12 Lessons from 3 Years of Blogging

Cinema Essentials is now officially 3 years old, so I'd like to take this opportunity to say "Thank You" to my loyal readers.

Both of you. :)

If it wasn't for social distancing, then right now I'd be buying you a drink. Or at least thinking of a plausible excuse for why I can't, or making up a story about how I lost my wallet on the bus.

I have to admit, when I first started this website, I never dreamed that I would get thousands of subscribers and earn millions of pounds. Which is just as well, because I haven't. But I have met plenty of friendly, interesting bloggers and been accepted into the film blogging community (I think).

As I've said before, and am now going to tediously repeat, I don't really consider this website to be a blog as such. But it does use blogging software and some of the infrastructure of blogging, and I have learned a little bit about the subject in the last three years. So I'm going to share these amazingly valuable lessons from three years of blogging (or not blogging ;) ).

If you're thinking of starting a blog, or you'd like more success, then just follow these handy tips and you'll be at the top of the blogging tree in no time. Maybe.

Will + Hay = Comedy Genius

1. Share more of your personality

There are thousands of blogs out there, so what makes yours different? The obvious answer is: You. You don't see things exactly the same way as anyone else, or have exactly the same interests, or writing style, or personality.

So the easiest way to differentiate your blog from all the thousands of others is to make sure that it's your blog and not a copy of someone else's, or an attempt at making what you think will be popular. People also like to think they're connecting to the person behind the blog, so make sure your blog has plenty of your personality in it.

2. Make it easy for people to comment

I've seen blogs on Blogger where you have to be logged into a Google account to comment, and Wordpress blogs that only allow comments from users logged into Wordpress/Facebook/Google/Twitter. Not everybody uses these sites or wants to have to log into them all the time wherever they are. Why make it hard for people to comment, unless you really hate comments?

And on a related note ...

3. Don't moderate comments (Unless you really have to)

Sometimes you might have a problem with a particular commenter or with comment spammers, but otherwise I think that moderating comments is undesirable. It discourages interaction and means that conversations can't develop between your readers, because no one knows what anyone else has said - until you come along and approve their comments.

The spam filters are usually good at filtering out the most obvious comment spam anyway. The Wordpress filter is especially good - although it can be a bit aggressive. So you might want to check your spam comment folder occasionally, as genuine comments can sometimes end up there. The Blogger filter isn't quite as good, but it seems to catch most comment spam.

4. Get social (if you want readers)

It's no big secret, but social media is where it's at now. If you want a really successful blog these days, then you have to seriously consider whazzing the crap out of social media.

Facebook and Twitter can be good for bringing in readers. Pinterest and Instagram have their uses as well, but they obviously privilege visuals. It partly depends on the type of blog you have. It's best not to spread yourself too thin, so just try and get good at one (or maybe two) channels.

The problem with social media though, is that it takes a lot of effort to do it well. It's not just promoting your own posts, but liking, re-posting or re-tweeting other people's content, engaging with others, getting into conversations, etc. Doing it well is almost like having a whole other blog to run. So you have to decide if it's worth the effort for you or not.

5. Make friends

Making friends among other bloggers is definitely recommended. There are a number of good reasons for this. They can give you support and encouragement (and vice versa), they can introduce you to their readers (and vice versa) and you know that someone, somewhere is likely to read what you wrote and you aren't just talking to yourself.

6. Join up

There are a few blogging associations and they can be a good way of meeting other bloggers and getting your blog noticed. I've joined the two main film ones that I know of, the Classic Movie Blog Association and the LAMB. The latter is the Large Association of Movie Blogs, and has the irresistible domain name www.largeassmovieblogs.com. That sort of puerile humour and terrible punning means that it's just the sort of place for me.

7. Take part in blogathons

Blogathons are very popular in some niches (especially the classic film one, it seems). They can be on almost any subject, but classic film fans really love their old time actresses, so in the film niche it may well be the "Dazzling Doris Day Blogathon" or the "Better Greta Garbo Blogathon" or something like that. Or it might be on a broader theme, like horror films, westerns, guilty pleasures, films of the 1950s or whatever.

The host chooses a theme for the blogathon and sets the dates it will run, usually over 1-3 days. Other bloggers sign up and choose their particular topic. It might be a review of The Searchers for a blogathon on westerns, or a list of your favourite Doris Day films for the Doris Day blogathon. People publish their posts during the blogathon and link back to the host, who curates all the posts together in special posts for each day of the blogathon.

If you're new to blogging, then taking part in a blogathon is a foolproof way to get your blog noticed by other bloggers. Just make sure you don't sign up for too many and over-commit yourself.

I've taken part in plenty of blogathons, so I'm satisfied that readers and other bloggers know all about my site. They don't read it because they don't like it. But at least they know about it.

8. Be consistent

It does help if readers know when to expect a new post from you. Sometimes you'll see a blogger who writes four posts in a week and then nothing for months. One blog I was following (I'm not even sure if I still am) would regularly post about half a dozen times over a week or two and then nothing for a whole year.

Real life is more important, and it does sometimes get in the way of your blog. But you do need some kind of consistency, and people will forget about you if you don't post anything for a long time.

Personally, I try and post here every two or three weeks. If I break that pattern, then it's always for a very good reason. Either:

a) I was ill
b) There was an emergency
c) I couldn't be bothered I had writer's block

9. Keep one in reserve

If you build up a regular readership (and you never know, you might), then you might want to maintain your posting schedule even if there is an emergency. So it can be useful to hold a post or two back in case real life gets in the way. If readers are used to you writing, say, a post every week, then keeping a post in reserve means that you can maintain your posting schedule while you're otherwise engaged.

10. You need more paragraphs

It must be something to do with writing an article to be read on a screen, but you always need more paragraphs than you think. I always think I'm using plenty, but whenever I go back and look at one of my earlier posts, I always add a few more. It just always looks like a bigger block of text on the screen than it does in a post editor or in a word processing program. Having more paragraphs also makes your site easier to read and helps speed readers to find what they're looking for.

11. If you just want attention, then Twitter is quicker and easier

Some people just want love, feedback and recognition. Or to chat to people about their favourite subjects. Blogging was a great way of doing that. In 2008. But you've probably noticed that it's not 2008 anymore, and if it's recognition you want, or people to chat to about your favourite actors or movies, then you'd be much better off on Twitter.

Twitter has millions of users and it's not that hard to get some attention there. All you have to do is start following lots of people and then tweet some funny cat pictures. Or, if you're into classic films, just start tweeting pictures of Audrey Hepburn, because everyone loves Audrey Hepburn. Even people who've never seen any of her films. If you're tweeting funny pictures of Audrey Hepburn with a cat, then you've already mastered Twitter and you don't need my help.

12. Don't write in the post editor

This is especially important for Blogger users, because of the helpful/disastrous auto-save feature. If you're writing in the post editor, you can guarantee that something will go wrong at some point, your whole post will be wiped, and Blogger will then save your nice new blank page.

Don't write in the post editor!

And a very important extra lesson ...

Do as I say, not as I do

If you're a regular reader, you might go through this list thinking that it all seems like good, solid, sensible advice. And then at some point you probably thought "Hang on, you don't do half of this stuff!"

And it's true, I don't follow all of this advice. I don't generally personalise when I write here, because that's not really what I wanted this site to be. Nor do I spend a lot of time or effort on social media because, as I said, it's actually a lot of work, and I don't have the time or inclination to do it properly.

And I have a confession. I even write in the post editor! I know, I'm an idiot. I just can't help it. It just seems more "real" than using a word processor. It also means that I can add to a post from anywhere in the world and it reminds me that there are outstanding posts that are unfinished (lots of them!). In my defence, I do back up very regularly, which is the next best thing.

Anyway, the point is that I accept the validity of the advice and, if I ignore it, it's always for a reason. We all have to decide if doing these things is worth it to us or not. And, as Joe E. Brown would say, "Nobody's perfect".

So those are my blogging lessons. Feel free to share any of your own. Oh, and you get a gold star if you knew who the actor in the picture was without reading the caption.


  1. Congratulations from loyal reader No. 1 (or 2). :) I accept that drink, make it a Singapore Sling.
    I read all of your posts, and if I occasionally don't comment on them it's because my regrettably low-brow tastes prevent me from it.

    Have I myself any blogging lessons to share? I wish I could say I have, but I haven't even thought about that yet. I'm glad I occasionally get to publish an article. So much for consistency, ha.

    But I agree on not moderating comments or approving them first. If there really is a weird comment, it's easy to delete it. It's not that as classic film bloggers we get swamped with thousands of comments. So far I've only got two spam comments, so no problem there.

    I try to stay away from social media. I have a FB account but barely use it. As for Twitter, not even once. Too much crap going on there and I don't want to get sucked into that.

    Making friends with other classic film bloggers is of course a good idea. The CMBA is a great and friendly place.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks Margot. I would buy you that drink, but I seem to have misplaced my wallet. Maybe it was on the bus.

      Social media is a tricky one. I think it's quite hard to build up a readership without it now, or at least it takes a lot longer. But it's also a time sink and, like you said, Twitter is a bit of a nightmare. It's very difficult, if not impossible, to avoid all the toxic politics on there.

      Making friends is definitely a helpful, otherwise you can feel like you're talking to yourself sometimes.

  2. Congratulations on your 3rd anniversary, Jay. I love reading your articles and reviews and always look forward to new posts from you. You should be proud of yourself because you're doing a great job here. Hope you're well. Maddy

    1. Thanks so much, Maddy. That means a lot to me.

  3. Congratulations! Even when we don't agree, I always enjoy your reviews. Sometimes it's hard to keep up with everything that has been posted, but I do try to read as much as I can. Anyhow, congratulations again! Stay safe!

    1. Thanks Eric. It's always nice to see you drop by and comment, as you're someone whose opinions I respect.

  4. Wonderful advice. And congrats on your third blogaversary! Let's raise a glass – cheers!

    1. Thanks Ruth. I think I'll have that drink. I hope you're doing well.


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