Flash Forward: Help me write the future of my blog

I've been thinking a lot about this here blog.  I'll say this upfront: I love writing it and will continue to do so, 5 days a week as consistently as possible and sometimes I'll get back to it on weekends, too.  I'll say this, too: I want to be read by many people.  I can be patient, knowing it takes time to build a following, but I wonder if I can follow the conventional tactics to bring in readers: hosting giveaways, building a twitter following, creating series to invite guest bloggers sharing the same or similar content that has been seen all over the web, and so on.  And then a couple of things coalesced today that pushed my thinking a bit about what to do in this space.  Here's what happened.

1.  A lovely blogger with a huge audience announced yesterday that she will be starting a series called Now...and Then, a series which is very much like the Flashback Fridays I've been doing for months.  I'm sure she's never heard of me and happened upon the same idea that I had when sharing a flashback of her own.   The first post was today, and you can read it here.  Fun, right?  But it begs the question: is this the end of my series?  At least, the end of guest bloggers in my series?

2.  The New York Times ran an article slamming the online design magazine trend, which you can read here.  Okay, maybe "slamming" is a little too strong, but the piece definitely painted the women at the helms of the 4 "top" publications (Lonny, Rue, High Gloss, and Matchbook) as competitive and catty, and the publications themselves as lacking original voices and content while mimicking print publications instead of creating new modes within the new medium.

3.  Grace Bonney, founder of designsponge and one of the "grandmommys" of design blogging, wrote an intelligent, thoughtful, and on-point response to the NY Times article, which you can read here.  I appreciated Grace's honesty, both about the truth of the Times article and about its flaws, and one of her main themes resonated with something I have always understood: that it is the content that counts.  Produce good content, and people will want to read it.  Of course, you need to help them find your content, whether you use the now-commonplace techniques or invent your own, but solid content is the bedrock of any publication, no matter what form it takes.

Fairly early in the life of this blog, I read a post by a very established blogger talking about how to build your blog.  It was very useful, and felt a bit like the friendly senior showing the freshmen the ropes.  But I also remember one tip that struck me as odd: to write at least one original post a week.  I remember thinking, what else would you write?  If I'm writing it, isn't it kind of original content right there?  Now that I read hundreds of design blogs, I understand what she meant: lots of projects and pictures get shared again and again, and there can be a sense that nothing is new; this was also a major criticism in the Times.  I don't totally see a problem with this on the blogs, especially since most people do put their own spin on an image or idea when they share it, but still, I pride myself on never repeating an idea I've seen elsewhere. I've made the mistake of "saving" content, only to find that someone else got to posting a product or an idea before I did, and then I won't post it, feeling it has been done.  Lesson learned.  Whatever the subject matter, I still think that every post should teach you something or reveal something to the reader, and if it doesn't, well, you're better off not posting that day.  My Mother In Law once sent me a little article about blogging, and one of the obvious (but not obvious) tips was that every post should have a point.  (This one does.  I'm getting there).

Now that I have a better sense of this blog and the rhythms of daily blogging, I'm focusing more on my voice and the mission of this blog, and I'd like to make some deliberate decisions about the type of content I share here.  To do this, I'd like your help.  I'd like to give you a little look at how I approach the content here, and I hope you will give me some input.  What would you like to see that isn't currently here? What would you like to see more of? What types of posts do you not finish, or maybe not even open in the first place?  I love having some very dedicated followers (thank you, Kate, for waking up wondering if you would see my ottoman yesterday!), but I know my readership is not currently large enough to warrant a formal survey, so please just share your thoughts in the comments or email me at heather[at]heatherpetersondesign.com

Each week, I try to offer a balance of different types of posts.  Generally speaking, I try to make sure that I am using enough ideas, enough words, and enough pictures.  Beyond that, the loose categories I try to cover include:

- My own projects (in my house and for clients) and how-to
- DIY ideas and inspiration
- Design process/ questions
- "eye candy" images, but used as reference to a specific design question or challenge
- Musings on the place design holds in our culture

And then there are the series, which are currently loose in schedule, though could be more pinned down if that is something people would like:

- Flashback Fridays (weekly--if it stays)
- Vintage Finds (about bi-weekly)
And roughly monthly:
- Art You Can Afford
- Art You Can Make
- Reader Design Dilemmas

With the goal of providing more of a "service," I have also considered including:
- Design book reviews
- Local resource write ups, like store profiles
- one classic design element in two settings (i.e. cow print in a modern AND traditional room)
- a "green corner," focusing on sustainable materials, projects, and applications

So.  What do you think?  What should go, stay, be newly minted?

Finally, How do you feel about contests?  About sponsors taking up space in the sidebar?

Now, I would also love your help spreading the word.  If you read the blog, please "follow" it.  It's getting its own facebook page soon, and I hope you will "like" that and encourage friends to "like" it.  If you see something that might interest someone you know, please share the link with them.  If you're a blogger and a regular reader, please consider adding me to your blogroll.  I'm not a natural networker, and it's this radical new thought that you readers can't know that I'd like this help if I don't ask for it, after all, it's not like you're out there thinking about my readership.  And any time you have a suggestion for improving the blog in any way, please share your thoughts!

Many thanks,

Heather Peterson