The blogosphere has a long history of companies that try to help readers discover interesting content using a variety of technical tricks. Google looks at who links to whom, StumbleUpon displays pages randomly and lets people rank them, and Technorati — well, no one’s sure what they do any more. However, all of these approaches are really just ways to make the discovery of interesting stuff “scale”. And here at FixItYourself.com, we don’t particularly care about scaling, we just want to find the most interesting home improvement stories on the web.
To that end, we have decided to start writing about some of the blogs that we think do an excellent job of covering the home improvement industry. First up is the somewhat abstractly-named Charles & Hudson, which takes its moniker from the cross streets in New York City where founder Timothy Dahl owned his first apartment. I first met Timothy via an email exchange in 2007, and have followed his blog ever since. I was therefore quite pleased when he agreed to answer a short series of questions about his blog and be profiled in the first of our series on the Best Home Improvement Blogs.
FixItYourself: Charles & Hudson has received mentions and kudos from the WashingtonPost.com, RealSimple.com, ThisOldHouse.com, BobVila.com and many others. But, for people that have never heard of you, how would you describe Charles & Hudson?
Timothy Dahl: Charles & Hudson is an online destination for DIY enthusiasts. We’re singularly obsessed with home building, home improvement and everything related to these pursuits. If you’ve got those same inklings then I’m sure you’ll find something you like.
FixItYourself: You got your start in the home improvement space while working at This Old House Online (TOH) from 2002 to 2007. TOH has spawned a long list of home improvement pros, including Bob Vila, Steve Thomas, and Norm Abrams. How did you end up at TOH, and how did your experience there affect Charles & Hudson?
Timothy Dahl: My wife and I moved to NYC to live the dream. We’re both desert rats (Las Vegas and Tucson) but wanted to experience living in New York. Laura pursued a career in fashion and eventually launched her own line, Laura Dahl/Wifebeader and I wanted to work in new media and being the web producer of the most venerable home improvement brand in the world was a dream job.
The show talent is legit. They really know their stuff inside and out and the hosts have done a great job working with them to express their knowledge from a layman’s point of view. During my tenure at This Old House, parent company Time Inc. was struggling with how to effectively communicate with their online audiences. Social media was at its early stages but we constantly received emails from readers who wanted to share their house blogs or new products that they felt the DIY community would enjoy.
Communication is a one-way street at most media behemoths and Time Inc. was no exception. Charles & Hudson was born from my motivation to interact with this community and I wanted to provide a larger platform for these folks to share their stories.
FixItYourself: My personal favorite Charles & Hudson posts are those where you cover cool new tools. The first time I ever heard of the self-cleaning, hose-mounted paintbrush was on C & H. How do you find cool tools (and other stories) to introduce to your readers?
Timothy Dahl: I really enjoy perusing the websites of folks who visit C&H and leave comments. I often find new tools and materials they used in a project.
FixItYourself: What’s the toughest part about running a blog as a business?
Timothy Dahl: Time management. Fortunately I have experience running websites much larger than mine and understanding what is required from both edit, sales and marketing but it is always a growing and learning process. There is no time to let up…ever, if I want to meet the goals I’ve set. I do have contributors who assist me with content and bring a different point of view which is great.
FixItYourself: Have you ever published a post that you really regretted writing, or that really frustrated some of your readers? How did you respond to that?
Timothy Dahl: Honestly I’ve never published anything I’ve truly regretted, but I have posted articles that are junk and thinking back it wasn’t adding to any conversation or informing my readers. I know not every one of my posts will be gold but they should all be relevant. I’ve been called out by readers before and most often they are correct but you do have to be thick skinned to be in the blogging biz.
FixItYourself: You just got back from the 2010 Builders Show in Las Vegas, and you’ve had some time to reflect on what you saw. What trends struck you that will affect DIYers in 2010? If you could claim bragging rights for having invented one product that you saw there, what would you choose?
Timothy Dahl: There isn’t much at the builders show that’s strictly suited for DIY but we’re hoping to see more hands on products at the National Hardware Show in a couple of months. There were countless fixtures and appliances on display that an ambitious homeowner could install but most of that stuff is already in stores.
The PermaFLOW no-clog drain was impressive and will be a nice alternative to a P-trap. Wish I would’ve thought of that one.
So, there you have it, folks. Six questions with one of the most interesting home improvement bloggers, Timothy Dahl. Will our method of finding interesting content unseat Google? Absolutely. As soon as we figure out how to make it scale….