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Andy Merrett: Family Man


Andy is a new member of 9rules, with his Family Relationships Magazine blog, but has been blogging since 2004 on a variety of subjects both on his own sites and for the likes of Shiny Media and Splashpress Media.

Here, Darice de Cuba interviews him.

How did you come with the idea to start a weblog on family relationships?

In mid-2005, after I’d been running my personal blog for a year or so, I decided that I wanted to write on a couple of topics I’m passionate about and, having followed the advice of probloggers like Darren Rowse, registered the domain names and started two niche blogs — Family Relationships blog and Piano & Synth blog.

Where do you get your knowledge on the subject?

I can’t claim to be an expert with bags of personal experience in relationships and family issues, but I am passionate about the subject and I read a lot around subjects such as marriage, divorce, raising children, education, health and so on, as well as keeping tabs on current news, particularly as it affects British families.

I also subscribe to a number of mom/dad blogs and live vicariously through their experiences.

What approach do you take when deciding what issue to blog about?

I take into account several factors when looking at what subjects to blog about:

  • Will it be of interest to parents or other family members?
  • Do I have any personal experience of the subject?
  • Has this subject worked well in the past?
  • Is the topic current (either in the news or seasonal)?

So, for example, I know that news about upcoming British children’s TV seems to do quite well, as do issues surrounding fertility, family bonding, and use of technology.

That doesn’t mean I’ll exclude what I think is a good story if the subject hasn’t proved itself in the past.

What’s your favourite time/place/surroundings to blog?

At the moment, partly from necessity but also choice, I’m doing most of my blogging from a cosy armchair in my living room. I get loads of natural light during the day, it’s warm, and I can see life passing by outside.

As I’m a full-time blogger, I have to work quite a number of hours each day, but I must admit to enjoying very early mornings or very late evenings — mainly because it’s quiet and if I suddenly get inspiration I can write uninterrupted for several hours.

In the warmer months, I’ll take my laptop out into the garden and blog there.

What do you hope to reach in your weblogging career?

I think, like you, it’s hard to answer exactly. If I’m being totally honest, I’d like to be able to reach a point where I have enough residual income (either from blogging or elsewhere) that I can write purely out of passion and not out of needing to make money.

I’d like to have more influence in certain niches. I guess there’s probably some ego in there somewhere, though I also like helping people out and being a place where they can turn for advice.

There are a couple of niche areas where I think that’s achievable. It will certainly be interesting to see how that pans out over the next couple of years.

What is your opinion on the current state of weblogging with Tumblr getting popular?

Sites like Tumblr and Posterous are definitely lowering the barrier to almost nothing in allowing people to blog whenever and wherever they choose.

Along with popular services like Facebook, it’s definitely encouraging people to share their lives online. In some ways, it brings blogging back to what it was five or six years ago — personal blogging, at least.

As that’s going on, professional bloggers (those looking to make a living from their blogs) are developing sites that are increasingly like mainstream news sites, only built with blogging software.

There’s the gap, but I don’t think it’s a problem. At the end of the day, blogging is just a means to an end: simply publishing information.

How do you keep up with so many subjects for your different weblogging gigs?

I’m subscribed to a huge number of RSS feeds and email newsletters, and I also have a decent number of PR contacts thanks to working for a large British new media company for several years.

I try to keep organised notes and topic ideas for the niches I cover, as well as looking for stories that could be used several times (written from different angles, naturally).

After a while writing about any subject, you build up a good background knowledge and you remember what you’ve written about in the past (good for interlinking posts). You also end up with a decent set of news sources for each niche. The flow of incoming information never subsides, but hopefully you get better at filtering it and finding the good stuff.