Back in 2005, I combined two hobbies and created a hiking blog. I built a following writing about trails, gear, safety, adventures and the like. I had a great job on the copy desk of the biggest daily newspaper in Silicon Valley and I lived near some of the best trails in the country. It was a natural match.
By 2009, the newspaper industry was in a flaming death spiral; I was out of the business by midsummer. We moved to North Carolina for the lower cost of living and I started blogging about trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Less than a month after my last day at the paper, one of my blog’s readers hired me to write a series of GPS-enabled hiking guides for his iPhone app. About a month after that, I landed a full-time gig as an online editor with a popular hiking gear website.
I struck out on my own in 2011 and soon found that my writing/editing business was keeping me so busy that I couldn’t find time to update my hiking blog.
Google Analytics tells me my hiking blog has attracted more than 400,000 unique visitors and about a million page views, even though I haven’t added a post since December 2011. And all those iPhone hiking guides I wrote? They’ve been read more than a million times.
I did all that while writing about something people have been doing for a hundred thousand years: walking upright in the great outdoors. Dull as dirt, right? And I picked an inherently paradoxical topic: With few exceptions, hikers don’t blog and bloggers don’t hike.
Over the course of a half-decade, I logged nearly a half-million visits to a blog that should not have even existed and I used that experience to launch a thriving new career.
Producing Web content that people want to read takes more than an ability to master a topic and write about it well.
It requires a knack for engaging readers and keeping them coming back.
What I do: