The Future of Ink – The Power of Stupid

by

This month is the one-year anniversary of The Future of Ink. This post is a record of our journey so far, with some of the important lessons learned in launching and managing a multi-author blog. Hope you enjoy it!

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 5.41.11 PMIn January of 2012, a thought floated into my consciousness that seemed like just another one of those stupid ideas that wasn’t worth hanging on to.

You know how it goes don’t you? Sure you do. As an online entrepreneur, you probably have a half dozen new ideas in any given week, and sometimes you can have that many in a single day!

Most of those ideas come and go, with the majority of them trashed like so many seeds tossed on hot concrete before they can ever have a chance to take root.

But not this one. It just kept nagging at me day and night.

My task at that point, as author Richie Norton put it in his wonderfully simple, but really profound book, The Power of Starting Something Stupid, was to figure out whether my idea was truly stupid or if it was ‘Stupid Smart.’

The Idea

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 5.45.45 PMA few days prior to the ‘stupid idea’ thought, my friend and colleague, Creative Business Coach Laura West  asked me if I had read Michael Stelzner’s book, Launch, the story of how Mike developed his powerhouse social media magazine site, Social Media Examiner.

I admitted that I had not, even though I had seen the book and had even put it on my ‘must read’ list. So at Laura’s urging, I picked it up, read the first few pages, and quickly found I couldn’t put it down.

Here was a concise, readable, almost step-by-step blueprint detailing not only how Mike had built his site, but explaining how the reader could do so as well. I stayed up half the night to finish it.

As I closed the book, my mind immediately presented me with a tantalizing possibility. Why not start a new blog, following Mike’s plan, one that would become the authority site for online entrepreneurs who were looking for information about digital publishing?

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 5.50.12 PMThe time seemed right. The online world was completely abuzz with the self-publishing bug, as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos had just single-handedly made the Kindle Fire the hottest holiday gift of the season.

Everyone was suddenly looking for information on digital publishing, from how to format an ebook for Amazon to how to market content.

Here’s where the ‘stupid’ part comes in. I had precious little experience with digital publishing, other than a Christmas short story Kindle book which I had published the previous December, a few blog posts about the potential for digital publishing and a couple of informal ‘isn’t all this hubbub about self-publishing grand’ conversations with a couple of colleagues.

So, like many other ideas, I pushed this one into the realm of truly stupid with the usual brain chatter that said things like ‘Who am I to do this? I wouldn’t know where to begin. Someone else can do this better than me.” and on and on and on.

But this particular idea would just not let go.

Partnership

And a few days later, another thought popped into my brain. But this time it was a domain name: TheFutureofInk.com

Like any good online entrepreneur, I checked to see if it was available and when it was, I grabbed it. Seeing the registration on that domain name go through was the thing that finally made my idea tangible to me. I had to see this idea come to life!

Obviously, I knew I couldn’t go this alone. I had to look for a partner in crime, an expert who knew blogging inside out and who might be willing to partner with me on building an authority site.

Denise250That person was well-known blogging and online visibility expert, Denise Wakeman. After all, Mike Stelzner had acknowledged Denise in his book as one of the three ‘firestarters’ for Social Media Examiner, including Chris Garret and Mari Smith.

I knew Denise as a colleague and we had done a few small joint ventures together, so even though I half-thought she would throw cold water on my idea and show me why it wouldn’t work, I decided to invite her to have a phone conversation.

I respected Denise’s opinion, and figured that if she didn’t think it would work, I would probably just drop the whole thing and be off the hook with this particular idea.

So a little nervously, I presented my idea to her: a multi-authored blog modeled after Mike Stelzner’s Launch blueprint which would eventually become an authority site on all things digital publishing for online entrepreneurs.

After a few moments of dead silence, I’ll never forget what Denise said to me: “You know Ellen, building an authority site is not easy. This is going to be a long, slow slog.” Another pause and then she said, “I’m in!”

Action

Now Denise is all about taking action, so we immediately set a date to have our first planning meeting. There was lots to do: recruiting writers, picking a theme for the blog, having the logo and look designed for the blog, hosting, plug-ins and a lot more.

We decided to follow Mike Stelzner’s lead and conduct a survey prior to the launch of the blog, which required even more work; coming up with survey questions, putting them on a Google docs platform so we could collect the data, getting people to take the survey, analyzing the data and then publishing.

TIFO_ipad-300x200Over 1000 people participated in our survey and on August 8, 2012 we published the Digital Publishing Industry Report, free for downloading, on the blog.

In the meantime, we got busy recruiting writers. Our initial group of talented experts included Bob Jenkins, Lou Bortone, Marnie Pehrson, Kathleen Gage, Nina Amir, D’Vorah Lansky, Laura West, Lynne Klippel, Kristen Eckstein, Nicole Dean, Daniel Hall and Sue Painter.

Launch!

On September 5, 2012 we opened the doors to The Future of Ink with just four blog posts. Our initial publishing schedule was twice a week, but we soon moved to three times a week and that’s now our current schedule as well.

We were very fortunate to have a group of knowledgeable, dedicated writers who saw the vision for The Future of Ink and who readily contributed.

The Dip

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 6.23.59 PMLike most projects, there is an initial euphoria and then ‘reality’ sets in. Denise calls it ‘the slog’ and Seth Godin calls it The Dip.

So once I got past thinking my idea was stupid, I now had to confront the fact that we were in the dip, and our task was to figure out whether to continue or not.

Make no mistake, the day-to-day reality of publishing a multi-author blog is not glamorous.

There are posts to be edited and formatted, pictures to upload, reminders have to go out to blog authors, the editorial calendar has to be kept up to date and managed and hundreds of other mundane tasks have to be done consistently, day in and day out, over and over and over again.

Special Events

In March of this year, we punctuated our mundane routine by organizing and holding the inaugural Digital Publishing Online Intensive 2013, the first comprehensive online event focused on teaching online entrepreneurs how to create, market and monetize their digital content.

guy-kawasakiGuy Kawasaki, tech guru, former Apple Product Evangelist, and author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, delivered the Kickoff Keynote.

In addition, as part of the Intensive, Denise and I hosted a Google Hangout where we discussed the future of digital publishing with guests Mark Staufer, the creator of The Numinous Place, the world’s first truly multidimensional work of fiction, and Matt Edelman, the CEO of Glossi.com, a publishing platform that enables anyone to create and share their own digital magazines.

Plus, 13 expert faculty members delivered the best in-depth training webinars on digital publishing to an eager audience of online entrepreneurs.

DPOI-Speakers

After the Intensive was over, we once again resumed out usual publication schedule. As expected, some of our original writers dropped away, as they had other commitments and we added a few new ones as well, plus the occasional guest blogger.

Create_logo250We also launched our first C.R.E.A.T.E. Marketing Lab, a diverse group of online entrepreneurs who are working together in a Mastermind setting to learn how to create, market and monetize their digital content.

All the while we continued to publish high quality content. As of today, we have 152 articles and counting on The Future of Ink!

Magic

Something magic has happened. The regular consistent publication of quality content three times a week for a year resulted in a steady increase in traffic to the site. No fancy SEO tricks, no arcane linking strategies, just good content published regularly and pushed out to interested parties via social media.

The Future of Ink has finally dropped below the 100,000 mark on Alexa and has been steadily declining, reflecting a strong increase in traffic.
Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 7.49.43 PM

Lessons Learned

A lot has happened here at The Future of Ink over the past year. Denise and I have learned a lot, but I think the most important lessons for YOU to take away are these:

  1. Quality content published on a consistent basis is the key to success.
  2. Constant ‘marketing’ of that content through multiple social media channels is mandatory.
  3. Willingness to stay flexible and move with the needs of your audience is essential.
  4. Having a business/project partner who complements your strengths and weaknesses is also a must.
The Future

TheFutureofInk.comSo what is the future of The Future of Ink now that we have hit the one-year mark?

The way I see it, we have just passed Phase One. Now our task is to refine our message, bring on more qualified writers and develop new, innovative ways to delight you, our readers.

It has been, and continues to be, an honor and privilege to serve you!

But wait, there’s more!

We are celebrating our first anniversary by hosting a live hangout on Google+. Join us on Friday, September 20 at 3 pm ET for conversation and Q&A about digital publishing, self-publishing and content marketing. Please stop by and say hello!

Ellen Britt
Dr. Ellen Britt is the Social Media Influence Doctor, Mastermind Expert, Author and Online Marketing Strategist, Lover of Southern Food & Culture and founder of Pink Coattails, as well as the co-founder of The Future of Ink. Ellen is committed to the idea that every woman, no matter her education, experience or where she lives on the planet, can have a successful business if she so desires.
Ellen Britt
Ellen Britt

Comments

  1. WOW! Thank you for sharing your experience and congrats on an awesome first year. The book recommendations are useful and I will be reading them soon. Thanks again and much success to you!

  2. Congratulations, Ellen and Denise. It’s amazing how a relatively new website like The Future of Ink has achieved an Alexa Ranking of below 100,000! Thank you for sharing your lessons and findings, too. Although I’m an artist, I still come to your website regularly to learn about writing and online publishing, for my blog, at this stage.

  3. Congratulations to both of you!

  4. Amazing to think it’s been a year since the launch of this site. It’s an honor and privilege to work with you, Ellen. Looking forward to bringing more good stuff to our Future of Ink readers!

    • Thanks Denise! Yes, can’t believe it’s been a year already. Really looking forward to working together to take The Future of Ink into uncharted territory!