Why You Shouldn’t Join a Blog Network

Having looked at some of the advantages of joining a blog network it’s only fair that we look at the flip side. Blog networks will not suit every blogger’s personality, style and goals and you should take into account the following before signing up for one:

1. Revenue Split - While I argued in my previously post that a positive of joining a network is that it can potentially bring in a higher revenue to your blog – the downside is that with most blog networks you will be sharing this revenue with the owners of it in some way. In the larger more established networks you are likely to be paid a flat rate per month for posting a certain amount of posts and might be paid incentives based upon factors like traffic and revenue. In smaller and newer networks the revenue is generally shared between network and blogger in some way (usually some sort of percentage split). The methods of payment are varied but at the heart of all of them is that you don’t get every cent your blog owns. If you’re not willing to share a blog network might not be for you.

2. Ownership/Rights – Once again there are variations between networks when it comes to who retains ownership of content – but this is a key question that you’ll want to explore with the network before signing up. In many networks the content that you produce as a blogger is fully owned by the blog network and in a sense you are just contracted to write for them. This means that if you leave the network you leave with nothing but the earnings you earned during your stay. Other networks allow you to retain ownership but ask for some sort of exclusive rights to user your content in different forums. Other networks use a joint ownership system where both you and the network owns the content. There is no wrong or right way for content ownership to be viewed in my opinion – but it’s definitely something to think through before you join a network. Questions to ask a network might include:

  • who owns the content?
  • who owns the URL?
  • what happens to the blog if/when I leave?

3. Reputation – One of the pluses of joining a network is that they have the potential to bring a certain level of prestige or credibility to you as a blogger and just by being involved you can build your own profile and levels of traffic. On the flip side of this is the fact that a network also has the potential to impact your reputation (and that of your blog) in a negative sense. This is particularly true in relation to the decisions and actions of the network owners. Some blog networks have quite high profile 9 (and outspoken) people heading them up and while this can be a definite advantage to your blog in terms of the buzz they can create it can also hurt you to be tied to them if they fall from grace in the eyes of the wider blogging community.

4. Loss of Control – One of the reasons I see that many bloggers have decided to stay out of blog networks is that they do not wish to lose control of their blog on a number of levels ranging from design, branding, advertising, promotion etc. Some networks are more flexible than others and allow bloggers to have input in these areas if they wish – but others are quite structured and take on making all the decisions. Of course this is the very thing that attracts some bloggers who don’t feel able or willing to run these aspects of a blog – but if you’re the type who wants complete control of your blog then you might want to stay independent.

5. Risk – Out of some of the above factors comes the risk that things could go pear-shaped across the network and impact you personally. I guess I’m thinking here again of the impact that a network’s owners can have upon their bloggers in terms of their decisions. For instance I’ve seen a number of bloggers over the years log onto their blogs only to find themselves locked out, or even worse to find their blogs have just disappeared as a result of the decision of someone else. While these stories are rare (the ones I’m thinking of are over a year ago) I guess you need to remember that when you join a network that you’re entering into a relationship with individuals and that at times individuals let others down. There is risk with every blog (or business) – but in a network you’re putting yourself into the hands of others to some extent and you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure they know what they’re doing, have a good track record and are in it for the long haul.

6. Legalities and Responsibilities - While I’m not privy to most blog networks agreements with bloggers I do know that many are legal entities and use contracts in their interactions with bloggers. In signing one of these you’re entering into a legal agreement that governs a variety of aspects of your blogging activities that might include agreements to post a certain level of posts, keep certain information confidential, not blogging on similar topics outside of the network’s blog, not participating in other networks, participate in network activities etc. The consequences of entering into such an agreement and not holding up your end of the bargain are worth considering before signing.

Concluding thoughts

My own experience of blog networks has largely been worthwhile. I’ve enjoyed the relationships I’ve found in them and have found them to be increasingly profitable for many of those that involve themselves in them.

As with any blogging the traffic and revenue doesn’t just appear overnight and blogging in a network needs to be a long term commitment.

I quite often suggest to bloggers that if they give blogging in a network a go that it might also be worth blogging as an independent as well. Most of the bloggers in the network I’m involved with do this and I find that it works well both for the sake of the network but also bloggers.

Don’t rush into a blog network deal. A lot of the negatives that I’ve written above come out of situations that I’ve seen with bloggers that have rushed into networks without considering the implications before they sign up. Networks are not THE answer to every blogger’s goals and objectives. They can enhance your blogging in many ways but if you take your time in getting into them you could save yourself considerable pain later on.

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. Cary says:

    Good rundown of the potential pitfalls of joining a blog network.

    I say more power to ya’ if you want to join a network, but for myself, well, it’s the very independent nature of blogging that drew me to it in the first place.

    Blogging for someone else just seems like too much of a “job” to me, and hey, I’ve already got one of those! ;)

  2. Darren,
    One point to note..

    Sometimes the blogger will not be paid. In other words the blogger will write for free and in return the network will advertise his personal blog to get more traffic.

    Can’t depend on blog network for full time money unless the network is huge and has immense traffic and revenue.

  3. Alan says:

    Why didn’t Jeremy or Aaron tell me these things before I signed on for blogging for b5??? ;-)

    Some good points above, mainly the lack of control over all aspects of the blog one which did cause me some thought before I applied to get involved with The Footie but the major plus side of getting involved in a group situation with so many other well respected and talented bloggers and still being able to work on my own blogs as well swung it for me.

    The chance to write for a different audience and make contact with new people mattered a lot more to me than the way the revenue would be split or who decided what the colour scheme should be.

  4. marcel says:

    Well, at least it’s a great launching point… you can start there ( blog network ), and move on to something else afterwards.

    Good points to consider though.

  5. Duncan says:

    InternetSalsa
    I’ve seen this with some sites, the National Ledger comes to mind, for the life of me I wonder why anyone would committ to write for nothing…if you’re thinking something like 9rules I’d argue (yet again) that it’s not really the type of “network” darren is talking about. Without starting (yet another) flame war, although 9rules and similar organisations label themselves “networks” they are really just a Web 2.0 version of a blog ring, and in saying that I’m not saying they’re bad, it’s just different to what Darren is talking about.

  6. Oh .. definately point #4 should be considered, in both positive and negative aspects. If one is very active in the design and maintenance of their own blogs, it’s sometimes hard to just sit back and let the network owner take control of that design. Of course, if that’s not your forte and writing is, it makes perfect sense.

    When I was guest blogging on “Light My Torch” .. it was quite irritating for me to sit back while every bone in my body, and a few other bloggers and readers felt that we desparately needed a better Medal Counter (and then one was available with Matt) .. Aaron was too busy with other server moves, integration of new blogs, and just didn’t have time. And, I did not have rights and privileges to make changes.

    Did it make any difference in the quality of the posts or to the majority of the readers? Heck no! I’m just anal that way .. and some others might be too. There’s no reason to be stressed out while doing all of this, either for money or for fun .. right?

  7. Andy Merrett says:

    Yes we’re just a web ring but we don’t really care. Then again, I thought a ‘network’ was about *networking*, which we are certainly doing (at least, I wouldn’t be communicating with 30+ site owners on this level if they weren’t in my ‘blog ring’)

    Everyone seems to get so uptight about whether it’s a network, or a web ring, or a collection of people, or whatever (and frankly I don’t care if it’s Web 2.0 or not, either). Fact is, everyone at BFN seems to be enjoying it (yet of course heaven knows why they’d do it for nothing – or maybe not everyone is into making money, or they’re making money their own way anyway). Not wanting to start a flame war either but I guess once you’ve (eventually) sold a blog or two you start looking just at the money.

    But anyway…

    Just for the record, at BFN there is no revenue share because we don’t pay anyone (monetarily) – that may change in the future but for the avoidance of hype I am not at liberty to talk about it.

    Content ownership: Site owner owns and is responsible for all their content, domain, design, etc. They are free to leave at any time if there is conflict or just because they want to find someone to pay them ;)

    Again this may change with future blogging plans (BFN members that read the members site will know what I’m referring to) – but even then the revenue split will be geared fully towards 100% for each participator.

    Risk: well yeah if I keep shouting my mouth off then I might damage the reputation of BFN but I think people are generally clever enough to realise that every member is their own person. That’s why we don’t overly restrict what people say on their own blogs either.

    There’s no legal status involved with our web ring, either. (Hmm, must get some ‘previous site next site’ buttons going for the site ;)

    Network: an interconnected system of things or people; An extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance or support.

    That’ll do as a definition for me. I couldn’t find ‘web ring’ in my dictionary.

  8. I was approached to join a network on two separate occasions. The first one, the guy wanted me to sign over my blog -he’d own it. I couldn’t believe he was so arrogant (he also did not plan on paying me saying I could keep the amazon book referral fees). The second network offer was ridiculous. I was required to sign a whole stack of legalese BEFORE I’d even be allowed to even see the network agreement! As if. I told them that requiring me to invest in an attorney at the outset to review the aforementioned stack of legalese before I’d even know whether I even wanted to join was ludicrous. Imposing costs at the outset -before you can even know whether you want to join- is stupid. Evidently, I’m not the only one who balked judging from their market penetration. Plus, you were required to carry this huge sidebar ad with dancing elves and crap. I hate ads that move around.

  9. Enoch says:

    What is the policy of joining b5 media network? I don’t find it stated in their application page. What is it about joining b5 that causes you to lose control or ownership?

  10. Andy Merrett says:

    Dancing elves? Oh nice. <makes note>

  11. Darren Rowse says:

    Enoch – at present we’re not actually taking on new bloggers.

    In terms of control – b5media owns the domain and the blog – the bloggers own the content and licence it to us to use for as long as we like. They can use it in other forums with some time restrictions.

  12. Enoch says:

    Woah, then I guess I would never join such networks. The domain and blog must belong to me. I will never let it into the hands of others unless they pay multimillions for it, and I agree.

  13. Nice analysis, Darren.

  14. binoculars says:

    I wonder where you dig out this information… It’s really an eye opening. I’m starting to think that you are a Blog Master.

  15. Emma says:

    Darren, I was recently contacted by a blog network asking me to join. Being somewhat new, I had some questions. All I had to do was Google blog network, and your article came up.

    It seems that anytime I have a question, I can find the answer on your site.

    Thanks for all of the great info. Emma

  16. Geoff R says:

    When I started my blog, I wanted desperately to join a blog network. Obviously no one would take me, because my blog was still in it’s infancy. Looking back, I am glad that I was not accepted, because I would have experienced some of these bad side effects.

    A year later, my blog is starting to flourish. I have 7 other part-time writers, and I am moving towards an editorial position. Thanks for all the great tips along the way Darren, you have really helped me!

  17. I don’t know how I missed this..

    I had responded back in December 2005 to your original “Why you should..” post. I still haven’t seen what I consider good answers to the negative points I raised there ( http://aplawrence.com/foo-web/blogging-networks.html if anyone is interested).

    For me, the biggest issue is control. I simply cannot accept anyone else being able to tell me what to do. Suggest, and I will listen and might do it. But force? Not for me..

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