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The April 2009 Blogger in the Spotlight is Patrick Duffy of The Housing Chronicles Blog. Blogger in the Spotlight is a monthly series where Newstex turns the spotlight on our publishers with in-depth interviews that give you a glimpse into the stories, tips and secrets of successful bloggers and content producers. This month's interview is with Patrick Duffy who is Principal of MetroIntelligence Real Estate Advisors, a division of Beacon Economics, author of The Housing Chronicles Blog, contributor to The Wall Street Journal's Developments Blog, and contributing editor of Builder & Developer magazine. You can read more about Patrick's background and experience at the end of this post.
How did you get started writing your current blog?
Patrick Duffy: I started my blog in November of 2007 after noticing that almost all of the housing blogs online were focused only on the housing bubble as well as to promote my company, MetroIntelligence Real Estate Advisors. Many didn’t even pretend to be objective, only focusing on the bad news that would help the authors substantiate their theory that the housing market was certainly doomed. Since I wanted to create a blog for the long term, I specifically avoided any reference to a housing ‘bubble’ or ‘crisis,’ and instead chose the very generic term ‘Housing Chronicles.’ Over time, I’ve expanded it to include coverage not just on housing, but also on commercial development.
What makes your blog unique?
Patrick: I write my blog from the perspective of a consultant to the building industry for over 20 years who has already been through one of these boom-and-bust cycles. My regular reading list is pretty comprehensive, including most major newspapers and a variety of magazine titles related to current events, politics, general business as well as real estate development. Since time is in such short supply these days, I like to share stories with my readers that I find interesting and that could impact the business of real estate. Consequently, you’ll find citations from published articles ranging from the Los Angeles Times or the New York Times to The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and Builder magazine. In addition, I also reprint original articles that I write for industry-related magazines such as Builder & Developer or Hardware Retailing and link to other articles and book reviews I’ve had published for Inman News or the Los Angeles Times.
To what do you attribute your blog's success?
Patrick: I think any successful blog requires regular updates in order to keep readers coming back, but that’s not necessarily easy to do when other deadlines are constantly looming, so being committed is key. I’ve also benefitted from reciprocal links to other housing blogs which already had fairly large built-in audiences, as well as from those which continue to grow in popularity. There’s a definite sense of community among most bloggers, and the best of them will help each other out with advice, citations and appropriate links. Finally, I know I benefit from syndication deals with companies such as Newstex, which place my blog posts on places such as Lexis Nexis and the Amazon Kindle, which would otherwise be unavailable to me.
What are the top 3 tips you can give to bloggers looking to develop successful blogs?
- Write in a specific voice. I remember when I first started blogging, a friend of mine who is a regular reader said I was being too opinionated and snarky, but that’s what makes a blog stand apart from the crowd. I personally love reading opinionated bloggers – especially if they’re both smart and funny. It’s the human element of blogs that make them compelling to read.
- Be consistent about posting. Yes, there will be times when you want a long weekend away from the computer, but if you’re going on a longer trip, I’d suggest asking a trusted writer to write guest blogs while you’re gone. That way your blog will continue to remain fresh and updated.
- Promote, promote, promote! Although my primary client list of builders and developers remains pretty dormant in this market, I do know that many building industry insiders are aware of my blog, so in the long run I think it will pay dividends. When I attend networking functions, I note both my company name and my blog, and it’s really the blog that piques most people’s interest. I’d also advise giving up the short-term goal of maximizing revenue in order to build the long-term awareness of your blog by getting your posts out there in as many ways as possible (i.e., Newstex, Kindle, etc.). Finally, be sure to code your posts with the right SEO terms; it still gives me a kick to do a Google search on a housing-related item and then see my own blog come up as one of the top five or ten items.
What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your work on your blog?
Patrick: I’d say definitely the new blogger friends I’ve made online as well as new clients I probably wouldn’t have met through traditional networking. For example, last week a reporter and blogger for the Orange County Register interviewed me for his BlogTalkRadio show, and I was so impressed with the technology and the final product that I’ve signed up for my own show and will be interviewing the authors of the real estate books I review. Another blogger with traffic exponentially greater than mine became a fan of my writing, so now he features some of his favorite posts for a weekend thread, which in turn has helped build my traffic.
What inspires you to keep blogging?
Patrick: In a way, I don’t want to disappoint my ‘fans.’ I now get enough monthly visitors to fill a large theater or small arena, and I know the repeat visitors come back to discover important stories they might not otherwise see. It’s also a great outlet for me; writing has always been a creative hobby of mine, and through the blog I get to combine my knowledge and interest in real estate with the specific voice that comes through in my writing. I also write like I talk, so if you met me in person it would be somewhat similar to reading my posts. Yes, I’m just as opinionated and sarcastic in person!
What are your favorite blogs and why?
Patrick: It’s really a hodgepodge. For current events, the Drudge Report and maybe the Huffington Post. For politics, Andrew Sullivan and RealClearPolitics. For general business, RealClearMarkets and a personal favorite, Calculated Risk. For housing and real estate, it’s a combination of HousingCrisis.com, L.A.Land, Lansner on Real Estate, the Wall Street Journal’s Developments blog, U.S. News and World Report’s The Home Front, Patrick.net and HousingWire. That way I get a sense of stories I’m missing that I might also cover from a different angle and include some analysis.
What effects do you think blogging will have on traditional media? How about on your industry?
Patrick: I think that blogging is already having a tremendous impact on traditional media, and I’m not sure that attacking bloggers who use material from AP is going to save their business models; what the industry needs to do is come up with a ‘fair use’ policy, so bloggers can cite a maximum number of words from an original article and must provide a link as well as appropriate credit. From the very beginning of Housing Chronicles, I’ve made it a policy to cite my sources at least two to three times in a post. In order for traditional papers to survive, they’re going to have to make it palatable to charge users for content (either through micropayments or subscription models), reduce their cost structures and see bloggers as alliance partners rather than enemies. From a writer’s perspective, I think that individuals such as Arianna Huffington, Matt Drudge or Andrew Sullivan have proven that the new media brands will be tied more to individuals than to companies such as the New York Times or the Washington Post. In fact, one of my goals with Housing Chronicles was to create my own nationally known brand for the type of consulting work I do. The building industry itself tends to move pretty slowly, so it took awhile for sites related to industry publications to launch their own homegrown blogs such as HousingCrisis.com. The existing home market tends to adopt technology faster, such as the syndication service Inman News, which offers real estate-related articles and blogs to 250 newspapers and 50,000 Web sites. After having recognized the future viability of this business model, I started writing for Inman as a reviewer of real estate-related books.
At what point did you decide to syndicate your blog with Newstex and why?
Patrick: I decided to syndicate with Newstex as soon as I found out about the service, which was several months after I started blogging. Although my primary goal was to build awareness of the blog itself, I was also interested in the revenue sharing model – something which other syndication services don’t do.
What's next for you and your blog?
I’m about to embark on a major re-design of Housing Chronicles. When I started, I signed up with the Blogger platform because it’s easy to use and set up, but it also has its limitations. There’s also a certain type of snobbishness among bloggers regarding the platforms you use, and Blogger is pretty much seen as training wheels – wheels I’ve been using for over 15 months! For the redesign I’ll be moving onto another blogging platform and make Housing Chronicles look and function more like a Drudge Report for housing and economics. I’ll still be contributing regular posts and snarky comments, but I want to increase the number of links that will self-automate when I don’t have time to do so manually. Finally, I’ll also be expanding my ad sales for the blog; now that I’ve hit a reasonably large number of visitors, it’s time to stop relying exclusively on Google Ads and better target my ads for companies and people working in the business of real estate development and transactions.
Patrick Duffy has consulted for nearly 20 years on various development projects throughout the United States, and has worked with the country's leading consulting firms, home builders, commercial and land developers, investors and lenders on residential, mixed-use, commercial and industrial projects worth over $50 billion. He also written extensively on real estate issues for The Los Angeles Times and other Tribune-owned newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun, the Inman News syndication service, Builder & Developer magazine, Multi-Housing News, California Builder magazine and various titles published by local building industry groups. As a consultant, he has been frequently quoted by leading print media including the Associated Press, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times as well as by various California regional newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, Orange County Register and the San Diego Union. He has also been featured on various radio and television interviews and also hosts his own Internet radio show, Housing Chronicles on BlogTalkRadio. As a speaker he has presented at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, the Building Industry Show, the Big Builder Conference, UCLA Extension, Hanley Wood Market Intelligence's Executive Housing Seminar and various local building industry association events, including hosting Orange County's "Industry Giants" panel. In late 2007 he launched The Housing Chronicles Blog, which is currently featured on sites produced by Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, CNN, Builder magazine, The Washington Post and the Chicago Sun-Times, and is also syndicated to other Web sites by Newstex and BlogBurst.