Unputdownable

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Having taken a week off to undergo important surgery, I’m back today to start the countdown to the Internet of Words ‘going public.’ It is genuinely exciting looking at the journey ahead, and in the next week we’ll be giving more details on the tiers and rewards available via Patreon, what extras you can expect to be rewarded with for participating, and how to prepare for the following months of discussion and content.

For now, here’s a quick reminder that content has already begun on the @InternetOfWords Twitter account (which includes a Haiku every day at 7am and Micropoetry at 5pm BST) which will extend this week to include suggested videos and ‘extra content’ around our first Book of the Month choice, ‘Ways of Seeing’ by John Berger. If you’d like to read more about how the project will work, please see this blog post for the outline and further details.

This week will also see dedicated pages for the IoW ‘portal’ and the current Blogging 4 Noobs project be established and taken up to date. There should be no interruptions to current site operation, but if (for any reason) the site needs to go down, we’ll give you plenty of advanced warning. For now, sit back and get comfortable, as the structure of the project is effectively constructed around you.

Book of the Month

It is my intention, before the Internet of Words Patreon launches on June 15th, to give potential backers an opportunity to understand exactly what it is they will be throwing their money at. As a result, it is time to start explaining how this whole shebang is going to work.

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Each month, the Internet of Words will be using a work of published fiction or non fiction as the basis of a month’s worth of created and completely original content. This will include essays, humorous asides and at least one original piece of short-form fiction. On the official Twitter feed, all haiku and micro-poetry will be based on the subject matter of the book being ‘studied’, which means for the month of July our theme will be Pictures and Perception. I’ve chosen a seminal tome to kick off our endeavour, a piece of non-fiction that asks a lot of the reader. We’ve already mentioned the BBC TV show from the 1970’s which was based on this (and which will be referenced at certain points during the month.) Our opening inspiration is Ways of Seeing by John Berger.

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Click here to order this book on Amazon

I’ll be announcing the next month’s book in advance to allow Patreons and others to get a copy and read it (if they choose) so they can take a more active part in discussions. This also gives me a chance to plan the meat of the month’s output. Then, when we hit the first of the month, you can expect to see content presented, based around a number of the following umbrella topic headings:

War of the Words

The Internet began life as a text-based medium. Words are what matters more than anything else: for intent, to communicate and as education. Using our novel as a springboard, we’ll attempt to understand not simply the text in context to the subject matter, but its wider significance in the communication-rich world we now inhabit.

Books will be chosen which, in my opinion, straddle the worlds of traditional and modern, that embrace the concepts the Internet excels at and conversely fails to achieve.

Communications Breakdown

It is easy, without understanding extensive context, to make wild assumptions about everything and anything. In the modern world, therefore, understanding is probably more significant that initial knowledge. The IoW will attempt to give context to the novel, its historical significance and the circumstances in which it came to be written.

This will also include, where appropriate, documentary materials appertaining to a specific period of interest to the particular book being ‘studied.’

Alternative Internet

Anyone who has fallen down an Internet rabbit hole will know just how a subject matter can inspire people into amazing and often mind-boggling feats of self-discovery. In this strand, we’ll attempt to show what an understanding of the book’s wider themes can do to illuminate individuals’ own interpretation of the subject matter.

This strand might get a bit weird, I’m warning you now. Be prepared to be shocked, amazed and quite possibly challenged.

The Word is Not Enough

Any novel can be interpreted individually in potentially an infinite number of ways. An author will undoubtedly be amazed at what others see in their words, and often these are not enough when attempting to combine an individual experience with the written words presented to them.

We’ll consider how words are misinterpreted, how changes in societal attitudes can alter the words themselves, and that definition sometimes isn’t everything.

Fictional Narrative

I’ll be using the book as a springboard each month for both micro poetry and haiku via the @InternetofWords Twitter feed, but at the same time it will become the subject of short fiction, including 500 words micro-stories, and a 2000 word short story that covers one of the major themes of our monthly text.

There may be more or less, depending on how my real life goes. This is very much a ‘work in progress’ that will be reconsidered on a monthly basis.


So, there you have it. This is the initial concept going forward, and will be constantly reassessed, month by month, to ensure that all Patreons are getting value for money. By becoming a supporter, you’ll also be asked to help decide future novels for consideration, potential subjects for fiction and to take part in discussions that will happen exclusively for Patreon subscribers.

To say I’m excited is an understatement. I can’t wait to share with you what is in store for July, and I hope I’ll see you bright and early on July 1st as part of the Internet of Words ‘collective’ to begin discussing Berger’s work.

Things to Make and Do

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There’s a To Do list currently for IoW that’s quite long, but for now is not getting any larger. Tomorrow is my first major day for content deployment, but I’m now going to have to fit in both a Physio and Doctor visit to the timetable, so this afternoon is going to be an attempt to plan everything in advance (on paper) so I can just slot everything into the right position on site come the morning. Once this is done I can get to work on re-reading the first book I’ll be using as inspiration for our journey and preparing the various strands of content that will spring forth from it (I hope, there’s half the fear I already have, that this isn’t going to work and I’m about to make a fool out of myself.) The only way to find out if all this floats is to launch it. That’s T- 27 days now.

Yes, I might already be getting nervous.

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The Patreon rewards are sketched out, with physical elements themselves well on their way to being manufactured and delivered ahead of time. I’ve managed to slip in an extra reward for promotional use during June, too. Then it is all about extras: maybe getting some publicity shots done, designing some logos around books and computers, and for this I have half a mind next week when both kids are better and back at school to go visit the local library. It will all depend on the results of my Doctor’s visit tomorrow, one suspects, and whether I have any major medical issues to factor into the equation. Whatever happens, I think I’m ready to face it.

2017 Schedule

This graphic is my next thing to change because, starting tomorrow, is the real possibility of keeping 3 blogs running 24/7 which does in fact sound like lunacy considering what else I have on, but will be far more doable once the scheduling kicks in. So, we’re gonna give it a go, and see how long that works for. It means being brutal with the time I have, and organising myself better still than is already the case. Yeah, I’ll give it a go. I mean, honestly, what’s the worst that can happen?

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Right now, I’m confident all things are possible. After that, we’ll just take each day as it comes.

Blogging For Noobs :: Think

You have a ton of posts all ready to go after the last portion of our Guide, and now you want to publish them all in one hit. This is where I put up the single finger in a kind yet firm manner and say NO, do not do this with your work. The temptation in the early blush of creativity is to share everything immediately. This is perfectly normal and I see it happen all the time: the problem then comes a month later when you’re struggling for stuff to fill your space and creativity appears to have evaporated. That’s why this time around, I’m going to ask you to wait, and start planning ahead. Remember that blank calender I left you with last time? Here’s where the fun of Learning to Organise begins.

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I’m going to be rebranding this site next month as the Internet of Words (for those of you paying attention) and that means that I need to do a couple of things before that happens. Once I’ve followed my own previous step and worked out what will qualify as content, I’ll need a week to make sure that I have graphics for everything made and ready, and there are spaces in the web design to accommodate what I’m doing. That’s the 14th to the 19th for me, which is my Pre-Planning and ‘Back End’ phase. In that time I can also write posts in anticipation of my launch (June 1st) but not publish them until I know my redesign is working properly. In your case, it could just be getting yourself comfortable with blogging to begin with, and you have a week of playing with layout and posting until you’re comfortable with both.

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I’ve then scheduled a Testing Week, which will basically act as my migration period for all the old content, deleting the stuff I don’t want to keep, and getting everything ready to roll. As you can see, after my launch date I’ve got a load of +1 and +2’s marked: the latter indicate days when I’ll introduce a facet of the site, the others marking down that for the first month, I want to generate a post a day. To do that will require me to organise in advance, to have ideas ready to roll, and once I obtain that early impetus it will be important to ensure I have a plan. That’s why I’m writing on Post It notes, scribbling in a notebook wherever possible, and keeping track of things I think are important or interesting going forward. It is why this weekend will be devoted to thrashing out many of those scribbled notes into fully-formed topics to form part of my site.

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The key, of course, is to have a lot of content to go, but there are days when I undoubtedly do my best work from a cold start. Today was a case in point: I didn’t expect to create a logo or start a Twitter account for the redesign but both of those happened. I’d simply planned to day to explore the possibilities of both, but you’ll learn in time how inspiration strikes, and when to make the most of it. This is where organisation truly becomes invaluable, because in those creative-rich days, if you can get words down they can be kept and scheduled for days when you’re out of ideas. It also means you are never totally beholden to your site either, and can take holidays or time off without it appearing you lost interest in the project.

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You will find, as time goes on, that if you set aside a set time each day to write, this will also aid enormously with productivity and creativity. For me, I do my best work on non-fiction before lunchtime, whilst fiction always works better in the evening. That means I’ll be able to balance my time effectively around other stuff and still aim for a set result at the end of each week. You may wish to plan ahead on a spreadsheet programme, and there are plenty of time management tools/apps that can help you out, but for me I am at my best with a Moleskine Diary, pen, pencil and ruler. In fact I’d be utterly lost without them now. My planning for the week is either done Sunday night or Monday morning, and this dictates the entire workflow for the next seven days. Find the system that works for you, and don’t be afraid to mix and match until you’re comfortable with the result.

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The biggest trick however is not to panic when you’re out of ideas. That’s why you have a notebook, its why you plan in advance… and its where Social media can save the day. Current events, personal interests, what other people are talking about, the latest complaint/beef in your friends circle… all of these are potential topics to start a blog post. For me, I have a ton of projects in various states of completion to consider, a vast array of topics on the Internet of Words that all have a potential place in my planning: but the trick is not to obsess too much about all the possibilities. I’ll be picking a couple of the best ideas to work with at the start, and we’ll go from there. Once the framework is established and has run for a while, I can look at analytics to see where the interest lies, and work from there.

Organisation really is everything if you want a professional looking site. It also doesn’t all have to happen straight away. Just because I’ll be doing a post a day means it will stay that way. We’ll see how things work, and the trick in these early stages is to listen to other people very carefully. Many will give you feedback, and if it isn’t great, you’ll need to be ready to act accordingly. Next time, we’ll talk about how you keep people interested whilst they read, because that will matter long term just as much as your content.

Blogging for Noobs :: I Love You

It is time, finally, to write stuff. Are you excited?

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Number one in our Ten Things to Learn guide is, I’m afraid, NOT how to write gud. That I can try and help you with but, to be honest, you are mostly on your own. If you’ve reached this stage anyway the desire to write already very much exists (which remains half the battle on any given day) but developing a strong, individual style takes both time and effort to perfect. If, like me, you write for other people, their style will vary greatly from your own. That’s why learning to be your own Editor is great practice for when you end up having to deal with somebody else critiquing your work. There are however, certain things you really shouldn’t do, and it seems only fair to provide a list of those:

  • Take the first person out of your work. I did this and I did that is perfectly acceptable, in certain circumstances. The first person pronoun makes for a deeply personal insight, but often not for great writing. I’m going to use myself as an example of this: I think this post would be far better re-written without the excessive use of ‘I’ within it. The content’s sound, but the execution needs work. Using ‘we’ is a better idea for a lot of reasons, and it will make your whole blog resonate better with people you do not know.
  • Use a spell checker. Most blog interfaces provide one as standard anyway. Try to avoid abbreviations or excessive use of jargon/abbreviated speech. Imagine you’re talking to whoever you know personally who doesn’t have a clue about all this stuff and make it so they’d understand what’s going on. If you want people to notice your work, it isn’t just about what you write, but as much about how it is presented. 

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  • Don’t make it personal. There’s going to be a whole week on this, because there’s been some notable legal events in the last couple of months that prove if you are libellous or slanderous to people, there are consequences. I’ve notably used a blog post to stop someone stalking me, but I can attest this is not to be recommended, especially not in the current climate. If you can’t keep it civil and pleasant, don’t write it. Go shout at people on Twitter instead… no, don’t do that either. Just be nice.
  • Explain yourself properly. The point of good blogging, at least for me, is making one point per post. After that you’ll find the retention rate of your audience tends to drop dramatically. Sure, you can make long complex arguments in blog posts, but the best work is when you set yourself a question to answer in X words, or you show your reasoning for something in Y words. Don’t waffle. Learn to work out what is useful in a sentence, and what’s just repeating the same point again.typing3.gif
  • Formatting is everything. If I had a business WordPress, which may well happen by the end of the year, SEO is a thing. If you have no idea what that means, here’s a guide Google made explaining how Search Engine Optimisation works. That, coupled with using formatting for improved readability (which the business version of WordPress will also offer as an option) gives you a better chance that people stay with your article and read until the end. For now? Don’t write massive blocks of dense text. Split it up, and stick pictures in between.

Having said all of that, I told you that ideas matter a great deal, and they do. A combination of information, entertainment and inspiration seems to be why people keep coming back to what I do. There’s stuff on daily events, things that matter to those playing the same games as me, and who maintain a comparable set of interests. I use the GIF as art, whenever possible, as a cheap laugh or to reinforce a bigger point. The fact I’m attempting self improvement via exercise, and that I suffer with mental health issues that I’m happy to discuss and dissect all form part of a complex landscape, that has become an online extension of my real-life self. I’m not expecting you to do all this when all you want is to help people play a game better or share your art. However, there should be a distinct part of you in every word you write. The passion is what matters most.

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The enthusiasm and passion is what keeps the desire to write moving forward, even on the days when you seemingly have nothing to offer. For me, I’ve found a way to counter my lack of enthusiasm by creating a series of weekly ‘topics’: a banner headline under which I can write about an aspect of the general subject matter. That means, that once a week (unless a more important topic supplants it) I’m writing about my time in Warcraft, chronologically, from beginning to the present day. I have the headline, under which I’ve planned several months worth of potential subjects. What this gives me is a chance to both think ahead and know I have work to do even if the game is not particularly active and I don’t have a lot to say. This is a great way to keep your enthusiasm for work moving forward, by planning a larger subject to break down in parts. In fact, this Guide itself is being written on the exact same principle: weekly parts that will form an overall whole.

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The other way that blogging is incredibly effective is if you have something in your life that you can react to/talk about. That trip to the end of the Earth, your battle with cancer, the problems starting a business, becoming a successful writer… all these things are subject matters someone will want to read about. It might be something that happened to you in childhood, or perhaps your attempts to find meaning in an increasingly complex world. If you have the time to talk to someone, you could write it down. If you find yourself spending more than three tweets in a day ranting about anything on line? That’s blog material, right there.

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Blogs can do many things, the only limit being your imagination. If you have ideas, the best thing you will ever do is not just jump in without giving them form and focus. In fact, planning may sound utterly pointless but it is more likely to keep you from just giving up and not bothering. It is, for me, the very foundation of effective blogging. You have the passion to write, and all the ideas required to do so and now it is time to give yourself a framework on which to hang them. In that notepad that you’ve been using for recalling inspiration, you now need a planner on which they can be placed

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Feel free to copy this and print it out on a sheet of A5/A4 or whatever size your notebook is. This is your first month of blogging. The launch date for your blog isn’t top left either: next week, using April 1st as our start point, I’ll show you how to prepare and plan a Blog launch in advance: from scheduling posts to engaging an audience before a word is even written. I hope, by suggesting this as a way forward, I’ll be able to keep enthusiasm going well past that first four weeks, and help you create and form good habits for years to come.

Blogging For Noobs :: The Masterplan

Right then, it’s only taken (counts fingers) three weeks and we’re already at the part in proceedings where you can start writing stuff. The last thing we want to do here at Alternative Towers is stifle any kind of creative urge, after all. However (and you knew this was coming) there are some caveats before you romp into the fields to commune with nature and create your first post. The bad news is that I’m going to ask you to think before we begin. You already have the impetus to write, or we wouldn’t be here, you’ll have subject matters you want to discuss and maybe even features to implement. Before ANY of that takes place, you need to place down some solid foundations.

However, you should be writing now. Longhand is fine, in a notebook on the way to work if you use public transport, using your phone’s dictation function if you drive. Start taking ideas from your mind and preparing them on some medium: I use the completely free and utterly awesome LibreOffice 5.1 and have done so for many years as my word processor of choice on the PC. The Mac uses Pages and every document I write is saved to a backup. It means that, a lot of the time, I never need to have blog software open, and am never tied to a strict regime. I can write whenever I like. That’s the key here. Once I have, more importantly, I don’t have to post that straight away. However, I am getting ahead of myself.

If it were as simple as just writing, you’d not need me. Therefore, over the next 10 weeks, we’re going to give you a basic framework which, I hope, won’t just encourage you to write but will give something to show for your efforts. By that I mean responses, satisfaction, and the incentive to continue writing beyond your initial investment. Each point is created from the point of view of someone who wrote, pretty much for the first four years of her blogging career, to an audience of no more than half a dozen people. That’s a tough ask on some days, but the results now justify the work before. So, without further ado, let’s get to the 10 Ways to Make Your Blogging Hobby Worthwhile.

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1  : Be passionate about every post

This is going to be tough, and next week I will help you deal with the days when there’s no words in your brain, or you just can’t make sense on the page. Part of this will depend on the ideas you’re already scribbling down as instructed back in Paragraph Two. It is totally possible to make every word matter, even on the bad days, you just have to want it enough.

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2 : Organisation is your friend

It’s not just about having a vague idea of what to post on any given day: setting a time to write at the same time will help habits to form. Making sure you post at least twice a week, that you always try to exceed 400 words… these things will matter in the early weeks of establishing your ‘brand’ and we’ll cover all you need to know.

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3 : Presentation IS everything

Despite what some people will tell you, you don’t have to write your Blog in English. Whatever language you do choose, correct spelling and punctuation however matter more than you might realise. Layout is also pretty important, if you want people not to give up reading because of boredom halfway through that 5000 word opus. We’ll show you how to make things fun, and still look like you made an effort.

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4 : Routine matters, not just for you…

Once people know you post twice a week, you’ll want to stick to that. That means learning how to schedule if you’re on a time budget, and keeping to deadlines. It’s all incredibly simple and means you can run a blog on one evening a week, assuming you’re organised enough. Once you know how, it really is simple, and will make you look more organised than you are…

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5 : Understanding the morality of writing

Some will tell you starting a blog to become famous will only doom you to failure and they’re right, at least in part. Once you’re established as a blogger, you’ll need to interact with other people, and that means another set of rules and practicalities when it comes to content and sharing… and realising that sometimes, it isn’t just about the views. What matters more is your own immortal soul…

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6 : Learning the Social media dance

Without doubt, Facebook and Twitter, along with Instagram and Tumblr will be absolutely indispensable in growing an audience for your work. It’s a fine line between promotion and flogging yourself to death, so the trick is to learn what’s the best time to post, and what to avoid when you do. Oh, and remember pictures. People love pictures, and the chance to win free stuff. Oh, and food GIFs…

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7 : Networking with other Bloggers pays dividends

You could be the miserable bugger who never talks to anybody else and just ploughs your own furrow, but realistically you’ll gain more from this entire experience by talking to other bloggers about their experiences and ideas. WARNING: this can be as frightening as it is enlightening, but if you take the plunge and begin to network, the results will surprise you.

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8 : Believe in yourself

There’s going to come a point in this journey, like it or not, when the wheels come off your Blogging wagon, and you’ll be forced to decide if you continue or end your journey. Adversity is a lot easier to deal with when someone’s got your back, and we’ll explain how to come when it all goes Pete Tong on your homepage. Yes, this will be difficult, but at least you have two months to plan for it.

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9 : Doing the ‘Right Thing’

Yes, there’s going to be an obligatory post on morality, decency and not using blogging for evil. If you’re the person who’s reading this Guide so you can start slagging off people who wronged you on Usenet 20 years ago? I’m going to tell you how it is, and frankly you won’t like it when I do. There’s also a reason the bad stuff’s at the end of this Guide, and you’ll see why that matters more than anything else you’ll ever consider in the journey.

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10 : Love what you do

If you make it to 10 weeks hence and are still reading? We’re preparing a certificate to print out and keep. By then, it will be time to reflect on all we have learnt, and why after eight years I still wake up and look forward to the first cuppa I drink and the first post I write. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t be here now. It’s still the best job in the world, and long may that feeling of euphoria continue… or maybe that’s just too much caffeine…


So, there you have it: now you know what’s coming, it’s time to start planning. Next week, we’ll consider passion, emotion, and how you come up with blog post ideas, the way to keep your content flowing, and the things to avoid in your first weeks of communicating with the Real World.

GSME #4 :: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

This experiment is now a month old, and if you measure success by growth… well, we’re still getting there.

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What ought to be mentioned at this point is that I’m spending less time on Twitter than I have at any point in probably the last year, especially at weekends. I’m conscious of filling feeds with pointless ranting (which did happen a lot before, it must be said) and as I’ve focussed on quality over quantity, the numbers have dropped. However, undoubtedly this was one of my best weeks of social media for quite some time, because I have learnt all about how devoted my current audience remains, and that there is a willingness to support me as I move my personal endeavours forward. Here, if I needed it, is the assertion that numbers are not what matters in your social media feed, but commitment.

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The biggest single reason why people press unfollow for me is posting frequency: it is a delicate balancing act to maintain, after all. How much is too much promotion? Of course you want to engage with an audience but there can easily come a point where they get sick of the sound of you, if yours is the only content they’ll see: this is especially true of those who actively curate and don’t necessarily engage actively, but will take an interest if a subject matter stimulates sufficiently. Blogging gives a chance for people to read at their speed and in their own time: tweeting is pretty much about immediacy and quick impact. Getting the two medium to mesh is not impossible, however, as I have discovered this week to my surprise and pleasure.

This was the week I discovered that a graphic can do more for my front facing interests than any number of ranty Tweets will alone. What I should have done here, and will do going forward, is add the Warcraft site’s URL to the Tweet for maximum exposure. I’ll be looking at this as a means to build an audience going forward, but there are other ways to increase exposure. I’ve taken a rather unprecedented step and, for a month I’ll be paying $19.99 to see if I can use somebody else’s software to increase my audience. In the interests of full transparency it makes sense to do this because, as a writer, my subject matter only gets a small showing across the current base of readership I have. If this helps in any way stick me outside of the niche I currently inhabit? Then it is worth the effort. I could have stuck with a free account, but I am reliably informed that now I have a 500,ooo ‘reach’ for my work. It’s all part of the Experiment, after all, so we’ll see how this works going forward.

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That means I’ll be shifting the personal blog posts off for promotion, plus the weekly Blog Guides, and seeing where that gets me. If there’s any improvement (or otherwise) in my reach, it should show in the next week’s figures.

I look forward to seeing if paying for aggregation is worth my while as a niche content producer.