Andy Merrett is problogger who writes for ShinyMedia and runs the Blue Fish Blog Network. He has been blogging for over two years now and covers topics related to technology, music, and relationships.
What made you to get into Blogging ?
I had been reading Daniel Bowen’s blog (Diary of an Average Australian) for quite some time, from before these journals were even called ‘blogs’, and enjoyed it. Then I started hearing about RSS feeds and blogging and realized that I didn’t really know anything about it. Being in an IT job, I decided I needed to find out what they were, and how to use them, and in the end decided the best way to do it was to set one up and get going. I started my first blog in around June 2004.
You’ve been involved into Blue Fish Network and Shiny Media, How did it benefit you ?
Well, Shiny Media have benefited me significantly because they gave me the opportunity to quit my full-time employment and do what I’d dreamt of for years: working at home on the Net and “Problogging”. It’s a real confidence booster, particularly as I have no formal journalism qualifications, to be given significant writing responsibility on one of the largest UK tech sites. Shiny is also made up of a great collection of people from all over the UK and there’s a good community feel, with everyone pushing to deliver the best content we can. Blue Fish is much smaller but it has meant I’ve ‘met’ some great people and got to read some blogs that otherwise I might never have found. Blue Fish is definitely a work in progress, but I’m looking forward to what 2007 brings for it!
How did you get into ShinyMedia ?
Some of it’s consigned to folklore now (in other words, I can’t remember exactly!), but I do remember reading an article on Darren Rowse’s Problogger interviewing Ashley Norris when Darren came over to London last year. At that stage I was looking seriously at earning enough money to go pro, but knew, short of a miracle, it wasn’t going to happen by myself blogging just 2-3 hours per day after work. So I contacted Ashley but at the time Shiny were a pretty small company and didn’t have the resources or opportunities for any more writers. Fortunately for me, I didn’t give up, and over the course of the next year kept pushing and making my presence felt. In the end, a part-time position came up on HDTVUK, a Shiny blog about high-def TV in the UK, and I took it back in about March. However, that put me under a lot of time pressure with full-time work
You write a lot of posts, Did Blogging ever interfere into your real life ?
It probably interfered more when I was an aspiring problogger but trying to hold down a full-time job as well. When I first started, it wasn’t an issue as I wasn’t writing much. Then when I got more into blogging and had maybe 2-4 active sites, and discovered I could make some money from them, I spent about 2-4 hours per day (though some of that was on my commute to and from work, and at lunchtimes). It was important to me that neither my real work (that paid a proper wage) nor my wife suffered as a result of me turning into a blogger. Fortunately, I worked in computers so it wasn’t hard to get access to the Net at lunch or before/after work, and my wife (after some explaining) understood what I was doing and what its potential was. Yes it took time out that I could’ve been watching TV or spending with friends, but I didn’t become a recluse and still maintained some ‘real life’ balance. In particular I tried not to blog at weekends.
You write for 3 blogs simultaneously, What drives you to blog with such energy day after day ?
Heh it’s more than 3, although some are a little less consistently updated than others. In honesty, the Shiny blogs I have to write or else I don’t get paid! Having said that, it’s great to write about subjects that I’m interested in and get paid for doing it. This is what I’ve always wanted to do and, now I’ve been given the opportunity, I’m making the most of it. There are some days when it really isn’t easy, and those days I have to make the extra effort to begin writing. Usually it’s OK once I get going. Knowing that people are reading or searching for information and finding blogs I work on – whether that’s 200 or 20,000 every day – is quite a buzz, too. It inspires me to write the best content I can.
Thesedays, Its so easy to scrape content from RSS feeds and run Splogs. How would you react, if your content was stolen by someone ?
I always knew Splogs were a problem, but it really came home to me when I started writing for Tech Digest. Let’s face it, a blog with a Technorati rank of around 800 is much more tempting to a splogger than one with a rank of half-a-million! I constantly found my own stories coming back at me in feeds, often lifted verbatim and with my name still hanging on the end, but on someone else’s blog (splog). Obviously Shiny is a business and does seek to go after those that steal our content, though it’s hard to catch everyone. I don’t have much time to check out anyone lifting content from my own blogs. It has happened but I usually let it wash over me unless I have some time to report it. It’s too time-consuming for a small blog, unfortunately. What’s worrying about some Splogs is that they use other people’s names and links, and potentially you could find yourself part of a ‘bad neighborhood without having done anything wrong. That annoys
Do you think its morally correct to write sponsored posts (PayPerPost or ReviewMe) ?
I don’t see it as a problem so long as it’s up front (which I believe ReviewMe requires it to be). Whether readers like these posts is another matter. I’ve seen blog comments that have reacted really badly against sponsored posts, but I think that’s more to do with some people thinking that bloggers should somehow work for free and not have any ads on their site. What would be worrying is if people were paid to say good things about a company and there was no disclaimer attached. If companies want to pay for unbiased reviews of their products then that’s OK, if it’s disclosed. I don’t think it will ever be a major part of blogging, anyway, as relatively few bloggers will get the opportunity to review stuff for cash.
What are your upcoming plans for Blue Fish Network ?
My plans are to spend more time with its members and promoting their content. The network is only as good as its members and I hope to encourage and inspire them to write better content and to achieve their blogging / writing goals – even if that means they fly the nest and move onto bigger things. It’s happened already
Blue Fish is small and independent but has the potential to become a very close and interesting community. I’m also looking at launching a couple of services under the Blue Fish name, and I’m still hoping that there’ll be some collaboration and networking with others. Without wanting to sound too cagey, though, I think you’ll have to wait and see what emerges in 2007!
Thanks for joining us Andy, Its was great talking to you. I wish you a best of luck for your career as a problogger.