Do’s and Don’ts of a Good (movie) Blog

May 14, 2011 — 6 Comments

This is a… let’s call it a long footnote on Japan Cinema’s guide of Do’s and Dont’s of a Good Movie Blog.

I’ve blogged… for a while. My first blog was launched in 2004… it’s been a few years. The blogging has escalated into something I would like to do for a living, but I still love to have a space where I can just, you know, blog for my own sake.

While Japan Cinema’s guide is an awesome start-up tool to make it more pro, it’s obvious many bloggers feel blogging is just their own medium to vent. If you happen to find someone that shares your same point of view, the better! But it’s not a necessity.

I wanted to share a few tips to make a good (movie) blog. I know I haven’t been the best blogger for a while, but at the high of my activities here, I had months with an average of 2, 3 or 4 posts a day… whether I had comments or not. LOL

Keyboard

The Basics

1. WordPress > Blogger

WordPress merchandise

It is, of course, a personal opinion.

But my choosing WordPress is simple. WordPress is SIMPLE. It is much easier to use than Bogger is, and it’s got a more standard way of coding. If you get a basic understanding of what HTML and CSS is, you can pretty much do anything with it.

So if you’re thinking of just launching (or re-launching) your blog. Do it on WordPress.

Plus, they’ve got a few basic free themes that are pretty cool.

2. Use of Photos

Not everyone can have pretty graphics, but a few stills here and there accompanying long texts are pretty awesome. Flickr is great to find photos of most subjects.

A few photo tips:

  • Avoid pixelated pics, or stretched images. Don’t squish them either.
  • If you edit images, don’t overdo it. Some photographs are better left alone.
  • Pick images that are as wide as your content layout (my case is 560px wide).
  • If you’re aligning photos to the right or left:
    • Make sure the image is slim enough to avoid little chunks of texts
    • Make sure there’s a margin between the text and your image

3. Colors

Colour Palette

A nice blog has a color palette to keep some sense of harmony. Pick a base color, and a few highlights. Think of it as your living room, it needs to be inviting, but also calming.

4. Frontpage Content Length

I know some bloggers love to write long texts, but it makes it a bit chunky if we visit your frontpage with 10 posts of 2000 words each, including images and YouTube embeds.

Use a page break.

WordPress handles it as a “read more” feature, but if you check out “the code” you can change it to a “next page” feature.

You can also change your WordPress post display default from 10 to a smaller number. You can keep it as 5 (like I do) or some blogs just show one post a page because they don’t like to hide the content.

5. Avoid Auto-Play

I love the music you share, love the videos you post. But please don’t make me hit the Stop button as soon as I open your site.

Back-end

1. Descriptions and Keywords

Your WordPress theme has the Header.php file which should contain all your metadata, which is the stuff Google should be able to read. In there, you should be able to find the description of your site, which is what Google shows on their search, and the keywords is what helps Google find your content instead of going through all your post.

I use this code:
<meta name="keywords" content="<?php if(is_single()) {
$metatags = get_the_tags($post->ID);
foreach ($metatags as $tagpost) {
$mymetatag = apply_filters('the_tags',$tagpost->name);
$keyword = utf8_decode($mymetatag);
// Your filters...
echo $keyword.",";
}
}?>film, music, tv, entertainment" />

<?php if (is_single() || is_page() ) : if ( have_posts() ) : while ( have_posts() ) : the_post(); ?><meta name="description" content="<?php the_excerpt_rss(); ?>" />
<?php endwhile; endif; elseif(is_home()) : ?>
<meta name="description" content="<?php bloginfo('description'); ?>" />

<?php endif; ?>

Add it before you close the <head> tag

It basically says…

Grab “my post’s” tags when I’m inside a post and use them as keywords.

Also use an excerpt of the post as description. Otherwise, use “film, music, tv, entertainment” as my keywords, and use my regular site description.

2. Plugins are fun

but don’t overdo them either.

Sometimes, plugins can slowdown your blog for a few seconds… sometimes even crash your browser. I’ve ran into those mostly with websites that put a lot of social plugins, then they add those podcast tools, and maybe some Quicktime stuff.

Content

1. Pick a subject not everyone picks

I’m sure your original thoughts on Lady Gaga are quirky and fun, but they will get you little hits when there’s tons of other blogs and websites that talk about Lady Gaga.

You may not get instant visitor gratification when you blog about the darkest of European indie cinema, but… you might be one of the few that might be talking about it. Chances are high that when someone looks for the subject, your website will come up first.

It’s a lonely affair at first, but it won’t be for long.

My own example is that I talk about Yu Aoi a lot now, and I decided to talk about her more once I didn’t find a place to find out about her acting activities… soon enough, I found other fans and we all mingle here.

2. People are lazy

Reading Glasses

I’ll take my family as an example. I consider myself lazy, but out of my family members, I’m the “big reader” of the family xD Consider that people don’t read much… and if they do, they might not be able to read all your post on one go.

Divide your post in two or more several posts.

Use the “next page” feature – Check Basics#4

3. Don’t be a downer

Don’t hate the world just because…

Don’t hate a movie, don’t hate a group or musician… or a show. If you really REALLY REALLY don’t like something, don’t bash it for the sake of bashing it. If one wants a community where civility is kept within the comments, one also expects some form of reason for your dislike. And even if you dislike something, try to find something that could save the topic.

4. Participate

You don’t need to comment every single time a blog launches, but replying to some posts is good (like I’m doing with JapanCinema’s post). Visiting from time to time is also good too… but it takes a lot of time to do that… so as long as you subscribe to the RSS Feed to keep tabs on the site, talk a bit with them on Facebook (if you have them) or Twitter…

Reply to the comments you get, and comment on the replies you get ;D

5. Expand your Knowledge

So you love Hollywood blockbusters? You love American mainstream pop?

How about watching a Hong Kong blockbuster for a change? Or listening to some Korean mainstream pop? Not your thing? You might be surprise, try it out… talk about the experience. Ask for recommendations, get involved in their online communities as research. If you don’t like them, say why you don’t and how they can improve.

Sighs… that’s it, people.

That’s all I can think of as of this moment in terms of personal blogging.

Blogging for yourself is a special thing, once people start requesting stuff from you, it begins turning into different things for one. That’s why I decided to keep this as broad as I could possibly keep it, instead of turning it into a fansite or ditching it completely for YAM. I may not blog as much as I use to, but this still a special place.

What do you think of the tips?

What do you blog about? What do you blog for?

6 responses to Do’s and Don’ts of a Good (movie) Blog

  1. Very obvious tips that I overlooked especially recommending WordPress over Blogger, I couldn’t agree more. I love this! Great job!

    • @Marcello, Blogger is really REALLY quite awful. I tried it once and it was like a nightmare. Nothing was standard, you have the used weird CSS code… and you either put that Captcha or you’ll get tons of spam. LOL

      Sometimes my friends open their blogs, and I’m like… “why Blogger?” xD

      Choosing Blogger over WordPress is a huge issue for me. hahaha.

      Thanks for stopping by, Marcello. I was a little taken aback with how many people were complaining about your list.

  2. *pats your head*

    HAI SENSEI!

  3. Blogger is good for personal and pirated music blogs, but not really visually compelling for a wider audience who has a general expectation for how blogs look. Both of your guys’ blogs look sleek and generally reader friendly.

    In my own list, I would very much include quality of writing, especially the “quality vs quantity” argument. I say this because there are a lot of good film blogs ruined by lack of proper research, writing from a knee-jerk fanboy perspective, poor editing, etc. Visuals, tagging, etc. are all fine and dandy from the perspective of marketing your site to advertisers and looking good to your audience as I’ve mentioned above, but if there isn’t enough quality content to back that up, then that can become an issue.

    • @Coffin Jon, LOL. Yeah, Blogger seems to have loads of that.

      Quality and quantity needs to have a balance… I think. With a really good design, your sight will get less tired and you will be able to read more. But then you get some bloggers that make you wonder what they’re saying… and it doesn’t even just include bloggers, professional “journalists” from Entertainment Weekly (and even CNN, LOL) they write a 50 word item, and let the comment flame begin…

      I do think Basics #2 and #4 are a must, though. There’s nothing more distracting than a stretched or squished image to illustrate your content.

  4. 5. Avoid Auto-Play

    I love the music you share, love the videos you post. But please don’t make me hit the Stop button as soon as I open your site.

    DITTO.

Leave a Reply