#blogfest - Notes for Tallinn Blogfest 2009 - Joao Lopes Marques
Notes for Tallinn Blogfest 2009 www.tallinnblogfest.com
My blogs, Twitter and I
by João Lopes Marques http://joaolopesmarques.blogspot.com/
• Well, I never liked blogs, especially being a printed media journalist. Still
remember the day back in 2000 or 2001 when a well-known Portuguese
author (Miguel Esteves Cardoso) told me this blogging thing would be "The
• Anyway, I resisted till my friend José Santos, nowadays in Skype, made me
think about the concept of passive income.
• A year ago I made a serious experiment. I had heard about Ad Sense, by
Google, and how to monetize online my content. Well, it was a total flop! This
AdSense pays a couple of beers, nobody clicks on this Internet ads... I was
quite passive, it is true, but I earned nothing more than 27 dollars in six
• I eventually gave up.
B) Twitter era
• The Revelation (or Revolution) came the day I broke a leg... Being stuck
home for almost eight weeks, I started reading about these thesis again. By
the same time a friend sent me to my Gmail account an invitation for
something called "Twitter". I found the design awful and childish, but I joined
• The very same month, while reading online news from Portugal, I had the
chance to laugh: a famous Portuguese newswoman (Alberta Marques
Fernandes) had posted a twitt during the TV news emission... Seemed she
was dying for an hamburger... Ten minutes later, and RTP was broadcasting
live, somebody delivered it on the TV studio.
• As you can imagine, Twitter became something in Portugal overnight.
• More and more curious about this new mini-blogging network and with lots of
time in my life, I decided to give it a chance.
C) Crossing the desert
• People follow what they can easily understand, and Twitter was more than
simple. Seemed even stupid to me. If I never liked to chat online I barely
could see myself doing it with hundreds of people I don't know and at the
same time. But I decided to jump, anyway.
• Yet after I passed the barrier of 1000 followers I started having nice
surprises... Seemed to me I was going massive with a personal-human
o Suddenly, readers started asking me questions about my books and
my articles in Portuguese media and Eesti Ekspress (yes, I became a
kind of "hermeneutic call center")
o They were giving me hints about the places I was visiting and offered
me convenient sofas to rest (Genova in April, for instance)
o I found the selection of content in my network was brilliant (more than
newspapers, in the web we tend to read texts, either news or not)
o It allowed me to sense the Zeitgeist in specific regions (especially in
o By the interaction and comments, I also understood much better who
is who in my broad target
o I could easily divert traffic to my links either in the mass media or in
my personal blog (Circo Vicioso)
o I got easily in touch with my corporations (journalists, publishers,
writers, film makers, etc.)
o My motivation boosted as well, needless to say: nothing better than a
reader to massage daily your ego.
D) My-Twitter-Facebook-Blog system
• The main problem so far? My productivity lowered dramatically... I was
suddenly working in a different paradigm, but no direct money there yet.
• But the surprises continued: suddenly my followers started twitting me they
were buying my books "O Homem que queria ser Lindbergh" and "Terra
Java". Almost once a day. They even report where the books are sold out and
how many are left in specific bookstores. If they are on display or in a hidden
• More importantly, their daily feedback makes me reflect second time on my
creations: as if I have a real-time focus group... Nowadays I know exactly the
parts of my book they like better or that they believe are a little bit confusing...
• I can even try a joke, or a magic quote, before I write it on the paper: if the
reaction is massive and there are lots of retwitts, that is a very encouraging
F) New routine... Or ritual?
• I had to accommodate myself to a sort of routine... Unavoidable. But I prefer
call it a daily/weekly ritual instead. I do it with pleasure, since the results seem
• I complement this blogging-mini-blogging with Facebook, though I don't love it
(I prefer to keep it as post-modern Yellow Pages).
• In my opinion, the secret of Twitter is its resilience. It is like a car, you can use
it for several purposes (to get to work, for a road trip, to impress the girlfriend,
to race, etc.). I decided to use it as if it was my own online newspaper. I am
more active than reactive:
o Entertaining people (videos, jokes, quotes)
o Helping people (sharing is caring)
o Informing people (my original selection of news)
o Promoting myself (projects, books, chronicles, reportage)
• There is a basic principle, though. You can market yourself, but first try to give
something. This is the trade-off.
• By consulting Google Analytics I can see I've passed from 6 or 7 visitors per
day in January to 150 average today. And using the tools just one hour and
half per day...
• People are extremely adaptable and this can be the tipping point of a wider
revolution: I even doubt if the novel I am finishing now suits best in the paper
or if the free tools I have now are more than enough...
o With the global downturn bookstores and literary markets bottleneck
more and more... The publishers bet on they know (or guess) will sell
best. Or first.
o Digital books are ubiquitous and much cheaper...
o I can command my own promotional strategies, not depending on the
o I could reach iPhone and Kindle devices, for instance.
o Instead of earning 10% or 12% of copyright of my creation, I would
probably fivefold this amount.
• Well, scenarios...
G) Playing solo
• I am a freelancer since February 2002, and so far I have survived as a
independent author and journalist. I would like to keep this way of live
forever... Not easy these days. Nevertheless, this blogging and mini-blogging
tools give me hope.
• Emancipation? It is too early to sing victory. None online business model has
consolidated yet. The next five years can be amazing: once again, never
forget the human being is extremely adaptable...
• It's true that the culture of gratuity is crystallizing, but remind readers like to
gratify the author, especially when they can trick the middleman.
• I am also very curious about the impact of book-trailers, something you can
lodge in YouTube, for instance, and promote everyday among your potential
• Besides that, I believe in the power of new maecenas: from big companies to
individuals who want to sponsor a specific creation. Somehow they will be
proud they can make happen something they believe in.
• The industry is nervous, indeed:
o Publishers like Lulu.com are making their way.
o When days ago I shared with my Portuguese editor I was admitting
going solo he replied me: "To set up a publishing house is easy... but
what about distribution? The secret is there and you need lots of
o Google's digitizing policies are also a mini-earthquake in this
industry... Let's hope it is a benign one.
• Sometimes I think: if with only 6000 followers things changed so fast in less
than a year, I can't imagine with some 60,000 followers...
• On top, electronic payments, as Paypal, make transactions quite simple and
H) Dignity of the creation
• Like one of greatest inventors of all time, Archimedes of Syracuse, used to
say, or would say if he was alive: "Give a link and I will lift the World."
• It's true these can be great times to be an author and independent journalist. I
feel somehow excited. But this is also dangerous: we authors can never
forget the essential. What is it? The creation and its own dignity, hopefully
with more than 140 characters.
• Yes, dignity: in spite of the vehicle we use, that must be always the ultimate