Saturday, 7 March 2009

Interview: Ed Walker from Preston Blog

We're assuming, if you're reading this, that you're interested in the nuts and bolts of blogging - choosing a subject, building a readership, networking and promoting yourself. Who better to ask, we thought, than Ed Walker, who writes the locally famous Preston Blog and edits the Preston Twitter directory, among other things. Currently, Ed works at the UCLAN Students' Union as Web & Digital marketing co-ordinator and is also a trustee for Mencap Liverpool. We roped him in to answer a few questions about blogging.

PWN: Hi Ed. Thanks for coming. Lets get the ball rolling . How did it all begin? What inspired you to start Preston Blog?

EW: It was a bit of a New Year's resolution. I was sick of mates bitching about how poor the LEP was and how there wasn't anything that really represented Preston. I saw a gap for a decent blog that encompassed loads of different stuff about Preston and really connected with a community. I also took inspiration from St Albans Blog run by Robin Hamman (ex-BBC head of social media) and thought if St Albans can do it then why can't Preston?

PWN: And what's been the highlight of the experience so far?

EW: Opening my inbox and every day having an offer from someone for a guest post, a lead for a story, an image or simply someone just saying how much they enjoyed reading the blog. Oh, and the Sunday just gone when the blog got 271 views in a day! I nearly fell off my chair.

PWN: Has the project taken off as you expected it to? Have there been any 'blips'?

EW: It's surpassed all expectations. I started the blog just under a month ago and it's just gone from strength to strength. I really have been taken aback by the level of support I've received from all the readers and it seems that my hunch was right, there really is the demand out there for something like Preston Blog on the web. Blips, there's been the odd evening where I've had no idea what to write about but then something pops up on twitter or drops in my inbox and suddenly I'm up and running.

PWN: Do you do it all on your own? Are there opportunities for budding bloggers and web journalists to get involved?

EW: I had an email from a student journalist at UCLAN, Kirsty Higginson who said she wanted to help out. I asked her what she was interested in and she said music and films, so she's now music, films and entertainments correspondent - so hopefully she'll post regularly and that takes the pressure off me a little bit. I've also had some guest posters now, but basically Preston Blog is there for anyone to contribute to and I've had a really great mix of people so far.

PWN: So, for people who might be thinking about submitting some work to you - what do you think makes writing for a blog distinctive - different from other kinds of journalism or non fiction writing?

EW: I think it's distinctive because it really is your own voice - if you've got something to say you can say it. There's no newspaper owner, book publisher, PR man etc wanting to change this bit, take that angle. If you want to say something you can go right ahead and just say it - within reason of course.

PWN: And along the same lines, what turns you off blogs? What's likely to make you want to click away and go and read something else?

EW: If it hasn't been updated for a long time. If the only posts written are 'Today I went to the shop and I bought some eggs and then I read the paper and I thought it was good...'. Blogs aren't there as a diary. The only time that they should be used as a diary is if you're someone famous or do a very important job and then a diary is interesting.

PWN: If you could give advice to someone about to start a blog of their own, what would it be? EW: Just do it. Get your blog started, get posting and that's when it all really starts. Don't spend too long on the design, colours etc - just get your content. Also make sure you are commenting on other people's blogs and reading around your subject, this will get people coming to your blog. And stick at it, at the start you'll look at your blog views and despair that 8 people a day are looking at it (that's what it was like when I started Preston Blog) but I got out there, talked about, made connections, begged some guest posts off people and then it took off.

PWN: And 'a little bird' (joke - birds, tweet, twitter! Get it? No? Sorry) tells me you're planning an event sometime soon. Fancy plugging it here?

EW: Preston Blog is running a 'tweetup' - hosted by Stage 9 Marketing and held atthe New Continental pu b, in the Snug room, on Tuesday 17th March 2009 from 7 PM. You can regis ter beforehand to reserve your place and also claim a free drink if you're in the first 50 to register. Preston Tweetup is a chance to come together and share your views on an important issue about the city, either in person, via twitter, or both!

PWN: You'll have to fill some of us luddites in on what a tweet up actually is. We know, because of your famous Twitter Directory you're fond of twitter, so I'm presuming its something to do with that?

EW: A tweetup allows you to bring a laptop/mobile phone on the night and connect to wireless and then contribute, via twitter, the micro-blogging site, both online and in person.

PWN: And there'll be technical support on the night for those new to social networking?

EW: Absolutely. And go here if you want more information.

PWN: Any final thoughts about the writing 'scene' in Preston?

EW: It's quality and not quantity that counts. I don't think there's been any effort to really connect writers in Preston and create a 'scene' so to speak - but there's a big university, with courses in English/creative writers, there are libraries and novelists, and if you can get these people talking and working on things then suddenly there's going to be a buzz. I don't think we should compare ourselves to other cities, or worry about them for that matter, let's build a community in and around Preston and then hopefully there will be some great stuff produced.

PWN: Thanks for coming Ed, and good luck with the night. We'll be there, and you can follow Preston Writing Network on twitter and keep up with us in real time by clicking here.

The Preston Tweet up logo was designed and created by Kerry Sholicar, a graphic design graduate from UCLAN.

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ws, book giveaways, live lit reviews, opportunities for poets and more. Subscribe in your reader to make sure you don't miss out. Atom

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