“I’ve always treated the first two years of Digital Photography School as its launch phase.”
This was a statement that I made in a session at Blog World Expo that I’ve been asked about many times since – so I thought I’d expand upon it a little here in a post.
2006-2008: The Launch of Digital Photography School
I launched DPS back in April of 2006 (I first spoke about it here on ProBlogger in one of my first video posts). As you’ll see from that initial post – I always saw DPS as something of an experiment and a long term project. Having built numerous blogs before starting that one I new that building a blog to it’s potential takes a lot of time and hard work.
As a result, I gave myself a goal to get that blog two years to get through it’s ‘launch phase’.
That might seem like a long time to get a blog up and running but for me the ‘launch phase’ meant more than simply getting the blog designed and announcing it – for me the ‘launch’ is all about these sorts of things:
- building a foundation of solid content (the blog now has 713 posts, most of which are ‘how to’ or ‘tutorial’ style content)
- getting an initial design up (I launched with a free design and quickly upgraded to a purpose built one. It’s now dated and we’ve outgrown it – but it has served us well).
- building a loyal readership and subscribers (the blog is now read by around a million readers a month and subscribed to by over 100,000. The forum has around 200,000 visitors a month.)
- building community (this takes time. Initially I did it with a Flickr group and then leveraged that to start a forum – now with 23,000 members).
- building a ‘list‘ (at the heart of DPS is a newsletter which drives traffic and builds community. It is sent to around 48,000 subscribers per week).
- establishing a publishing routine (I started off posting 3 times a week and have built it up to posting 7 times a week)
- building a content creation team (originally I wrote every post – now the blog is written by a team of 5 paid writers (each doing one post per week) and a number of regular guest contributers)
- building a team of community leaders (the forum is moderated by a wonderful team of voluntary members)
- building relationships with other bloggers and partners (something I was slow doing, mainly due to being time poor – more recently however I’ve been more intentional building relationships with others in the industry)
- experimenting with monetization – (making money from the site hasn’t been high on my priority list to this point – rather in this launch phase it has been more about working out what types of monetization works and what the community responds to. The site does make money, but more importantly I’ve been learning about monetization)
Most bloggers probably don’t see a lot of this as a ‘launch phase’ – but for me it has definitely been more about building foundations for what is to come than seeing anything I’ve done so far as an ‘end result’.
While I’m really happy with (and surprised by) what we’ve achieved so far at DPS – seeing it as being in it’s launch phase reminds me to keep lifting my sights and to keep on building and dreaming.
One of the Results of Building Good Foundations
Over the last few months I’ve been approached on 3 occasions by potential buyers of DPS. It has actually been quite strange because they all came very quickly and quite out of the blue. The offers ranged quite considerably in terms of numbers but a couple were tempting.
In each case the potential buyer commented that they wanted to buy DPS because it was ‘solid’. Each one was less interested in what the site was making in terms of income or how much raw traffic it had than other factors. They were looking more at things like brand, community, reader loyalty, influence, reader morale and user participation.
In fact what surprised me is that the valuations that they put on the site (very high six figure sums) were not based upon what it was currently earning at all. They made offers based upon these other factors – factors that made their offers much higher than a valuation based upon traffic or monthly income alone.
What Will Phase 2 Look Like?
While a couple of the offers were very tempting I realized as i deliberated that the potential for DPS was far greater than what it had yet achieved. I’ve only just begun. To sell now tempted me (and I probably would have sold at the right price) but I realized that for me to take it beyond where it has grown to will see it rise exponentially in value.
It has been 2.5 years now since officially launching the site – so it’s now time to move into the next ‘phase’.
I’m not ready to fully announce all of the details of the next phase of DPS – however it will involve a redesign (hopefully to go live around the end of the year) and a fairly significant ‘expansion’. In essence the way I’m viewing the last 2.5 years is that I’ve been building foundations and that now it is time to expand and leverage what has already been built.
To do so means significant investment back into the site financially but with the solid base of readership, community and relationships that I’ve been working hard to build I’m pretty confident that Phase 2 will be successful. I’m also really excited about what’s coming!
Build Solid Foundations
When I speak with many bloggers I get the feeling that all they’re really thinking about is growing traffic and subscriber numbers as fast as possible. While these are definitely things to work hard on I attempt to convey to them that there are other ‘foundations’ that need to be built into a blog than just traffic.
Most bloggers put a lot of energy into building blogs with high readership – but how about setting goals and strategies in place for some of the other areas mentioned above?
- Take a long term view of your blogging
- Take your time to build strong foundations that go beyond traffic and income
As you do these two things you’ll put yourself in a position to build a site of significance.