Judging the Republic Polytechnic Blogger Challenge 2014

It’s easy to set up a blog these days – simply sign up for an account at free blogging platforms like WordPress or Blogger and you can start posting. Well, setting up is one thing, but maintaining the blog and driving traffic to it is a whole other matter. I enjoy writing and when I’m not writing a news article for Yahoo or a car review for Wheels Asia, I look forward to writing for my blog. It’s a platform for me to share my automotive and fitness adventures with everyone out there.

I was thrilled when I received the invitation to be a judge for this year’s Republic Polytechnic Blogger Challenge, alongside Bryan from TheSmartLocal and Alfred from TechGoondu. As part of the Writing for Digital Media module for the Diploma in Mass Communication, students teamed up to create a blog and generate content for it over six weeks. I went through every blog, judging them on Creativity/Original Content, Visual Appeal, Engagement of Audience and Quality of Writing.

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There were some blogs that stood out with interesting themes and funny posts. For example, Project Zero to Hero is about going out on missions to contribute back to the community, while Filmophile is about film-related stuff. I enjoyed reading the blogs and I could see the effort they put in to generate content week after week. Some of them confessed that they had trouble finding things to write about and had to force something out. I know blogging is not for everyone and some people just don’t like writing. But if you decide to get a blog, choose something that you will be interested in, so that your passion will naturally churn endless stories.

The winning team was this group of girls called The Bomb Girls – congratulations! Positioning themselves as “Your Online BFF”, they touched on matters close to the heart and used a personal style, like as though they are talking to you. Design was simple but neat, and content was easy to digest (though the font size was a tad small).

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Yup, presentation is important – you can have really good content but if the blog design is dull or the layout is messy, it puts people off immediately. The other thing that is equally important, but more challenging, is engagement of audience. Sure, you can write a wonderful piece, but if you don’t tell anyone about it, it’ll remain a secret forever. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the way to go, best way to inform people of your new post, but there is also the challenge of not having followers at the start. That’s where you’ll have to think of a way to post interesting stuff that will get people’s attention.

There was so much more I could talk about but time was limited. I know some of them are relieved that the Challenge is over – they are being graded for their blogs by the way – but I hope they don’t shut down their blogs! I hope they learnt more about digital media writing through this Challenge. Here are some tips from me:

Tips for digital media writing:

1) Determine the type of blog 

Will it be a journal of your everyday life? Or will it be of a specific trade like fashion or food? Decide on it and then be focused.

2) Appealing design with neat layout

Don’t neglect design! Nothing too abstract or fanciful, but attractive enough to show that this is serious stuff. Keep layout neat for easy reading.

3) Write with an audience in mind

You aren’t just writing for yourself (unless it’s just a journal for you to look back and retrieve grandmother stories).

The beauty (and danger) of the online community is how it is HUGE, so you never know who is out there reading it. Once you decide on who your target audience is, cater to them, but don’t forget that

Always think of how your post can be of use to readers. Is it something worthy of their time to read? How can your post benefit them? For example, instead of posting your OOTD (Outfit of the Day), tell them why you did it this way and also where they can get the clothes.

4) Be creative, be original

You can take reference from articles written by other people, but write it in your own style so that people can relate to you.

5) Criticisms/haters are part and parcel.

No matter what you say or do, there will always be someone who will not agree or not like it. Don’t beat yourself up over it.