By Tony Allen,
Here’s the second instalment in our series of interviews with successful bloggers!
Dave has run PaulWellerNews.com for ten years. With in excess of 96,000 email subscribers, 20,000 Twitter followers, 23,000 Instagram followers and 77,000 likes on its Facebook page, Paul Weller News is the biggest fan-run media outlet dedicated to the Modfather. The website carries the latest news stories, interviews and gig reviews, while the social media streams allow fans to share setlists, photos and information quickly when Weller is on tour. A few years ago Dave transferred the site from Blogspot to WordPress, and he told UEA Blog Society all about how he has grown Paul Weller News into the indispensable tool it is for fans.
Describe your website in a few sentences.
The best unofficial source for news about UK music legend, Paul Weller. We strive to bring you the most reliable and up to date content all in one place, enhanced by contributions from fellow fans. We cover all aspects of Paul’s career: The Jam, The Style Council and solo.
Can you give us a brief personal background and talk about how you became interested in Paul Weller, plus your other hobbies and interests?
I grew up in the suburbs of central Virginia, USA. When I was 16 years old I saw The Style Council’s live concert (Home and Abroad) on MTV. I was a strict Hip Hop kid, but I began expanding my tastes to some Jazzy Soul. It was perfect timing for me as TSC fit right alongside Sade, Everything But The Girl, Swing Out Sister, as well as some ‘80s US R&B acts.
As far as other hobbies, I’m a pretty avid record digger and also run another blog/website that deals a little in the promotion of new artists and chronicles some of the records I find in the field.
Did you have any experience of doing things online before starting Paul Weller News?
Not really. Mostly just participating in newsgroups and forums talking shop about Weller and sharing bootlegs with other fans around the world.
When, where and why did you start Paul Weller News?
The idea was actually not mine. It was another fella who is a musician. He started it in 2007 and had it for a few months and I noticed he was missing some things and not updating it, due to his music career taking off. I offered to help out and after another couple of months he said, hey you’re doing a great job here, and just turned it over to me. I’ve also got a great friend in Italy called Flavio, aka Cpt. Stax [who is well known in Weller circles for his Mixcloud shows full of curios, rarities and related music, a must for any diehard fan], who helps out a bit and posts stuff that I may miss on the European front.
Has the site led to any interesting opportunities for you?
Mostly it’s been just the joy of interacting with so many fans around the world. For so long before the days of the internet, and coming from a place where it seemed like I was the only Weller fan around, it was so difficult to get any information about Paul. So, I know what it’s like to be isolated from news about your musical hero.
I suppose with such a big following I could monetise it with advertising, but that’s not what it’s about for me. Plus, Paul’s wife Hannah reached out to me via Twitter and said what a great job I do and Paul sent me some signed art work that said, “Good Job, Mate!” That’s enough for me.
Weller himself is a fan of Dave’s work
Were you surprised with the rapid success Paul Weller News gained after you started it?
Well, the original idea was just to have a central spot that our little circle of 30-40 friends could go to and see the news that was missed by the official site. Not so much missed, but the official site is there to promote Paul Weller’s products. What’s different about a fan site, is that we expand beyond that. We focus on news articles, interviews, videos, photos, set lists, trivia, etc. We just cast a wider net. And because I’m such a big fan, I’ve got a specific insight into what I know is important, no matter how big or small it may seem.
What would be your dream post?
I suppose an exclusive interview with Paul. I had one set up once, but it kinda fell through due to Paul’s scheduling at the time.
What tips or advice would you give to yourself when you first started Paul Weller News?
Perhaps to monetise it. It does cost a few bob for the domain name and, believe it or not, I have to pay WordPress not to display advertising on the site. I raised a bit of cash a couple of years ago selling some shirts. It was fun and a few folks bought one. But, it did not get the response I was hoping for. It covered about half the expense I needed for that year and I sort of got an odd feeling asking folks for money.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a website or blog but doesn’t know where to start?
If you’re doing it like me, for free, you’ll need to find something you’re passionate and knowledgeable about. Most of the blogging sites have very easy to use templates for posting articles and such. I don’t know any html code, or the like, so the ease of use helps quite a bit. Most importantly, just start.
What tips would you give to an established blogger who wants to expand their readership?
It’s tough for me to really know how to answer that. My success is based on 30+ years of getting to know my subject. Not to mention that subject being incredibly iconic and his fans starving for any and all information about him. I think I’m in a unique situation.
You have more than 96,000 email followers. Do you look at statistics dealing with numbers of page views or does this not bother you?
Yeah, I do keep track of all my statistics. Even though I feel I know what keeps folks visiting my site(s), it’s just interesting to see the statistical evidence. Sometimes I’ll post something that I just know people are gonna go mad over and it gets a muted response in terms of visits, views, likes, etc. It’s fun to ask myself, “was I wrong about that?” “Did I post it at a certain time of day where the traffic may not have been peaking?” Those things do matter. If the object of your blog/site is to sell something, you’ll most certainly need to take these things into account. Eyes on your message is the key. It’s not super important in my case. But, I do like to know that people are seeing and interacting with the content I post. If nothing else, to know they find my efforts worthy.
Weller has a considerable fanbase
A couple of years ago you transferred the site from Blogspot to WordPress. Why did you do this?
Nothing more than I got bored with the Blogspot interface. It became too easy to post stuff. I wanted to learn some new skills and a new place just to keep things interesting on my end.
How does using social media help make Paul Weller News a success?
It’s all part of it. The Paul Weller News Community is what I like to call it. There are some people on Facebook that are not on Twitter. Some are on Instagram that don’t frequent Facebook or Twitter. It’s just a way to connect with the most news hungry fans wherever they may be.
Obviously, Paul’s solo career has spanned the internet age, from the early Paul Weller message boards, through the bootleg websites to the current Facebook groups and discussions on Twitter. Do you think the internet will go one step further and help secure Weller’s legacy after he stops making records?
Probably. It’s really the music that matters, though. That huge catalogue of work to discover with such varied styles and of supreme quality. As long as people are able to get that in their ears, and the internet does make that easier, his legacy will continue on from generation to generation.
Weller and his band’s legacy could be helped by the internet, says Dave
Dave gives some great advice, that you should blog on your passions, and that to become successful your best route is to try and find a niche that no-one else is covering in the same way. We love how Dave was happy starting small and grew his site despite his having little previous experience writing online.
Next in the series will be our interview with Abbey from East Anglia who combined studying for her Masters at Oxford with launching a successful blog.
Featured image submitted, all Paul Weller photos by Tony.