Every few days, a new hockey blog enters the fold, with plenty of ambition and a slick design. And every few days, another one sputters and dies. And still, people want to write about hockey.
I get asked, and maybe you do as well, about the best way to start a hockey blog, so I thought it was time to put up a post I can point to the next time someone asks. These are just my beliefs and experience, and other people may have a different opinion than mine. It’s a big internet out there, and lots of ways to do it. If you have something you want to add, the comments are open.
The first key to starting a hockey blog is…. don’t.
No, really, don’t do it. It’s a lot of work, and if you are doing it to make it as a sports writer or get a lot of attention, there are better ways. And there are already tons of hockey blogs out there. It will just lead to disappointment and resentment, and your family leaving you on the side of the road with a Gary Bettman bobble head. You will not like it.
Plus, it’s a lot more work than you think it will be (this part is true).
Still here? OK, then. Let’s do this.
First, go to WordPress.com and get a free blog. WordPress is some of the best blogging software out there, and they make it very easy to take your content to other systems and sites when you want to move on. Later, if things are going well, you can get your own domain and hosting, and run your own copy of WordPress, but for now, let’s stick with the free option. (If you don’t know what hosting is, or any of the technical internet stuff, don’t worry about it for now, as it really doesn’t matter)
- WordPress.com is a free blogging service that is hosted on the wordpress.com servers. They maintain the site. It’s similar to Blogger in this respect, but I think it’s better and more robust.
- WordPress.org and self-hosted WordPress is blogging software that is similar to WordPress.com, only you host it on your own site or server. You have more control, but more responsibility as well.
Next, start writing.
But wait, don’t I have to set up a banner and build a blog roll and link my twitter account, and get a color scheme and put the roster and team record in the side bar and….
NO. That is the last thing you should do. It’s easy to make something really pretty, spend all your time on web design, and then sit back and marvel at your creation when you should be writing. Rather than get bogged down in all of that, just write something and put it out there. In fact, skip the introduction and jump into it. If you write with a unique and individual voice, who you are will come out in your posts. Want a great example? Read any two or three posts from Scotty Hockey. Don’t look at his sidebar, just read a few posts. You will immediately get a sense of who he is.
Repeat after me: It’s not the site, it’s the writing.
That is what they mean when they say “content is king.” People won’t keep coming back to your blog, read your work, or care about what you have to say without writing something. It’s astounding how many people this is lost on.
Now that you are writing, what should you write about? Well, what do you believe in? We live in a media savvy world, and your audience can tell if you are being honest with them or not. Even if you have an unpopular opinion, or even worse, if you have a popular opinion, as long as it is genuinely yours, you should go with it. There should be a reason you have a hockey blog, and that is what you should write about. Otherwise, shut it down and become a really good commenter. There is nothing wrong with that.
I can’t tell you what to write, any more than other people should be able to. That is completely up to you. I have my beliefs on what makes a good hockey blog, but that’s a post for another day.
But as for starting, here are a few do’s and don’ts that might help:
DO turn off twitter. Seriously, you don’t need the distraction. If you are spending most of your energy on twitter, you are taking away from your material for your blog. Twitter is great, and a wonderful place to have a conversation, but it isn’t the same thing. Shut it down for a while.
DON’T spend a dime. I’m not kidding. There is no reason for you to have to spend anything on your blog to start with. Did you get a blog from WordPress.com? Great, that’s it. You don’t need anything else, and you don’t have to spend money. Save that for when your blog takes off and you want more control over it.
DO own everything you do. Embedding YouTube videos is fine, but don’t take photos you aren’t licensed for, or plagiarize (obviously) or use anything a person or company can come back and demand you take down or pay them for. Blogs like Puck Daddy use Getty Images because they have licenses for those images. You do not. Yes, this is hard. It’s harder to make your own post images than just take something from Getty Images, but as you build your reputation and skills as a blogger, it will pay off for you down the road. I promise.
DO attribute quotes and link to posts and articles. There are a lot of good writers and journalists out there that are doing hard work that deserves attention, and chances are you will be talking about and quoting their work. They are in the locker rooms and on the buses, getting quotes and filing stories, so you should link and attribute to the people who you quote. Links also get the attention of the people you are linking to, and that helps build your audience and reputation.
DON’T look at your site meter or site stats. I know, you want to know who is reading your blog. But if you get obsessed with the number of readers you have, you will start to lose readers. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. You aren’t writing for a demographic.
DON’T worry about comments. There are a ton of hockey blogs out there, and people don’t have time to comment on every post they read. Your encouragement and enjoyment of your blogging should come from within, not from the comments of others. It can be discouraging to write your butt off and not get a single comment, but don’t let that stop you. Worry about the post more than the comments.
DON’T believe the hype. You can have a great post that is practically ignored, and one that was a throwaway joke that gets thousands of hits. Don’t pay any attention to that. Don’t let other people determine what your content should be. And if others say you are doing a good job, work even harder to impress them with your next post. If they say you are crap, ignore them and post something that you like. It’s the internet, after all. Everything is crap.
DO rewrite. I’m astounded by how many people forget to do this. “The best writing comes from rewriting.” – some writer who was really smart. Spellcheck goes in here as well. Use it. It is your friend.
DO ask people’s opinion, and then listen to them. The first part is easy, but the second part is not. If you really aren’t interested in other people’s opinions on your work, don’t ask. It wastes their time and yours.
OK, enough of that. You have some guidelines, but now you have to write, and you have to keep at it. The world doesn’t need another ten post blog that fizzles out for no reason, so it’s time to kick this thing into gear, and make it into a challenge.
I challenge you, as a brand new blogger, to write a post every day for 30 days. No days off, no slacking, post something you feel sets the tone and voice of your site, even if it’s just a youtube video. Post for thirty day and make a habit out of it. Sit down at the same time every day if you have to. Throw something you wrote away and start over if you have to. But just start writing and keep writing.
If that sounds too hard, well, do it anyways. Blogging should be hard. Twitter is easy, but taking the time to write good sentences, form them into paragraphs (did I forget to mention to write in paragraphs?), and do it day after day isn’t, but that’s what makes it fun and worthwhile.
If it’s any consolation, I’ve done it before, as have other people. It can make you fall in love with hockey blogging.
So if you’re going to do it, that’s how. The three Ws: WordPress, Write, wRepeat (see what I did there).