Mr. Tree…  Thank you for talking the time to answer a few questions.  Im excited to see if I will be able to remove a few layers of bark and reveal the man behind the tree…

DC: So, this is what we know.  You allegedly live in Hawaii. By day, you hold a “regular” job in publishing, and at night you slip on your blogging cape and publish articles on printing and publishing at Dead Tree Edition.  What else can you tell us about WHO you are…

Mr. T: I’m an environmentalist who buys a lot of paper, which isnt as strange as it sounds. Most paper buyers I know are far more concerned and knowledgeable about environmental issues than the average person. I’m no Web genius. When I started blogging less than two years ago, I didn’t know my RSS from a hole in the ground, rarely read blogs myself, and was just beginning to hear about search-engine optimization.

My answer for where I live is usually “in a parallel universe”. The Hawaii thing is a misunderstanding. After I had been in New York City for a few days, I meant to greet someone by saying, How are you?” but it came out in New Yorkese: “How-ah-yuh?” Someone thought I said “Hawaii” and assumed that was my home state. It even ended up in my LinkedIn profile.

DC: Where did the name Dead Tree Edition come from?

Mr. T: In publishing, the dead tree edition is the version that’s printed on paper – such as a magazine or newspaper. It’s often a term of derision used by people who work on Web sites and other digital media – what I refer to as “dead dinosaur editions” because of their heavy reliance on petroleum-based energy and petrochemicals.

DC: What is the “Black Liquor” controversy? And if people aren’t paying attention to it, why should they?

Mr. T: In short, a government program that was supposed to subsidize environmentally friendly fuels instead shelled out more than $8 billion to U.S. pulp and paper companies to make virgin rather than recycled pulp (as I’ve documented in Black Liquor Scorecard: 21 Companies Earned $6.5 Billion in 2009). Then Congress, which failed to close the loophole, added insult to injury by creating more than $23 billion in bogus savings, which it immediately spent, by making black liquor ineligible for another biofuel program. (See ObamaCare’s Black Liquor Tab: $23.6 Billion.) Last month, the IRS released a logic-defying  “Son of Black Liquor” ruling (See Pulp Manufacturers Scratching Their Heads Over Son of Black Liquor Ruling.) that might send millions more to pulp manufacturers for doing what they would have done anyway. If nothing else, you should care if you are a U.S. taxpayer because this will all cost about $100 for every man, woman, and child in the country. I’ve also been concerned that public anger about these boondoggles would create a backlash not only against paper companies but also against major buyers of paper, such as magazine publishers. Another reason I’ve dedicated a lot of time to this subject is that the mainstream media (for which I work, by the way) has generally lost interest in or mis-reported on black liquor since the controversy first arose in the spring of 2009.

DC: You actually do original reporting and break news on your site that national media outlets and other well know printing blogs pick up… Now that I am picturing you as Sherlock Holmes, do you smoke a pipe?

Mr. T: At times there are people who question what I’ve been smoking. I can assure you that anything I put into my pipe is sustainably grown, organic, carbon neutral, and chlorine and cruelty free.

DC: USPS – Friend or Foe?

Mr. T: Most of what’s wrong with the Postal Service is the fault of Congress. Congress has been bleeding billions of dollars annually from the supposedly independent and self-sustaining Postal Service in the form of overpayments for retiree health benefits and pensions. It also blocks reasonable efforts to close obsolete post offices and to streamline the organization.

That being said, as a “print guy” in the magazine industry, the Postal Service often seems like the main foe. Through mismanagement and bad cost accounting, it has made the Periodicals class look like a big money loser that should get huge rate increases. Perhaps postal executives are bluffing and just making publishers the focus of a “Washington Monument strategy” (as I explained recently in Do Postal Execs Want To Lose Money on Periodicals? Tough Question #4 For USPS). But they are still making publishing companies even more nervous about their reliance on the Postal Service, which is causing all of the publishing industry’s product-development resources to go to non-postal products — such as Web sites, apps, and printed publications that can be distributed solely through newsstands and alternative-delivery vendors.

DC: How do you use Social Media to promote your blog?

Mr. T: By far, the social medium I’ve used most successfully is — are you ready? — e-mail. Yeah, I know, I’m supposed to blather on about how I’ve mastered some cutting-edge Web 4.0 social-media sites that you’ve never heard of to bring in thousands of new readers. But the fact is that the vast majority of Dead Tree Edition’s traffic comes via referrals — from trade publications, postal-news Web sites, other bloggers, or even an occasional mainstream-media citation. And the main way I “pitch” my articles to those media has been via emails to individual writers and editors. Posting articles to LinkedIn groups has been somewhat successful; it doesn’t bring a flood of traffic, but the people it does attract tend to be highly engaged and likely to become repeat readers. (I believe you discovered Dead Tree Edition through LinkedIn, didn’t you?) I’ve dabbled with other social media, but they (including the massively over-hyped Twitter) have yielded almost nothing.

DC: If I wasnt using Social Media to promote my business or my blog, how would you convince me I should?

Mr. T: There seem to be a million social-media consultants out there, and their solution to everything is — guess what? — social media — which just goes to show you that if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So I would try to persuade bloggers to focus on who their target readers are and then on how to get the attention of that target audience. A tool that’s right for one blogger might not work for another.

DC: Lastly, with one of your articles from 2009 reaching 23,837 page views, what advice would you give to all the bloggers out there who are just starting out?

Mr. T: I have several pieces of advice:

  • If you meet one of those people who write about how easy it is to make big money with blogs, lock him (they’re always men) in a room without an Internet connection and make him listen repeatedly to the complete works of Yoko Ono. Blogs are a good way to promote yourself, your company, or your ideas — but not to make money.
  • Put aside all the breathless articles about social media and SEO and focus instead on creating content that people will want. I’ve seen folks who put lots of effort into promoting their blog posts but not so much effort into actually creating those blog posts. Getting people to your site does no good if they don’t like what they see when they get there.
  • Try to give your target audience something they can’t get anywhere else. I never write about something that’s been covered by other Web sites my audience reads unless I can provide unique information or insights.
  • Question all of the so-called rules of blogging. I commented to a writer for a mainstream media outlet about how successful his blog was. “I’m not a blogger,” he replied. “What do you mean?” I asked, thinking to myself, “This guy has page views to die for.” “I do original reporting and analysis,” he said. He was right that many bloggers just comment on, aggregate, or rehash the work of others, but he was wrong to think that blogging can be only that.
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