Ryan Block Interview - Blogger help, tips and hacks

Ryan Block Interview

Below is an interview with Ryan Block. Ryan Block is the managing editor behind EnGadget, one of the world’s best gadget blog and the most popular blog on the Internet according to Technorati’s Top 100 Blogs list. EnGadget is part of AOL’s Weblogs Inc. network and receives millions of pageviews each month. Ryan also has his personal blog at RyanBlock.com.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I’m the editor in chief of Engadget, which is a pretty well read technology site. I live in San Francisco with my lovely girlfriend Veronica Belmont (who is host of the new show Mahalo Daily). I work a lot, but when I’m not I’m usually trying to catch up on my reading or pump up my gamerscore on Xbox.

2. When and how did you get your start in blogging?

I’ve had various sites, blogs, and accounts on services dating back to before the turn of the century. Writing has always been a very important part of my life. I’d never blogged “professionally” though — and when I started no one considered blogging a profession. I got going through my good friend Peter, who’d recently left his first tech site, Gizmodo, and was looking to staff up his new tech site called Engadget.

3. Engadget has built its reputation as one of the leading sources on the web for tech/gadget news. How can bloggers build their reputation and truest between them and readers?

It’s actually quite simple. Be honest, earnest, passionate, and devoted to your topic and readership. Not every site is destined to blow up — we got really, really lucky — but no site that’s blown up hasn’t been all of those things.

4. What have you found to be the main advantages of working with a team of writers?
Compared to the early days — when our team was much, much smaller — I’m getting (slightly) more sleep, and the occasional weekend off. I actually just recently went on my first vacation in years, it was grand. But besides the obvious benefits to having lots of people working with you, the difference of opinion and collective intelligence of team Engadget breeds outstanding editorial and a constantly challenging culture. I feel extremely lucky to have assembled the team we’ve got now, it’s totally blog all-stars.

5. Have you worked on monetizing blogs (selling ads, etc.) or have you primarily been focused with developing the content of the blog? Would you like to eventually get into all of the aspects of a blog(like design, hosting and maintenance, selling ads, etc.) if you have not already done so or do you like solely concentrating on the content of the site?

I believe in separation of church and state (advertising and editorial); it’s a luxury we’ve always had being a member of the Weblogs, Inc. network, but not one all sites have. Mixing editorial and sales roles gets messy really quickly, so my suggestion to most people looking to start a successful blog is — services like AdSense aside — be prepared not to sell ads on for a long time. That is, unless you have a sales infrastructure built in. You just can’t remain distanced from your subject if you’re worrying that the people paying your bills will stop because you didn’t love their latest whatever.

6. Engadget often does a lot of liveblogging? Can you explain what exactly liveblogging and any advice you have for bloggers looking to try liveblogging for the first time?

Everybody has a different style. Even Peter and I have dramatically different liveblogging styles. Anyone who wants to liveblog something should just think about how they would want to read it if they were on the other end, and cater to that. It’s different for every site, every writer, every event, every topic. There’s no magic formula for blogging or liveblogging (except what I already mentioned: honesty, passion, etc.).

7. What do you think has been the key to the success of Engadget on social bookmarking websites like Digg?

Honestly, momentum. A lot of Digg users are Engadget readers, so there’s a ton of crossover, they’re extremely supportive of what we’re doing. (Much love, Engadget Diggers!) We’re fortunate to be the second most Dugg tech news site (right behind the ever-awesome Ars Technica), but in real numbers that equates to less than one or two percent of our total traffic. In other words, if tomorrow Engadget stopped getting on Digg, we’d be just fine.

8. What is the number one piece of advice you have for a blogger starting out?

I think I’ve already covered it: write about what you love, be honest, don’t pull your punches, and don’t get in it for the money. Anyone who tells you, you can make good money blogging is either one of the lucky ones who made it trying to hire you (read: extremely rare) or someone out to deceive you. Do it for the love of the game — if you’re good enough, if you try hard enough, there’s a chance the money will follow. And if it doesn’t it’s no big deal, because you’re still making something great, and the world needs more great things.

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