Gorkana Group US, which “offers a more effective way for PR and marketing professionals to access customised media intelligence,” released a post-CES analysis of social media influencers at CES 2014, or International CES (or the dreaded name they hate, “Consumer Electronics Show”), and found that my blog, Zennie62.com, or Zennie62blog.com, was one of the most popular blogs – I think it came in at number two.
So, they released a report, which you can learn about here:
And read here:
And then followed up with an interview of me which you can read here. It was via email and the responses I gave were long – so much so that it was paired down. So what follows is the full interview, but I thank Gorkana for the opportunity and for the plug!
Q: First, tell us a bit about Zennie62 and what the blog covers. What initially sparked your interest in starting this blog?
A: Well, Zennie62 is really the name of my YouTube Channel, which was born on April 22nd of 2006. I started doing what is now called “video-blogging” in earnest that year, and both blogging and video blogging were first started as a way to make content for my website company Sports Business Simulations (SBS), and it’s two online sims, the Oakland Baseball Simworld and the XFL Simworld.
What happened was that SBS was started in 2003, but the traffic was bad – about three visitors on launch day of June 22nd of 2003. So I and my business partner and friend Dan Rasher made a decision to add blogs to the website. In 2004, I created a blog network that started with Oakland Focus, which turned out to be Oakland, CA’s first blog. Then, in 2005, Zennie62 the blog was called “Zennie’s Zeitgeist,” so it was to capture ‘the sprit of the times.’ Eventually, I added blogs using the Blogger platform, which was bought by Google in 2007, from Pyra Labs.
That site still exists, but the blogging and vlogging part took off with the growth of that form of media. I had started the practice of joining new tech media app sites, like one called Blip.tv, another called Pounce, another called Twitter, and one called iReport, and then another called YouTube.
Pounce was sold. Twitter grew into what it is today. Blip.tv was bought by Maker Studios, which itself is an outgrowth of YouTube, and then they dumped vloggers in 2013. YouTube was bought by Google in 2007. And the iReport was bought by CNN / Turner in the same year. So CNN inherited me.
The idea of Zennie62 was always both the blog and the YouTube channel as one. In 2007, YouTube’s Steve Grove invited me to make “sample videos” for the CNN / YouTube Democratic Debates. Then, CNN invited me to New York and to Atlanta for live TV on four occasions between 2007 and 2008. That really helped build notice.
In 2008, I covered my first Democratic National Convention, and became known as a mostly political blogger – the blog was credentials by the DNC. CNN made me their designated iReporter on the scene.
In 2009, The San Francisco Chronicle invited me to repost my blog content from Zennie62 to SFGate.com as part of their City Brights Program. They said they could not pay me, but I installed a bit of YouTube code I made, became really good at SEO for my posts at SFGate.com, and the resulting monthly video traffic caused me to gain great monthly revenue from Google AdSense, because I was a YouTube Partner! In fact, I was so good, I was the leading traffic generator on the entire SFGate.com site between 2009 and 2011.
So, in 2009, Google added my Zennie62 blog on Blogger to Google News. If anyone tells you that Blogger blogs can’t be on Google News, I’m here to tell you that’s a total lie. In November of 2011, and after a long string of successes, a new SFGate.com executive director I did not get along with blocked me from the site (I say that proudly as the San Francisco Chronicle’s culture was wrong for its own City Brights program, which is terminated in 2012). I made a video about the matter and focused on developing Zennie62 as more than a blog, but a media company. Meanwhile SFGate.com’s traffic dipped by 11 percent because I wasn’t there to blog three times a day. It’s now down to about 50 percent of what it was then.
By then, I made so many blogs for different purposes that I realized I had over 100 of them. I pruned the list to 78 blogs, and then started converting them to ones with a similar design, focused on different cities and connected. I made blogs for 12 cities, and then ones for the NFL Draft as I started covering that event in 2005. I was the first to bring a camcorder to cover the NFL Draft in 2006, then used USTREAM at the NFL Draft for livestream in 2007 – another first.
In 2010, Google took my Blogger blog off Google News, along with thousands of other blogs in a purge of sorts and due to a lawsuit with Associated Press. But I noticed the blogs on Google News were mostly WordPress Blogs. So in 2010, I converted Zennie62 into a WordPress blog and created a Georgia-based company called Zennie62Media that became the organizational umbrella for all of my blogs and vlogs. Also in 2010, I covered the Academy Awards, WonderCon, Comic Con, and CES and TechCrunch Disrupt and The Crunchies tech awards show. So the schedule of basic annual events that Zennie62 has become known for was set in 2010. I also asked a journalism student named Nikky Raney to join Zennie62Media as a partner.
Q: Tell us about your audience / readership. What kind of traffic do you get on the blog? What posts tend to be most popular?
A: The Zennie62 blog and Zennie62 YouTube video channel gain about an average of 40,000 and 700,000 visitors a month, respectively. The most popular posts tend to be of celebrities who are hot, or of NFL athletes, and posts related to events I’ve covered or news commentary. We upload YouTube videos on a daily basis and mostly to capture the news talk interest of that day. I also have a 78 blog network, so the traffic in total for all of those is even greater, but I’m trying to fashion one app that reports all of those numbers at a glance, for each month.
Q: Gorkana recently named you one of the top bloggers to watch out for in 2014. What are some of your goals for the coming year? Do you have any plans to add new features to your blog or to expand it in any way?
A: My objective for Zennie62 is to really continue the transformation of it into a kind of multimedia media app and also to secure an investor, and longer-term sponsorships with brands for our content and also to sell ad space on Zennie62blog.com. The next immediate goal is the creation of a mobile app for Zennie62 – I have had one before, but the hosting cost was unreasonably high, so I shuttered it. But now, in this new format, we need a smartphone and tablet app.
Q: You mention in a recent blog post that you want the format of Zennie62 to be close to Twitter’s, but you also publish many long-form columns and features as well as vlog entries. How did you envision this multimedia, genre-bending format for Zennie62?
A: Well, on November 2, of 2013 I had a mild heart attack due to stress. I realized that life was too short to try and basically join someone else’s club if they didn’t want me, so I made my own. In other words, I was trying to get Zennie62 back into Google News, but it was being rejected time and again, and I think for political reasons that, if I explain, would make a ton of sense. I was told that my blog was certainly eligible, but three times, no.
Plus, I was trying to keep up with daily media content demands. Meanwhile, I was visiting Twitter many times a day and to see how the World was unfolding before me. It’s a kind of addictive habit.
I’d long considered making my blog a news aggregator like the Drudge Report, but without the obvious political commentary. But after my heart attack, I just started to recode the entire site to basically pull from other news aggregators like Google News, and pick the subjects I was interested in, but in a way where the news source itself was marketed. In other words, Zennie62 is a kind of marketer of news producers – if the USA TODAY has an item on Zennie62 you know its by that organization right at a glance in the headline title. That’s not even true for Google News, where you see the headline title before knowing the news source. I’m really proud of that.
Plus, if a news item is about, say, London, it also goes from Zennie62 to my London Focus Blog – or if it’s about Oakland, then to my Oakland Focus Blog, and then out to a matching Twitter account and Facebook page – and the same is trye for San Franciso, Dallas, New York, LA Chicago, Cleveland, and many other cities. So Zennie62 is really a growing, news distribution and self-syndication system. On top of that, we have stand-alone blog posts we write and are set to be featured over the aggregated content and if that post is about Las Vegas, then it goes to Las Vegas Focus Blog. And the latest Zennie62 YouTube video is one every page of not just Zennie62 but all of our blogs.
Q: What sort of content do / can PRs help you with? How do you prefer PRs to approach / pitch you?
A: PR firms in entertainment and tech can and do approach us. We have many good, long-standing relationships. But I would also like more guest blog posts by PR firms, too. I have yet to have a PR firm send a video clip they wanted to be uploaded on to Zennie62 at YouTube, but that too would be welcome.
Q: What political figures, news items, sports events, technology developments, celebrities, or pop culture topics have you most enjoyed highlighting in your blog? Have you done any notable projects with them? Are there others you’d like to review or feature?
A: I have a blast at CES in Las Vegas. I like the mixing of tech, celebrity, and Las Vegas spectacle that CES is. I also enjoy covering the Night Of 100 Stars Oscars Party in Beverly Hills for The Academy Awards, and the NFL Draft, and also Comic Con in San Diego. I’ve never done a project with any tech organization or celebrity, save for one: The Hatchet II Movie at Comic Con. The publicist contacted me and came up with an idea of embedding me, the vlogger, in a limo with the stars of the movie! I met Danielle Harris, and Kane Hodder, who has played Jason from Friday The 13th four times! The videos were fun, and still up at Zennie62 on YouTube.
I can also say that I’ve covered two DNC Conventions, two presidential inaugurations, and met many amazing people including President Obama! In August of 2013, Zennie62Media was added to the White House Press List. I’m really proud of that.
Q: Are you currently working on any other projects in addition to the Zennie62 blog?
A: Well, Zennie62Media as a whole is how I earning a living and I’m proud that the revenue produced allows me to keep at it as my job, and also for me to be with my elderly Mom, as I am the only child and she’s a breast cancer survivor. I’m working on reviving Sports Business Simulations, and eventually fusing both organizations into one large media company – and I could use some help in the form of more partners. But right now, I have to admit that Zennie62blog.com not only takes a lot of my time, I LOVE reading it. It’s boring to read your own blog posts all the time, but it’s cool to see the unexpected news of the day come through the blog hourly. I now visit my own blog as much as I do Twitter! If I see a news item I want to expand on, I can add to the flow of content with my own blog and vlog post, and so can anyone else who’s signed up as a blogger at Zennie62.com. I also pay for video-blog contributions, too!