Last month, I asked if you folks would be interested in a new GRS long-term project, one that tracks my progress as I try to build another blog that produces income. This would be like the garden project I did in 2008 and 2009 (and hope to do in 2011): It’d only take one Saturday post a month for updates.

Many of you are interested in this project, but you have some concerns. Most notably, I have a built-in audience at GRS, which means I’ll get different results than the average joe or jane trying to start from scratch. This is true. However, it’s not enough to dissuade me from reviving one of my dead blogs and proceeding with the project. The things I do and the principles involved will still be applicable, even if your cactus blog is starting with no outside support.

Going to the dogs
The GRS Blog Project will focus on one of my “dead” blogs. (I have many dead blogs.) I spent a lot of time debating which dormant site revive; they each have their strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, though, I chose Animal Intelligence. Why?

  • I love animals. I love reading about them, interacting with them, and writing about them.
  • Animals have broad appeal. Yes, I know there are folks who don’t give a whit about animals, but there are also many other people like me, who do love animals, and might enjoy reading about them.
  • The topic should be easy to monetize. I may have to find a way to improve my focus, but I think there are a lot of animal-related products out there that can be marketed to readers.
  • There’s a ton of animal-related material. I’ve been casually monitoring each potential blog topic for the past month, and I like that there’s never a shortage of animal stories. Some — like the recent grizzly attacks — make national news, but most are evergreen stories; they may be a few years old, but they’re not dated and unusable.

While it’s important to view this project in its proper context — the blog has been around for several years, it’ll have a relatively large audience at the start — I agree with those who noted that my existing audience at GRS gives me an advantage that blogs starting from scratch don’t enjoy. Because of this, I’m looking for other ways to highlight other projects. I’d like to track a couple of other sites as they try to go from $0 to hobby income (or more) over the next year.

So, I’ll also be advising one or more other novice bloggers in private. I’ve already met with one man, and have offered my help to another fellow. As these projects develop (if they develop), I’ll document the successes and failures while keeping the sites anonymous. The big drawback to this method? New bloggers sometimes have no idea how much work it takes to build a successful blog; they start fast and then burn out within months (or, more likely, weeks). And it can be a long time for you earn your first buck.

Still, advising other bloggers is preferable to brainstorming a new blog of my own from scratch. I tried to brainstorm some other idea I’d be passionate about so that I could do this project with an anonymous site, but I came up empty. I had no ideas. So, I’ll be running this project with Animal Intelligence while advising a couple of other sites on the side.

Getting started
Now that I’ve decided what the GRS Blog Project will involve, it’s time to get started. The two men I’ve been talking with have already started working on their sites, and it’s time for me to get Animal Intelligence ready to go. What does that entail?

By September 1st, I hope to:

  • Draft a plan for the blog. I need to decide what topics I plan to include, how often I’ll post, and so on. My plan won’t be detailed or formal. It’ll just be some notes jotted in a text document so that I can remind myself of the blog’s mission when I feel like I’ve lost my way. (And trust me: When you begin to blog, you’ll often feel like you’ve lost your way.)
  • Adopt an appropriate design. Blogs don’t have to look fancy. In fact, many successful (and profitable) blogs are ugly or use default blog templates. Readers don’t come because your blog is pretty; they come because they’re interested in your stories. But I do think it’s important that the design be based on the blog’s needs. In the case of Animal Intelligence, I know I want to feature a lot of video, so I need to create a template with a main column wide enough to accommodate modern YouTube videos. Plus, if I decide that I want to post several articles a day, I may want to go with a Lifehacker-y style with just a paragraph of each article on the front page.
  • Finding content sources. I’m looking for other animal-related websites. I’m also trying to develop news feeds with animal stories. When I first started GRS, I sorted through hundreds of story ideas a day. (No joke.) This helped me detect trends and spot diamonds in the rough. I think that’ll be key here, too. I want to have too many story ideas, not too few.

These are the same steps I took when setting up Get Rich Slowly, and the same steps I took when setting up Success Daily (which was stillborn earlier this year). I think they’re important pre-launch steps for any blog.

Let the project begin!
A couple of other notes: First, I plan to donate all money earned during this year-long project to charity. I’ll find an animal-related charity I can support (any suggestions?) and at the end of the project, I’ll write a check covering any blog profits from the year. Second, one GRS reader (who is actually studying animal behavior) has already volunteered to contribute stories. This is awesome, and something I recommend to all new bloggers. In fact, the one fellow I’m already advising has a co-author, and he’s talking with other people about contributing guest posts.

That’s it for now. I plan to (re-)launch Animal Intelligence on September 1st, though I may start posting stories sooner than that just to get in the habit. My next update on the project will come in mid-September.

I look forward to documenting my progress as I try to create another site that produces income. And I think it’ll be fun to follow the progress of one or two other novice bloggers as they try to do the same.

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