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Advice to aspiring (movie) bloggers.

For any readers thinking ‘this site is rubbish‘, ‘this guy knows nothing’, or ‘I’ve got loads of time to burn’, you may want to consider starting your own blog. The bottom line is that on WordPress it takes about 2 minutes, and it’s a brilliant way of making yourself feel important – “Yah, I run a Film Review website in my spare time, yah”. But before you dive at the deep end in – STOP! Think about the following…

TIme Lola Rennt Run LolaDo you have enough spare time? Writing, re-writing, editing, pictures, and posting takes longer than you’d think, but that’s only the first part. You should also be reading, linking, and commenting on similar sites. Movie bloggers should join the LAMB, participate in Blogathons, and after a while start your own blogathons… If you’re wanting a decent level of traffic and interaction, you have to invest a lot of time.

So you’ve convinced yourself you want to be a blogger? Before you register, the next two things will be the biggest factors in your blog’s future; so don’t rush them.

Heisenberg Say my name

It’s all in the name: ideally you want a unique and self-explanatory website title, with a matching URL. It also has to be memorable enough that fleeting visitors will be able to recall it and search for your site again. For me having “Film Reviews” in the title and URL works because it’s on several places in every page, which makes for some good SEO.

What’s your niche? Short articles? Long essays? Detailed analysis? Humour? Technical? Industry insider? Genre specific? Debate? A single country’s or region’s cinema? Pick a pigeonhole and stick to it. In my opinion, there are too many broad film review sites, all busting out generally similar reviews of the same films at the same time – the “one stop shop” market is packed. Pick a niche and fill the vacuum.

Once you’ve registered, here’s some more general advice gleaned from years with my nose stuck in the WP dashboard.

You’ve heard the hyperbolic cliché a bajillion times before; but content really is king. It’s your site: should be your content. There’s no point in regurgitating or aggregating stories & content from established movie news sites like IMDB / empire / SlashFilm… who themselves are constantly scanning studio, production and industry sites. Original articles, ideas, features, opinions and reviews will be why people tune in again and again.

Patience Baseball Great Escape

Be patient. Don’t worry about your first few months; unless you can log some serious hours it will take a while to find your stride, hone your own style and work out how to best layout your website, widgets and articles themselves. It can take years for your stats to truly snowball, and for your site to build up a loyal readership & subscribers.

Be critical, keep reading/re-reading your articles – looking for mistakes, and areas of improvement. Comb through your stats and find out what’s driving people to your site, and what else is keeping them there. It could be a particular franchise, actor, or catchphrase – once you know, write more about it.

Be honest; a lot of movie reviewers seem to ‘go with the flow’ and mark a film depending on how it’s generally received. Don’t worry about being the stick in the mud, tell it like you see it and readers will genuinely respect you more, comment more, read more…

Cinema Paradiso - Watch

Watch a film just before you review it: remember how awesome you thought a film was when you were ten years old, drunk or stoned? (You’re a legend if it’s all three) Watch it again to make sure it’s still good and funny!

Review the movie, don’t re-tell the entire plot. This is easily the biggest and most infuriating mistake of many ‘review’ sites – a sentence or two should cover the plot, any more and you’re probably in spoiler territory. If you write a couple of paragraphs about the story, you’re being a dick.

Use the wider WordPress community. As mentioned above, join an index site like the LAMB and participate in as much as you can. Seek out similar, but larger and more successful sites and leave meaningful comments & links there – don’t spam the same comment on every article about a particular topic.

Posting semi-regularly; is far better than bunching reviews together. Start aiming for 2-3 posts a week to keep people interested and coming back to your site. The ‘schedule’ feature in WP is great, use and abuse it!

Pictures - Bean Whistlers Mother

Pictures help: I went several years with no pictures, thinking short reviews were snappy enough. Now the site looks a lot slicker, and hits from image-specific search engines make up around 30% of all incoming traffic. Some pictures have more hits than the actual review of that movie.

Finally, some advice from one of Britain’s top film critics. The spectacularly quiffed Mark Kermode – as pointed out in his book The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex – lists five essential components to proper for any movie criticism (which applies to all writing)

  1. Opinion
  2. Description
  3. Contextualisation
  4. Analysis
  5. Entertainment.

Kermode The Good The Bad The Multiplex

keep-calm-and-get-to-the-choppa-49Most importantly, ENJOY BLOGGING This should be a fun hobby, not a chore. If you ever feel like you’re beginning to loathe writing, GET TO ZE CHOPPA and escape before it’s too late! It’s worth taking some time off to clear your head and put some good content together if you hit the wall.

If you’ve been mulling it over for a long time, the best advice I can give you is to start as soon as you can; you’ll wish you’d done it years ago.

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