, you are in the business of doing some combination of the three. You can never be the New York Times or the Economist. As a single person, you will pretty much never break the news or conduct a lot of field research. Instead, you will piggyback on the information provided mainstream media, and generate something additive through your blog, by:

   (1) Curating--reading a bunch of things, select the best few articles for others to read, and summarize; 
   (2) Explaining--unroll your expertise in layman's terms, and/or illuminate an angle that is not commonly considered;
   (3) Seeking empathy--give your personal sentiments in reaction to the events unfolding.

Marginal Revolution, blog run primarily by economics professor Tyler Cowen, is a good model in curating, although curating is hardly the only thing that it does. MR's daily Assorted Links never fails to be entertaining and informative. MR also does an excellent job in thematic curation in its Markets in Everything series, which highlights the unusual and counterintuitive things that are exchanged in the market. Angry Asian Man by Phil Yu also does great in curation, although again, curation is definitely not the only thing that AAM does. After reading AAM, one gets the sense that one is reasonably well informed in the goings-on of the Asian American community. Giving that sense of being informed is the central mission of the "curation" model.

Volokh Conspiracy, run primarily by law professor Eugene Volokh, is the best "explainer" blog in my opinion. The explaining portion of VC (again, because explainer is not the only thing that VC does) presents the ideal form of an explainer blog: pick the current event topic du jour; identify an angle that is not previously discussed, and; applying the author's expertise, explain that angle. For example, when the infamous University of Virginia gang rape story by the Rolling Stone turned out to be a hoax, VC explained an angle that was within the author's experitise, but not really explored by the mainstream media: i.e., whether UVA has a libel claim against the Rolling Stone. (Pay no mind to the fact that the Washington Post, a mainstream media outlet, now carries VC, since the Post does not really exercise editorial authority over VC.)

Speaking of China, run by Jocelyn Eikenburg, is a great "seeking empathy" blog. Eikenburg, as a white woman living in China being married to a Chinese man, has a relatively uncommon experience to share. Eikenburg intelligently discusses the many situations she faces by virtue of being a part of an interracial couple in China, and her emotional reaction to such situations. By doing so, Eikenburg presents a new perspective to people who are not familiar with the circumstance like hers, and builds empathetic support among people who are in the similar circumstance as she.

- Maximize your platforms.  Recognize what type of contents you are likely to produce, and choose the platform accordingly. To push something short, Twitter and Instagram; long reads, any one of the blogging sites (e.g. Wordpress, Blogger, Medium, etc.) It is fine to be on multiple platforms, with each platform having a different focus. TK, for example, uses this blog for long pieces about Korea. TK's Facebook is for giving short impressions on current events in English, and TK's Twitter is for discussing current events in Korean.

For best results, mix and match. For example, even if all you write is long reads, you can still use Twitter to share your article, preferably with a short pull-quote that catches the reader's eyes. (One exercise that TK has been doing is to imagine all sentences he writes as pull-quotes. The exercise forces him to write punchier sentences.) If you are effective in using pictures or moving gifs to highlight your writing, you can use those graphics on Instagram to lead the readers into the article.

Unlike this graphic, pull-quote does not have to be on the blog itself.
Simply write on the blog, and use the pull-quote on Twitter.
If managing multiple sites appear too unwieldy, there are websites and utilities that allow you to manage many different social networking services, such as Twitterfeed. 

Allow TK to go back to his initial points, because they are absolutely critical:  to have a blogger with a good amount of readership, you need to be a good writer who writes a lot, regularly. Good luck.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. And never, ever read the comments ... ;-)

  2. Being a good writer goes for any written form, be it emails, comments, blog posts, essays, etc. Always try to take the time to read, review and edit before clicking that submit button.

  3. Hi! Thanks for the great information you havr provided! You have touched on crucuial points!

  4. Is it necessary to have a central theme, or can a grab bag of interesting topics be successful as well?

  5. Yes, writer should write regularly, and it doesn`t matter where: his own blog or just a diary. And, clearly, it`s necessary to have a page on any social network. Although at first, I think, I would use online custom essay writing service to proofread my articles in order to avoid elementary mistakes.


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