Saturday, March 3

UK Walking Blogging & Podcasts - Further Thoughts

I promised a few weeks ago to return and cover the subject of Blogging and its evolving format and role.

Judging by the feedback on that original post there's a lot of folk out there in webland who are building on their own experiences both as bloggers and readers. Playing with the Blog format to stretch and experiment with both the way the information is presented and the content itself.

And this new way of self-publishing lends itself easily to experimentation of such a nature at little more cost than the Blogger's time and interest.

So a few further observations, or maybe witterings. That, my dear reader, is for you to decide.

1. Blogs like this one address a very niche audience. Taking the potential global readership, I've already cut it down drastically in targetting the outdoor/walking segment; Then a UK based content.

So this largely means an audience from UK based readership, or those readers outside the UK who have either an interest in walking here, or just trip over the gear/approach ideas.

And largely that's the audience that visits as far as I can discover from my site stats. So already my potential readership is markedly reduced.

The point here is that I'm not writing this for populist consumption, more to deliver thoughts and experiences, and in turn invite responses from others who enjoy moving in the same field as myself.

Now if I wanted to get a big readership I'd just post the word SEX a number of times each post and load lots of pictures of nude people.
(Ha- that made you sit up! Be interesting to see what the next week's stats make of those references - lol)

2. The geographic location we live in affects our view of what we write, and whether the urge is there to express this via a blog.

As I've mentioned before, I'm based on the South Coast of England.

If I want a long walk I'm lucky enough to have the New Forest on my doorstep. If I want hills, then off I pop to the S.W Coastal Footpath, typically an hour's drive. And not really what I'd call a challenging environment. Definitely not wild land.

But as far as 'real' walking goes that is it - my nearest wild area is Dartmoor, a two hour drive away. And the Lakes are 5-6 hours if I have a good trip.

My preference is for hills, flowing water, panoramic views, and a feeling of getting away from it all. I can do that via this blog. It keeps me ticking over during those down times when the best I can hope for is a couple of hours plodding over gentle heathland and trying to avoid the crowds.

Question - total number of bloggers from the Lake District? Answer - none that I can find; And as for the Scottish bloggers (hi Atkoman) how many live in a conurbation?

3. Podcasts are not blogs. They are moving more towards an entertainment multimedia.

A blog can only be read via a internet link, be it a pc or PDA (I'll discount mobile phone/net links - that's still a joke)

For most of us that means sat at home using a pc which is about as far away from an active outdoor experience as you can get.

The joy of a podcast, and the reason they are becoming of increasing interest these days, is that they can be downloaded to a mobile media and listened to whilst we're out there doing it for real.

I store up a week's worth of pod material to listen to over a weekend's walking. And the last time I travelled north I took with me a host of older factual pods about tent/boot/pack selection to listen to on the train, as a chance to really concentrate on something that my mind, ready for its impending walk fest, was totally focused on.

3. A good podcast takes time to create (I think Podcast Bob takes approx 4 hours per pod, and he is one of the quicker editors from what I have found so far)

An adequate blog post takes minutes, if the point can be made succinctly. Of course for most of us amateurs, forever trying to improve each time, there is a fair amount of rework, but unless its a serious magnum opus (Andy Howell's Pyrennes trip articles currently being posted for example) an hour of work should see a piece of a reasonable length/content completed.

That's why so many blog pieces are short and snappy often using the news/diary format. It's so much quicker to create and keep the blog postings coming. We sort of get sucked into saying something, but the trick is to make it relevant to the purpose of the blog, and the impulses that keep us posting away.

That's one of the basic tenants of blogging - keep posting or your readers drift away.

So we have a number of blogs based on the newspaper/opinion style format, which personally I feel can get out of hand if not carefully controlled - check out any geek blog if you need examples of that.

4. Which nicely brings me to my next observation. There are constraints with traditional media. Legislative (don't slander/check your facts), commercial (will it piss off the advertisers?), or just reader's taste (and I've just given you a deliberate example of that - use of inappropriate language. Or was it?)

The majority of bloggers are amateurs and can use this media to say what they want.

Personally the legal aspects, whilst I'm aware of them, don't keep me awake at night. I'm in virtual heaven here and my identity is shrouded in the mists of internet anonymity.

A few of you out there may know who I am, some may even be aware of where I am. But in terms of the big fish in the media/outdoor gear market I am a tick on the hide of an elephant.

Any derision that I may heap on a company's product will be ignored, if indeed the blog is referenced by any of the 'players', which I remain dubious of at present.

I'm slightly warier where named individuals are concerned, as despite some of my musings I am sensitive to the way in which my opinions may be taken, and not because of libel laws. It's just a common courtesy and in my view a blog is not a tool to heap abuse on people, especially in the public eye. Some of these people, could be regarded as my peers or even heroes, for want of a better word.

I might even want to meet them one day and I'd rather say 'Hi' and have a good chat, rather than be met with a smack in the mouth. Quite.

That doesn't stop me having a pop occasionally, as long as any criticism is explained and is from the heart rather than just trying to stir up controversy.

And I exclude my fellow UK Outdoor Bloggers here - we tend to be very tongue in cheek when we comment on each others posts, but basically there's recognition we're out on the edge and mostly tied to the same rope. So that can lead to some rough humour at times but meant with respect. The UK Bloggers Convention 2007 ® wouldn't be happening if we thought there would be one almighty ruckus when we meet up (BTW - does the NEC still do security checks for concealed weapons? Just asking for a friend you understand)

5. And finally - commercial websites use search engines and advertising to get visitors beating a path to their on-line product.

Bloggers will use some of this approach if possible, but none of the UKOB group, as far as I'm aware, spend their money on this type of thing. Word of mouth, aka viral marketing, is what gets these blogs to a wider readership. Yes there are some tricks we all pick up along the way, but as any marketing expert will tell you, target your niche audience. Go for 'stickiness'.

And personally the respect I get from such an audience, small as it is, is of far more value than thousands of daily site hits.

Which brings me back to the start of this post.

Potentially there's not a huge amount of you out there to read this, but you're the ones that I write this for, when I'm not just producing this to scratch my own itch.

Hmm. Perhaps that's not quite the best image to leave you with, but a little something for you to cogitate for the weekend.

Suns out. Sky's blue. I'm off outside to get muddy and happy.


Concealed weapons?

Whatever you sneak in with you, you'll be out-gunned... I'm bringing the wife.

(MY wife, of course!)
Well I read it ... ;-)

And it keeps me entertained while I'm trying to find things to do to keep me from doing real work on the PC ...

Arrghh ... I can't live without my PC. When did that happen?

May as well read some more blogs the .... ;-) (I've got 5 mins)
BG - that's very kind of you.
WD is bringing a backpack.
I'm bringing a hat.
And you're bring a woman.

Does that mean the freedom of the press (in your case) may be severely curtailed by the threat of a thwack round the back of the head at sometime during the meet.

I can always loan you the hat

PB - back to those p/casts you skiver. there's been no releases for days now! I suppose the business is getting in the way of your duty to your fans again.
why worry about security checks, tool yourself up inside at the stands ;) Geneva airport is like that, buy a swiss army knife at the duty free and they let you walk on with it!!

But on a serious note, bloomin excellent posting. Not as informative as Alan's LEJOG pub guide ^__^ but still VERY good ;)
I don't do gear tests, and don't review gear (can't afford it, amn't an expert), and certainly don't want manufacturers beating a legal path to my door. Ditto with people.

Even when I do mention (blog or OM) that something works for me, I'm not pushing gear to extremes as I only encounter the conditions that I am walking in, and don't go out of my way to look for some condition to test a product.

I keep a 'weblog', not a magazine or newspaper column. It is a 'log' of my thoughts, and findings, and happenings that affect the outdoors part of my self. I can be honest within the spirit of the law (criminal, civil and employment).

If people read and get something out of the blog, then great. But I do not write to entertain or educate, but to share information. A blog allows people, amongst other things, to release information into the blogosphere.

People have been doing this in one form or another for years. Journals, editorials, etc are nothing new.

As to the format of blogs. Well, "blog your own blog", say I. like any other form of media, blog writers can experiment with different styles, and the blog format allows for a reasonable variety of styles within it.

Personally, I'm enjoying tinkering with the whole new media thing. But that's just me.
VG article Mr Hee! Top marks and I agree 100%

Wow - keeping up wth the blogs and walking all day too!
Atkoman - I only review gear that I use and like (or dislike intensly!) so it's very much a personal view.
The man in the street approach if you like. A comparative view to provide info for people possibly going through the same thought processes before deciding, much the same as I've already encountered.
As you say "blog your own blog" and I can see you are pushing at some of the constraints of the current format - and good on you for trying it all out. Thats the strength of what we can do do on here. To suck it and see.

Ta muchly. Now if you spent less time reading blogs you'd be at Minehead all ready! Hope all's going well out there in the wild and woolly west country.
Hi John. I tend to wimp out on negative reviews. I have sleeping bags that were good at the time, but not the best now I'm travelling lighter and with a smaller pack.

Shame I can't get down to Birmingham to see all that shiny new gear.

As to the new media, heck, look at all the things we humans can do with a sheet of paper. I look forward to seeing what we can do with this huge Internet (which deserves the capital 'I').
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