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.
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.