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.
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.