Skip Google: 5 Easy Blog Research Tactics for Uncovering Original Stories
Many bloggers want a shortcut to finishing their next article.
When they want a story, they turn to Google.
When they want a statistic, they turn to Google.
And if they’re feeling particularly adventurous, perhaps they turn to Bing.
The problem is: the result of all this googling is an endless rehashing of the same stories and stats across the web — as if the world had a shortage of interesting things to talk about.
Fortunately, another blogger’s laziness is your opportunity to be interesting.
Here are 5 simple tactics for finding more creative and unusual stories for your next article:
1. Ask around your network
I frequently tap my personal network to uncover industry-specific stories, quotes, and statistics.
When I used to blog for an Austin real estate company, I regularly contacted a handful of my homeowner friends for quotes about living in certain parts of town. A simple text or email to my friends often resulted in original quotes that enriched my articles with fresh perspectives.
Recently I struggled to find original stories for a lighthearted article about IT. It finally dawned on me to text my first roommate, Matt, who is an IT Systems Analyst in Florida.
He quickly sent me hilarious stories about hackers, disgruntled former employees, and other IT mishaps. The article was suddenly packed with fun stories and practically wrote itself.
2. Turn to social media
One step outside your personal network is your social media network: friends, colleagues, followers, and that stranger you bumped into at a conference in Tulsa.
The point is: every follower and online connection is an opportunity for new stories.
If you’re looking for someone to offer a new perspective on a topic, just ask.
Write a simple post on social media. You can ask a specific question and await responses in the comments or request people to reach out to you for a proper interview.
You can also turn to specific groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. Just find a topical group and ask if anyone is available to give comments for an upcoming article.
Be sure to give details about who you’re looking for, what you need from them (an interview? A short quote?), and — most importantly — always include a deadline.
3. Use free journalist tools
Journalists have many tools at their disposal. Some of these are also available to bloggers for — yes, you’re reading this right — free.
One of my favorites is ResponseSource. The main benefit of using this tool is its reach. With ResponseSource, you’re sending an open query to a large network of prospective interviewees. You never know who will answer your query with stories, stats, and opportunities to interview.
While most source tools like HARO require you to have a certain readership size, ResponseSource lets you connect with sources even if you only write for a small blog.
4. Email complete strangers
The internet has made the world much smaller.
Now you can easily contact people who, fifteen years ago, were completely unreachable without the right network or luck.
Want to pop a quick question to a top exec at your favorite company? Find their email address for free using tools like Hunter.io.
Obviously be polite, cordial, and let them know that you’d like to use their answer in your article. Remember: they’re doing you a favor if they choose to respond. Be respectful — they don’t owe you a response.
5. Use print instead of digital
Next time you think about typing “Google” into your search bar, look at your bookshelf instead. Most traditionally published books are packed with remarkable stories and ideas that never make it to the web.
Ryan Holiday famously uses notecards to keep track of interesting stories and quotes while he reads.
When I find an interesting quote in a book, I type it into my phone notes along with the book title, author name, and page number.
Relying on books can also help you apply genre agnosticism to your research. You can use history metaphors to convey marketing principles, for example.
Do you subscribe to print magazines or newspapers? These can also be incredible sources for compelling stories. Plus, sometimes they contain the same stories or facts as new books you haven’t read.
Writing for magazines is a popular way to market a new book. It’s common for authors to publish a chapter from their upcoming book in a newspaper, like David Quammen did through The New York Times before the release of The Tangled Tree.
Jarod Diamond, likewise, wrote an article for National Geographic Magazine to promote the release of his book Upheaval.
Both articles contained facts, snippets, or stories from the upcoming books — making it easy to grab new stories even before most readers have a chance to get their hands on the book.
Uncovering lesser-known stories and data can add unique character to your next article.
With the simplicity of turning to Google, many blogs contain the same overused, copy-pasted stories and quotes. It’s intellectual incest, all over the place.
With a little additional effort, you can give the world new ideas, stories, and quotes to ponder.
Plus, the originality of your articles will be a much-needed breath of fresh air against the repetitive backdrop of our current content marketing status quo.