Blog Idea Generation Part 3: Remixing

Share Button

Did everyone have a good Thanksgiving? We did and we enjoyed a little time off. Now we're back to finish what we started, with the next installment of our series on Blog Idea Generation. Today we'll be talking about how to make the most of the ideas you come up with in your brainstorming sessions with the concept of remixing.

In the world of women's fashions, the "little black dress" has become a staple item. Many women like them for their versatility. With the right accessories and add-on garments they can be worn to work, to parties of any sort, to life events and on dates. As you get into the process of writing your blog, you will discover certain topics that become your "little black dresses" - consistent ideas that you can return to in various formats again and again. However, sometimes your idea synthesis will result in some blog topics that are far from flexible. You know the ones - they show up in your head and you laugh and think, "that'll never work in a million years!"

Sometimes the output of your brainstorming will seem impossible to fit within your scope. But idea generation is a tough process, and it's tough to let those valuable ideas go to waste. The further you go into writing your blog, the more appealing some of those crazier topics will seem to you. I've mentioned in previous articles in this series that you should always keep something on hand to jot down article ideas as they come to you. I will double down on that here: capture ideas as they come to you. Never discard an idea. It may take months for an idea to find its proper format, but chances are you will find a use for every one of them in your blog at some point down the road.

Let's take an example from a little over a year ago. The topic of heating in Chicago apartments is one of the Chicago rental community's "little black dress" topics. Every fall when the heat comes on every blogger in the industry will do their own take on it. This means that not only is it something I had to write about, but I also had to avoid the blogger faux pas of writing the same article at the same time as someone else. I went through my "closet" of article "accessories" and decided that for RentConfident, the topic would be best if paired with a quiz format. It wouldn't be too preachy, it wouldn't be redundant with all the other articles on the same topic that were sure to appear, and it would be engaging for the audience.

When you think of a blog, you probably think of articles written in the journalistic voice. They read like newspaper articles. The journalistic voice is indeed the mainstay of blogging, but if you restrict yourself exclusively to this style of writing some topics will remain entirely out of reach. You'll get bored. Your audience will get bored. Remixing is not only useful for saving the more extreme article ideas, but also for your own sanity as a long-term blog author.

For RentConfident I have a certain number of fallback formats I can use when trying to remix a somewhat awkward topic into something useful for an article. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Quizzes
  • Advice columns
  • Top 10 lists
  • Fairy Tales and Parables
  • Research reports
  • Safety checklists

Other blogs have been known to do interviews with experts, or vlogs, or photoessays. The formats that will work best for your blog will depend a lot upon your intended audience. To return to the examples we've used in previous articles, the owner of the handbag blog might want rely more heavily on photos and infographics. The owner of the microbrewing blog might want to do tutorials and videos of their own brewing process.

Sometimes you have to sneak up on a topic and stick it in as a side issue within another article. Sometimes you'll have to go very far outside your normal scope and then shoehorn your own keywords back into the articles. (In fact, that's exactly what I'm doing in this entire blog idea generation series. Note that every single article still has something in it about apartments.)

Time is also something you can use to your advantage when spinning your article ideas. I've mentioned before that holidays are a great source of topic ideas, but they can also be used as accessories to frame other topics that might otherwise seem overdone or out of scope. For example, I've done articles on noisy neighbors quite a bit, as it's a common renter problem. But if I suddenly frame it within the idea of Chicago's many noisy summer street festivals, suddenly I've got something new.

Similarly, I could spend time throughout the year telling you about the many landlords who get arrested around the country for being generally terrible people. But I prefer to do it as a list of "naughty and nice" landlords around Christmastime. In that way it's become an annual tradition of sorts, something our readers look forward to, but also one less new article idea I have to come up with every year.

Remixing is also crucial to avoid getting "scooped" by competitors, some of whom probably don't even consider you to be competition. About eight months ago I was working on a very lengthy research project about Cook County evictions. I was getting ready to start writing when I discovered that the Chicago Reader was in the process of running their own long-form series about Cook County evictions. So I shelved my own series and am still in the process of deciding how I want to use the data. There will be a whole lot of remixing involved, I guarantee.

When you're working with a writing team, remixing becomes even more important. Not every writer on your staff will be good at writing in every style. I myself am not so good at doing photoessays because I'm not a visual person. As a result, there are no photoessays in the RentConfident blog and there are not likely to be any in the near future either. You might wind up with a staff author that's not so good with top 10 lists, but great at interviews. You have to be able to take topics and assign them to people in a way that meshes with their voice and tone.

Try it Yourself!

In the past two articles in this series, we've closed out with some practice exercises to help you learn about Blog Idea Generation. For this one, I'm going to give you three topics, and it's up to you to remix them so they work for the three blogs we've been used as examples. As a reminder, here are the example blog scopes:

  • A series of video games
  • A new type of travel mug.
  • Marketing services for dentists.

Now, take the following three topics and remix them so they work for each of the three blogs!

  • The Catalan independence movement
  • Halloween
  • Driving safely in snowy weather

Next week we'll be back to close out this series with a look at mentally preparing yourself for long-term blogging. See you then!

RentConfident is a Chicago startup that provides renters with the in-depth information they need to choose safe apartments. Help us reach more renters! Like, Share and Retweet us!

Published by

Kay Cleaves