August 23, 2008
The Online Pueblo
By COLEY WARD
Blogs, videos, webisodes, moreTucson's been home to more than a few celebrities over the years, from Linda Ronstadt to Paul and Linda McCartney. It's even rumored that Oprah is building a house here.
But the Old Pueblo is also home to celebrities of another sort, who are finding a measure of fame on the Internet.
We tracked down some of our city's biggest bloggers, online radio hosts and YouTube celebs to find out what it takes to be a Web star.
Read their stories. Listen to their tips. Then start your own blog, vlog or podcast.
It's virtually (and actually) simple.
J-Walk talks the talk
John Walkenbach created J-Walk Blog in October 2002, and it now gets thousands of visitors every day.
The blog (j-walkblog.com) is a series of posts about things he finds interesting - everything from banjo to baseball.
The Oro Valley resident answered some questions via e-mail.
Why did you start your blog?
"An excerpt from my first post pretty much explains it: 'Today I woke up and decided to start a Web log. I've had a bit of free time lately, and I've spent a lot of it perusing other blogs. They vary from crappy to superb. Hopefully, this one will be somewhere in the middle.'
"I was also curious to see if I had what it takes to be a blogger. Now, after making more than 20,000 blog posts, I think I have what it takes. By the way, every one of those posts is still online."
What is your blog about?
"I post about topics that interest me. If they happen to interest the readers, so be it. The majority of the topics might best be described as 'weird stuff I found on the Web.' So, in that sense, it's a 'link blog,' similar to many others such as Boing Boing, Metafilter, Fark and The Presurfer.
"But I also post about personal things. For example, when we moved from San Diego to Tucson, I kept my readers up to date. I also like to post occasional photos so others can be jealous over the fact that we live in such a beautiful part of the country. I earn my living writing spreadsheet books, so you'll also find quite a few posts about Microsoft Excel. However, I recently started a new business blog (spreadsheetpage.com), so most of my Excel posts will be going there."
What do you like about blogging?
"One thing I like is that there are no rules and no supervisors. I can literally write or post anything I want and not have to answer to anyone. If I want to take a day off, fine. If I want to rant about something, I have an outlet.
"To me, blogging is a hobby that I can put as much or as little time into as I want. Some days I'll make only a few posts. Other days I make as many as 30 posts. It's also kind of a diary for me. I can go back into the archives and see what I was doing last year, or five years ago.
"But what I like most is the interaction with others, via the comments on my blog. I've made quite a few virtual friends, and I've even met a few in person."
How can I start a blog?
"Believe it or not, just about anyone can have their own blog up and running in about 10 minutes - thanks to a free service by Google. Go to blogger.com, click a few buttons, and you've got a blog. No setup fee and no monthly charges. Another free option is available at wordpress.com.
"For more flexibility, you'll want to get your own domain name and a fast and reliable Web-hosting service."
How much traffic do you get?
"It varies quite a bit, but my blog attracts an average of about 10,000 visitors per day. When I first started blogging, I was overjoyed to read my site logs and see as many as 200 visitors per day. I remember setting a goal of 1,500 per day - which seemed impossible. But, for whatever reason, readership has increased steadily over the years."
Do you have any tips for driving traffic?
"Many of my blog visitors arrive from a Web search (mostly from Google). Google tends to like small pages about a single topic, so it's important that each blog entry can be viewed on its own page, and that the blog entry title is included in the page title.
"Another tip is to cite your sources. If I find something post- worthy at another blog, I'll provide a link to the blog. Most of the time, the blogger will notice the incoming link. In many cases, he or she will provide a reciprocal link back to my site.
How do you build a loyal readership?
"Rule No. 1: Post regularly, and post a lot. If someone bookmarks a blog, and it's always the same, there's no reason to keep coming back. Oh, and post photos. Lots of photos.
"Another important factor is to allow people to post comments. I really enjoy reading the comments to my posts, and so do many others. My blog gets some very interesting conversations going in the comment sections.
"It goes without saying that your blog should be easy to read and navigate, with an attractive, uncluttered design. First impressions count a lot.
"But the key tip is to have good content that people like to read. And don't be afraid to be controversial or even outrageous at times."
Do you make money off the blog?
"Bloggers can make money in three ways: by selling advertising, by participating in affiliate programs and by doing paid reviews.
"My blog has a few Google ads, but I have no ads on the main page. The income from these ads is just enough to pay my monthly hosting fees, and I'm satisfied with that. I'm also an Amazon.com affiliate, so when I mention a book I'll usually include my affiliate ID. That brings in a small amount of money each month. Occasionally, I'll do paid reviews - but only if the advertiser allows me to indicate that the post is a paid review.
"I suppose that it's possible to make a living from blogging. But it requires a huge readership and a willingness to display lots of ads. For me, I'm happy to keep blogging as a hobby rather than a business."
Other Tucson blogs worth bookmarking
Firefly Forest is flush with vivid photographs of bugs, birds and animals, taken by the blog's author, T. Beth Kinsey, who is working on a master of public health degree at the University of Arizona.
"People often e-mail me with unusual plant and animal sightings and send me photos to look at or help identify," Kinsey says.
"Also, even though I am not a professional photographer and don't market my Web photos, I have managed to sell some of them. Apparently there is need for photos of identified species. My main negative experience with blogging has been comment spam and feed scrapers (other Web sites that use my full syndicated content without my permission)."
Providing an armchair view of the Arizona Diamondbacks, author Andrew Ryan, a middle-age computer engineer, is a lifelong baseball fan whose dream job is working in a major-league team's front office.
"I started the site simply because I loved watching the D-backs play, followed them very closely, and wanted to start sharing my views and opinions on the team to other fans," Ryan says.
One hip mom's take on parenting, this site covers everything from baby gear to beer.
It's also spawned the spinoff site YogaMamaMe.com (A Community of Moms Trying to Keep From Losing Their Mindfulness) and a parenting forum, Tucson Mama Talk.
Author Julie Reed's son, Lincoln, will be 2 in October, and she's pregnant with his little sister, who is due in November.
"Parenting can be so isolating, and you find these weird pockets of time to yourself (3 a.m. after nursing, for example), and who can you really talk to then?" Reed writes in an e-mail. "So online communities are great for that kind of thing. Or if you want to know more about a certain baby carrier - you can post to an online community and chances are that someone in the group will have it, and you can benefit from that knowledge."
RUM, ROMANISM AND REBELLION
This blog about Southern Arizona politics is run by longtime Democratic activist Ted Prezelski, twin brother of state Rep. Tom Prezelski, D-Tucson.
Ted works for a nonprofit organization and was recently chosen as the Arizona blogger for the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
"I didn't think anyone would actually read the darn thing," he says about his blog. "But then it turned out that people were reading it, and they were mostly people I knew from the Young Democrats who worked on the staffs of local elected officials. And because they were reading it, the politicians were hearing about it."
An alliance of 11 political writers and activists dedicated to reporting and promoting conservative news, ideas, opinion and principles throughout Arizona and the Sonoran Southwest.
"People call you with insider tips," says one of the site's anonymous writers, who goes by the tag Josey.
Tucson on YouTube
If a picture's worth a thousand words, a video must be worth, like, more.
Here are just a few of the videos on YouTube that show life in Tucson - the good, the bad and the downright unexplainable.
\"AIRPORTS,\" MOSTLY BEARS (LIVE)
The local rock band Mostly Bears plays at Plush. Two of the band's members, Brian Lopez (guitar/vocals) and Geoffrey Hidalgo (bass/vocals), attended Tucson High Magnet School. Notice how the band uses two drummers on this song. That's tight, dude.
TUCSON ROLLER DERBY VS. ARIZONA ROLLER DERBY
In the winter of 2006, three Tucson roller derby teams went head to head with teams from Phoenix at Bladeworld, 1065 W. Grant Road. Watch highlights from the three 30-minute bouts, including lots of hip-checking and face plants.
BORAT'S \"THROW THE JEW DOWN THE WELL!!\"
Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat character, above, visited Tucson in April 2004 to film a karaoke segment for his show's second season. He visited the country bar on West Ruthrauff Road, which has since been sold and is now the Branding Iron North Bar and Grill.
Many in the audience clapped and sang along to Borat's rendition of his song "Throw the Jew Down the Well." The Anti-Defamation League sent Cohen a letter of reprimand.
NASTYBOY MONSTER TRUCK - TUCSON RODEO GROUNDS
This short clip shows Nasty Boy ramping off a couple dirt piles at the Sept. 1, 2007, demolition derby and monster truck rally at Tucson Rodeo Grounds.
UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA 2008 STAR PASS POOL PARTY
This video of a UA pool party at Star Pass shows the raunchier side of college life. If you were thinking about sending your daughter to UA, watch this first.
Arizona Daily Star blogs
StarNet and AZNightBuzz offer 48 blogs on everything from religion to NASCAR, from shopping and politics to knitting and autism and the arts.
The most popular blog during basketball season focuses on - wait for it - yes, the UA men's basketball team. It's written by sportswriter Bruce Pascoe.
The top three blogs last week were Ryan Finley on UA Football, Recruiting Roundup with Eric Hess and It's All Fun and Games . . . Until Someone Goes to Rehab.
Find them all at go.azstarnet.com/blogs.
HARD TO EXPLAIN
Hard to Explain is the go-to Tucson blog for all the latest concert announcements. You'll also find show reviews, previews and breaking news. Kevin W. Smith's blog was the first to break news that Kanye West was playing McKale Center and made national news in 2007 by reporting that indie act Brightblack Morning Light wasn't allowing "military entities" into its Club Congress show.
Cathalena E. Burch, a music writer at the Star, posts about all things country. She's taken us behind the scenes with Lee Ann Womack and brought us news about Lois Lewis' promotion to music director at KIIM (99.5-FM).
IT'S ALL FUN AND GAMES . . . UNTIL SOMEONE GOES TO REHAB
This blog, a leader in the hits parade, rolls out the red carpet for rumors and tidbits about Hollywood hunks and pop culture princesses. Now and then, Jaynelle Ramon and Andrea Rivera post legitimate news items, as well.
Star reporter Aaron Mackey attended the University of Arizona as an undergraduate. Now he's back on campus - and this time he's blogging. His blog launched in July and so far he's brought us news about the UA's switch from Pepsi to Coke, tips on monsoon etiquette on campus, and 3-D photos sent back from the UA-led Mars mission.
Glossary of Internet terms
* Blog - Short for Web log, an online journal. The activity of updating a blog is "blogging," and someone who keeps a blog is a "blogger."
* Blogosphere - The subculture of those who create and use blogs.
* Podcasting - A form of audio broadcasting using the Internet. Podcasting takes its name from a combination of "iPod" and broadcasting, though podcasting does not require the use of an iPod.
* Vlog - A form of blogging for which the medium is video. Entries are made regularly and often combine embedded video or a video link with supporting text, images, and other metadata.
Originally published by COLEY WARD, ARIZONA DAILY STAR, ARIZONA DAILY STAR.
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