How I make each week’s Recommended Reading post

I read a lot of blogs. As of today, I have 221 blogs in my feed reader.

Which means, of course, that I don’t actually read every post from every blog. There just isn’t enough time. I read them like I used to read the morning paper.

Sunday morning newspaper. I was 22.

Remember the morning paper? I stopped taking it when my first marriage ended because I was that broke. I missed it, though. It had been my ritual my entire adult life to scan and skim the newspaper while I ate my breakfast and sipped my coffee. I would leaf through the whole paper, except for the Sports section because I don’t care about sports. On each page I’d scan the headlines for stories that interested me, and then skim those stories’ opening paragraphs to decide whether they held my interest enough to read them through. I’d guess that I fully read no more than one in ten stories. But I had at least a thin understanding of all of the day’s news.

Blogs have replaced the newspaper in my morning ritual. Thanks to my phone, I also read blogs anytime I have unproductive downtime, such as sitting in a waiting room. I also occasionally find good blog posts through shares on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and via Hacker News.

Just like I did with the morning paper, I scan and skim, fully reading about one in ten posts. Of those, occasionally one will be especially interesting.

There are three criteria for a post being included in Recommended Reading: it must have been posted since the last Recommended Reading post went live, it must especially interest me, and I must think it likely to interest you. I also work to find at least three, but no more than seven, posts to share each week.

When I find an interesting post while I’m sitting at my computer, I add it to that week’s Recommended Reading post immediately. When I find an interesting post while I’m on my phone, I email it to myself and add it later.

Somewhere along the way I write the introductory paragraph. Or I don’t — after a few years of doing this, I’ve said all the introductory things any man can say. More and more now I skip it and just go straight to the posts.


6 responses to “How I make each week’s Recommended Reading post”

  1. tbm3fan Avatar

    I guess that before you got serious to scan the headlines you first scanned the comics judging by the picture. Did you start with Doonesbury…:)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I love comics. But I never really took to Doonesbury. I follow a bunch of the old newspaper strips online now, plus a few Web-only comics.

  2. Dan James Avatar

    Very interesting to read how your digest blogs Jim, and especially how it evolved from newspaper reading.

    My approach is a bit different.

    As a reader, I only really follow blogs where I read virtually every post (I’d say 90%). I just don’t want to be skimming through loads of posts looking for a great one amongst the mediocre, in the way you do.

    (This probably evolved from how I use to read magazines too. When I subscribed to NME or Q or a Mountain Biking mag, I only ever had one or two at a time, but read them virtually cover to cover, getting my money’s worth!)

    This obviously greatly influences which blogs I follow and don’t. If only one in three or four or less posts I find worth reading or of interest, I generally stop following altogether.

    As a writer, I don’t often follow the criteria you use to skim blog posts as a reader, ie looking for catchy titles and intros to lure you in. I know that some of my most direct titles have gained most views, eg How I Shoot Film Simply Without A Light Meter, but I usually want to try to write something more quirky or witty or intriguing.

    I don’t really like the posts titled “5 Ways To…” then the intro says “In this post I’m going to show you 5 ways to…”. I just want to be more original and not another formulaic blog.

    Though I do see that I am writing as I read blogs, and probably the majority of people take your approach – follow a much greater volume of blogs then skim and pick out posts here and there, so it works for these readers.

    I should probably experiment more with more direct titles!

    Thanks for getting us to think more about this…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’d miss so much good stuff if I did it your way. No judgment implied on your way, but mine works for me.

      As for post titles, I can’t say I’ve entirely given up on clickbaity titles but I have at least for now given up on worrying about SEO. I might get back to it someday but for now I’m writing, and titling, for the audience I have.

      1. Dan James Avatar

        I guess I just don’t really like trawling through a great mass in a blog, in the hope I might find the odd treasure. It’s too much like social media, ha ha!

        That said I do really enjoy your Recommended Reading posts, as you know!

  3. […] fellow blogger and photographer Jim Grey recently wrote about how he reads blogs and compiles posts of interest for his weekly “Recommended Reading” […]

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