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This episode is an interview I did at SXSW with Matthew Inman, the author of the popular web comic called The Oatmeal. Find out how he went from social media favorite to a book deal.

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Matt got his start at online marketing and SEO firm SEOMoz. He went from there to coding an online dating site completely by himself in just 66 hours, and then turning around and selling it in only six months. The key discovery while he was there? The comics, quizzes and viral content he used to market the site were even more popular than the site itself. And thus while concentrating on just the viral comics themselves, The Oatmeal was born.

Topics covered:
– ‘From brain to page’ … Who can build a company faster, a small company or a one-mail operation?
– What was the transition like moving from Idaho to Seattle during the dotcom boom and bust
– What is the current state of SEO?
– In the end, Matt feels that all search engine optimization comes down to two major things. Find out what they are.

How to use social media to build traffic to your website.
– To generate links to his bunkbed site, he created a funny 10 question comic-style quiz titled ‘How long could you survive chained to a Bunk Bed with a Velociraptor?
– The quiz got popular and people shared it around the internet, were linking to the site and talking about bunkbeds, so the site was able to rank first for that keyword.
– Put it this way… I only made it one minute and 6 seconds.

How does Matt come up with some of his most creative titles?
5 very good reasons to punch a dolphin in the mouth
10 reasons to avoid talking on the phone
How to use a semicolon, the most feared punctuation on earth
How a web design goes straight to hell
How to suck at Facebook

What is the best way to get on reddit and Digg?
Social news sites reddit.com (owned by the company I work for, Conde Nast) and Digg.com have notoriously fickle audiences. Companies know that getting to the frontpage can mean an avalanche of traffic to their website, but their communities also have the power to bury a story or give it a life of its own. While you might not like the straightforward answer Matt gives, it makes a lot of sense and he goes on to tell a few helpful ways to phrase your post to help things along.

How do you turn a web comic into a book deal?
Matthew is working on a book with publisher Andrews McMeel, who also did Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, and Dilbert. He took an odd route when approached by several publishers and an agent, and gives his advice to people doing web comics and wanting to get published. He feels the community ‘rewards’ him for being just an independent guy trying to succeed.

What’s next for the Oatmeal?
– Stand up comedy?
– Animated shorts?
– How are porta-pottys involved?

Check out a 3 minute documentary about Matthew on Carson Daly:

Book – Coming this Spring

Also see: Hopkinson Report interview with Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman, cofounders of reddit.com

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