Confessions of a Former Blogger
It was 4:45 A.M. on Friday, September 21, 2012, when I realized I was under attack by malicious insurgent hackers. What other explanation was there? Until that moment, my upstart blog was drawing an average of 50 views per day (which is being generous). But on this particular morning, just five hours after posting a new profile about Kind Campaign founder Lauren Parsekian, I had already cleared 1,000 views. WTF!?!
I went to my morning yoga class, but found it difficult to focus, beset with images of that cyber-criminal who was dispassionately crippling my WordPress site from a coffee house halfway around the world. By 8:00 A.M., when I returned to my desk, Google Analytics was reporting well over 3,000 page views.
I emailed Lauren, who was based in Malibu, CA, to let her know what was happening and to see if she had any idea why her profile was receiving so much traffic. As concern mixed with excitement, I considered other possibilities, like the fact that Lauren is drop dead gorgeous. After all, it is well documented that attractive people draw more clicks. But 3,000? Before breakfast? Not in a million years, could I have guessed the real reason this was happening. And when I read Lauren’s email response a few minutes later, my jaw dropped:
My fiancé is an actor. His name is Aaron Paul. He is on Breaking Bad, and he really loved the article and he tweeted it early this morning. His twitter name is @aaronpaul_8
In that moment, I realized three things: 1) A single outlying data point will destroy one’s ability to read a Google Analytics graph, 2) I needed to do a better job researching my profile subjects, and 3) My blog, which was based around interviews that I did with “change-makers” was quickly becoming more than I had ever imagined.
Fast forward to July 2014. The blog was cranking out weekly interviews and I was quickly approaching #100. I had been privileged to feature some of the most inspiring individuals I could imagine. Folks like 16-year-old Zach Bonner, whose homeless advocacy inspired a major motion picture; to Augie Nieto, whose success in business was eclipsed by his heroism in facing ALS. There was Ethan Zohn, the 2001 winner of Survivor:Africa, who survived Hodgkin’s lymphoma (twice) and launched an organization to promote HIV education; and Maggie Doyne, the young American who opened an orphanage in Nepal at age 19.
With interview #100 in my sights, I wanted to make sure to feature someone that would blow my readership away. Someone befitting of the ideals we espoused. One of the questions I always asked people was “Who is your personal hero and why?” For the heck of it, I went back to see how everyone had answered that question and the person who had been named more times than anyone else was one Ms. Malala Yousafzai. I knew that reaching Malala was a long shot of long shots, but I decided, “what do I have to lose?”
On August 1, I sent an email to the Director of Operations and Communications at the Malala Fund. I delivered the pitch of all pitches. I was humble but also direct: “I would like to feature Malala as Talking GOOD’s surprise 100th profile.” Two days later, I was shocked to receive the following response:
Thanks so much for your kind message. While I can’t make any promises just yet, please let us know what you’d need from Malala to make this happen.
The next month was a roller coaster ride of email exchanges, phone calls, me getting my hopes up, and then having them dashed. While my contact at the Malala Fund was championing my cause, the timing was all wrong. Malala was dealing with academic deadlines in England and was preparing to release a new book. Then, one day in early October, I saw this headline in the New York Times: “Two Champions of Children Are Given Nobel Peace Prize.”
I think the words that came out of my mouth were something like: “Shit … Malala just won the Nobel Prize.” Of course I was thrilled for her to receive the recognition. No one could be more deserving in my opinion. But I knew that she was going to be dealing with interview requests from every major news organization around the planet. My tiny blog wasn’t going to be on her radar. Frankly, it’s amazing that I got as far as I did with Malala’s team, and I was grateful.
I ended up running an interview with 34-year-old Marine Corps veteran Tina Thomas, a single mom and formerly homeless woman who was pulling herself up by the bootstraps and turning her life around one day at a time. My interview was read by a producer of the Meredith Vieira Show, and just one week later, Tina was featured on national TV, where she received a check for $10,000. I guess things work out for a reason.