If you read Hide Your Arms you probably know who Coty Gonzales is. If not, he’s another tee blogger, a good one, who has been writing about shirts (and more) for the past couple of years, and is quite a lot more comfortable in videos than I am. I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I’dlike to get into doing more interviews on HYA, and I thought that Coty would be interesting since us tee bloggers are usually pretty sociable but people don’t really know much about us because you don’t really need much of a backstory to be a tee blogger, you just have to like t-shirts. I can’t lie, this isn’t a short interview, it’s 13 questions, but I get bored of reading the same questions and answers on other blogs, so I’ve tried to change things up a bit so I asked Coty questions that focused on him and what he does rather than general questions I could ask to anyone in the street. Coty is a damn good blogger, so if you’re a tee blogger wondering why you aren’t getting the traffic you want I suggest that you give this a read and learn from it.
1. How on Earth do you manage to find time for all your different ventures (CotyGonzales.com, FailShirt.org, Call Me Thirsty, your job as a mad scientist), and do you worry that you might be spreading yourself too thin?
My namesake blog is my main blog, it’s the money maker – without it, the other sites would not be possible. So most of my time (between the 4 blogs I run), most of the time is spent on CotyGonzales.com, I try to do 1-2 posts a day, with 1-2 really good content-filled posts a week and a video post. I’ve taken to doing 1-2 really good content posts on CallMeThirsty.com every week without worrying about doing daily filler posts. And with FailShirt.org, those posts are more like blurb posts and I do those whenever I find a shirt I consider to be FAIL. I think I’ve come up with a manageable blogging schedule that works well with me still being able to focus on academics and research.
2. In the same vein, can you run us through a typical day in the life of Coty Gonzales?
The day usually starts off with either coffee, tea or orange juice. I’m currently working on my Ph.D. in psychology/cognitive neuroscience. I work in two separate labs and have two lines of research. One of the labs focuses on using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at the effects of methamphetamine (the illegal drug, affectionately known as “ice” in Hawaii) on the brain. And the second line of research involves information processing, specifically, the differences in attention and perception in across different expert groups such as video game players and athletes. So the bulk of the daytime for me involves doing crazy tests on human guinea pigs. It’s fun!
Offline and away from work I enjoy hiking, lounging on the beach (one of the perks of living in Hawaii) and catching an occasional movie. I also love TV: LOST, Dexter, Mad Men, How I Met Your Mother and ESPN every morning by default.
3. Favourite cheese?
I have a serious addiction to brie.
4. You live in Hawaii, which automatically makes you a fan of that mysterious meat known as spam…. what’s the deal with that? I’ve never eaten Spam, am I really missing out on something?
I can’t really explain SPAM. It’s something that has to be experienced. It’s an acquired taste for some. In Hawaii, however, people are born fans of SPAM. I believe Hawaii is the largest consumers of SPAM in the entire world.
To give you an example of how serious Hawaii is about SPAM. Well, both McDonalds and Burger King have SPAM on the regular menu here. To give you yet another example of how serious Hawaii is about SPAM. I remember many years back, Wal-mart had an insane New Years Eve deal on SPAM. Needless to say, the parking lot was packed with locals looking not to just buy a few cans but instead, cases! My mom left with about 10 cases of SPAM that night. CASES! I left with a Playstatio – score one for me!
I grew up eating SPAM but now as an adult I’m hardly a big time SPAM consumer. Occasionally, I’ll have SPAM cravings. But other than that, I don’t really eat it all that much. I do have a soft spot for SPAM musubi’s. Musubi’s are my defacto favorite way to eat SPAM.
Andy, shoot me your address and I’ll send you a few cans and some SPAM recipes.
5. Fail Shirt was clearly set up to point out the worst of the t-shirt world, why didn’t you want to post them on cotygonzales.com?
FailShirt.org was indeed set up to highlight the less desirable tees that I occasionally stumble upon while searching for the web’s best tees. I had always wanted to incorporate the so-called “bad shirts” on CotyGonzales.com but was hesitant about mixing in the awesome stuff with the not so awesome/laughable stuff. And so I held off on it.
It was not until Micah from ATShirtBlog started using Posterous that I became open to the idea of having a sister T-Shirt site dedicated to just the really bad T-Shirts that I inevitably find on occasion.
Posterous is a simple way to create posts easily and have it posted across multiple platforms all at once. Composing posts in Posterous is done via your email client (Gmail for me). And, I was able to set it up to allow group posts and so I was able to bribe some of the other tee bloggers (Bo from LovingThisTee and Travis from FoundItemClothing) to do posts on FailShirt.org whenever they stumble upon what they consider to be FailShirts. Why the “.org”, well, it was my way of paying homage to the immensely popular FailBlog.org from which the site is loosely based on.
I spend a bit more time crafting the posts for cotygonzales.com whereas FailShirt.org is meant to be an easy way of getting something out there so others can have a quick laugh.
6. Do you think tee bloggers are too easy on t-shirt companies? I don’t write HYA to make enemies, so it’s important to try and be as honest as I can whilst trying to be constructive, how do you deal with that issue?
Yeah, I agree. Reviewing T-Shirts is a balance between being honest and providing constructive criticism. Being constructive is useful for both parties, being a dick isn’t.
I took flack once because another site suggested that I love every shirt that comes my way. This is far from the truth. In fact, there have been instances in which I have turned down tees (freebies that are sent to me for review) because I absolutely disliked the design or because I knew the quality would be bad. I don’t find joy in being overly critical on something as fun as a T-Shirt. Plus, for many of these guys, they are doing it for fun or as a hobby. The last thing they need is someone saying their shirt sucks. I’d rather pass on the tee than be overly critical.
T-Shirt designs are wearable art. And art is subjective. So for me, I place heavy emphasis on the quality of the tee, comfort, the print and overall packaging. I’m not a big fan of Hanes Tees, or super thick and heavy prints. Having said that, I’m not much of a gore and zombie fan either.
7. You detailed your aims with CG.com for the coming year at the New Year, how are they going?
Andy, it’s been just two months! LOL. I’d have to say that it’s too early to say. Though, I have to admit that I’ve already hit my RSS subscription goal! Call Me Thirsty was also featured in Seattle Weekly, granted it’s no New York Times, but still – kinda cool!
8. I’ve done it, Karl’s done it, Micah’s done it, now you’re doing it too, how come it took this long to start selling your own tees and do you feel any pressure that your designs should all be awesome since you’re known for being someone that knows a good tee when they see it?
Well I have to admit that the Fail Shirt Shop is nothing that I am taking TOO serious. It’s more of a gag store for the FailShirt.org blog. Since I use Skreened for on demand printing, I can easily make silly designs that compliment the posts that I do on FailShirt. It has worked out pretty well so far.
I still am too scared to do it the right way (screen printing). However, I will be honest – I have thought about it a lot. There’s a lot to consider though. Which artists to use (because I’m not one), what designs to pick, and how much money to invest. Once you step away from the on demand printing stuff, the T-Shirt selling game gets pretty serious. I’m not sure if I want to make that investment just yet.
I will say that I am working on something that I think many people in the T-Shirt world and outside of it will be interested in. I’ve been working on it for a few months now and I think a lot of my readers will dig it. Hint: It’s not a T-Shirt.
9. What sets CotyGonzales.com apart from other t-shirt blogs?
Relatively speaking, I’m newbie when it comes to T-Shirt blogging. I mean, you, Karl (Tcritic), Adam (TeeJunction), and Rangga (Cottonable) have been blogging about tees for years now. I’m just 1.5 years in.
When I first started out, I had to hustle to get my name and site out there. Getting people to link back and talk about a new blog is no easy task. And so, I did what I think set me apart the most from tee bloggers, and that was I started video blogging. Co-Tee TV (my weekly T-Shirt review show) sort of became my niche in the tee world and basically became what I was known for. Early on, I also did a lot of interviews with a lot of different indie clothing brands and so I think that got a lot of eyes looking at my site as well. It basically came down to me reaching my hand out to other people and asking them to allow me to pitch their product.
Also, because it’s my namesake blog, I infuse a lot of myself into the content. I think this is important for any blog. Whenever I travel, I do travel blogs while still incorporating t-shirts into these posts. I love Apple Computers so regular readers will notice regular Apple related tee posts (I also did an entire week of just Apple posts). I’ve been known to do the occasional iPhone app review.
So I guess to answer your question of what sets my site apart from the other tee blogs, I’d have to say hustle via video and infusing myself and my interests into the content.
10. We’re both pretty well known for writing epic list posts, seriously, how boring are they to write?
Yes, these big lists are extremely boring to do because it just becomes super repetitive. Luckily for me I stick to 101 every month (unlike Mr. Bowness who has been known to do 200 and beyond!)
11. Clearly we’ve both realized that big-ass lists can be a good way to get exposure for our sites, what do you think is key to getting a piece of content on the web to be popular?
I’ve found that interesting lists are an excellent way of getting exposure. I mean, my 101 Science T-Shirts list took off on Stumbleupon and was tweeted out by Apple Evangelist Guy Kawasaki and I subsequently got over 220,000 views for that particular article. More recently, my list of 101 Apple tees found it’s way on the popular tech blogs Gizmodo, Cult of Mac, and Mac|Life. And let’s not forget my 101 Mustache list making it to USAToday. Needless to say, these Epic Lists are extremely boring and repetitive but the return on investment is (usually) amazing.
Generally speaking, I think the secret to getting a piece of content to go viral on the web is that it has to have one or more of the following characteristics. It has to 1. be super informative, 2. have the lust factor, or 3. be super funny or super shocking.
To give you examples, for CotyGonzales.com the Epic Lists provide some sort of shock value and can be quite lustful.
Think about it, imagine how many Apple fans wet their pants when they saw that 101 Apple themed tees existed on this planet. They went nuts because they wanted each and every one of these tees (lusting) and because they were shocked to see so many were available. Read through the comments and you’ll notice a bunch of Mac Heads mention that they want them all. Make sure your posts provide lust value.
I recently wrote two articles on CallMeThirsty.com that took off. One had to do with choosing the right tea infuser for brewing loose leaf tea. I presented the information in such a way that it was super easy to understand (flow chart) and was appealing to the eyes. People loved it and it spread across the various tea blogs, Tumblr and Twitter. The trick for this post was that it was very informative and useful to many people who were new to loose leaf tea.
Just last week another post on CallMeThirsty.com went viral. It was titled 10 of the Worst and Most Fat-Filled Starbucks Beverages. The title itself adds shock value and the content reinforces that shock value. The article found it’s way on to some major coffee blogs and general culture blogs, including Chow.com, Eater.com and GuestOfAGuest.com. This article resonated with a lot of people and upset a few Starbucks baristas along the way.
12. I know you post about a wide variety of shirt styles on CG, but what is the ultimate turn-off for you when you see a tee that means you’re never going to post it?
I usually never make posts that solely feature designs from CafePress or Zazzle. The quality tends to be quite bad when it comes to tees from these sites.
Straight up mean, or really offensive tees, such as ones you’d find on T-Shirt Hell would probably not make my site (though, now they can make an appearance on FailShirt.org).
Other than that, most T-Shirts are fair game.
13. Let’s say you were starting your tee blog today, what would you do differently, and what advice could you give to people who think they want a slice of the tee-blogging pie?
This one is easy. If I knew that video would be such a huge component of my blog then I’d definitely choose a different theme/layout. I’d go with a more video-centric WordPress theme. My logo would probably be a bit different too. The logo was designed when my site was more of a lifestream and not focused on tees. If you look at the logo, you would never guess that I blog about T-Shirts.
There are some pretty big players in this niche already, but the young blood can definitely make a name for themselves (I sorta did). My main advice would be: find your voice and be as original as you possibly can. It’s so important to make yourself standout in some way. I did it via video, placing a heavy emphasis on interviews early on, and heavy networking.
What I notice is that a lot of T-Shirts get reposted across the different T-Shirt sites. If I see a design posted on multiple tee blogs then I typically pass on writing about it. If you’re a new tee blog, I wanna see new stuff, obscure stuff that I don’t already see on the handful of other tee blogs. I think Micah from ATShirtBlog did exactly this and that’s why he was able to grab a piece of the tee blogging pie. I’ve got a bunch of obscure sites in my RSS reader and so when these sites post a tee that I’ve never seen before, I’m all over it. Post original stuff and you’ll start to get more eyeballs interested in your site.
Another suggestion: guest post on other blogs. Come to me with a good idea for a post and I’d be more than happy to post it.
Thanks again for taking the time to chat, Andy! We should do it again.
Big thanks to Coty for answering the questions so comprehensively, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did. I’ve got a few other interviewees lined up, but feel free to suggest interesting teeple that you’d like me to interview in the comments.