Blog Overlords & Publishing Business Models

Sep 22nd

Not too long ago I read a book called How to Write, Publish, & Sell Your Own How-To Book. At that point I was already doing well with my current ebook, but was debating whether or not it was worth trying to get it physically published. Generally the How to Write... book was strongly biased against being published primarily due to profit margin related reasons, as well as a few other restrictions.

If you asked me to name off book publishers I know the names of I could do it on my hands with fingers left over. I got an email yesterday from one of the few I would have been able to name, asking me if I would be interested in having them publish & distribute SEO Book.

One of my friends also made the same offer, but offered to publish at cost because he wanted to get some titles for his new publish house.

Away from the web I think there is a huge gain with going with a publisher for at least one book, to help build your authority and credibility, but on the web I do not think there is a need for network publishers, etc.

Eeek, some authors are suing Google. What to do? Not suing here. I am still unsure on the publishing front though, but...

With blogs I do not think there is a need for additional blog networks. You can learn a lot from a blogger just by watching what they do. It is considered bad form to copy exactly, but you can learn the pieces that fit your style or see what pieces are working elsewhere, and why they work. Many of the blog network business models do not encourage the best kinds of postings. Many of the best bloggers read far more than the write, and that is just so much harder to do when it feels like writing the blog is your job and you are doing it for a boss.

Sometimes getting articles syndicated is as easy as writing them and submitting them. Also odds are fairly high that if you learn your topic well you should be able to build more high quality links into your site than a blog overlord would.

The blog networks don't directly pay you for participating in a community and if you ever need to jump ship from the network partnership that brand you helped them build the whole time may not carry with you.

Why I think blog networks suck:

  • Advertising: Most blog networks just publish AdSense for most of their advertisements. If they are going to cross promote the blogs and make them obviously known then it is easy to see how they place the ads for maximum profits. You do not need to be part of the network to learn from it. It is a transparent business model.

  • Link Selling: Some of the networks sell off topic links as if it is going out of style. That is the type of activity that leads to search engines placing limited or no trust on the linkage data from within the network. If they underpriced the ads a bit to entice a few on topic advertisers and then stayed on topic the ads would have greater longterm value and a lower risk profile.
  • Most People Make Nothing: As with the About.com network, or any group publishing network, a few topics are going to bring in the bulk of the cash. If you are in one of the lesser known topics then it is hard to make your blog well known and profitable unless you are actively marketing the heck out of it, which is much harder to do when you do not own the content and only get a meager percentage of the overall earnings.
  • Internal Links WILL Get Discounted: Being part of a blog network paid on comission is a good deal if you are the Poker blog riding off the link popularity of Engadget or Gizmodo, but inevitably as these networks spread you have to believe that search engines are going to deweight the internal linkage. Most of the blog network channels have limited linkage data outside of the link popularity which flows in from the few most popular channels. Jason Calcanis often brags about how much money his network is making with no money spent on marketing. How can spending no money on marketing be the optimal spend?
  • Stuck Business Models: I would guess that Gawker might make more per blog than I make on this blog, but most of the blog networks are stuck in their low paying business models. Some channels might make lots of money selling ebooks while others might be able to sell newsletters or software or other information products. The problem is that most of them are probably not willing to challenge what they know works. What happens if a channel really takes off and the author wants to go elsewhere where they can make more money?
  • You Still Need to Learn the Same Stuff: Using WordPress is free. Google AdSense optimization probably only takes a few days of tweaking to become decent at. Blog networks are not going to give you inside knowledge of your marketplace, and unless you are well cited within your topic only bad search algorithms are going to make your site relevant for it's network participation. The network that REALLY matters is the community that covers your topic.
  • Too Much Too Quick: Sometimes having few visitors off the start is a good thing. It gives you the opportunity to learn quickly without necissarily opening you up to the criticism of everyone in your community. I have got hate email from people who later gladly linked to my site. My guess is that if I had more exposure when I knew less about my topic, blogging, & the web I would have got a lot more hate mail, and it may have turned me off early.
  • Time Off: Sometimes I feel like crap, and if I posted while I felt that way it would only have a negative effect on my blog and the poor eyes reading my HateTypeTM. Blogging is about being timely, but it is also about posting more when you are thinking and feel like talking. It is also about keeping quiet when you don't feel like talking.
  • If You Really Care: If you are really going to go after something may as well make it your own. If you really don't care much a network might be cool, but I fail to see the point in doing anything you are only sorta interested in.

Inevitably blog quality will have to stand on it's own. Readers and citations come if people want to give you their attention. Being part of a network might be able to help you boost that a bit off the start, but it may also hold you back when you want to let out a rant or zig when others are zagging :)

The whole point of the web is you do not need an overlord.

Published: September 22, 2005

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Comments

September 22, 2005 - 6:52pm

Don't knock being an overlord. :)

Some good points, but as with most things it really depends on the person who is doing it more than anything. Some people feel more comfortable being a part of some kind of "network."

September 23, 2005 - 6:59am

At 9rules we do our best to put our members ahead of our financial needs. Our goals include building the best quality product (the 9rules site) that will provide our 70+ English and Spanish members with the traffic and popularity boost to invigorate their writing.

You mentioned getting stuck in the same-old-same business model (ala Gawker and Weblogs, Inc.) and that's a major concern of ours. We're billing 9rules to be more of a "best of" internet community rather than just a way to trick Google into boosting our PR. In that sense, we're building up reputation and trust within our community before we monetize, and I think that's really the way networks should be built. Members first, money second. If you build it that way, monetizing opportunities will pop out from every angle.

Unfortunately, not everyone thinks like that. 9rules and our members are driven by a passion for the medium, and they join our network for free. In fact, we honestly turn away 5x as many people than we let in. Other networks have to pay writers to get weblogs up and running, whereas we just invite the most brilliant weblog authors on the planet to join us and the vast majority do in a heartbeat. Why? We like to think it's because we have our priorities more straightened out than some other networks, but maybe we're just damn good at writing emails ;)

September 25, 2005 - 10:50pm

Most of the times I agree with you Aaron. But this time I don`t.

>>Advertising: Most blog networks just publish AdSense for most of their advertisements.

Is there anything wrong with it. Gawker has some cool sponsorship with Sony and others, and if other network are able to follow the same readership, big companies including Coke, HP would throw sponsorship.

>>Link Selling:
I am really getting sick of Matt Cutts aka Googleguy telling people to stop selling links on their websites. For god sake its our sites, please let us do what we want to do. Google is not world wide web, but just another Microsoft. Its better if we could learn this faster.

>>Most People Make Nothing:
Aaron you are one of the top SEO on the planet, you know pretty well how to market online, but not every blogger can handle marketing that well. Its better if people concentrate on writing while the network on PR and marketing.
Whenever you enter a contract you are well aware what you are going for, some people do it for name, money, or trying to get a feel of the thing.

Still I believe the current contracts between bloggers and network in terms of money can be improved.

>>Internal Links WILL Get Discounted:
Let Google discount everything, and we webmasters will discount it. Matt Cutts himself agrees when they shut down few filters relevency increases, but if they go on making and imposing new filters, relevency of SEs will seriously decrease.

>>Stuck Business Models:
Contracts between network and bloggers will evolve gradually. Its just the beginning of new journalism. But IMHO blog networks will remain alive.

>>You Still Need to Learn the Same Stuff:
This depend on the network, you can't label everyone with the same sticker.

>>Too Much Too Quick:
Its your way of learning again can`t be applied to everyone.

>>Time Off:
People at any profession needs that time off, so why is it different with the blog networks.

>>If You Really Care:
I have seen some pretty good sites which could have been top blogs/sites if they could get hold of your ebook, but since they are so naive about SEO and online marketing they even failed to get even 100 visitors per day.
Don`t expect everyone to be an entrepreneur. Blog networks can help new guys too, who want to start in the field.

September 25, 2005 - 11:12pm

>>Advertising: Most blog networks just publish AdSense for most of their advertisements.

Is there anything wrong with it. Gawker has some cool sponsorship with Sony and others, and if other network are able to follow the same readership, big companies including Coke, HP would throw sponsorship.

There is nothing wrong with just publishing AdSense, but it is very easy for a blogger to do that without a network.

For the most part Gawker is probably the one exception to the rule. They are bad asses.

>>Link Selling:
I am really getting sick of Matt Cutts aka Googleguy telling people to stop selling links on their websites. For god sake its our sites, please let us do what we want to do. Google is not world wide web, but just another Microsoft. Its better if we could learn this faster.

True they are a company who wants to selectively push their ideals for their own profit, but all I was saying is risk level. There are ways to help the ads have more longterm value. Keep in mind the network link popularity is one of the biggest benefits of the blog networks.

>>Most People Make Nothing:
Aaron you are one of the top SEO on the planet, you know pretty well how to market online, but not every blogger can handle marketing that well. Its better if people concentrate on writing while the network on PR and marketing.
Whenever you enter a contract you are well aware what you are going for, some people do it for name, money, or trying to get a feel of the thing.

Still I believe the current contracts between bloggers and network in terms of money can be improved.

I think there are lots of other SEOs who are way better than I am. I don't think you need to be an amazing marketer to have your blog do well. I think you have to understand people. If you want to do well longterm you have to understand people. You have to do that whether or not you are part of a blog network. And it takes time to learn.

>>Internal Links WILL Get Discounted:
Let Google discount everything, and we webmasters will discount it. Matt Cutts himself agrees when they shut down few filters relevency increases, but if they go on making and imposing new filters, relevency of SEs will seriously decrease.

It is surely a tough balance for them...not letting some idealisms control their quality when they have other branches that fund most of the spam.

From day to day most of us don't care much about the effects of algorithms on others. If they discount the cross linking they would just be rewarding it less. It is within their rights to do that.

>>Stuck Business Models:
Contracts between network and bloggers will evolve gradually. Its just the beginning of new journalism. But IMHO blog networks will remain alive.

Time will tell.

Look at how many search engines died. Surely better publishing models and writers will come about. I don't doubt that in time eventually this blog could become nearly as obscure as it was the day I started it.

>>You Still Need to Learn the Same Stuff:
This depend on the network, you can't label everyone with the same sticker.

You still have to learn social interaction and human motives. The best bloggers are the best because they can get other people to talk about them.

>>Too Much Too Quick:
Its your way of learning again can`t be applied to everyone.

I have said some pretty bad rubbish in the past to where if I said the same stuff today people would be disappointed in me. In any market it takes time to learn the market and reader expectation.

>>Time Off:
People at any profession needs that time off, so why is it different with the blog networks.

Easier said than done. What happens if people like your voice and your blog and you take a month off. The guest blogger that writes for you may not give people the same feeling you did.

>>If You Really Care:
I have seen some pretty good sites which could have been top blogs/sites if they could get hold of your ebook, but since they are so naive about SEO and online marketing they even failed to get even 100 visitors per day.
Don`t expect everyone to be an entrepreneur. Blog networks can help new guys too, who want to start in the field.

Well I guess my writing wasn't geared at people who want to be lazy and do the minimum necissary to get by. I always think that if you really want something you can have it. I still have a lot to learn, but am doing pretty well given my limited historical marketing knowledge and short time on the web.

Nandini
September 26, 2005 - 6:14am

Network might have some issues, but doesn`t have.
There are some very good points while working with a network.

IMHO, if contracts could improve a bit between writers and the network they could server both parties well.

Still I believe with such a huge number of blogs, writing a blog and promoting a blog have become entirely two different issues, and both need to handled properly.

>>I don't think you need to be an amazing marketer to have your blog do well. I think you have to understand people. If you want to do well longterm you have to understand people. You have to do that whether or not you are part of a blog network. And it takes time to learn.

A new blog comes out every second. To make your blog stand in a huge heap of blogs is not very easy for a single individual except few exceptions.

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