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Why are Some Blog Networks So Successful?

Posted By Darren Rowse 30th of September 2005 Blog Networks 0 Comments

Scrivs has waded into the ‘How much should blog networks pay their bloggers?’ conversation by refocussing the question (as he is in the habit of doing):

‘So really should we be asking how writers in these networks should be getting paid? I don’t think so because you can find people to write for you in almost any model. The question you have to ask yourself is what type of model do you need to bring in the talent to help you succeed?’

I’ve been pondering this whole question for a few days now since we launched b5media and I’m coming to a similar position.

The question of ‘how much’ IS important. But I’m wondering what else makes a blog network successful?

I chatted this morning with a blog network owner who told me how he couldn’t believe the response we’d had at b5 from people wanting to be involved – he asked why he’d had little interest from a similar invitation to bloggers to join with what he thought sounded like much more generous terms.

I’ve been wondering ever since why this is the case? With networks being announced every second day (I saw two new ones yesterday alone) – why are some taking off while others seem to disappear so quickly?

My answer to this question is still forming in my mind – but let me attempt to give a glimpse of what I’m coming to by describing what I’ve noticed so far about those wanting to join b5media.

One of the few things that I can put my finger on is that in most cases people seem to want to be involved with Duncan, Jeremy and/or myself.

This sounds totally arrogant and to be honest I laugh at the thought of people wanting to join an ordinary fellow like me at anything – but the fact is that over the last three years of blogging – for some reason that baffles us all a little – the three of us have built some level of credibility, trust and/or respect with those who read our sites. We’ve got some runs on the board in terms of running blogs and we’ve built relationships with other bloggers in the process.

These things seem to be the foundation for many of the applications we’ve had so far.

From what I see – people are not joining up because they see a cash cow (although everyone would like to make some money from it) – they are joining because they want to belong to something that goes beyond the money. I’m yet to put my finger on exactly what it is but I’m wondering if one of the keys to successful blog networks is that they are started by people with track records of actually doing it for themselves previously.

It would be interesting to see someone do some research around this (I wish I had the time) – investigating what characteristics the established blog network owners share etc. I know my theory stacks up well with Jason Calacanis (who has a history of successful ventures) and Nick Denton (who similarly has been behind some successful start ups).

I also suspect it’s behind what Paul Scrivens is doing (although he doesn’t have any big companies to point at – he’s definitely put the runs on the board in starting, running and selling some successful blogs).

I’m sure there is more to it than this – but I wonder if it might be one factor that could be the difference between attracting quality bloggers and not. I know as a blogger I’d be much more likely to join with someone who I’d seen build something successfully previously than joining one that I’d never heard of who just put up an invitation to come join them.

Interested in others thoughts.

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 and LinkedIn.
  1. Haha, so didn’t you just refocus my refocused question?

    And yes, credibility will always play a major role in anything you are doing. Sory of like buying an iPod from Apple or an iPod ripoff found on the street. You go with who/what you trust.

  2. Darren, in your humility, I think you have hit on the most obvious reasons. There are some intangibles as well that are a draw:
    1. The outright intelligence that you display as a group is a magnet. Intelligent people want to work with other intelligent people. Over and over when I’ve not been able to pay top $ I’ve been able to get top people by having a reputation for not ever asking them to do something *stupid.*

    2. Creativity–Your loud, exhuberent call for creativity is a beacon that says to those who want to write for you, that they get to have part ownership in a personal way, that the blog will be different because that individual will have participated.

    3. Sense of Humor–You guys don’t take yourself too seriously. In an endeavor that requires being creative on demand. This is crucial for long-run success. Without it the stress of producing changes one’s feeling about the work–the writer gets *angry* at the work and the work sufferes.

    4. Humanity–You three don’t try to separate who you are from what you do in the good way. You think of the people you work with as people not workers. No need to explain that further.

    Gosh I just wrote a mini-post on leadership. Well you all have it, and your applicants (like me) know it. That’s why you have so many. Smart people don’t want to work just for Joe anybody at Idon’tblogs when they could work for you.

  3. Darren, you’ve hit it on the head. The reason why you are getting so many applications I think is because of the people involved – all highly successful bloggers in their own right.

    And I think we’re all savvy enough to see that your launch of b5 last week was very well planned and thought out. Even the openness of Jermey and yourself to respond to my post, shows people that you have your heart in this venture. And people respect the fact that you are being very open and nothing is set in stone.

    You’d be surpirsed by how many people out their take your word as gospel in regards to professional blogging … so get over the modesty ;-) and learn to live with your fame ;-)

  4. I agree with the points about charm and leadership, but I also wonder if it’s a numbers game.

    The blog network owner that was disappointed — how well did he get the word out?

    I can see that being a factor — the more people who know about it, the better your chances of one of those people being interested. Of course, people might have totally discounted the other network after hearing about it, which goes back to the points everyone made. People gravitate toward success.

  5. […] Darren, in typical Darren fashion, refocused Paul’s refocusing by asking “Why are some networks so succesful?” […]

  6. All I need is one guess as to which blog network owner that would be (and no it’s not me).

  7. So c’mon, Darren. How about a post or two on building a network and attracting bloggers *from scratch*? How would you go about it if you were in that position, knowing what you know now?

    Or is that classified? ;o)

  8. Psm. 5:12 is my explanation.

  9. That’s simple– you are succeeding because you are making smart choices. You’re talking about it in the right place.

    You are targeting the right market– new bloggers that are driven enough to have found you. How can you go wrong?

  10. Barry
    to me fair Darren, or I for that matter, would have to create a false identity and try to start up a standalone blogging network to actually be able to give a reasoned response on that one…maybe an interesting experiment :-)
    Certainly if anyone has done so and would like to discuss it for a post I’d be happy to do it.

  11. […] You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your ownsite. […]

  12. Well, I suspect that people want to be associated with you because A) you’re successful at it already B)you have been helpful already, so people feel they can trust you not to screw them and… yeah, I think that’s all. So basically, it comes down to trust. I for one, would be more than happy to blog with/for you. But I’m still working on figuring stuff out, so perhaps I’ll pitch an idea I’ve been mulling over once I feel like I can do well enough at it.

  13. Wow Darren, you sure do get a lot of BOGU.

  14. I think the major points for why Weblogsinc, b5media, 9rules etc are successful have more or less already been said in the replies here. If you see someone who has been successful, you will want to be be a part of that. If it interests you, you will pitch ideas, thoughts, assistance, ask them for help, suggestions etc.

    Darren, I think I sent you a message asking about WordPress themes a while back & also Duncan. I talked to Jeremy a long time ago about this same stuff after reading some of his posts on SitePoint.

    I found 9rules while searching a long time ago, and eventually finding Forever Geek, that’s when I started reading more about the network, and its success.

    “This sounds totally arrogant and to be honest I laugh at the thought of people wanting to join an ordinary fellow like me at anything”.

    This doesn’t sound arrogant, I guess some people could see it that way, but I don’t.

    Anyway, the point is that you have a nice blog here with a lot of useful information for people who want to start blogging in general, or those trying to develop a network. (Me?)

  15. I think what you’ve written is right on. Though I’ll add that it helps to have such a large traffic flow to spead your message across.

    Our Interment site is perhaps our largest property in terms of revenue and reach, and anytime I’ve needed to hire help, I could post a notice, and get deluged with e-mails. But in that case, it doesn’t have anything to do with my credentials. I actually hide behind the site, and don’t make myself known. People just like the site, and want to be a part of it.

  16. […] On Friday, I believe Darren cemented the same thought when he says “the fact is that over the last three years of blogging – for some reason that baffles us all a little – the three of us have built some level of credibility, trust and/or respect with those who read our sites.” […]

  17. […] Accordingly, there are plenty of conversations about what makes a successful blog network. […]

  18. Blog Network Mania, Get In The Game

    Blog networks are all the craze these days. Why? Because there’s money to be made of course! Every week it seems a new network pops up, and that’s a good thing. Online publishing is finally starting to come into its own, as a viable business model no…

  19. […] Con la vista de AOL puesta en Weblogs, Inc y con los comentarios de Jason Calcalanis acerca de las ganancias obtenidas con Adsense (el nuevo caso de éxito que publica Google) las redes de weblogs empezaron a proliferarse con una velocidad increíble. Problogger.net tiene unos posts interesantes sobre esto Sin ir más lejos, yo mismo evalúo la posibilidad de crear una. Los grandes problemas con los que me encuentro son: […]

  20. Let’s see here… We want to know if we should pay writers and if so, how much? Internet sharecropping, typical Web 2,0 mentality, why pay the suckers when they’re willing to write for free?

    That, my friends, will be the death of Web 2.0 as people begin to wizen to this modern day form of slavery called “user generated content.” (Much of it is in-fact stolen content.)

    At the Blogsboro Network ( http://bloggingpoet.squarespace.com/blogsboro-network-websites/ ) we’ve decided to do things differently. As the founder of the network I pay our writers exactly the same amount I pay myself. While we are a new network launched in November and still quite small, we are owned by our writers. As one who has been blogging since 2000 I’ve watched these trends very carefully and as the first born son of a Southern sharecropper I look at Web 2.0 and think of the horror my father would feel if he were to see all these people flocking to give away everything they have of value when he, himself, ran away from home to escape the landlord and join the Army.

    I’ve given our writers (my partners) an equal portion of all my work for the last 8 years. Will we become a success? I don’t know. Will I build a business on profiting off the works of others while paying them little if anything in return? NEVER!

    Web 2.0 will die because it is built on crap and slave labor. Quality and people will be the hallmarks of Web 3.0 and I’m happy to say that Blogsboro.com is showing the way.

  21. I’ve always had great response (overwhelming) when I put up ads on a writer’s freelance site (recommend that even though they may not know your blogging platform, they’re real writers, and it makes a difference) and here on the Job Boards. ;-)

    Recently with Twitter, not so much, but that’s what experimenting’s for. It’s a new network Twitter and pretty small.

    Anyway, I think people do respond to something “more”. Even if it’s just a high quality setting with a casual friendly environment.

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