WHAT RIGHT ABOUT THIS POST ON HOW @blogmutt HAVE FIRE, GRIMVP? EVERYTHING.
It is truly hard to express how much a tweet from a fake robot dinosaur can mean to the people behind a new company and a new idea. It's a lot.
We also got a nice blog post in TechCocktail, something the invitation to their event in Boulder, which we happily attended, even if they did take a picture of two embarrassingly puffy and pasty white guys doing a demo of Blogmutt.
There's nothing wrong with the post, but I have to say I was a bit bummed because the reporter asked what I thought were some good questions and I provided full answers. She's in China right now, so I suggested we do the Q and A by email. That may have been a mistake on my part because none of what I thought was the good stuff got used.
Maybe she got some bad editing, and the editor didn't like my joke. (You'll see why, below.)
Well, this being the internet, I figure I'm not going to let all this good content just sit in my outbox unused.
So, here, as they say, is the rest of the story. Below are her questions, and my answers:
- Why did you decide to start BlogMutt?
I love dogs.
The whole story is that I had a bunch of friends over the years that would ask me for help with getting their business found by people searching on Google. Most of these were friends from the neighborhood, not my tech friends, so they didn't even know to call it SEO.
After a while I thought that there might be a business in trying to help businesses with SEO, but not as a service provider or a set of tools, that seemed like pretty crowded territory and also a huge snakepit. My idea was to do something crowdsourced, a concept I'd been fascinated with for years. I played around with the concept for a while and basically realized two things. First is that the business idea really sucked. The second realization, made once my partner, Wade, got involved, was more important: For nearly all businesses, there's only one thing they need to do to dramatically improve their SEO, and that's to blog regularly. There are a bunch of other reasons to blog, too, but most people just don't have time to write the posts. So we decided to start a business that would be a crowdsourced blog writing service for business.
- How do you ensure quality content?
For people not familiar with crowdsourcing, the idea is that the crowd is better than any one individual at hard tasks. The most famous example is probably Wikipedia where a crowd of writers has, over time, created this amazing encyclopedia. It's got its issues, but it's really clear that we will never go back to the days of Encyclopaedia Britannica being the main reference tool in the English-speaking world, as much as AJ Jacobs may be sad to hear that.
So, we ensure quality using some methods that have been pretty well proven out by crowdsourcing pioneers like Threadless, 99designs and Trada. Those are all radically different companies, but they all have essentially two main constituencies. The first is the customers and the second is the crowd. The customers let the crowd know what they want and the crowd responds. Some in the crowd don't, and some do, and sometimes it's different people in the crowd doing well for one customer and not another, or on one day and not another. At the end of each week, however, the customers themselves let the crowd know what works. So the short answer to the question is that we don't ensure quality, the customers do.
That said, we do have some confidential safeguards in place to make sure the writers who come into the Blogmutt platform are going to have at least a shot at being successful, and that the content they produce is all original.
- How much do you pay writers? How many writers do you have so far?
We pay our writers an amount that they agree to ahead of time. If you want to know what it is you'll have to sign up to be a writer!
The amount is not much, roughly half of the money that we bring in. We charge $79 a month and the customers get one post a week. Months have 4.3 weeks, so you can do the math. This is not something a former New York Times journalist is going to jump at. Most of our writers have little or no experience getting paid to write, even though most of them are great writers who studied English in college, or have written a novel in their spare time, or whatever. We also have a few experienced writers who like Blogmutt because they are fast, clean writers and they can produce posts quickly and we don't have any middle-manager editors. I'm sure the editing at TechCocktail is top notch, but at most content farms and most small news organizations have incredibly bad editors who actually discourage new writers more than they help them. The only editor with Blogmutt is the customer, so the post either works for them or it doesn't, but they don't have long arguments about if a preposition is an OK thing to end a sentence with.
You know what an editor uses for birth control?
As for how many writers we have, right now we have about 35, and we have about 10 that have applied but either haven't yet been approved or haven't written a post yet.
- How does the post get from BlogMutt to the company’s blog?
Right now we just email it to the company, and someone there pastes it in. We have on our roadmap the auto-insertion into the blogs, but we haven't had a chance to build that yet.
- What have you and Wade learned from working together on two startups?
Three! This is our third startup together! We both have the scars to prove it.
Actually, we are both really enjoying it. The first two had their moments, but this one is the most fun for both of us overall. Paraphrasing Brad Feld and David Cohen, we decided with this one to have more fun, faster.
- What is your biggest challenge with BlogMutt?
Dealing with reporters in China! What's up with that!?!
It's funny, we have zillions of small problems, and the amount of work is overwhelming, but the response from customers and writers has been so positive that it's fun going after the challenges.
Probably the biggest single challenge is that our potential customer needs us because they are so busy. Because they are so busy, however, they don't have time to focus on us. Our sign-up process takes less than five minutes, but those minutes are hard to come by for many of our customers.
- Do you think readers would mind if they knew they were reading outsourced blog posts? Doesn’t it detract from a personal connection with the company?
I have a long FAQ about that very topic, feel free to quote from it:
Shouldn't I really be writing all my own blog posts?
Yes, you should. You should also get 60 minutes of exercise every day, and you should give at least 10 percent of your money to help the children. Or 20. Yes. 20. Think of the children, won't you? Oh, and you should eat more bran.
We can't help you with those other things, but we can help you write your blog posts. Writing is hard, and it's not for everyone. You are good at what you do in your business, and you hire what you can. You hire an accountant to help you with taxes because that's not what you do. Same goes for blogging.
To answer your question more directly, the posts are not fake personal posts. Our writers don't say, for instance, "I was just having lunch with my girlfriend when we were talking about bla bla bla." They more typically say something like, "Here's an interesting story about bla bla bla that comes from the Local Daily News." So I don't think readers are being duped in any way.
That was it. She wrote back and asked how long the average post was, and added:
Oh, and - I used to be an editor. So watch the editor jokes
So now you have the "unplugged" version of that post.
Anyway, thanks to TechCocktail and to FAKEGRIMLOCK for the Blogmutt coverage this week.