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Interview with a Weblogs Inc Blog ‘Producer’

VictorWhile at SXSW Interactive earlier this month I was fortunate enough to spend a little time with some of the Weblogs Inc bloggers. It was great to get a little insight into how one of the original blog networks has grown and is now currently operating a couple of years after it’s sale to AOL.

One of those that I met was Victor Agreda Jr. When I asked him what his role was he told me that he was a ‘blog producer’ at a number of WIN’s blogs. The idea of blogs having a ‘producer’ immediately intrigued me and I asked him if he’d be willing to do a mini interview to explore it. Here it is:

Darren: How long have you been working with Weblogs Inc? How did you get the job with them?

Victor: I started blogging for Weblogs back in 2005 with Download Squad. I originally applied for TUAW, in part because I was the top-ranked commenter (at the time comments were given 1-5 stars by the bloggers) and I had huge numbers of comments.

I later wound up on TUAW as a blogger (about 6 months later). My full-time gig began a little less than 2 years ago. I was brought on partly for my tech background, and partly because I speak Spanish.

Darren: When we met in Austin you described your role as a ‘producer’ of a few of Weblogs Inc’s blogs – can you unpack what a blog producer does for us?

Victor: In fact, my AOL title is “programming manager” but “producer” is probably more accurate. I come from a film/video background, and “producing” our blogs is pretty similar. I make sure the trains run on time, people get paid, content is getting posted, etc. Basically middle-management (which means I get to watch everyone having fun while blogging).

Darren: Which blogs do you work with?

TUAW, Download Squad, DIY Life plus Autoblog Latino and the Spanish version of Engadget and Autoblog.

Darren: What is the biggest challenge for you in your work?

Victor: Finding and retaining top talent. I used to say ‘especially in tech’ before we launched DIY, but honestly, it is all pretty rough. Either folks have their own blog they are monetizing (no matter how small– but people like to “own” their stuff) or they are lacking in some critical fashion (can’t write).

Darren: Does WIN employ producers on other blogs? Do their roles differ to yours at all?

Victor: We have two others at my level, plus one person one level up the career ladder (Barb, who manages 3 f/t Joystiq editors). We split our properties up among “verticals” so, for example, Willy would manage Cinematical and TV Squad, while Kristi handles Slashfood and Aisledash (entertainment vs. lifetsyle blogs).

Darren: Do you have any advice or tips for smaller to medium sized blogs that want to step up in terms of professionalism and growth?

Victor: Building a team is crucial, always. Once you grow beyond just yourself, it is important to have a talent pool who can bring a variety of skills to the table. This usually means a level of tech-savvy (people shouldn’t be afraid of wikis or simple HTML) plus a certain level of management ability. There also gets a point where you need someone focusing on sales!

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. Great advice. Thanks for putting the interview together, Darren. I would agree that if you wanted to make your blog more enterprise, forming the right team is essential.

  2. Crazykinux says:

    “Finding and retaining top talent. I used to say ‘especially in tech’ before we launched DIY, but honestly, it is all pretty rough. Either folks have their own blog they are monetizing (no matter how small– but people like to “own” their stuff) or they are lacking in some critical fashion (can’t write).”

    So true!

  3. Sangesh says:

    Hey Darren, thanks for sharing the interview excerpts. this is quite helpful, cause we also got to know many details regarding other blogging networks as well.

  4. Matt Wardman says:

    That’s interesting Darren.

    I’ve taken the route (in a political blog) of bringing a number of excellent writers on board who contribute regularly and reliably, but not so often that it interferes with their normal blogging. Usually I target to invite people to contribute who have knowledge that i don’t have, and who have a different audience, or who write in a different style (e.g., rapid fire commentary vs a weekly analytical piece) – so it becomes a win-win in the areas of skills, cross-promotion, and adding value.

    This has happened over the last 6 months or so; the previous 6 months (from when I started 12 months ago) were spent basically working my socks off to build a profile and reputation.

    It looks organised from here, but it was perhaps half and half strategy and tactical response to events – such as unique niches that opened up or closed down at different times.

    By comparison it seems that you maintained yourself as effectively sole author for Problogger for much longer.

    The link on my name leads to a “guided tour” of our weekly content mix.

  5. Matt Wardman says:

    Let me add a PS. I now – having got to a point where there are about 10 of us writing for the blog, find myself putting a lot of time into editing and training/mentoring in our “house style” – plus I’m now moving towards spending some significant time on promotion/monetisation. I expect the latter to be the toughest thing so far.

  6. Some potential follow-up questions, that weren’t asked:

    Q: How difficult is it to find and hold onto top talent? Is there much turn-over in blogging?

    Q: Are bloggers being paid what they are worth? How important is pay to attract and retain talent at WIN?

  7. PhoneBoy says:

    I blog with Creative Weblogging and WebbleYou. I often times wonder if I would be better off putting my energy into my own blog(s) or essentially “giving away” my writing for a small, but guaranteed pittance. It’s an equation from hell.

  8. Sarah says:

    I find it interesting that he complains he can’t find good talent. I’ve applied to Weblogs Inc several times over the past year or so. Not once was I ever given the courtesy of a response. My apps were completely IGNORED. If you want top talent, act professional and stop ignoring applicants!

  9. Matt Wardman says:

    I’ve written up ,my experience and thoughts here:

    http://tinyurl.com/2sr2w4

  10. @Ed Sutherland : I’m the Lead Blogger at Download Squad, which means I work directly for Victor. To answer some of your questions:

    1. It’s tough, but it’s doable. Turnover is a problem, but it is manageable if you plan accordingly and pay attention to your team. Keeping talent has a lot more to do with creating a supportive and positive environment than it does with monetary compensation.

    2. Which dovetails nicely into this.. Although money is a motivating factor, as it is in (most) all things, looking at money as a way to keep talent is in my opinion the wrong approach. A blogger motivated only by compensation isn’t a blogger I want on my team. We pay well, but someone will always be willing to pay more. It’s the same but inverse rule to competing on price alone in a market.. eventually you’ll price each other out of business and no one wins. The more effective tactic is to recruit carefully, create a brand and product (i.e. site) that people _want_ to be associated with, and offer as much help, guidance, support and bloglove as you possibly can to both your bloggers and your readers. A positive environment where a team works together cohesively is a far more powerful motivator for the right writers. Sure, someone may offer one of my bloggers more money, that’s only fair.. The environment I strive to create at Download Squad is a powerful value-add which a writer would leave behind to go work somewhere else. In most cases, that’s more effective for retention than simply throwing more money at the problem.

    I’m working on a guest post for Problogger myself, which will go into way more detail on the strategies I employ to grow traffic and keep my team working together. It’s something I’m very passionate about, and I’ve worked very hard over the time I’ve been at Download Squad to refine what I we do to a science. I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts with the community, and getting some feedback.

    Also, if you’re interested in more on how we work, both Victor and I (and Scott McNulty of TUAW) were featured in Michael A. Banks’ book, “Blogging Heroes” which you can find on Amazon. It’s a good read, and not just for *us*. Gina Trapani (Lifehacker), Scoble, Frauenfelder (Boing Boing) and a ton of other insightful people contributed to the book.

  11. @Sarah : We get a ton of applications, and we try to do our best. If you’re interested in writing for Download Squad, feel free to contact me. All my direct contact info is on my personal blog @ http://grantrobertson.com/contact

  12. Steve says:

    Is this blog producer position the equivalent of b5′s Channel Editors? Description sounds a little similar. Interesting that they are full-time with AOL.

  13. Sarah, sorry if you’ve been ignored, but as Grant said (and he only sees a smidgeon) we get a ton of applications. In the hundreds a day.

    Like most large businesses, there’s no way we can respond to everyone. Without going into detail, we’d essentially need a f/t person just to *respond* to the applicants.

    That being said, the majority of applications I see come via the form are terrible. IMHO, the best way to get on our radar is to a) comment regularly on the blogs you are interested in, b) comment with authority and fairness (in other words, don’t fly off the handle, try to be logical and stay on topic) and c) start your own blog and show us how it’s done! This is how I got my job.

    Ed, Grant pretty much summed up what I’d say to your questions. I’d say there is a considerable amount of turnover, and that Weblogs pays in line with the industry at large (which isn’t saying a lot since everyone has different methods– just ask a Gawker Media blogger).

    In the end you’re either in this for the passion of your interests or you’re in this to make reams of cash. We look for passionate bloggers, not money-chasers.

  14. Victor, I think most professional bloggers prefer passion with a competitive income. I see blogging at a turning point. Many blog operators see the change from blogging as a casual curiosity to a revenue-generating media business. Unfortunately, income for the producers (i.e. bloggers) hasn’t caught up with the vc cash, advertising revenue and business of commercial blog operations.

  15. PhoneBoy says:

    @Victor: I don’t think passion and the desire to be paid as much as possible are mutually exclusive. I won’t sign up to blog about any old topic. It has to be one I am passionate about. That being said, I want to get a fair amount of value from being involved with a network–money obviously being a component of that value.

    Blogging for yourself versus blogging for a network is a bit like choosing to rent your house versus buying it. Both have plusses and minuses.

  16. iddaa says:

    Is this blog producer position the equivalent of b5’s Channel Editors? Description sounds a little similar. Interesting that they are full-time with AOL.

  17. oyun says:

    Is this blog producer position the equivalent of b5’s Channel Editors? Description sounds a little similar. Interesting that they are full-time with AOL.

  18. oyunlar says:

    Victor, I think most professional bloggers prefer passion with a competitive income. I see blogging at a turning point. Many blog operators see the change from blogging as a casual curiosity to a revenue-generating media business. Unfortunately, income for the producers (i.e. bloggers) hasn’t caught up with the vc cash, advertising revenue and business of commercial blog operations.

  19. oyun oyna says:

    Is this blog producer position the equivalent of b5’s Channel Editors? Description sounds a little similar. Interesting that they are full-time with AOL.s.

  20. Also, if you’re interested in more on how we work, both Victor and I (and Scott McNulty of TUAW) were featured in Michael A. Banks’ book, “Blogging Heroes” which you can find on Amazon. It’s a good read, and not just for *us*. Gina Trapani (Lifehacker), Scoble, Frauenfelder (Boing Boing) and a ton of other insightful people contributed to the book.

  21. Is this blog producer position the equivalent of b5’s Channel Editors? Description sounds a little similar. Interesting that they are full-time with AOL.

  22. radyo says:

    Victor, I think most professional bloggers prefer passion with a competitive income. I see blogging at a turning point. Many blog operators see the change from blogging as a casual curiosity to a revenue-generating media business. Unfortunately, income for the producers (i.e. bloggers) hasn’t caught up with the vc cash, advertising revenue and business of commercial blog operations.

  23. gerdek says:

    Victor, I think most professional bloggers prefer passion with a competitive income. I see blogging at a turning point. Many blog operators see the change from blogging as a casual curiosity to a revenue-generating media business. Unfortunately, income for the producers (i.e. bloggers) hasn’t caught up with the vc cash, advertising revenue and business of commercial blog operations.

  24. mp3 indir says:

    Victor, I think most professional bloggers prefer passion with a competitive income. I see blogging at a turning point. Many blog operators see the change from blogging as a casual curiosity to a revenue-generating media business. Unfortunately, income for the producers (i.e. bloggers) hasn’t caught up with the vc cash, advertising revenue and business of commercial blog operations.

  25. video izle says:

    Also, if you’re interested in more on how we work, both Victor and I (and Scott McNulty of TUAW) were featured in Michael A. Banks’ book, “Blogging Heroes” which you can find on Amazon. It’s a good read, and not just for *us*. Gina Trapani (Lifehacker), Scoble, Frauenfelder (Boing Boing) and a ton of other insightful people contributed to the book.