Via a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, a very welcome gift from Reporters Without Borders: Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents. It's a PDF with excellent information on everything from starting a blog to evading censorship.
I haven't posted here often lately because H5N1 is taking so much of my time. Watching the story unfold has been fascinating. And last week I got a lesson in how the mass media can affect the blogosphere.
ABC News ran a segment on Primetime about avian flu. I'd even found an item on the Web about it, and posted the news. But I had no idea that the program would trigger a remarkable spike in my traffic. From routine traffic of 550 hits per 24 hours, H5N1 was suddenly logging four or five times that. Eventually I realized what was happening, and saw traffic peak, a day or so later, at a little over 6000 hits/24 hours.
This was clearly due to viewers of one program, who promptly booted their computers, googled "h5n1," and found my site as #2 out of close to two million pages. The result was six times the highest one-day traffic I'd ever had, and in the past week the site (up and running since last March) logged a quarter of its total hits.
The traffic has predictably slowed, but it's leveled off at close to 2000 hits/24 hours. So I'm guessing that some sizable fraction of my original visitors from ABC have been coming back. I see few hits originating from other blogs with links to my site. They're coming from Google or other search engines, or they've bookmarked the site.
It's been an instructive experience: If the MSM take an interest in a topic, and your website or blog has some keywords, you may suddenly be swamped. While bloggers may enjoy looking down at Big Media, most of us would reach very few people without Big Media's help.
As mentioned in a couple of earlier posts, the good people at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have been locked out for weeks. The result has been a famine of decent news coverage in Canada. But the locked-out members of the Canadian Media Guild are also running websites and blogs, covering both the lockout and general news.
Among other services for its members, the CMG is teaching them how to write news stories for websites rather than TV, radio, or print. Writing For CBC Unlocked includes both a PDF handout and a downloadable video.
I hope management comes to its senses and resolves this dispute at once.
It was predictable, but the effects are still dramatic. People in Katrina's Ground Zero are not just picking up the pieces, but creating blogs about what's happening. TypePad has made several of them its featured blogs. From my first glance over them, they carry the impact of being there—and they're very much up to the minute, with one blog even reporting on the shooting at Danziger Bridge this afternoon.
Until this week, all I knew about the New Orleans Times-Picayune was that it had a funny name. But since Monday I have read the stories on NOLA.com: Everything New Orleans with growing respect and admiration.
First they holed up in the newspaper building while the storm raged, blogging the hurricane. Then they evacuated as floodwaters rose. Now they're producing an online-only paper, covering the disaster with an immediacy and professionalism that set new standards for this medium. We who write for the Web should salute them.