Nothing against new movie blogs. I remember what it was like starting off. Getting low traffic and struggle to find an audience. It’s just that there seems to be so many movie blogs doing the same thing nowadays. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but on a small scale, we are one of the best amateur blogs on the net. Why? Passion, thats why. I work in the office from around 10:00am to 8:00pm. Then I get into doing my own projects till I sleep around 3:00am. I’m a proud work-a-holic. I enjoy creating things, and it’s an integral part of my life. There aren’t too many blog owners who work as hard as I do. EVERY review has custom graphics, not just a corny stock image of a movie poster like the majority. I can speak for our writers too, as they don’t get paid, they simply write and create because they choose too. Their only motivation is to enjoy films and share them with you. In 2010, I’ve seen countless new blogs pop up, make some noise, then disappear. Believe it or not, this blogging grind can get stressful.
My editor Olivia and I have written this article in hopes that more people who have movie blogs can benefit from what I have learned professionally as a designer, and from the trial and errors of being a blogger:
Marcello: One thing I hope you have noticed about Japan Cinema is we update every single weekday, without fail. We even throw in some Top 10 lists on Saturdays. Now before I present this point, I know most blog sites are only ran by one person and you cant possible watch and review a film everyday. That is fine, but then I hope traffic isn’t a major concern for you. The best advice I can offer for people who want to increase traffic is to build up your brand by updating EVERYDAY (preferbly at the same time everyday). This builds up a reputation that people can go to your site and see new content everyday. Your audience doesn’t have to guess or hope that you wrote something on a given day. Nothing beats a reliable blog schedule. Nothing.
Olivia: Marcello is a connoisseur of task masters and time tables. He updates the blog every single day, sometimes twice. Readers of JapanCinema will get an in-depth 500 word review on whatever film happens to be slated and a freebie on Saturdays. Don’t hate him, hate the game. It creates a faithful following (thank you!!) because people like to barrage themselves with new and exciting information and pictures preferably done at the same time every day. Meals and film reviews should always be on schedule. Do this consistently and they will love you for it.
Olivia: Do you like to spend time talking to yourself? Well, a little bit for sure, but hours upon hours? We didn’t think so. That’s why commenting and building a community is so important. We want to hear from you – we think what you have to say is blindly fascinating because you are communicating to us from space! If you don’t create a following or at least a small readership, it’s almost like you’re talking to yourself the whole time. And while that may be fascinating for some, we are people persons. Answer your commenters. Boring? If it is you’re doing it wrong.
Marcello: A great way to increase readership and gain comments is to keep chipping away at your site and add features. Comments are valuable, and without those, it starts to feel like your just talking to yourself. Now we aren’t big on commenting other peoples blogs but we know the value and importance of doing so. This BLOG, has evolved more into a website and that really isn’t our niche, nor do we have the time to check out fellow sites. What we do instead, is evolve the site. Starting with just reviews of Japanese films, we now review films from over 10 countries, present interviews with actors and artists, discussion forums, and feature Top 10 lists. A year from now, your site should not look or feel anything like it does presently. A blog that doesn’t evolve is a stagnant and boring blog.
Marcello: I’ve seen a lot of blog names that try to use a humorous approach and name their blog a bunch of wacky things. The thing with this approach is not everyone has your brand of humor. Modern Family is a popular comedy show on ABC that a lot of people watch, but the show doesn’t do anything for me. In fact, lots of popular comedy shows get cancelled, because not everyone shares the same sense of humor. The same rules apply here. I have never chuckled, giggled or even smirked at ANYONEs blog name no matter how funny you think it is. If you want people to take you serious, unless you work at Schlotskys, name your blog appropriately.
Olivia: Was unrequitedpassionsofcinema.blogspot.com taken? Aww too bad! Think so? Think again. Not every person who is reading your blog may want to type all that in or even owns a keyboard. Short, pithy film blog names, probably no more than 12 characters, are good. Engaging in the overly self-referential or ubiquitously obtuse (Hermione’sMineLoveHEr4Eva.com) will only serve to alienate your readers as to having to remember this grandiose blog name, and you will be relegated to the dusts and corners of fandom pages only. Not to say that you don’t love Hermione…or the girls from Bleach or those little monsters jumping around Naruto, but you have to remember your target audience if you are looking to build a good size following. If you are writing earth shatteringly dramatic film reviews for French hipster bourgeois you are most certainly not going to name your blog KuchiKuchiKuchiki.com.
Marcello: I know not everyone can be a graphic artist like myself, but you can take steps to make you blog stand out from the crowd. The L.A.M.B. hosts their blog awards every year and I am always shocked at the blogs that nominate themselves for best design. The biggest thing that can make your blog stand out is to buy a PREMIUM template. You know, ones that cost money? While finding free themes is fairly easy in the world of WordPress, the challenge is that just about all free themes are garbage (obvious exceptions of course). After hours of searching, they not only all start to look the same, but they offer severe limitation in functionality. You want a unique, impressive look that conveys professionalism and passion about your craft. You spend hours and hours of your life writing great content, why not make the presentation appealing as well.
If the problem is you have no design sense, that is not a valid excuse. I see many blogs with distorted images, black copy on dark images, outdated fonts, dead links etc. Believe it or not, and speaking as a designer, most of what we do is common sense. Do you think McDonalds picked Yellow & Red on accident? Yellow and red are the colors that make us most hungry. Everything you do should be an ingredient in what makes up your site. Don’t just pick a template and throw in your homemade graphics you made in MS Paint. Browse the web for ideas, color schemes, and more! There are more than two blogs created each second of each day. If there isn’t anything special about your blog it will get swallowed up by the blogosphere.
Olivia: You’re an artist. You’re just oooh sooo expressive!! You know that what people want to see is lots of flashing things! Like cats! We can’t stay away from it. But here’s the thing: your flashing lights may destroy me. They may wreck my dreams and give me a seizure. Bad design is as distasteful as asking for your boyfriend’s friend’s number. Tacky. Good design principles can be found at the old adage “less is more”. Luckily here at JapanCinema our founder Marcello has a preternatural gift for commercial design and graphics. It’s HIS JOB though. Not everyone will be so lucky. We get to have custom graphics for each film every single day because we are lucky street urchins who fell under his gaze. We have a PREMIUM web design. For the rest of you, think about presentation and find graphics that are both unique and high quality. Brevity is the word of the day and you can have the most kick ass of sites if it is well balanced, un-littered with hyper flashing lights, black backgrounds and that twinkle star dust. We aren’t 12 anymore. Also chose your fonts carefully and stick with a certain palette and color palette as well. Your sites readability will greatly affect the numbers you pull in.
Marcello: This should be a no brainer. Sadly, 95% of the movie blogs i visit have a [name].wordpress or blogspot in their URL. So, let me get this straight, you pour hours and hours of work into your blog to show it off to the world yet you cant throw down $15 to buy a URL? NEWSFLASH: Nobody will take anything you write seriously if you have a URL with a wordpress or blogger name attached to it. That just tells me that you are voicing your amateur ramblings on a free template and you don’t care. It is like taking the training wheels off your tricycle. It is the cheapest, easiest, most effective way to be taken more serious and increase readership for your blog.
Marcello: I see a lot of movie blogs that usually sit on the shoulder of their favorite big time blog, wait for them to post a news article, and then repeat. They usually don’t really understand what they are blogging about, and they have nothing new or interesting to offer, but if you don’t know any better you might get fooled into paying attention. If Slashfilm has reported that Jet Li is in talks to star in a movie with The Rock, do you really think someone is going to go over to read the SAME article over at ‘Jimmy’s Movie Blog’ (.blogspot.com)? Original content is king. Stop piggybacking other blogs.
Marcello: This is one that most people are unaware of, but Google is your blogs friend. If you want to increase traffic to your movie site, a big movie opening a great opportunity to increase traffic. For instance, at the time of this posting, a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie is opening up in American cinemas. The earlier you post a movie review, the better spot it gets on Google, which in turn makes your blog more searchable and increases viewership. If you go to watch the movie opening weekend, on a Saturday and post it on a Sunday or Monday, sorry you waited to long. Catch the midnight showing on Thursday, go home and POST your review. Like I said, there are two blogs being created every second on the internet. There are thousands of movie blogs, and if you don’t put the extra effort into your blog, it will reflect in the numbers.
Olivia: Easy. No brainer right? Make it your mission in life the way you stood out in line to get your PS2..remember that time? It was raining and your Avatar patch was going to wash away off your carefully tagged backpack! Sad face. Well that’s the kind of dedication you will need to review films. You will need to become a hunter and persistently go TO THE MOVIES to get to the review first. This kind of serious dedication will be noticed. It may not be as endearing as standing in line hours in the rain to play Pokemon II, but it’s a start.
Marcello: Last but not least. Just because you have a blog doesn’t mean your opinion is better then the next guys nor does it give you a platform to tell the whole world how much a elitest film snob you are. You know the type. They post film reviews you’ve never heard of, and talk about it like it’s Star Wars or something. Then they give your favorite film a 3/10. You hate them, but with their slick talk, they usually win. They’ll make you feel like since Inception wasn’t directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, it automatically sucks and films like Amelie
or Citizen Kane are the best. Listen, Japan Cinema covers Asian influenced films, it is an acquired taste and most people don’t actually like the films we talk about within the blogs post, but they try really, really hard to understand why it has value. Because it must have value if it’s posted. Our readers know that, and so should yours.
Olivia: It’s good to create a heightened awareness and selectivism but it’s bad business to bore the readers just because you’ve seen every post-modern Russian “masterpiece” and your review is topping 2300 words. Painful. Don’t do it. Unless your blog is this specific, you are the Criterion Collection or you have an overabundant literary gift for creating humor out of slime and fog, stay away from the dense blow by blow of minutiae that prevails over long, scholastic reviews. Few can even sit through some of these films, let alone read about them.
I started this site with a few simple premises in mind. First, I love film and I wanted to share my discoveries with the world. Secondly, design is a window onto the world at large, and the culture we live in. I want to thank everyone who has visited this blog, regulars and new readers alike. You’re the reason why we do what we do, and I can guarantee one thing…we ain’t going no where anytime soon.