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In Focus: The Accidental Blogger

Posted on 3.30.2009

Shreve Stockton authors, a highly successful, award-winning blog that centers around Charlie, an orphaned coyote which Stockton adopted, her pet cat Eli and dog Chloe. But Stockton’s road to blogging success was not typical. She had no intentions of turning her passions and her daily life into a business. Yet, that’s exactly what happened.

Website Magazine interviewed Stockton and what we learned were some valuable insights into what it takes to manage a successful blog and how blogging can lead to other opportunities outside of the Web.

WM:How did The Daily Coyote start, and did you have a specific goal in mind?

Stockton: I was just taking photographs of Charlie from day one, because that’s what I love to do. I was then e-mailing those photos to friends and family every day. One of my closest friends called me and mentioned how much friends and coworkers were enjoying them, then suggested that I should be compensated for my work. And that got me thinking.

WM: How did you find your audience?

Stockton: People just started talking about it. Some of my cousins were in college and would talk about it on campus, and friends in their offices would talk at work. Then people were linking to me after searching Google for coyote pictures. The site was linked with some kind of dog website that was popular and that was my first big hit. When linked to me, that's when it went into the stratosphere. Her whole readership was interested in my site. Suddenly I had orders, and a book deal.

I suggest seeing who has a wide range, a built-in audience and see what you can do for them.

WM: You seem to have a strong connection with your audience. Why?

Stockton: I’ve made an effort to make it really honest, an almost vulnerable place. I’m showing what is real to me.

Because I post at a regular time every day, readers know they can count on me. There’s this rhythm, a consistency that has created a sense of intimacy. Some bloggers find it beneficial to post irregularly so readers keep coming back to check for new content, gaining page impressions. I’ve found it more important in the long run to be more consistent and dependable.

WM: What elements of The Daily Coyote have you found to be the most profitable?

Stockton: Advertising on blogs is often spoken of as the Holy Grail — that has not been the case for me. I do have advertising but it's a very minor supplement. I certainly couldn't live off it. It’s the other products that I provide that have been the best sources of income; the subscriptions to daily photos*, calendars, prints and the book deal.

I would recommend people decide what product or service they can provide in a regular way. Daily subscriptions are a small amount but renewable and ongoing. I suggest people use their website as a vehicle for a product, rather than blogging for the sake of advertising. There are so many areas to grow a business if people are creative.

WM: You started out with a Blogger account then moved to your current .net domain. Was that a difficult transition?

Stockton: It was a great learning experience. I did lose a lot of backlinks — there were so many links to the blogspot site and many of them were archived.

I designed the [new] site so visually it was cleaner and easier to navigate, but very similar to the original site so people would not be jarred by a massive change.

The regular readers updated their blogrolls and I tried to make the transition as easy as possible. I still have the blogger site active, and at the top is a notice of the new site.

I recommend starting with the domain that you want to stay with.

WM:How many hours per week do you spend on The Daily Coyote?

Stockton: A lot of time is spent e-mailing and keeping up correspondence. That's something I've had to learn how to balance. I spend all day Sunday working with photos for the week and lining them all up. It’s probably about 25 hours per week.

WM:Has Twitter helped grow your audience and earn revenue?

Stockton: It’s been a great way to keep a connection with my current audience without going into an entire blog post. That’s been fantastic. It's done great things to maintain the audience that I have. People who follow me do reference me and my book, so their followers are getting introduced to me.

WM: Do you have any long-term goals?

Stockton: My main goal is to stay focused on what’s meaningful to me and not getting too wrapped up in the dark parts of the Web. I've decided to keep it an outlet for my creativity — in business and in art.

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