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An Argument Against Blog Networks

I was chatting with Yaro recently in an interview he recorded with me (I think it’ll go live in January) and we got briefly onto Blog Networks.

I don’t remember the exact question that he asked me but as I answered I found myself saying that:

‘some blog network owners should spend less time working on their network and more time working on their blogs.’

That might sound a little strange coming from someone who co-owns a blog network but bare with me a little while I attempt to explain.

While I am a big fan of the idea of blog networks and can see some real benefits of both owning them and writing for them (disclaimer: I don’t think that every blog should belong to a network but they do suit the goals and aspirations of some bloggers…. but that’s another post for another time) I do see some network owners falling into the trap of spending more time building up the network’s brand and image than building up quality blogs.

There are many factors that contribute to a network’s success – but one of them will always be the quality of it’s blogs. You can have a wonderfully branded network with great PR but it’ll never go anywhere unless it has substance at it’s heart.

I know of a number of individual bloggers who find themselves with a handful of their own blogs who see many networks starting and decide to bring their blogs together to brand them as a network. What I said to Yaro yesterday is that while there are definite benefits of networks that many of these benefits can actually be gained by keeping the blogs as non-networked blogs if the blogger is clever.

For example – one of the benefits of a network is that the blogs interlink and as a result build their SEO. This is a benefit that any blogger who owns more than one blog can gain from without a formal network. Another benefit of a network is the cross promotion that can take place in sending visitors from one blog to another – once again this is possible between two or more blogs that you own without spending many many hours creating a network. A further benefit of networks is that you can sell advertising as packages across sites – once again you don’t need a network to do this.

I could go on.

I’m not saying that networks are a waste of time – I know from personal experience the benefits of them – all I’m saying is that for some people considering the network option it might be a better use of your time and energy to put the effort into individual blogs rather than attempting to brand them as a network.

In effect building a blog network can be a distraction from the core business of building a profitable blogging business in some circumstances.

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.

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Comments

  1. karli says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve recently launched http://www.femblogs.com which as a long term goal will hopefully develop into a blogging network. However, in the short term, I am keeping things small and running it on an individual level until I am happy that it will survive as a network. Keep up the good work guys. Luv Kx

  2. Tammy Powley says:

    Funny you should post this just now. I blog for a number of networks now, but I’m currently considering starting a new blog on my own because of some of the limitations I’ve found working with a network. I still like the networks, but for this particular project, I think it would take too long to get it off the ground if I were to go through any of them, and I think eventually, my income would be limited as well since they would take such a large chunk of the revenue. The technical side of things, (I’m learning) though, sucks – one reason a network sure is nice!

  3. Brian says:

    I so agree with this post. These networks that pop up with 30 blogs often have 28 that are thrown together in a day anad have no substance.

    It’s so obvious some of these are just hoping to “do a Calacanis” without understanding why that happened how it did. Companies are going to be smarter this time about just snatching up things based on a “hot trend”.

  4. Cary says:

    Well said…

    While I say more power to the people who want to blog for networks, for me personally the whole allure of blogging is its independent nature.

  5. I found Brian’s comments similar to some of my thoughts. I certainly see the utility of a blog network, but it seems that many networks see the number of blogs as very important.

    I’m not sure if they are just reaching for a Weblogs, Inc. number of blogs, figuring that’s what the next buyer will want. I think the key is to rationalize what blogs should be launched upfront, at least for the core. Around this core, of course, you can develop some more speculative ideas or blogs that may spark some buzz, benefiting the network.

    In the final analysis, I don’t think the number of blogs really matters. You can always combine with another small network anyway-but you have to have compelling blogs.

  6. Arun Kumar says:

    It seems like the initial size of the network is one of the bigger factors for future growth. Starting out small with a handful of blogs 3-4+ would be ideal, anything more than this would be harder to manage unless you have a group of people working with you handling different areas, design, ads, tech, etc.

  7. saurab says:

    I agree with Brian’s comments …. folks should not overlook the fundamental reason people visit blogs in the first place : “compelling information and/or opinion”. If a blog network doesnt have quality stuff, who’d go there after the initial publicity/PR stuff dies down ??

  8. pcunix says:

    By the way, although I am a fan of clothing optional venues, I suspect you meant “bear with me” :-)

  9. Cary says:

    hehe

  10. John says:

    Hey, you shouldn’t talk about Scrivs that way!!!!

  11. Hone Watson says:

    Personally I think focusing on building up the brand and image are of secondary importance.

    Steve Pavlina’s site is great example as to why,

  12. Yaro says:

    I just got picked up for the “bare” and “bear” one too Darren – maybe you copied me…

  13. Digger says:

    I agree that it’s not always a good idea and produces a lack of focus.

    However, are you subliminally trying to limit competition so you can have the whole ball of wax all to yourself? That’s a joke by the way, but was the first thing that popped into my head when reading that you have a network, but then go on to seemingly discourage others from starting one.

    I see your points, it does seem a little like Playboy back in the 60′s saying “don’t get into the adult magazine business it sucks” when they’re raking in gazillions a year producing an adult magazine! A poor comparison, but the first thing that I could think of (OK I’m a perv).

  14. johnny says:

    It seems like the initial size of the network is one of the bigger factors for future growth. Starting out small with a handful of blogs 3-4+ would be ideal.

  15. Lyndon says:

    Ogilvy once said “Put all your eggs in one basket and watch it very carefully.”

    If all your time, expertise, knowledge and sweat went into one blog, that blog would probably become brilliant.

  16. Allan Barizo says:

    Darren, thanks for the thoughts. I am thinking of starting a network for my blogs and my siblings. Primarily it is for SEO. I just hope I won’t fall into the trap of losing focus on the real content.

    pcunix, love your comment!

  17. pcunix says:

    I remain on the fence about blog networks ( http://aplawrence.com/foo-web/blogging-networks.html ). I can perhaps see advantages for technically unsophisticated people who just want to blog, but even that seems unnecessary: there are so many web site providers who will hold your hand now so that part of a network doesn’t seem valuable.

    On the other hand, I can see someone wanting to pull together a group of related sites. That makes sense to me and probably has value for all concerned, but these jumbles of unrelated blogs don’t.

  18. saurab says:

    nice article .. some great points. In my opinion, being a part of a network can in many ways be detrimental insofar as reputations and perceptions go… Take blogs hosted on blogspot for example…. whenever I go to one of these blog sites, the blog must be really special for me to want to stay on and not hit the back button and continue with whatever I was searching for ….
    Domains are cheap, web hosting is cheap, blog softwares have simplified the management process a lot (for instance, wordpress has plugins for just about anything….. from backing up the database to making entries in a .htaccess file)… why would one want to be a part of a network baffles me…

Trackbacks

  1. [...] As Darren at Problogger.net, who is coincedentally a co-owner in b5media, pointed out today, many of these benefits can be reached without joining a network. [Read “An Argument against Blog Networks“] … while there are definite benefits of networks that many of these benefits can actually be gained by keeping the blogs as non-networked blogs if the blogger is clever. [...]