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How to Start Reading Blogs

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Cartoons by Word Sell
When I speak to small and medium size business audiences on business blogs, there are usually a fair number of people who have never read a business blog. Truth be told, reading blogs is the best way to understand them, and taking a thoughtful survey of the blogosphere is the first step in determining whether a blog is right for your business. So, if you want to start reading business blogs, here’s what you do.

1. Learn what RSS feeds are and how they work.

2. Open a Google Reader account so you can start subscribing to blogs. Google Reader is intuitive and widely used and has a lot of useful indexing and sharing functions you might want to use down the road.

3. Look for blogs to subscribe to. What kind of blogs are you looking for? For starters, concentrate on blogs in your niche. Get a feel for what’s out there, how bloggers communicate, and how and how much readers respond.

4. Start identifying blogs in your niche through blog specific search engines such as Google Blog Search and Technorati. Technorati is very handy. For example, here’s it’s list of packaging blog posts, and here’s it’s list of packaging blogs.

5. When you find a blog in your niche that you really like, or one that draws a lot of comments, check out its blogroll. A blogroll is a list of blogs the blogger recommends. The blogroll blogs almost always include blogs in the same niche and related ones. The blogroll will usually be on a blog’s sidebar. Sometimes, like on Word Sell, the blogroll will have its own page. Over the years, I’ve found many of my favorite and most useful blogs through blogroll surfing, including Problogger, Copyblogger, and Confident Writing.

6. Try to build up 5 to 10 subscriptions in your Google Reader. Make a point of checking your reader every day and read the new posts as thoroughly as you can. Getting into the flow of a blog, as opposed to reading it haphazardly, gives you a better sense of the various blogging styles and post types. Take the time to click through the post link in Reader, so you can read it on the blog itself. This way, you’ll be more likely to read comments, which don’t show up in Reader but are very important, because they contain great information and help you get to know the community.

7. If you have something to say about a post, leave a comment (use your real name and link the comment to your Web site). Then, if the blog has the feature, subscribe to comments. This way, future comments on the post will be emailed to you, helping you get into the flow of blogospheric conversation. You may even strike up some side conversations of your own that will turn out to be enjoyable and useful for your business.

8. As you’re reading, or after you’ve read a post, take a minute or two and jot down things you like or dislike about the blog and the blog’s content. Do you like the layout of the blog? Do you like the way the blogger posed a particular question? Do you like the images, screen grabs, titles? Bookmark the post in your browser with a note to remind you of the standout feature(s). Down the road, when you start planning your own blog, you’ll find these bookmarked posts a very nice road map.

Hope this makes sense. For bloggers who may be reading this, what suggestions do you have for starting to read blogs? How did you start reading blogs?