Tag Archives: Blog Network

The Society Blog Network

Network Blog Example

You’re looking at the front page of the Moultrie Creek Online Historical Society’s blog. You’ll be surprised to learn that none of the articles presented on this page actually reside at the MCOHS site. When you click on the title of any of these articles, you’ll be taken to the article at the blog site where they do reside. This is the hub of a blog network.

If your society is lucky enough to have members blogging about their families or their research, using the society’s blog to spotlight them not only keeps your blog’s content fresh but gives your blogging members the special attention their efforts deserve. The toughest part is choosing which articles to spotlight and when.

In my example above, I’ve interspersed local (society) content with external (member) articles. I can do that thanks to the magazine-style theme I’m using. WordPress is better suited for a network blog thanks to its category system for organizing posts. I can set up one or more categories for these member articles and use those categories to create sections within the blog site.

Network article

Here you see what a networked article looks like in the editor. The most obvious difference is the post title – it’s a link. Yes, unfortunately, it has to be crafted in HTML but there’s a quick and easy way to do that. Set up your title in the editor screen, add the link, then change your view to HTML before you copy/paste it into the title.

Even though clicking the title will take the visitor straight to the member’s blog, I still like to put a bit of content into the article. This content is what will be distributed via your blog’s RSS feed to those reading by news reader. The excerpt section below the main article is used by WordPress to display the teaser text/image you see in themes that support it – such as the Under the Influence theme I’m using at MCOHS. Choose a category for this article – Network in this example – and publish.

Notice that the Excerpt section is also HTML only. I copied the image code from the main article and pasted it here, then just changed the size to fit into the area available in the theme. If you’re just using text for your excerpt, you don’t need to include any HTML.

One other very nice thing about WordPress is that the site publisher can display a list of categories as a site directory and when a visitor clicks on a category, WordPress creates a special index page displaying just the articles assigned to that category. Your theme will determine what that index “page” looks like, but most use excerpts if they are available.

Now that you see how easy it is, here are some possible uses . . .

  • Use this to present a “guest author” with an article on a topic of interest. The blogger writes the article on her own blog – where she is most comfortable – but gets the extra visibility of a spotlight from the society’s blog.
  • Create a journal blog and have members “submit” their articles for inclusion. Actually, the journal doesn’t have to be a separate blog, but could be a category within the society’s blog.
  • Are you spotlighting a specific topic or location? If your members have posted articles related to that topic, ask if you can spotlight them at the society blog.
  • Introduce an upcoming speaker by spotlighting one or more blogs from his/her site.

Building a network blog is a win-win situation for all involved. The society gets the benefit of additional content with minimal effort and the bloggers get more visibility at their own sites. And, since you are only introducing their articles and linking to the originals, there are no copyright issues.

If you’re looking for ways to add a spark to your society’s site, consider creating your own network blog. It’s not something you have to jump into all at once. You can start with a guest post here and there to get a feel for it, and if you like it, build from there. The toughest part is getting started.

DISCLAIMER: Moultrie Creek Online Historical Society only exists in my imagination. The society site is used solely to demonstrate some of the ways a genealogy or historical society can use a blog – especially a WordPress blog – to attract members and keep their interest.

Build a Network Blog with WordPress

More and more family historians have taken to blogging as a way to document and share their family history. Savvy societies can take advantage of these opportunities in a way that benefits both the family history bloggers and the society. Creating a network blog to spotlight your members’ posts give members more visibility and may well attract others to your association.

A network blog is a blog site that spotlights articles written by other bloggers. The network blog contains posts introducing articles that network members have posted at their own blogs with links back to the original post at the member’s site. The member’s content remains at his or her blog site. The network blog serves as a virtual table of contents for its members.

There are several advantages to a blog network:

  • The network blog is a central location for articles related to its members’ research efforts, areas of interest, location or family group. The network can be focused on one topic – local families, for example – or it can be organized to cover multiple topics.
  • It helps researchers find others interested in their areas of research.
  • It gives both the individual blogger and the network blog more visibility.
  • It’s a cheap and easy way to provide additional services to your society’s membership.
  • It allows distant members to be more active in the society.
  • It can attract new members who discover the network blog and find its content relates to their own research.

The society decides how to choose articles for the network blog: 1) have network editors choose articles from the member blogs, 2) have members submit their articles or 3) do a combination of both options. Your choice will depend on both your goals and the skill-level of your editors.

One of the easiest ways collect and post the featured articles from around the network is to use WordPress’s Press This bookmarklet found on the Tools > Available Tools screen. Drag the bookmarklet to your browser’s bookmark bar and you’re ready to go. Now, when you find an article you want to spotlight on the network blog, just highlight the content you want included in your feature post then click the Press This bookmarklet.
pressthis01

A post screen similar to the one shown here appears over your browser with the highlighted text already included. It also automatically adds the bottom line shown here pointing back to the original article and blog site. You can edit the captured content and even add your own comments if you wish. Click on the image icon just above the toolbar and the bookmarklet displays all the images included on the original post. You can select one or more to include in this post. Once you’re ready, select the appropriate category for this post, add any tags you wish to include then click the Publish button. Your feature article is sent to the network blog and published. If you want to schedule when feature articles appear on the network blog, you can click the Save Draft button which saves it to the network blog without publishing. Someone will then need to visit the network blog to update the draft post to schedule it for publishing.

While the society will need to set parameters for the type of content included in their network blog, review requirements, publishing schedule and other operational factors, WordPress provides easy-to-use tools to make the technical side of a network blog very manageable.

Building a Blog Network

Have you seen FoodPress yet? If not, go take a look now. I’ll wait.

Delicious!

Other than the fact that it’s about one of my favorite subjects, FoodPress is fascinating because it is a networked blog. This blog site aggregates its content from its contributor’s blogs. If you click to open any of the items on the front page, you’ll find it links back to the original story at the contributor’s blog site. This blog has little content of its own but does a fabulous job of organizing and arranging the content from the other blogs into a beautiful site.

A blog network such as FoodPress can be a win-win situation for all involved. It offers a central location for information on a specific topic while providing the networked authors with additional exposure and traffic. With luck, both the network site and its affiliates can take advantage of this increased exposure to generate some ad revenue.

The network site is just another blog, but one set up with a magazine style template that displays many excerpts – in various formats – on the front page. The key to a successful network is the editor. This is the person who scours the affiliate sites for appropriate content and creates posts on the network site highlighting the chosen articles. On a site like FoodPress where content is updated multiple times a day, this could be a full-time job.

While FoodPress uses custom design work and a sliding recipe gallery, those things aren’t necessary to have an impressive network blog. In fact, there are a couple of stock themes on the WordPress.com site that would serve very nicely. I’ve been experimenting at Moultrie Creek Online Historical Society [a WordPress.com site I've neglected terribly lately] and found that it’s easy to incorporate content from other blogs using their stock Under the Influence theme. On a self-hosted WordPress blog with a magazine theme taking advantage of WordPress’s category functionality, it would be easy to build a network blog with topical sections and other goodies.

How could a networked blog be put to use? The first thing that comes to mind is a carnival site where each participant gets fancy billing and an archive of previous editions is maintained automatically. A “community” like the Graveyard Rabbits or African-American genealogy bloggers could network to spotlight their work and attract others. A local online newspaper could network area blogs. A genealogy society could spotlight member blogs. Any of these options would allow the contributors to publish their articles at their own sites while the network blog points readers to them with a catchy intro post that links to the original article. Both sides will attract more attention and traffic as a result.

There is one big caveat. While it is probably quite legal to do this on your own, I wouldn’t recommend building a networked blog without the consent of the bloggers you want to include in your network.