Interview with Ben Spark, Blogger at BenSpark.com and IZEA Insider.
Andrew Bennett AKA Ben Spark has been a blogger for over 6 years. He’s also an incredible photographer who has taken over 1500 consecutive photos. He’s an IZEA Insider and has been a speaker at PostieCon as well as at IZEAFest. He is also a champion Diaper Changer and all around SuperDad. He even has a widget so that you can display his daily photo on your own blog. Oh and he is a famous blogger.
Tell me about your company?
My blog is really just my stream of consciousness that is inspired by my daily events. I take a photograph every single day and have done so for four consecutive years. I write whatever I would like, whether it be a review/recap of my favorite TV shows, what I had for a meal, or a contest. My blog is about me and my family and our life in photos. If you want a concise description of BenSpark.com then this is my elevator pitch. I have to constantly update it as I continue to take photos.
“Everyday Photos… Every… Day… BenSpark.com is about my life through photography. Each image is a gateway to a story about my daily life. Occasionally funny, inspiring, interesting or creative BenSpark.com is real life in photos. With over 1500 consecutive days and five different cameras BenSpark.com has documented images from the mundane to the amazing.”
In the interest of full disclosure I would like to point out that I am an IZEA Insider and as such I have very strong ties to the IZEA company. My IZEA Insider Crew is called The “I’m Not A Famous Blogger” Crew.
What was your first blog?
My first blog was called The BenSpark it was an amalgam of my last name and my girlfriend’s (now wife) maiden name. I created it for two reasons. 1.) I was bored at work and found that I had no creative control over anything. So I wanted something where I could express my creativity and still retain my skills with web design. The second reason was to showcase the places I traveled to while working so that friends and family could see where I was and what I was doing. That blog was on BlogSpot Plus. Which I think was prior to Google acquiring Blogger.
What is the biggest tip you would give to a newbie blogger?
My biggest tip for a newbie blogger would be to listen more, say less. Seems kind of a strange thing to say when blogging is a way to express yourself. I guess what I mean is that I’m not going to take a blogger seriously if they have five posts and their latest one tells me that they know the secret to making money online. No, you don’t. Listen and learn, tell me what you think about an article from someone who is truly an expert. Look at bloggers who have done amazing things like Chris Brogan, Ted Murphy and Chris Pirillo. Those guys have something to say and when they do people listen. Go to their blogs, read posts, make intelligent comments and then write about what you learned from these folks. Get some experience and wisdom under your belt before you go trying to sell someone your e-book, or whatever else you are selling.
The other piece of advice would be to blog every day. If you can’t blog every day and you don’t have something burning to tell people each and every day then stop blogging. Because if you are passionate about the things you are saying then you want to tell people every single chance you get. Do it daily.
What do advertisers do that you wish they wouldn’t?
I wish that some advertisers would look at a blog before trying to pitch their product to the blogger. I love working with advertisers on contests and promotions. I do as much as I can to get the word out about every advertiser that works with me. I’m selective and am only going to work with products and services that fit the tone of my blog. I’m sure I could make a bunch of money pitching the whole payday loan racket. Heck back in the day when I was cutting my teeth in the blogging world I probably wrote a post about payday loans. I’ve matured since then and pick good advertisers to work with. Actually they find me and things work out well.
What do bloggers do that you wish they wouldn’t?
I wish that bloggers would find their own voices. I use tweetdeck to follow specific conversations and people on twitter. What I often see is that the top Twit tweets and then suddenly their is a flood of retweets. Sometimes I think Twitter should be named Parrot because of all the people parroting others. If you want to be seen and heard you have to add to the conversation rather than just retweet the sayings of those with way more influence than you. So, if I see a blogger who has real insight to the original tweet then I’ll check that person out. So, bloggers, my advice to you is to have your own voice don’t just echo everyone else.
Where do you see growth in the blogging field?
I see growth in the blogging field for Daddy Bloggers. There has been an explosion of Mommy Bloggers out there. The Mommy Bloggers that I know have had some incredible experiences with sompanies sending them on trips to their headquarters. I see the potential for companies like Sears to have say Sears Dads, bloggers who are hard working dads trying to provide for their family and who see quality in the products from Sears and use those products in their daily lives. I’d love to see Disney Dads. I just came back from a trip to Disney and I can tell you a number of tips and tricks that Dad’s would love to hear. I think that Dads have been relegated to the bumbling buffoon on TV shows and movies that people don’t take Dad seriously anymore. I think that it is time for us competent Dads to take back our place as teacher, advisor and mentor to our kids and our families. We can also share our knowledge with others through our blogs.
What new ideas are advertisers coming up with to take advantage of new trends?
Advertisers have jumped all over Twitter. Seeing Twitter discussed on the Ellen Show and on Oprah opened up Twitter to the masses. Everyone had to get on Twitter and advertisers did as well. How else can I explain the 15 DMs a day that I get from people trying to tell me how to get more followers on Twitter. There is value in the number of followers that people have, if there wasn’t then why bother with all the different ways to attract followers. No, advertisers have certainly taken advantage of Twitter.
Look at the contests that are happening on blogs all over, notice that each one of them has some sort of Twitter aspect to it meant to help increase the number of followers for either the blogger or the advertiser or both.
What do you do to improve the world?
What do I do to improve the world. I try to give back. My family and I were fortunate to participate in an IZEA/Sears event this past Christmas. We were given a $100 gift card to use at Sears however we wanted. We chose to use the money to buy toys for a local Charity called Christmas is for Kids which donates toys to needy families at Christmas time. It is not much and might seem frivolous to some but I believe that kids should get to stay kids as long as they can and to wake up and see that Santa didn’t forget them on Christmas morning is important. Kids grow up too fast these days so I would like to do my part to help preserve childhood. So in an effort to make this a yearly event so that we can teach out daughter about giving I’ve been putting away $10 a month so we can buy $120 worth of toys (from Sears again because their promotion with IZEA inspired us) and give those toys to Christmas is for Kids.
BenSpark Grants a Wish – http://www.benspark.com/benspark-grants-a-wish.html
We are also putting away $120 for Heifer International. We are doing this so that we can stock Eva’s Farm. In an effort to personalize our giving and include our daughter Eva in this we decided that we would give money to Heifer to buy animals for “Eva’s Farm” Eva’s Farm is a fictional farm that so far is stocked with a flock of chickens and a share in a llama. What we will eventually do is set up a board that says Eva’s Farm that has photos of Eva with baby chicks, Llamas and other animals that we donate and the years we made the donations that way she can see what we as a family have done to help make the world better.
What do you do that is green?
We drive energy efficient cars, we recycle and we have a compost pile.
What is one thing about you that not many people know?
They probably don’t know that I was a short order cook way back when. The reason I bring that up is that being a short order cook for an utterly crazy (like a fox, he was frugal to a fault and brilliant) guy was the best job ever. The work was constant and grueling and the boss got mad and threw things but at the end of each day he shook my hand, looked me in the eye and thanked me for coming to work that day. I learned so much from him in that one summer. I’ve never had a boss like him before or since.
What’s your favorite book?
If I just want to veg and enjoy an adventure then there is none better for me than Clive Cussler. If we are talking inspirational books then I’d say Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture was incredible. If I want to pee myself with laughter then I reach for Christopher Moore’s book Lamb. If I want to enjoy the beach and escape then I read Jimmy Buffett’s A Salty Piece of Land.
What is on your iPod?
My iPod has music, a couple of genius playlists for when I’d like to listen to music, Jimmy Buffett, Ellis Paul, Christopher Williams, Antje Duvekot. I have an iPod Touch so I have many podcasts like Missy Ward’s The Spew. I was trying to learn Chinese this year so I have about 15 learn Chinese podcasts, audio books and the like. I can pretty much say Ne-How and that is it. But what I really love to watch on my iPod is video podcasts. I like TikiBar TV, Geekbrief.tv, Best Week Ever, but what I really love is Average Betty. Her cooking show is so funny and so well done, plus Betty herself is so friendly and so awesome, I luv her.
What are your contact details (email, company, blog, facebook, myspace, forums, etc)?
Twitter – http://twitter.com/BenSpark
Vimeo – http://www.vimeo.com/benspark
SocialSpark – http://socialspark.com/bloggers/benspark
Facebook – http://www.benspark.com/facebook
How do you prefer to communicate?
I prefer e-mail. I am not a fan of the phone and like to write more than I like to talk. If I’m on the phone for more than 10 minutes I get a screaming urge to get off. I really can’t stand the phone.
Who would you recommend, and why?
Ted Murphy – He’s transforming the world of blogging every day.
Chris Brogan – He’s always got something interesting to say.
Pete Janelle – One of the co-founders of Dad-Blogs. He had a great idea and ran with it.
Jennifer Leet – She finds the most amazing prizes for awesome contests.
Ashley Edwards – The man behind so much of the organizing of IZEAFest, truly an unsung hero.
Missy Ward – She just rocks, there is so much to say about her but it boils down to the fact that, “She Rocks”.
Darren Rowse – His 31 Days to a Better Blog was an amazing program, things I knew and already did but taking the time to concentrate my efforts once again was very useful. The program is a great one for any new blogger.
Justin Wright – a fun, free spirit, pro blogger who blogs full time for a living. Doing something I’d love to do.
Kevin Dixie – Creator of FuelMyBlog. Kevin has been my friend for years and he has some amazing ideas.
Dina Riccobono – Marketing Manager @ MarketLeverage and Host of MLTV marketleverageTV.com. Dina has been so great to our family. She is also gracious and welcoming in person.
What is one thing people can do for you?
I have a great idea for a contest tie in with regards to IZEAFest this year and I would love people who could get me in contact with advertisers or bloggers willing to sponsor some great prizes. That is kind of a tall order but for the everyday blogger I’d love it if you just left a comment or two on my posts. I love to see what people think of my photos. And of course if a blogger is on SocialSpark they’d really benefit from being a part of my “I’m Not A Famous Blogger” crew.
Thanks to Ben Spark, Blogger at BenSpark.com and IZEA Insider!
See also IZEAFest