A group of MSFS students gathered on February 9, 2016 to learn the ins-and-outs of international affairs blogging. Professor Erik Voeten, the Peter F. Krogh Associate Professor of Geopolitics and Global Justice and editor of the popular Washington Post blog “Monkey Cage,” led the discussion, which focused on getting and keeping the right kind of online attention.
Professor Voeten began the discussion with a short history of his own blog, named a TIME Best Blog in 2012. While initially no one will read your work, Voeten noted encouragingly, if your blog is different and brings something new to the international policy realm, commentators and journalists will begin to read and share your posts. Voeten and his co-editors found their niche by offering accessible political science research for policy makers, journalists, and the general public. A focus on the reader was an important topic of the conversation: a successful blog keeps the audience in mind, thinking not only of their prior knowledge but also the ways in which they will share your stories via social media.
In the second half of the discussion, Voeten responded to student questions about breaking into the blogging world and evaluating their work’s impact. For contributors to “Monkey Cage,” impact comes not necessarily from affecting policy change—a hard effect to track—but rather when individual writers are contacted by media and policymakers as follow up to a post. In order to demonstrate the power of effective posts, Voeten went through some of his blog’s most read and shared pieces—posts with catchy graphics and funny statistics—and some of the less popular efforts. Students were then given a proposed blog post and asked to turn it into an exciting, must-read piece.
“What can you do that other people can’t?” Professor Voeten prompted the class. By linking what you care about to what other people already care about, by analyzing a topic that tells the reader about him or herself, a blogger can find not only an audience, but also a purpose.