‘Reading the internet’ – some of my favourite blogs

I was recently asked what my hobbies are and answered ‘reading the internet’. It is how I spend a lot of my free time and I love filling my brain up with new things to ponder (as well as the less highbrow stuff I read!) so I thought I’d share some of my favourite blogs and ask you for your suggestions of other blogs to try.

I read my blogs via an RSS reader which brings everything into one place so I don’t have to remember to visit lots of websites. I use Feedly as it has lots of keyboard shortcuts so I can blitz through my feeds on my computer and a great iPhone app so I can read anywhere. I sort most of these into categories (including one helpfully called ‘blogs’) to help me find particular things or focus on particular topics.

These are just some of the blogs I read regularly. Feedly makes it easy to skip through the headlines of my ridiculously large blog collection so I don’t read every post from every blog but I pretty much read the ones below from cover to cover (there doesn’t seem to be a digital equivalent for that term!)

Why so many blogs? Why so much reading? When I run training sessions about writing for the web I tell people one of the best ways to write better is to read a lot. Reading good (and bad!) stuff online has taught me so much about how to structure my writing, what makes something compelling and the importance of having a clear and consistent voice.

I also love reading and learning new things. Growing up I’d read a book a day (and still can if I have enough time) and would turn the cereal box round on the table so I had something to read while I ate breakfast.

What else should I be reading? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments or on Twitter where I’m @jowalters

Content marketing blogs

Copyblogger@copyblogger – “Solutions for smarter content marketing – Since January 2006, Copyblogger has been teaching people how to create killer online content. Not bland corporate crap created to fill up a company webpage.Valuable information that attracts attention, drives traffic, and builds your business.” – A good focus on the writing side of communications.

Econsultancy@econsultancy – Do you know what is a good idea if your business is about selling content marketing services? Doing content marketing. These guys do it really well with lots of really useful stuff including posts by and featuring my good friend Kelvin Newman.

Email Marketing Tips@aweber – Another example of people who sell stuff for content marketers (in this case, a newsletter system which I’ve blogged about using) using content marketing to sell their stuff. They’ve also featured a post written by me (lucky them!)

The Guardian: Blogging – This feed picks out all Guardian articles tagged with ‘blogging’ so it is a good mix of techie geek stuff and current affairs.

HubSpot’s Inbound Hub@hubspot – Practising what they preach these guys post all the time so you have to sift through to find the stuff that is relevant to you but their posts are really useful, use a mix of formats and are really easy to read (as you’d expect when you describe yourselves as pioneers of inbound marketing!)

Men With Pens@menwithpens – “World class websites and copywriting – Enjoy 1,000+ articles geared to your content-marketing, writing, freelancing or small business endeavors” – More writing stuff including writing books.

ProBlogger@problogger – “Blog Tips to Help You Make Money Blogging – In 2002 I stumbled upon an article about ‘Blogging’. I didn’t know it at the time but that moment changed my life.” Frequent posts on a variety of blogging topics focused on making money from blogging. My favourite posts are by site founder, Darren.

Unmarketing@unmarketing – “Scott Stratten is the President of Un-Marketing. He is an expert in Viral, Social, and Authentic Marketing which he calls Un-Marketing. It’s all about positioning yourself as a trusted expert in front of your target market, so when they have the need, they choose you.” – Sometimes snarky, always useful. I’ve blogged previously about his book of the same name which I totally love.

Charity communications blogs

Charity Chap@charitychap – “I help charities use the internet to change the world through social media coaching and training, digital campaigning, and writing inspiring words”

comms2point0@comms2point0 – “comms2point0 is a free online resource for creative communicators in public, private, third sector and HE comms & PR” – Focuses on local government stuff but is really transferable to charities and students’ unions. Definitely worth following on Twitter as they share lots of good stuff from around the web. Also use fabulous vintage images to illustrate their posts.

The Democratic Society@demsoc – “The Democratic Society is an independent membership organisation. We promote democracy and new forms of governance through citizen participation, debate and building bridges between those who ‘know’ and those who ‘do’” – Whilst not directly relevant for every charity (though definitely useful for people working in students’ unions) there are some interesting themes relating to engagement and participation which are broadly transferable.

Higher Education Network: The Guardian – @@GdnHigherEd – “Ideas, insight and debate from the global higher education community” – Obviously this one is for a fairly specific sector but the Guardian’s networks highlight the benefits of having a clearly identified niche and of pulling together lots of different contributors.

The Non-Profit Marketing Blog@Network4Good – “The Nonprofit Marketing Blog is managed by the nonprofit marketing and advisory teams at Network for Good. Our goal is to bring you the best in nonprofit marketing trends, fundraising techniques, technology developments and amazing nonprofit examples to help, encourage and inspire the do-gooders of the world. We’re here to help you effectively engage your communities and win hearts and minds—and donations.”

Voluntary Sector Network: The Guardian – @GdnVoluntary – “Insight, advice and best practice from the community”

Feminist blogs

Feministe@Feministe – “In defense of the sanctimonious women’s studies set – Feministe is one of the oldest feminist blogs online designed by and run by women from the ground up.”

Feministing@Feministing – “Young feminists blogging, organising, kicking ass”

Jezebel@Jezebel – “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing” – Definitely one of my favourite sites due to the range of topics they cover and high sarcasm content (and the fact they talked about the random bus thing I was involved in). Their headlines are some of my favourite on the internet. They also post cute animal pics which scores points with me.

Lifestyle & interiors blogs

Apartment Therapy@AptTherapy‎ – “Helping people make their homes more beautiful, organized and healthy by connecting them to a wealth of resources, ideas and community online”  – Beautiful beautiful houses, DIY and design things.

Carolina Charm – @C_Marcellino – Christina blogs about her life, house, dog, family, parties and holidays.

House*Tweaking@housetweaking – “Because home doesn’t happen overnight” – One of my top three not work-related blogs (along with Young House Love & Manhattan Nest). Dana writes about doing up her house, blogging and her super cute family.

Manhattan Nest@danielkanter – Daniel blogs (amongst other things) about doing up his newly purchased old house and his dogs with a healthy dose of friendly sarcasm. Essentially the trifecta for my recreational blog-reading.

The Planned Adventure@ruthlgarner – my friend Ruth writes about her adventures and beautiful things.

RedneckModern – “a mid-century modern restoration resource” – I love mid-century modern style and these guys share some amazing houses, interiors and furniture.

Young House Love@younghouselove – “Wut up. We’re Sherry & John. Just your average married couple with a lively three year old, a moody chihuahua, and a love of all things home. Here’s where we chat about transforming our house, living in it, and all the random bits in between.” – YHL ooooooozes Sherry & John. I’ve never met them but feel like I know them as their site has such a consistent and distinct tone that feels completely authentic. They also share family stuff at Young House Life.

Productivity blogs

The first blogs I really got into were about productivity stuff, largely Getting Things Done, but these days they are just part of my sprawling feed collection.

Lifehacker@lifehacker‎ – “Tips, tricks, and downloads for getting things done” – I love Lifehacker’s mix of topics which ranges from DIY to tech stuff and their concise writing style. A tip I emailed in even featured in one of their round-ups. Basically a productivity expert.

Unclutterer@unclutterer – “Unclutterer is the blog about getting and staying organized. A place for everything, and everything in its place is our gospel” – Appeals to my organising/list-making side.

Other blogs

Various Google blogs including Google Analytics, Gmail, Google for non-profits for updates on the Google things I use. I also read blogs for other tools I use including Remember the Milk.

Mind Your Language@guardianstyle – The blog of the Guardian’s style guide editors. A must for grammar and writing nerds and particularly great on Twitter

The Obvious by Euan Semple@euan – “I called it The Obvious? when I wrote anonymously and chose the name to reflect the fact I have to overcome my inhibitions about stating the obvious!” – One of the most recent additions to my collection after reading Euan’s great book, ‘Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do‘. Euan writes about the power of digital and social tools for people and organisations.

This column will change your life – @oliverburkeman– “Oliver Burkeman investigates routes to mental wellbeing” – Interesting and funny insights into psychology and lifestyle theories.

I’ve also subscribed to the Guardian feeds for David Mitchell, Laurie Penny, Charlie Brooker, Rebecca Front and Mark Thomas as they write funny and/or interesting and/or thought-provoking stuff.

Silly blogs

Some of the more random stuff I follow…

ANIMALS TALKING IN ALL CAPS – “It’s just what it sounds like” – Yes it is.

BuzzFeed@BuzzFeed – I pretend I read this so I can be up to date on youth culture and internet trends for work purposes. Really I just like lists of animal gifs. Actually though I’ve been experimenting with Buzzfeed style ‘list posts’ in my writing for Sussex Students’ Union which seem to be going down well.

Clients From Hell@clientsfh – “A collection of anonymously contributed client horror stories from designers”

What have I missed out?

Don’t forget to let me know what else I should be reading online in the comments or on Twitter – @jowalters


Clandon Wood – branching out into digital marketing

Clandon Wood is a 31 acre area of new native woodland, wildflower meadows, lake and wetland in Surrey due to open in May 2012. It will be planted and landscaped to attract wildlife, accommodate natural burials and provide new habitats for people to explore. They aim to appeal to nature lovers, school groups, people looking for natural burials and people who just want to enjoy the beautiful woodland.

As a relatively new project, Clandon Wood are keen to learn how they could use social media to attract and involve people. With lots of planning and action required to develop the site and their services, they are after some quick, easy and effective solutions that won’t take any more than 30 minutes per day.

These are some of my suggestions for them to consider. They’re super brief at the moment to give them some ideas about what they want to focus on…


Their temporary website is online now at and a new one is on the way.

It’ll need to contain relevant keywords to help people find it via search engines. These should cover all of the aspects of the project – burials, nature, woodland – as well as local keywords such as Clandon, Guildford and Surrey.

They should follow basic SEO principles such as getting links from relevant, quality sites and producing regular effective content. They might want to use a blog format to update visitors on the development of the site and day to day activities once it is up and running.

They can integrate Facebook & Twitter to their site, either through clickable icons or with embedded content featuring their latest posts.

They could make use of a free Adwords voucher which are available from time to time. This would allow them to experiment with Google’s paid search to see if they should continue to use it in the future to drive visitors to their website.


If they’re looking to build a community of like-minded and/or local people, Clandon Wood should consider setting up an email newsletter. This could be segmented to allow people to subscribe to different aspects of the business or follow the development of the site.


Clandon Wood are already on Twitter – @clandonwood – and chatting to people but a quick look over some Twitter basics might be useful to get to grips with how mentions work (where you put someone else’s username first in a message mostly to them to avoid clogging up people’s feed with conversations). They could also change the name on the profile from an individual staff member to the organisation’s name.

They can search for relevant people to follow based on the different areas of what they do. This could include local organisations, nature organisations and those related to death and burials. This will also help by finding useful and interesting information to retweet from others to add variety to their Twitter output.

They could set up searches for keywords on Twitter to find people talking about relevant topics and local issues. This can be easily done using software such as Tweetdeck. There are plenty of apps for smartphones too which allow you to keep an eye on things on the go and easily respond.


I’d suggest Clandon Wood set up a Facebook page which is the best format for businesses (rather than Facebook groups or personal profiles). This can be used to post updates and photos and gather people interested in what they’re doing.

I always recommend not auto-posting between Facebook and Twitter if possible as posting separately allows you to make the most of each format, e.g. posting photos directly to Facebook and keeping within Twitter’s character limit.

Other ideas

Clandon Wood could think about using Pinterest to share beautiful images of the woodland and collate images that are relevant to what they do. More and more brands are experimenting with Pinterest (and I personally spend faaaaar too much time looking at beautiful images there)

They can set up Google Alerts to keep an eye on people talking about them (with a [Clandon Woods] search) and other relevant search terms if they want to stay updated on other relevant topics too.

They should set up a Google Places entry to help people find them via location-based searching.

It sounds like video and photos could be used to showcase the location and services on offer.


In terms of a routine for Clandon Wood, this is what I’d suggest initially;


  • Check Facebook & Twitter for people requiring a response (and respond!)

A few times per week

  • Post interesting, relevant information to Facebook & Twitter
  • Keep an eye on Google Alerts and saved Twitter searches for mentions of Clandon Wood/related topics


  • Post a blog update

Final thoughts

Clandon Wood’s plan will depend on their objectives and the amount of time they have available to sustain their digital marketing activities.

Once their activities are more developed they can branch out (no woodland pun intended!) and measure the impact of their activities to test what is working best and where to focus their efforts.

January 24th, 2012|Digital|0 Comments|

Heal’s; the good, the bad and the very beautiful

So, one of the things I like to do (other than starting paragraphs with ‘so,..’) is to look at lovely things in lovely shops. Since the sad demise of Habitat I’d been on the lookout for a replacement and thought I’d give Heal’s a try. Heal’s is a chain of six shops selling furniture, home things and gifts which I used to browse as a teenager (I was a pretentious teenager with expensive tastes!)

These are some of my favourite Heal’s things (well it’s nearly Christmas and I thought my friends, family and/or loyal readers might be feeling generous…)

Storage jarKnitted storage basketEames lounger

After lusting after pretty much everything in their shop I thought I’d check out their website. Their website is beautiful and fairly easy to navigate but then I started social media stalking them and decided they were missing out in a few areas.

Being a social media nerd (and after a good excuse not be writing the 15,000 word report for my MBA) I put together this list of tips for Heal’s;


Heals Facebook page screenshot1. Turn on your Facebook wall

If people can’t easily talk to you by posting on your Facebook wall then you’re just using Facebook to talk at people rather than with people. Not very social use of social media is it?

I’d recommend allowing people to post on your wall to show you’re happy to hear from your customers and fans.

2. Integrate sales

Why not sell things through your Facebook page? People might not spend £1250 on a bed but they might buy some Christmas gifts. Social Media Today have some other tips for integrating Facebook with online retail such as exclusive offers for your Facebook fans or encouraging customers to share their purchases online.

3. Ask questions, start conversations

At the moment, your wall is pretty much all press releasey promotional stuff and whilst it is good to draw attention to new and exciting things you’re being the Facebook equivalent of someone standing in the corner at a party droning on about themself.

Ask questions and encourage people to respond and interact with your content. Tag your favourite in this collage of products. Which area of your house would you most like to redecorate? Which is your favourite from our new collection? What will you treat yourself to this Christmas? Share your photos of Heal’s products in your home…

Ask people to share your content, like it or comment. This all helps show your fans that you’re interested in what they say and you might gain some useful customer insights and feedback

4. Use Facebook to capture customer data

The problem with Facebook is that its run by Facebook. If they change the rules there isn’t much you can do about it. Use Facebook to capture information about your fans so it is your data and you’re in control.

Heal’s have an email newsletter so why not set up a tab for people to subscribe or regularly post links to your subscription page?

5. Link your offline activities to your online things (and vice versa)

Encourage people to ‘check in’ at your shops, you could reward people with a special discount or offer. Put your Facebook details in your shops, on till receipts and promotional items.

6. Differentiate yourself with some personality

With only six shops and a long history of furniture-making and design you could make your brand stand out by adding some personal touches. Tell us about your staff, show us photos of special occasions, share stories of your staff and customers. This helps fans connect with your brand and builds affinity.


I totally love that you have an email newsletter (I’m a mega fan of newsletters since our Freshers Week success story) but subscribing is a little weird; you add your email address on one page then have to fill it in again on another. I imagine some people might not bother with the second stage so you might be losing subscribers. This is the first impression you’re giving people about your newsletter so you don’t want to confuse them or make them work too hard – they might remember this when considering buying from your website.

The free shipping code once you sign up is a nice little touch but have you experimented with telling people about it before they subscribe to encourage them to sign up? Presumably some free shipping on a few more orders is worth the extra subscribers with whom you can then build up a relationship and generate more orders in future.


Heals blogAgain, mega bonus points for having this, blogging = good but (again) I think you’re missing out.

Your blog is a bit too salesy and looks a tad like it was just written to squeeze in some good keywords and use some lovely photography rather than to genuinely engage with your customers (and potential customers)

Try dialing down the sales pitch and make your customers and their interests the focal point rather than your latest pretty shiny thing.

You could try inviting guest posts from design bloggers; maybe they could style a room, pick their favourite products or respond to a challenge such as furnishing a bedroom for a particular budget.

Showcase other products and things, not just yours. You don’t need to point out your competitors but why not include complementary products your market might love like handmade stationery (surrounded by Heal’s office bits maybe) or gorgeous recipes (served on Heal’s plates). You can still show off your stuff but it makes your blog sound less like a sales pitch and more like an interesting and inspiring design resource (confession; I am totally addicted to design blogs at the moment, I’ll try to put together a post with some of my favourites).

You could photograph and show off your customers’ homes to demonstrate how beautiful your products look in use and give people ideas for how they could style them and fit them into their homes (by the way you’re more than welcome to give me loads of free stuff to do this with!)

You could offer tutorials that incorporate your products or styling tips; ‘5 ways to style this bed’, ‘how to prepare for unexpected guests’

You could use your blog to focus on the areas local to your shops; highlight local events, retailers and people to connect with local customers and get links from other local companies. I’d be happy to recommend some excellent cake and/or ice cream shops in the Brighton area for instance (I might just start on some pre-emptive research on that one…)

For bonus marks…

Experiment with other tools like Pinterest (seriously, it’s an amazing site though terribly easy to lose hours on just staring at all the lovely things). You can use it to curate collections that others can then ‘repin’ (share with their friends) and encourage your customers to add photos of their Heal’s things in use. Pinterest is a very design-focused, visual community so ideal for your market.

Would video be a useful tool? YouTube is apparently the second most used search tool after Google and ‘how do I…’ is their most common search term. Could you provide video demonstrations of products, 360o product views (both of which can be used on your product information pages to help drive sales) or follow some of the blogging principles above. For Christmas how about the best way to lay and decorate a table?

November 28th, 2011|Digital|0 Comments|