10 Ways To Put Your Content In Front Of More People

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Which is more important, driving traffic to your website or encouraging as many people as possible to see your content? Believe it or not, they are not one and the same.Too often, we as website owners live and die by web analytics applications. We fret about bounce rates, unique visitors and dwell time. However, when we focus so heavily on the performance of our website, we miss a fundamental point: we should aim to expose users to our content, not our website. The website is a tool to showcase our content, but it is not the only tool that does this.

Organizations with truly successful websites understand this principle. Take, for example, the following: Amazon’s primary objective is to sell stuff. YouTube aims to use video content to carry advertisements. Twitter facilitates “tweeting.” (Who knows what its business model is!).

In each case, the content matters, not the website. That is why each company provides numerous ways to access its content beyond the website. From Amazon’s affiliate scheme to YouTube’s embed feature, these companies can reach audiences that may never visit their websites.

Twitter is probably the best example of all. How often do you actually read or post tweets via the Twitter website? If you are like me, the answer is very rarely.

Twitter website
The majority of users do not read tweets via the Twitter website.

The lesson here is obvious: as website owners, we need a broader Web strategy to release our content from the shackles of our websites. How do we do this? Below are 10 opportunities that you can integrate into your online strategy.

While the points mentioned below will refine your strategy to deliver content to more people, they can not serve their purpose without an appropriate environment. In the age of social media and the rise of interactive web-applications such as Facebook, Twitter etc. building a community around your website is the most important way to drive traffic and keep the users coming back.

Using forums, polls, comments and engaging users in the global conversations via external services turns out to be a silver bullet for gaining more exposure and winning more loyal visitors. Once you are building a community around your site, it’s time to think about more refined strategy that will help you to put your content in front of more people – and this is where the tips below will come in handy.

1. Target The Desktop

eBay1 recognized that it needed a desktop application. Many people make a living selling on eBay, and these people need desktop software that streamlines their business processes. They need desktop notifications, faster and more desktop-like interaction and easier access to eBay features.

eBay Desktop2
eBay Desktop3: eBay saw an opportunity to bring the functionality and content of its website to the desktop.

Using a platform such as Adobe AIR4, you can easily put Web-based content and functionality onto the desktop. This is exactly what eBay did, and it has proved very successful among the company’s power users.

As a website owner, you should consider whether a desktop application is right for you. Do your users need desktop features, offline access or better integration with the operating system?

2. Going Mobile

It won’t be long before the Web is accessed by more mobile users than PC users. In many countries, this has already happened. Traditional websites often render poorly or are hard to use on mobile devices. They do not take into account the context in which a mobile user browses the Web5. Approaching the mobile Web as a separate channel to your traditional website, then, is critical.

Here are some methods of delivering content on the mobile Web:

  • Create a mobile website.
    Mobile websites take into account small screens, different input devices and the numerous other unique characteristics of the mobile Web.
  • Use text messaging.
    Text messaging is ideal for notifications and updates. It is a perfect complement to your website and a way of keeping users informed.
  • Build mobile applications.
    Mobile platforms such as the iPhone and Android make it increasingly easy to build applications that run directly on mobile devices. They allow you to make your content available even when the user is not connected to the Internet or away from their PC.

uStream iPhone Application6
Video-streaming service uStream makes its content available on the iPhone7.

Pushing your content to mobile devices is ideal if your target audience is often away from the computer or requires access to your content “in the field.”

3. Start Tweeting

Twitter has so much hype at the moment. However, it does provide a unique opportunity to reach a larger audience with your message. The question is, how best to use it? Some organizations use Twitter as a broadcast tool, turning it fundamentally into an alternative to RSS. An example of this is BBC News8 or CNN119, which provide latest updates via the service.

uStream iPhone Application10
CNN119 uses Twitter as a broadcast tool, turning it fundamentally into an alternative to RSS.

However, using Twitter as a broadcast tool misses its true power. Organizations that really “get” Twitter include Zappos12 and Omnifocus13. They use Twitter as a way to engage with their followers and even provide customer support.

Use Twitter as a way to engage with your audience. If a number of people work on your website, encourage them all to tweet, rather than having a single branded account.

4. Write For Others

Writing for other websites is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and spread your message to a larger audience than would otherwise be possible through your own website.

Do not limit your words of wisdom to your own website. Look for other editorial websites and blogs that speak to your own audience and offer to write for them. After all, your audience visits many websites other than your own. Why limit your writing skills to your own blog when you can reach new audiences by writing for others?

An example of the bio that appears when I write for others14
Whenever I write for other websites, they almost always include links back to Boagworld and Headscape. Here an example from one of my previous Smashing Magazine’s articles15.

Of course, any article you write for others should be more than shameless self-promotion. The owners of those websites will want quality content that fits their website and is of interest to their audience. For example, I recently wrote an article for a website whose audience consisted of franchise owners. If I had simply written about how great Headscape was, I doubt the article would have been published. Instead, I shared a case study of our experience in working with a franchise-based business. The content was both relevant to the publication and useful to its audience. However, it also raised our profile among a base of potentially new customers.

What websites exist that reach your target market? Would they consider publishing some of your content? How could you rewrite your content to make it more appealing to them?

5. Embrace Facebook

Another option for expanding your Web strategy beyond the website is Facebook16. Explaining the importance and reach of Facebook is surely unnecessary. However, you may be tempted to dismiss it because your target market is not teenagers, who are normally associated with these kinds of social networks.

What may surprise you is that Facebook is no longer confined to a younger demographic. Over the last year, the number of users between 35 and 54 has jumped 276%17, to over 6 million people.

Carsonified Fan Page on Facebook18
Carsonified Fan Page on Facebook19: Facebook has introduced fan pages, which are public-facing profiles for organizations.

So, how do you reach your audience on Facebook? Here are three good starting points:

  • Create a group.
    Groups have been around for a long time and are ideal for building a dialogue with those already interested in your product or service. You can easily invite people to participate, and those people in turn can invite others. This makes groups ideally suited to viral marketing.
  • Create a fan page.
    Fan pages are basically public profiles for organizations rather than individuals. Unlike groups, pages are public-facing. This means they can be seen by non-Facebook users and are indexed by search engines. Fan pages are perfect for building long-term awareness and for reaching people both inside and outside of Facebook.
  • Create an application.
    Facebook allows third parties to build applications that can be added to user profiles. These range from games to RSS feeds. Unlike with pages and groups, building applications requires some technical skill. However, the possibility of users embedding your content in their profiles makes this an attractive proposition, if you have appropriate content.

Of course, Facebook is not the only social network. But it does have considerable reach and provides some the best tools for reaching its massive audience.

6. Develop A Widget Or API

The ultimate way to distribute content has to be by providing an API or widget.

An API gives other Web developers access to your content, allowing them to build applications and websites around it. Using an API, developers can do anything from embed your content on their websites to build desktop applications that offer advanced functionality.

Twitter really gets APIs. When was the last time you viewed or posted tweets from the Twitter website? Chances are, a long time ago. Because Twitter offers a powerful API20, thousands of developers have built all kinds of applications that allow you to view and post tweets. The actual service that Twitter provides is in fact very basic; but its API makes it possible to do everything from viewing tweets on a Google map21 to posting photos22, video23 and audio24.

Screenshot of Tweetdeck25
Tweetdeck26 is just one example of the powerful applications that can be built using the Twitter API.

Unfortunately, APIs have some drawbacks. They require a considerable level of technical expertise to implement. As a result, they are of use only to developers. What about the rest of us? How do we add third-party content to our websites? That’s where widgets come in.

A widget is typically a small piece of code that you can copy and paste into your website. Literally thousands of widgets27 are available. They allow website owners to use the content and functionality of other websites quickly and easily. Widgets are used to embed YouTube videos, show your Amazon wish list and display your location on a map.

Widgets are powerful because they are easy to implement. This means anybody can add them, thus allowing you to distribute your content much more widely. Widgets are also easier to build than full APIs. This makes them a good starting point for those wanting to put their content in front of more people.

7. Offer Better Feeds

Not all approaches to putting content in front of more users have to be as time-consuming and complex as developing an API. Doing one other thing could increase your views within minutes.

Users increasingly rely on RSS feeds to consume content from websites. This is especially true for news, articles and blog posts. However, some website owners are so obsessed with driving traffic to their websites that they provide only teasers of their posts via RSS. To read a whole article, the user is forced to click through to the website.

This approach to RSS is counter-productive. When a user is browsing a large number of feeds, they are less likely to read your content if they have to leave their news reader to do it.

To maximize users’ exposure to your content, ensure as much of it as possible is displayed in the RSS feed itself. Require users to click through only when absolutely necessary.

Google Reader displaying a partial RSS feed28
Google Reader29 displaying a partial RSS feed: many websites truncate their content in RSS because their advertising revenue is based on page impressions. They see driving as much traffic as possible to their website as being in their interest. This is a short-sighted.

It is also important to note that when users read content from an RSS feed, they do not have the context of your website. Ensuring, then, that your content stands on its own and that your copy incorporates calls to action is necessary.

8. Use Multimedia

Of course, limiting your content to the written word is becoming increasingly unnecessary. Creating audio and video content has become a trivial task. Services such as YouTube30 and applications such as AudioBoo31 make production and hosting easy.

Also, pioneers like Diggnation32 and Wine Library TV3533 have shown that users care more about quality content than high production values. Both shows essentially have presenters speaking to a single locked-off camera. This kind of production value can be achieved with a consumer camera and basic editing software.

That said, creating popular content is harder than it appears at first. Many organizations believe that simply uploading their latest product demonstrations to YouTube will generate millions of views. That is simply not the case.

Good rich media content has to be engaging if people are expected to watch it and, more importantly, recommend it to their friends. This can be done through a passionate host, great content, humor or shock value. With thousands of videos uploaded everyday, standing out from the crowd is important.

Wine Library TV website34
Wine Library TV3533 proves that great content and a passionate presenter are more important than production values.

However, don’t forget that your content has to be appropriate to your target audience. Shock tactics may work well with a teenage audience but may not go down so well with middle-aged business executives!

9. Start Streaming

The next wave of multimedia on the Web will be not pre-recorded material but rather live streaming. Services such as Ustream36, Qik37 and Justin TV38 are all fighting to dominate this space. Each offers the opportunity to stream live content on the Web at zero cost. This makes the barrier to entry extremely low.

The main benefit of this approach over pre-recorded material is interactivity. The live format allows viewers to engage with the presenter in real time via chat. This brings a host of opportunities, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Live product demonstrations
    Live streaming allows you present your products and services while taking questions from the audience. This is considerably more powerful that showing pre-recorded promotional videos.
  • Community sessions
    If you run an online community, live streaming gives you the chance to engage with that community on a much more personal level than with the written word. Social news website Digg has run a number of “Town Hall” meetings39 in which its user base engages directly with the CEO and founder.
  • Online training
    Finally, live streaming is a perfect environment in which to provide remote training. Whether the training is on using your product or selling online workshops, live streaming allows users to both hear and see what you are doing.

Digg Town Hall40
Social news website Digg has run a number of Town Hall meetings41 in which its user base engages directly with the CEO and founder.

Live streaming is still relatively immature, and few are taking advantage of this new opportunity. Your company has a real opportunity to differentiate itself through its use.

10. Don’t Forget Email

Amidst all this talk of video, audio and APIs, it is easy to forget the tools we have always had for reaching beyond the confines of our website. Although not the sexiest tool on our list, email had to make it on before the end of this post. Email should be a key tool for keeping your content in front of users. Obviously, email can be used for a lot more than syndicating content. However, for the purposes of this article, it can be used to subscribe to your content. If users can subscribe to your content via RSS, they should be able to do it also via email.

Problogger42
ProBlogger43 allows its readers to subscribe to his RSS-feed via e-mail.

Fortunately, there are services such as AWeber44 and MailChimp45 that make this easy. FeedBurner46 is an option, too; however, it lacks subject line customization and has very limited design customizations available. You can find more information about why FeedBurner isn’t good enough in the article FeedBurner’s Free RSS-to-Email Syndication: Why You Can’t Afford It47. With one of these services implemented, users can subscribe via email with a single click of a link on your website.

A word of warning, though. If a user subscribes to your content via email, they are not giving you permission to spam them indiscriminately. If you fail to respect their email subscription, you are in danger of losing that user and inciting them to post negative comments on your website, which could put off others.

Conclusion

There was a time when a website was enough. Now, your website needs to be just one small part of your overall Web strategy. Expecting users to come to you is naive. Instead, take your content to them, whether on a social network like Facebook’s or a mobile device like the iPhone.

(al)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://ebay.com
  2. 2 http://desktop.ebay.com/
  3. 3 http://desktop.ebay.com/
  4. 4 http://www.adobe.com/products/air/
  5. 5 http://boagworld.com/usability/content-is-dead-long-live-context/
  6. 6 http://lifehacker.com/5135175/ustream-iphone-app-available-in-app-store
  7. 7 http://lifehacker.com/5135175/ustream-iphone-app-available-in-app-store
  8. 8 http://twitter.com/bbcnews
  9. 9 http://twitter.com/cnn
  10. 10 http://twitter.com/cnn
  11. 11 http://twitter.com/cnn
  12. 12 http://twitter.com/zappos
  13. 13 http://twitter.com/omnifocus
  14. 14 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/02/10/10-harsh-truths-about-corporate-websites/
  15. 15 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/02/10/10-harsh-truths-about-corporate-websites/
  16. 16 http://www.facebook.com
  17. 17 http://www.istrategylabs.com/2009-facebook-demographics-and-statistics-report-276-growth-in-35-54-year-old-users/
  18. 18 http://www.facebook.com/carsonified
  19. 19 http://www.facebook.com/carsonified
  20. 20 http://apiwiki.twitter.com/
  21. 21 http://twittervision.com/
  22. 22 http://twitpic.com/
  23. 23 http://beta.twiddeo.com/
  24. 24 http://audioboo.fm/
  25. 25 http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta/
  26. 26 http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta/
  27. 27 http://www.widgetbox.com/
  28. 28 http://www.google.com/reader/view/
  29. 29 http://www.google.com/reader/view/
  30. 30 http://youtube.com
  31. 31 http://audioboo.fm
  32. 32 http://revision3.com/diggnation/
  33. 33 http://tv.winelibrary.com/
  34. 34 http://tv.winelibrary.com/
  35. 35 http://tv.winelibrary.com/
  36. 36 http://www.ustream.tv/
  37. 37 http://qik.com/
  38. 38 http://www.justin.tv/
  39. 39 http://digg.com/townhall
  40. 40 http://digg.com/townhall
  41. 41 http://digg.com/townhall
  42. 42 http://www.problogger.net/
  43. 43 http://www.problogger.net/
  44. 44 http://aweber.com/?318292
  45. 45 http://www.mailchimp.com/
  46. 46 http://www.feedburner.com/
  47. 47 http://www.uxbooth.com/blog/feedburners-free-rss-to-email-syndication-why-you-cant-afford-it/

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Paul Boag is the author of Digital Adaptation and a leader in digital strategy with over 20 years experience. Through consultancy, speaking, writing, training and mentoring he passionately promotes digital best practice.

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  1. 1

    Oh yeah, my craigslist data is here . I forgot to add that to my earlier comment.

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  2. 52

    Insightful, thank you!

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  3. 103

    @Wizely:

    you said it, mang. the point of the article = website integration into overall web strategy = 1 small piece

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  4. 154

    Greatcreativelinks.com

    May 13, 2009 11:48 am

    Most important: High Quality Content!

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  5. 205

    Thanks for the inspiration, definitely will put some of these to good use!

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  6. 256

    Good point about RSS feeds. I prefer to choose how I will read a post–stripped down version or formatted version.

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  7. 307

    Insightful! Thanks for the article.

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  8. 358

    Great article, but you’re forgetting to mention a very useful means of getting content in front of more people. The AddThis button. It’s extremely easy to implement, and it allows your visitors to help you share your content. :)

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  9. 409

    Great article. Its all about putting yourself out there. Be Everywhere! That’s all it takes. Now its not simply but it has be done.

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  10. 460

    Steffen Maennle

    May 14, 2009 1:48 am

    I really like this article. Very useful information and great writing skills.

    Thanks!

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  11. 511

    Tips are very useful and thank you !

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  12. 562

    Great article!

    Enhancing RSS feeds was an idea that I never really thought of until now.

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  13. 613

    Great content in this post! I agree that it does sound very time consuming, but the strategy part of it is figuring out how to manage that time. Not every app is meant for everyone and not everyone will benefit from every app.

    That being said, I think one of the highlights of these platforms is that they are generally user friendly to the lowest common denominator of experience and education. There are high school students who understand these applications better than some CEOs right now, that’s saying something about the technology trends.

    Thanks for the post!
    @maddieweber

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  14. 664

    Hi Paul, great post. Completely agree with you on creating content that can stand on its own. One of the unsung benefits of Twitter, I think, is that it compels us to communicate economically.

    On the other side of the Atlantic, I just wrote an eBook along the same lines, although I offered half of what you did–“5 friction-less ways” for investment management marketers to tiptoe into social media. It’s at http://bit.ly/NwhIx if you’re interested.

    Cheers.

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  15. 715

    Slideshow mechanic

    May 14, 2009 9:06 am

    great article an thanks for the advice! and don’t forget se0 :)

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  16. 766

    I have to completely disagree with the RSS feed point. That completely defeats the purpose of what an RSS feed is for. That is basically taking me back to the days of when I would just go to each website I liked seeing if there had been an update. And the Smashing magazine RSS feed is horrific to look at in Google Reader. When you have your lists of just images it takes forever to scroll to the next article and sucks when I really don’t care to read the article it’s even more annoying. I basically have to scroll a little down on the article to make it read, then click the smashing link again so that it goes away and I can see if the next is worth reading. When I get a better view on the frontpage of your website then through your RSS feed something is backwards.

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  17. 817

    Excellent list and summary. Very useful since I’m thinking of doing another blog or two myself.

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  18. 868

    Michael Gunkel

    May 15, 2009 5:19 am

    A great article!

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  19. 919

    Mikes@Your Daily Word

    May 15, 2009 8:45 am

    Such an informative post. I thank problogger from posting the link in twitter. Thanks a lot!

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  20. 970

    What a wonderful article… I’ve already twitted it to my followers.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  21. 1021

    full RSS feed is subject to content scraping. This seems to anger some bloggers I follow because their work product is being viewed on sites other than their own. Regardless of whether there is attribution or not, should folks be allowed to swipe content and post to their own site? I run no blog nor use RSS feed so I have no dog in this fight. Just being nosy.

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  22. 1072

    Excelent post !

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  23. 1123

    Informative and helpful tips….the trouble is —they’re all overwhelming especially for the non-techie.

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  24. 1174

    Re: Mobile Marketing: Informative but you should know about all of the substantial issues around compliance and mobile marketing best practices before attempting to take on mobile marketing internally. Companies like Zingr Communications can inform you on all of those issues so you’re prepared. Good Luck!
    -m
    @zingr

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  25. 1225

    Most of these are very, very time consuming, take a very long time to get followers (and who says these followers are customers) and who knows how long all this time and effort would pay back?

    Take Twitter as an example – It is just people with similar interests following each other. (Not customers, but probably people in competition against you; artists following artitsts, SEO experts following SEO experts). The number of people that actually read one’s Tweets is small. The number of people that click on links in one’s Tweets is even smaller.

    I asked one guy on Twitter, with over 25,000 updates, if he ever got any business from Twitter. His answer: He has gotten a few inquiries, but no business, but he is having fun!
    25,000 updates at 30 seconds each = 208 hours of Tweeting. At 8 hours a day/5 days a week that is 5 weeks in the last year on Twitter! 5 weeks! He couldn’t have brought in some business if spent 5 weeks on the road or telephone making sales calls???

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  26. 1276

    From someone who hosts an award-winning podcast, I’m very surprised podcasting didn’t get a mention.

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  27. 1327

    joyologo design shop 2.0

    May 18, 2009 8:42 am

    Good article. Helpful information. thanks..

    0
  28. 1378

    very informative, thank you again, definitely going to get on some of these quickly.

    0
  29. 1429

    It’s funny, I get traffic to my blog from facebook, but none from Twitter even though I tweet every post that I make automatically.

    Some other people say they get massive traffic from Twitter.

    0
  30. 1480

    Great list.. I can’t wait to see how some of these work out for my newest project.

    0
  31. 1531

    Really great article – will be using some of these tips :)

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  32. 1582

    What about submitting your article to a service like ArticleMarketer.com?

    0
  33. 1633

    Yes, it is inevitable that before long, the Web will be accessed by more mobile users than PC users in the U.S. Knowing which countries are already dominating in the mobile industry is important, especially if your clients are dealing with international customers. That being said, designing for a mobile device could be a potential addition to your next client’s marketing package. Thank you for the advice.

    0
  34. 1684

    Aren’t half of the categories you mentioned just really glorified instances of RSS readers? Twitter feeds like CNN’s, Desktop Applications like the NYTimes Air app, mobile apps, piping your RSS into Facebook, Myspace, ect.

    Why should companies spend money developing applications for all these platforms when the RSS feed is widely available for anyone to consume? Is it because the average user of Facebook, Twitter, ect. don’t read or don’t know how to access RSS feeds?

    0
  35. 1735

    This is one of those articles that is a real pain in the arse. There is SO MUCH good info in it, it hangs around as an open tab on my browser for days and I keep coming back to it, which shoots my work for the day out the window.

    0
  36. 1786

    Barbara Bracquiné

    May 29, 2009 1:50 am

    This is a great article. Website owners often forget that it’s indeed about exposure to the content and not the website. A very usefull list with ‘old’ and new ways to promote your content and even drive sales.

    0
  37. 1837

    z4q7Gr comment1 ,

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  38. 1888

    I can relate to what Paul says about quality content over quality production. When we started From the Couch we literally used a cellphone camera to create our online shows and the response was always positive. In fact people used to love the fact that we kept the production so raw and just focused on content.

    0
  39. 1939

    Use Caps Characters In Front Of Every Word.

    0
  40. 1990

    That’s a very strong useful entries that I am waiting from smashingmagazine. I missed 6 in total of 10. Thank the author for this great post.

    0
  41. 2041

    keep up the good work !
    I will comeback soon to read more articles

    thanx and regards
    Tarun

    0
  42. 2092

    nice blog keep up the good work I will comeback soon to read more articles thank you
    Pramod

    0
  43. 2143

    Thanks for providing a good information.

    0
  44. 2194

    In regards to #6- we highly recommend APIs. They will help websites and social media feel cooler and more engaging than ever. Check it out.
    http://www.springbox.com/insight/post/Flash-APIs-Open-Sesame.aspx

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  45. 2245

    I should say this is great piece of work. I will use it in my website.

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  46. 2296

    Sandie Kingsley

    May 19, 2011 1:46 am

    Hi there this is kinda of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be enormously appreciated!

    0
  47. 2347

    Toronto IT Service

    January 2, 2014 8:06 am

    These designs are Pretty well . I like your blog. Totally interesting also extraordinary blog beautiful pictures . Thanks for sharing with all of us.

    0

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