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Are Blogs Worth Anything Without the Bloggers?

Posted By Darren Rowse 1st of December 2005 Pro Blogging News 0 Comments

BL Ochman points to an interesting couple of posts by Peter Brady and Stephen Baker and asks the question – Are Blogs Worth Anything Without the Bloggers?

I think it’s a fascinating question and one that I’ve often pondered as I’ve watched colleagues buy and sell blogs over the past year.

My opinion is that the answer is yes… and no.

Depending upon the blog I think they can be worth quite a lot without the blogger – but in most cases they are not.

Do I sound vague and wishy washy enough? Let me ponder this a bit more (bare with me while I think out loud for a bit here)….

Blogger-Centric Blogs – Some blogs, like B.L’s blog and probably ProBlogger are blogs where the bloggers themselves are very central to the blog. They are places where one person explores a niche (wide or small) and people come to read what they have to say. Blogs that probably fit into this category even better than BL’s and mine include Steve Rubel’s Micro Persuasion and BuzzMachine by Jeff Jarvis (two blogs I log into daily to read the thoughts and opinions of Jeff and Steve). These blogs might struggle if their bloggers were to leave and someone else took over (without some clever transitioning).

Topic/Content-Centric Blog – Other blogs could have a change of authorship and few of their readers would bat an eyelid. These are blogs where the subject and content itself is more central to the blog. The blogger acts more as a supplier of content (perhaps more like an editor than an author?) than a personality that draws people in. The blogs that come to mind as I think about this include more technology based blogs like Gizmodo (who recently changed editors without too much change in traffic – in fact it’s gone up), Engadget and Slashdot. Now I know these sites have their hardcore fans who would notice if certain writers were to leave – but I’d hazard a guess that the majority of their readers have no idea who is writing them and would continue to read as normal with a change of blogger.

So which is best for building a profitable blog? – I guess the answer to this question probably depends a little upon what your goals for the blog are.

1. If you’re wanting to build a blog up for a later sale (at which point you leave) you’ll probably want to build blogs that are less reliant upon yourself as a blogger. This is what I’ve seen a number of the bigger blog networks do. What they build their blog’s brand around is the blog’s name rather than the blogger themselves (there are of course exceptions to this in most networks).
2. If you’re wanting to sell your blog but are willing to continue working on it or if you’re not in it for an eventual sale but rather are looking to build an ongoing revenue stream for yourself then either model can work quite nicely for you.
3. If your blog is not about earning a direct income through advertising but rather is a blog that will enable you to build your own profile (we make the distinction in six figure blogging between makeing money because of your blog rather than directly from your blog) then you’ll definitely want a Blogger-Centric blog model.

These are half finished thoughts (my head hurts) and I’m interested in what others think on the topic. Am I anywhere near being on the money here?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Its an interesting question now Nick W has sold Threadwatch. I’ve got a lot of time for Aaron Wall but I’ve got to say initially that he’s not Nick in terms of posting to Threadwatch. I’m willing to give him time, but I’m thinking already that the probably the strength of threadwatch, despite the various editors posting, was Nick’s biting satire. I’m sure Aaron will mature on the site with age….like a good Western Australian red wine :-)

  • I think you’re right on the money. I just asked Brady on our blog to lay out the business plan and exit strategy at Performancing. I’d say they fit into your category 1.

  • You’ve laid out this discussion very well. It’s basically the distinction between a personality-focused blog and a subject-focused blog. Obviously, the personality-focused blog is often targeting a single or narrow set of topics- the question is whether your motivation is to learn the personality’s opinion or the subject.

    Even though a network like Gawker Media has interesting writers, the blog brand supercedes that. So even though you’ll miss the writer, you’ll still go back to the original blog.

  • I’m the wrong person to be asking about Performancing Steve. :-)

    Darren nails this topic as well as I’ve seen anywhere with the quote “So which is best for building a profitable blog? – I guess the answer to this question probably depends a little upon what your goals for the blog are.”

    The gist of my original post was to firstly suggest that blog/blog network consolidation and potential exit is a long term perspective. Secondly, without a proper business plan how can you determine your goals properly, which should probably include if you are commercially minded some sort of cursory look at exit strategy.

    There is the possibility that you may start off as an amateur blogger centric and end up growing into a branded network of content centric blogs. If that is a possibility/aspiration which it maybe for many, then might it be prudent to give it some thought on paper?

    I have further explored this in another extensive post this afternoon. My apologies in advance if it’s a little long winded and sends you to sleep, but there was a lot I wanted to consider.

    It’s certainly a very interesting debate although my head is also hurting a bit. :-)

  • I’m fairly new to the blog world … I only started blogging in July 2005 … and that is when I discovered reading blogs too … I have only just now started reading any that are not “personal get the real person opinion” type.

    I discovered yours just now … not sure I will be back much yet … as one of the “little people” … I get really tired of media giants deciding the slant presented in the news so I don’t watch much of it … I look at the news a little here & there online but again .. it appears much too slanted for my taste.

    I do enjoy checking out interesting sounding articles, blog posts etc, I like being able to make comments on other people’s blogs with my opinions / thoughts too and I do enjoy having my own “rant space” for my opinion about what I read or find out … it too is slanted … by me to what I think or believe … it has given me new appreciation for the fact that blogging is one of the very best things to come along on the Net since being able to show pictures in my opinion. I like other people being able to make comments about my opinions too (as long as they are respectful).

    I am fairly rare according to one blog review of how people read blogs – I like to read a variety of real people with real opinions … conflicting and agreeing points of views in relation to my views … I feel it gives me better balance of what might be a kernel of truth instead of slanted one-sided truths. It also helps me grow as a person and think for myself.

    But … no matter how famous a blog might be or how much it might be sold for … writing style and personality are going to have an impact … changing who the blogger is on one may be a good thing if the people reading it enjoy and like the style of the new blogger …. others may go away because it just is not the same and it “loses” something for them even though it may be excellent writing.

    Case in point … I was a faithful reader of the Ann Landers column for years …. her twin sister wrote a column for years too … both were equally talented and gifted writers … I liked the voice & style of the Ann Landers column … I didn’t of her sister’s … now I just don’t read any of the others online or offline except maybe once every 3 or 4 months and never have … why?

    Voice … writing style … none I’ve read so far have drawn me into the excitement of finding out what they say tomorrow. Doesn’t matter … it mattered to me to miss one of the Ann Landers columns. I’ve found several “personal” art blogs that I really enjoy and want to know what they have to say in their next post … so I read them regularly. I look at a few news blogs here & there … do I read any faithfully? No. Why? No one writing there so far has caught my “it matters to me” focus. I think that could be a great equalizer in writer changes, just like it has been on some TV shows that changed writers during a TV show run – some have gained enormously while others have lost big.

    Boils down to … you do not know what will happen until it happens when you make the changes – it is always a risk – it could cost a lot or it could pay off big.