Blogger Spotlight – Christopher from Methods Unsound
It’s the final day of Social Media Week, so that means it’s time for our final Blogger Spotlight. Today it’s Christopher Ratcliff’s turn. He writes for Methods Unsound, a blog he set up with his wife – Toni Ratcliff – and his good friends Joachim Farncombe and Matt Owen. Don’t forget that if you’ve missed any of our other blogger spotlights from the week, you can find them all on our Blogger Spotlight page.
What made you want to start a blog? Was there a particular idea behind it? Do you have any aspirations for your blog? Where would you like it to lead?
I started Methods Unsound earlier in the year, alongside my wife and two good friends. It came from a desire to combine our respective ‘talents’ and become one giant unstoppable media empire to rival Hearst, or at least Viz. Basically in our day-jobs we are each respectively an editor, a web developer, a social media/content marketing manager and an ad campaign manager, so we figured “hey we could kick some ass if we did this with a project we actually cared about!” So we developed a pop culture website, all about music, film, comics, food, booze and travel – it’s basically a sarcastic, sweary alternative to Time Out. In terms of where I’d like it to lead… I’d like this to be my full-time job, frankly. We’ve done surprisingly well for traffic and we’ve managed to keep it sustainable after only a few months, so we’re all super optimistic for making it into something much larger in the next couple of years.
Do you have another job, or is blogging your main job?
I’m very lucky to say that my full-time (non-Methods Unsound) job is still in editorial, I’m currently the Deputy Editor of the Econsultancy Blog, although about to move on to become Editor of Search Engine Watch.
Do you have more than one blog you manage?
I used to! I’ve run numerous music-blogs, with limited success. However I had to kill the last one, Popdin.co.uk, in order to concentrate on Methods Unsound. Also it’s nice to have a life, see friends and clean yourself occasionally.
Tell us about your blog/life balance. How often do you post? How do you come up with ideas for posts?
The balance is difficult, but it helps that both me and my wife are involved are care deeply about it, so we’re fine with spending evenings with our heads down typing away, while half watching Bake Off and ignoring the cat tearing up the sofa. We post every day, but we have a team of writers and guest contributors so it’s not that taxing. I’ve either been writing, blogging or editing in my spare time since I was a teenager, so it’s become second nature.
How long was it before you started to notice traffic to your blog?
We started attracting search traffic after just a couple of months, but it helps that we all know what we’re doing thanks of our respective day-jobs (I am surrounded by SEO ‘gurus’ and they’re a vocal bunch). The first month was buoyant just because of the interest from friends and family, and again because of our day jobs we could exploit our ill-gotten social followers. In just five months we’ve managed to increase the traffic 10-fold, this is mainly through search and having some awesome friends who like what we do and share it often.
When you first started, how did you promote your blog? Did you use any specific channels, e.g. Twitter, Instagram etc? Where did you see the biggest engagement in terms of social and what was the best thing to grow your community size?
Social’s been the hardest to generate interest, especially Twitter. We have just started using Instagram with earnest, but that’s more of a brand awareness exercise than anything else. If there’s one social channel that has worked really well, it’s Reddit. Although the feedback you get from Redditors can make you want to run away and cry so I try not to look at it too much. Our thick-skinned social guy does all that.
How long before you started to get approached by organizations? How did they approach you and what did you think?
It’s still early days yet, but we do have a few music PRs sending us album streaming links but these are becoming more and more redundant. I think I once got a free side of fries from a restaurant we covered. Hmm, that’s about it.
How do you retain your authenticity when working with a brand?
To be honest I have very extreme views on native advertising and sponsored posts, and I want to keep Methods Unsound aggressively independent. Although this is a conversation I need to have with the rest of the team about how feasible this ideology is in the long run. When we want this to be more than a part-time gig, that’s when we may have to start relaxing and thinking of ways to approach working with brands that work for us and our readers.
What’s the worst approach you’ve ever had from a brand or agency?
In my day-job I’m sent some awful business books written by self-proclaimed ‘thought-leaders’. Those are the worst.
And what’s the best approach you’ve ever had?
Do you ever proactively approach brands you want to work with?
At the moment no, time and resources are so tight at the moment, but we should definitely start making the effort to contact the brands whose products we review. Craft beer is really expensive!
And finally, are there any particular pearls of wisdom you wish you could go back in time and tell yourself before you started blogging?
Don’t worry, after a couple of years of writing absolute shite you’ll get good eventually.
You will never spell rythym properly. Just accept it.
Get a cat.