For this week’s assignment, I’ll be analyzing three blogs – all different in nature and content and enjoying varying levels of success based on our definition learned in lecture. First up…
TheLostOgle is a very Oklahoma/Oklahoma City-centric blog which has carved out a unique niche for itself. From its pre-2007 zygote of odd-lot, too-detailed basketball ramblings and occasional references to local OKC news personalities from a couple of bored smartasses who needed to get a life, the site began publishing online in May 2007 under the banner of thelostogle.com. Though not affiliated with it in any way, the name derives from the Ogle family – the unofficial journalistic dynasty of Oklahoma City. (Father Jack was the local “Walter Cronkite” of the market for over 30 years, and sons Kent, Kelly, and Kevin each have their own 20+ year careers at various TV news stations in town. Jack’s granddaughter Abigail now toils locally in the family trade as well.) From the beginning, the site often reported tidbits of information in a humorous, investigative style about happenings, both public and frequently behind the scenes, that would lead readers to believe the reports were being written by insiders in either the local news business or at the state capitol. The founders played that into a “what if” scenario of there being yet another Ogle, a “lost brother” cloaked in mystery and reporting from the shadows. The post writers disguised their identities and used South Park-style cartoon avatars.
Over the years, TheLostOgle has developed into a full-fledged professional blog site, purchased in total by one of the original founders, Patrick Riley, who continues to operate it today as his full-time career enterprise. It has millions of followers and an army of secret contributors known as the Ogle Mole Network who provide Riley with news tips to investigate or with confirmations/clarifications for his own self-initiated inquiries.
Riley, a faithful disciple of the Church of Jon Stewart, states that the purpose of the blog is “to make people laugh, think, or get mad.” He succeeds, in spades, on all three counts. TheLostOgle is absolutely a humor blog at its core, with heaping helpings of snark, schoolboy sensitivities, and self-and-Oklahoma-deprecation. Its followers are predominantly male, but not exclusively so. The unique material, produced fresh daily, runs the gamut of topics from current events, personalities, sports, hot girls, and politics – the latter fueled by a seemingly endless supply of idiocy emanating from the state capitol – and 100% local in nature. If it’s not Oklahoma-related somehow, it’s really not going to be addressed on the site.
Riley (and occasional guest contributors) both report and opine, and they invite feedback from readers. Virtually every post to the blog is followed by a significant amount of interaction with readers via the “comments” section. The site also runs occasional infamously ingenious contests that thrive on reader participation.
Aside from the humor, TheLostOgle also accomplishes its other purposes to make people think – or get mad – by posting material that frequently spells out consequences of the actions of locals and is not shy on calling out either public figures for hypocritical behavior or IQ-challenged non-public individuals for stupidity. It stays true to its brand (and our definition of professional blog) by its content, consistently focusing on local current events and features, being reinforced daily by material that is timely, insightful, irreverent, and interactive.
In its early days, TheLostOgle’s traffic was driven predominantly by word of mouth – and because of the insider-ish perception of the content, that word spread liberally through the halls of local news media headquarters and the political class. Over time, the following grew steadily, and also experienced huge spikes driven by posts that found their way onto a national stage.
One such was a 2012 post calling out regional/national sportswriter Skip Bayless for inflating his prowess as a high school basketball player which was cited by Sports Illustrated magazine.
Another national spotlight for the blog occurred after actress Jessica Alba visited Oklahoma City and perpetrated some well-intentioned vandalism under cloak of darkness.
In a more serious turn, the site, which is a longtime detractor of conservative Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, was actually the party of record in an Open Records Act lawsuit against the governor for emails she refused to make public which could have potentially implicated her in some sticky dealings regarding her decision to have the state of Oklahoma opt out of Obamacare. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and others.
TheLostOgle hits all the marks of our definition of success and then some:
* Daily original content
* Large subscriber numbers (7-million page views from 2.2-million unique users in 2014)
* Longevity (published consistently for over 8 years)
* Easily shareable with links to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and Pinterest where readers may also follow/share its unique content, perpetuating its integrated marketing cycle
* It is well-known to the search engines (The site makes good use of reference links and videos and is well-archived.)
It has longstanding paid sponsors – Patricia’s (a local fantasy lingerie store) and Fowler Auto Group among others, and has inked more recent partnerships with Integris Hospital (big time local sponsor) chief among them.
The LostOgle has grown into one of the most popular and widely read blogs in Oklahoma with thousands logging on daily to enjoy its unapologetic, colorful, snarky, satirical, antagonistic take on local news, people, and politics. The only “downside” to the site, if you wish to stretch far enough to call it that, is that brand new visitors to the site oftentimes do not immediately realize the satirical nature of much of the material and get inordinately offended, threatening to ‘alert the authorities’ in some way – not unlike those who take content from The Onion seriously.
My second blog to analyze is another Oklahoma-based site…
ThePioneerWoman.com started as a mommy blog. It remains a mommy blog. The 800-pound-steroid-infused-angus-beef-fed-gorilla of all mommy blogs.
Ree Drummond grew up on a golf course in northern Oklahoma, fled to California for college, and began a professional career which got sidetracked by love. On a return visit to her hometown, she met a cowboy and chucked the west coast trappings in favor of a life on a cattle ranch in, very literally, the middle of nowhere. (It’s a 2-hour drive to the grocery store.) Drummond embraced her life as a homemaker – cooking, cleaning, and caring for 4 kids and the husband she refers to as The Marlboro Man. Partially in an effort to retain some sort of contact with the outside world, she began blogging about her experiences at home on the ranch, transitioning from city girl to domestic country wife. It resonated. It spread. The Food Network found her. “The Talk” found her. Oprah found her. Wal-Mart found her.
Needless to say, The Pioneer Woman is now one big time professional blog. The purpose, to me, still seems to hold true to its original intent – Ree Drummond sharing things from her personal life that she thinks others may find interesting – it’s just that the topics have gotten a bit more expansive (as has her staff) over time. Her content is absolutely unique and hits all the mommy-blog hotspots – recipes, product recommendations, child-rearing stories, home-schooling tips, horses and dogs, lifestyle opinions, personal stories/confessions, couponing and giveaways. It’s consistent and reflects her brand throughout – and boy, does she have a brand! We have:
Pioneer Woman cookbooks
Pioneer Woman cookware/kitchenware/glassware
Pioneer Woman tchotchkies (yes, that’s her dog, Barney…in ceramic)
and, of course, the Pioneer Woman television show watched by millions on The Food Network. She is presently building – and blogging about – what appears to be a new Pioneer Woman world headquarters near her home in northeast Oklahoma.
As with virtually all once-small blog enterprises, her early traffic was word-of-mouth, but her easily-relatable content and next-door-neighbor delivery (even though she has no next door neighbors) grew the blog into what it has become today – a self-propulsive juggernaut that perfectly feeds itself via the mother of all integrated marketing strategies. Both push and pull marketing techniques integrate seamlessly throughout. Today’s traffic is driven by various parts national publicity, product-placement, garden fresh content, and a phalanx of female-geared social media shares that wrangle the ladies to Ree Drummond’s website like hungry ranch animals to hay bales in her back yard. Success drips like liquid gold from The Pioneer Woman blog. It wants for nothing.
Of course, national advertising flocks to the site as well. Predominant sponsors include Universal Entertainment, Land O’ Lakes, the Food Network, and Clorox.
Ree Drummond and her blog have their detractors, of course, but most appear to be rooted in jealousy, nitpicking an everyday mom who started writing a simple blog about the life she loved and smartly leveraged it into an empire.
My last blog to analyze is a smaller, recreational blog, also Oklahoma-based, called…
& Kathleen is fairly easy to categorize as a recreational blog, published somewhat sporadically by creative marketer Kathleen Shannon. Her passions appear to be personal growth and branding, creative coaching, adventure travel, and life & family – all of which are frequently featured topics on her blog. Her purpose would seem to be a combination of personal sharing and …. well, actually, I think ALL her content derives from personal sharing. It’s just a matter of whether or not it’s documentation of her own life (vacation photos, life around her house, a very stylish pictorial of her pregnancy journey)
or couched in “coaching” for the reader (i.e. – “here are my tips on how you can do this part of your professional or personal life better”).
The content is unique – Kathleen writes from a creative, bohemian perspective – and she does have some striking semi-professional photography.
The blog broadly reflects her personal brand – but that brand might benefit from a little defining and refining. I say defining – she actually does have a bit of a statement of purpose, per se, in her “Manifesto” section, which is to show how creative types can find happiness in overlapping life and work – with a significant measure of adventure.
I believe the blog’s traffic is driven significantly from both word-of-mouth (how I found it) and her much-referenced company’s website which touts coaching for creative types. Both & Kathleen and the Braid Creative sites have links pushing to SM channels, although neither appear to actively post on a daily basis. Kathleen’s blog, while linked to a Twitter account, would benefit from that particular channel with a more frequent, more robust posting of original material.
& Kathleen has a nice, stylish look to it, as does Kathleen herself, but on closer inspection, the category links are inconsistent and the topics are very broadly spread,
incorporating posts on subjects from babies to branding to Beyonce which, I think might detract a bit from the blog overall. But again, it’s a personal, recreational blog – she can post anything from A-to-Z on there if she wants. I just think that she might benefit from keeping the focus narrower until such time as she’s built a following big enough to have readers start to care about her opinions on additional topics.
Three Okie blogs worth checking out.