Making the site: Part 1: The launch

This will be the first post in a series chronicling the building of TV for Tots. I already discussed the motivation for the site, and this post will detail the first week including research, blog creation, design, and initial content.

The idea for TV for Tots was born on October 11th. I took a look around the internet for a site doing something similar. While there were other sites like TV Squad that were blogging TV in general, I didn’t see anything dedicated to the preschool-set. This has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s great to be first into a niche, but at the same time it is tougher to find link partners. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem for TV for Tots because my target audience is parents (of which there are many blogs) with an entertainment topic (and there are plenty of those sites as well).

I looked for a couple of domain names at Go Daddy, and decided I liked the ring and conciseness of TV for Tots. At the same time I registered TV4Tots.com just as a preventive measure. As for hosting the blog, I already have an account with Cornerhost with extra space and bandwidth. I then set up a new blog with blogger, and the blog was born.

I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on site design, so I started with one of the default templates from Blogger. I chose “Minima” because it was so simple and clean, and it seemed easier to add to a simple template than subtract from a more involved one. I switched it from a two column design to a 3 column desgin. I wanted my left sidebar to be for navigation and links, and I created a right sidebar for the express purpose of displaying skyscraper ads. I must say it’s much easier to incorporate ad space into your design when you start out, than trying to cram it into a design later on. My Tiger blog was set-up without any consideration of ad space and I continually struggle with ad space and placement in that design. In fact, I recently had to do quite a bit of tweaking to make room for Chitika ads, Adsense ads, and sponsored links.

Another design element I’d like to work on is to create a banner. The plain text is clean, but it is also very standard. Unfortunately image manipulation isn’t my strong suit, and I didn’t want to invest the time in that. I figured it would be more valuable to start creating content.

On October 12th I made my first posts to the blog. I created the very important “About” page, and then a post about Dora the explorer costumes. That was simple enough, but where was I going to get the rest of my content? I set-up several news alerts with Google News. I also became familiar with the press areas of the various channels and producers, as well as including links in the sidebar. For a number of them, I sent emails introducing myself and the site and asked to be included on any future press release distributions.

For the remainder of the week I created 3 more posts. Two of which linked to several parent blogs commenting shows and stations. Hopefully I’d show up in their referrer logs and gain a look – not to mention it was relevant. I also created my first Show Profile. It’s something I’ll be doing for a number of the shows, and is in-depth original content – which is what ultimately will create readerhship.

With 7 pages of content I decided to submit my site to search engines at the end of the week. Seven pages may not be a lot, but I didn’t want to wait either. I submitted to Google, MSN, and Yahoo to start.

One week was in the books and I was the only one seeing my content. But that’s okay, I wanted to have a few posts before came to the site for the first time.

The Part 2 will cover some other things I did to drive traffic to the site, and I’ll let you know how it went with the search engines as well.

Emasculation through music

Men in the audience, I pose a question. are there any songs that you would love to sing, but you’re held back because it is a song performed by a female artist – about another guy?

For example, driving to work this morning “Son of a preacher man” came on and I would have been perfectly inclined to sing along -but – with lyrics like
“The only boy who could ever reach me was the sweet talking son of a preacher man”

Does this happen to anybody else? Would you admit it? Am I the only one to sing along with the radio?

The birth of a blog…or how I sold out

I held out for a long time. On my blogs I resisted putting advertisments on my sites for several years. The grass roots, non-professional aspect of blogging is part of what appealed to me. I didn’t want to suly my sites with advertisements. However, after seeing most of my baseball blogging brethern displaying numerous links to various ticket brokers I finally caved this year.

Early in the season I carved out some space on my sidebar dedicated to Sponsors. The next day I had my first offer from a ticket broker. The transaction went very smoothly and I had a nice chunk of change in my pocket. I eventually sold another ad and now that I’ve done it a couple times all qualms I had about selling out have vanished. Now I needed another revenue stream, and in searching I somehow came across Problogger.net.

At Problogger Darren Rowse talks about the thousands upon thousands of dollars that he makes blogging. For him it went beyond being a hobby to becoming a very lucrative profession, and he did it largely through Google Adsense. Problogger is a way for him to help others follow in his footsteps. I got pretty charged up after reading some of this and decided to try Adsense on the Tiger site. After reading more I realized that the Tiger blog offered a couple elements for successful adsense, I had decent readership on a focused topic. But an important third element was missing – that targeted niche didn’t necessarily relate to many products that people want to buy (and thus sellers didn’t want to advertise).

So I needed a plan for another site. I wasn’t going to abandon the Tiger site by any means, but I needed to write about something that I had knowledge about, and that might spawn some advertising revenue. As I was watching the new series Little Einsteins with my kids I realized something. I know about preschool television. I know there are a ton of channels, with a ton of shows. New shows are debuting, old shows disappear, there are scheduling changes and special programming blocks. As a parent I know that I’ve looked for information about the various shows online, and my results were mixed. Also as a parent, I know that my kids dig toys related to there favorite television characters. After a trip to GoDaddy.com, a default template from blogger, and a couple nights of work TV for Tots was born.

Now don’t get me wrong, TV for Tots isn’t some spam site. The content is real, and I want to put relevant information out there. But where the Tiger site is purely a labor of love, I view TV for Tots as a business opportunity. My goal for the site is to become the resource for parents when it comes to preschool television. This is probably enough information for tonight, but over the next couple weeks I’ll be detailing about launching the site, developing content, getting visitors, and ultimately getting revenue.

My My My My My Boogie Shoes

I really like TV, like a lot. One of my favorite shows of all time was Sports Night. I have the DVD of the short lived show, and I’ve watched it like a whole bunch. So I was sure to notice the song that Felicity Huffman was dancing on the bar to in last weeks Desperate Housewives. Boogie Shoes. Now in an episode of Sports Night Dana Gordon (played by Felicity Huffman) was kicked out of a bar for dancing on the tables to…Boogie Shoes. This couldn’t possibly be a coincidence could it? If I had the opportunity to ask Mrs William H Macy just one question, it would be about the recurrence of Boogie Shoes.

Is it wrong that I noticed the songs in both episodes? Is it wrong that I’ve got a question picked out to ask Dana/Lynette/Felicity? Is it wrong that the question I’d ask would be about Boogie Shoes? I really miss Sports Night.

I love curling

One of the benefits of growing up near Canada is having access to CBC. One of the benefits of CBC is curling coverage. I can’t tell you how many times I watched my curling heroes on TV thinking “One day that will be me.” Okay, I never thought that, but I did watch curling and was intrigued. That’s why when I had a chance to go curling a few years ago, I was very excited, and instantly hooked.

And then this story comes out…A naked curling calendar. The calendar was made to raise money and awareness (among otheer things). It has definitely raised awareness, as for the first time ever I heard talk of curling on sports-talk radio.

Happy Halloween

Snoopy

Just sharing some pumpkin-y holiday spirit with everyone (and showing off at the same time). Snoopy was this year’s model, while Mickey was the 2004 edition of Halloween at Billfer’s. All the magic was made possible by the awesome patterns available at Carving Pumpkins. On a related note, given all the preschool TV characters out there nowadays, how cool is it that my son wanted Snoopy?

Mickey

UM-Northwestern Thoughts

It was nice to see a game not come down to the last play. As exciting as the last five weeks have been for Michigan fans, it was nice to enjoy a game sans drama. Was it a dominating performance? Not particularly. Was there a lot to like about the game? Definitely.

The biggest story is probably how the Michigan defense shutout the Wildcats in the 2nd half. The defensive line played very inspired football. Pierre Woods has seemed to build on the Michigan State game each week and he turned in yet another strong performance. Gabe Watson was a force, as were Branch and Biggs. The linebacking crew, headed by Prescott Burgess and Shawn Crable destroyed the screen pass time and again. But, as good as the defense was, Northwestern did just as much damage to their offense. The Wildcats dropped numerous passes, many of which would have resulted in first downs, or at least favorable down and distance situations. The defense was quite good, but Northwestern probably should have scored at some point in the second half.

Offensively Chad Henne was frustrating – particularly in the second half. While I know Lloyd Carr wanted to control the clock and keep the Northwestern offense off the field, he probably would have thrown a little more if Henne would have allowed it. The only pass he could complete consistently was the bubble screen.

Oh yeah, and Garret Rivas was money. Which was particularly important given the inability of the offense to punch it in.

Considering the offense and defense were without their respective top contributors (Hart & Woodley), I won’t complain about a win on the road.

UM takes on the bye this week, and actually as a fan it will be nice to get something done around the house this Saturday.

The World is Coming

The World is Coming to Detroit for Super Bowl XL, and when they do they’ll meet me. You see, I signed up to be a SBXL volunteer. Now I don’t get to be at the game, and I may not even be near Ford Field. However, I wanted to participate in this event somehow, and this was probably my best option. Believe it or not, Detroit has a lot to offer. While I’m continually frustrated by many elements of the city, I still take pride and want people to have as favorable impression as possible.

I don’t know my assignment yet, and I won’t find out until the end of November – provided I pass the FBI background check. However, I will probably be involved somehow with the shuttle system – most likely riding on the buses with the media. I also found out that in January I’ll be receiving a pretty slick looking SBXL coat as my uniform. This is free to me provided that I actually attend my shifts – otherwise my credit card will be billed $100.

I learned of the uniform and many other facts at a training session that I attended a couple weeks ago. All volunteers are required to attend the 2.5 hour training session and a pep rally on January 14th. I have to say I was quite impressed with the level of preparation at the training session – especially considering the size of the host committee staff. A dozen or so people are overseeing thousands of volunteers. We were provided with a brief training manual and customer service training. To give you an idea of the level of detail that is being provided there was a full page to help explain a Michigan Left.

If the volunteer preparation is at all indicative of the preparation in general, I think that Detroit should come off just fine.

The return of Nutty

We have several bird feeders set up outside our doorwall. Unfortunately, we hadn’t seen many of our best friends lately. While we have about a half dozen goldfinches who frequent our thistle and drying black-eyed susans, the remainder of our ornithological population has been sparrows. We had a downy woodpecker for awhile, but we haven’t seen him for months. Even cardinals have been a rare sighting lately.

And then today we welcomed back an old friend, a red breasted nuthatch. “Nutty” as the boy named him was a frequent visitor last fall, and the early part of the winter. Unfortunately, he disappeared. I had chalked it up to the winter, or a red tail hawk which had been patrolling our yard. Now I don’t know if it was Nutty or not, but we had a red-breasted nuthatch today. When I saw him, I went out to put some more food in the feeder. While I was holding on to the feeder, the little guy actually landed on it, and he seemed ready to perch on my shoulder. I know I’m kind of lame, but it was actually quite thrilling

We also saw house finches and blue jays today who had been MIA for awhile. Now if only our downy will comeback, along with the junco’s we’ll be all set.

What is this place?

Welcome to the Billfer Blog. This is the personal blog of Bill Ferris. I’ve been blogging since 2001 when I started the now defunct Zesty. For the last several years I’ve focused my blogging efforts on the Detroit Tigers Weblog. Recently though, I’ve found myself wanting to write on a broader variety of subjects. I thought about just starting to post to Zesty again, but I felt that I wanted to start from scratch and this is the result.

The category list is a brief sampling of some of the topics I plan to hit on a regular basis, and coincidentally are some of my areas of interest. As you can see the categories are wide ranging, which is I wanted a blogging system that offered categories. This is my first foray into a platform other than Blogger. I went with WordPress, and I couldn’t be happier with the ease of install and the options available to me. However, if you see some glitches be patient as I figure them out.

This will also serve as blog about a blog. I recently launced a new project – TV for Tots. I’ll be writing about the steps I took in creating the blog, building traffic, and hopefully making money.

As for more information about me, I won’t cover that right now. Chances are if you’re reading this you are friend/family or a reader of one of my other sites. In any case you probably know me pretty well already. If we haven’t met, you’ll find out more as you read the blog.
So welcome – or if you have read zesty in the past welcome back.

Putting the SFW in NSFW