Shiny Media launches Propellerhead and Catwalk Queen

UK blogging network Shiny Media has just announced two news blogs – Propellerhead and Catwalk Queen.

Catwalk is a being billed as ‘your own personal online stylist’ and takes a look at how to look like your favorite celebrity. It complements the other fashion blogs that Shiny already has – they’re building quite a reputation in that area now.

Propellerhead is a tips blog for those with PC Problems (and what Windows user doesn’t?) with hints, tips and cheats galore.

Both sites feature Adsense ads, Propellerhead also has Chitika ads (something I think would do well on Catwalk Queen as well).

Over Stretched Blogging

I’ve been preparing for our last call in the six figure blogging course and we’re talking a little about hiring bloggers and blog networks. As a result I’ve been doing a bit of a tour of some of the newer blog networks to see how they are traveling. Some are doing better than others (at b5 we’ve had a few server issues as we swap from one server to another to another) and fine fools looks like they are in expansion.

In contrast to Fine Fools which is adding new blogs over time is Instablogs which launched with many blogs. A quick tour of them this morning reveals that while they have many blogs that over half of them haven’t been updated in almost two weeks.

I wonder if there is a lesson here for future blog networks. While it might be impressive to launch a network with close to 50 blogs – perhaps doing so stretches the resources of the network too far.

I’ll be advising our six figure blogger participants this morning to diversify their blogging interests in a variety of ways – but not at the expense of the quality of the projects that they work on. Stretch yourself too thin and everything suffers.

My advice – build your blogging up over time, adding projects as you find yourself able to do so.

Weblogs, Inc. Interviews its Bloggers

Weblogs, Inc. have been redeveloping their home page recently with design changes and more recently the decision to start profiling some of their bloggers via interviews – the first of which is with ProBlogger reader – Jay Allen who heads up their Baby Blog.

Blog Networks – Definitions

Martin has a post asking (and attempting to answer) the question What is a Blog Network? which might be of interest to some. It includes a very rushed and un-thought through response from yours truly.

I’m not really sure there is a single definition for a Blog Network – if you look at the range of them out there – they certainly come in all shapes and sizes and have a large variety of practices, values, purposes and formats.

But if definitions are you thing – head over and have your say.

Conflicts of Interest

Martin, the guy behind Blog Network Watch, has decided to call it quits after a week of blogging there. It’s not because it didn’t work (in fact he got a fair bit of attention) but because he saw potential conflict of interests. He writes:

‘I thought it would be a major conflict of interest for me to write about the industry (and you now me, when I write I usually go at it full on) when at the same time I have my eye on it for myself. As a journo I just would not feel comfortable with this.’

Conflicts of interest are something that I’ve had leveled at me here at ProBlogger (the most recent critique is in this thread) as I, in my writing about blogging for dollars, do talk about blog networks and mention both the networks I’m involved with as well as those of others (whom some would say are ‘the competition’ – not that I view them as this necessarily….but that’s another post).

I thought that rather than letting such conversations happen in the comment threads of posts on other topics (largely between anonymous comment makers) that it might be worth having an open and honest discussion here in a post all of it’s own. I’m not interested in us having a flame war on the topic – but rather would like to think that we can talk about it in an open and constructive manner.

I won’t write a new response to the criticism – but I will repost both the original comment/critique from ‘Mcintosh’ and my response below. I’d be interested in others thoughts.

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Positive Blogging

Instablogs has been copping a fair bit of criticism in the past few days since its launch a week back. One of their latest posts – Why This Unfair Treatment? – takes a look at a blogger’s argument that they are spam, their latest post explains their Plagiarism episode and a post a few days back looks at the best of the criticism of their network.

I’d like to give the Instablogs team a little more unsolicited advice and feedback (if they’ll allow me to).

My impression of their main blog at this point is that they are getting sucked into the trap of having to respond to every criticism that is being leveled at them. This is something that I see many bloggers do – they get critiqued and feel the need to justify, defend, argue and explain every negative mention of their work.

While I know this temptation on a personal level (I used to get sucked into it too) I would advise all bloggers to be careful of this as it can really bring down the tone of your blog. This is what I sense is happening over at Instablogs. At the time of writing this post virtually every post (except for one that I can see) on the main blog of Instablogs has some mention of some negative aspect of the launch.

I would agree that their launch could have gone better (they definitely have needed to address some things on their main blog) but I would suggest that there is only so much negativity that people will put up with on a blog. There comes a time when a blogger (or blog network) needs to move past the criticism.

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Instablogs Launches

After a few server problems the newest blog network to launch – Instablogs – has gone live. They’ve launched with 46 blogs (unless I can’t count) on a large array of topics. They are billing themselves as ‘A News Organization based on Blogging’. It’s early days yet for them so I’m not interested in taking them apart too negatively – but in responding to their call for suggestions and feedback here are some of my initial impressions:

  • Content – Just over 50% of their first round of blogs have no posts – I’m surprised by this, I’ve never seen a blog network launch empty blogs before. A further 4 of their blogs have only one welcome post on them. The writing on the blogs I see with posts seems to largely be link driven (ie linking to an article with comments on that article). I’m yet to reach each active blog in full but so far I haven’t seen too much original content. I’m not knocking this style of blogging – just interested in which approach they are taking.
  • Topics – They have chosen a nice wide range of niches to explore. Quite a few are the ‘typical’ blog network topics (why change a winner formulae?) but some are exploring new-ish ground which will be interesting to follow.
  • Design – I like their clean design. A lesson I learned from Jason Calacanis though is that he found that WIN’s blogs do better when each blog has its own look/feel/brand. So far they are all looking pretty much the same with a few different colors in the headers. Of course this is challenging when you have 50 or so blogs – but something I suspect they’ll make some changes on this.
  • Bloggers – One thing I’m interested in is the anonymity of authors so far. I wonder whether this will change.
  • International – I’m excited by some of their internationally flavored blog topics.
  • Ads – To this point I’m not seeing any. I’m sure this will come in time.

It’s always interesting to see how different bloggers and networks choose to go about setting up. I’ll be watching Instablogs with real interest. They’ve obviously got some big ideas which I wish them all the best in.

Weblogs Inc Sale to AOL Confirmed – Here’s the Inside Word

I’ve just been forwarded an email which was sent from Weblogs Inc Co-Founder Brian Alvey to Weblogs Inc’s bloggers. It was sent to me by WIN blogger who wants to remain nameless. I won’t publish it in full here as its a private email – but here are the main highlights which shed light on the deal between WIN and AOL.

  • AOL is acquiring Weblogs Inc
  • WIN are selling to increase the resources that they couldn’t provide otherwise (offices, technology, people, infrastructure) as well as extra traffic.
  • AOL are moving to an ad based model which fits with WIN.
  • Nothing is changing – Brian, Jason and the same management will continue to run WIN as an independently operated AOL company
  • WIN headlines will start appearing on AOL home page, netscape, AIM etc
  • Bloggers will need to sign a new contract shortly
  • The new contract will allow bloggers to own their own content for offline use
  • The contract will contain other features yet to be announced that are favorable to bloggers
  • Blogging will continue as per usual
  • There is no increase in pay mentioned but allusions to more money in the network due to the deal
  • There is mention of AOL getting into video content and WIN playing a part in this

Wow – looks like an exciting time for Weblogs Inc bloggers!

More on the deal from Reuters

Update: My source tells me that the reaction from WIN bloggers is for the most part very positive with the news that Jason staying on, increased payments and traffic causing some real excitement.

Gawker Media Potential Sale to News Corp

I just got an email from Duncan at Blog Herald that there are also rumors of Gawker Media being in talks with News Corp with the purchase of Gawker being the topic of conversation. He’s written about it at Gawker Media in Sales Talks. Unfortunately Blog Herald seems to be having server problems so I’m unsure what the substance of the story is apart from that Duncan says that his source is a good one.

Take it as rumor at this point but certainly an interesting one. I’m not sure it’s got as much credability as the WIN rumors to be honest.

Update: Looks like Duncan has his blog up and running again and the rumor is that News Corp is interested in the gossip blogs at Gawker more so than their others. It is certainly an interesting time for established blog network owners with this news, the rumored sale of Weblogs Inc and other networks being approached by VC investors.

Update II: I’ve done some digging around and the more I talk to people the more unlikely this story sounds. I’ve had a chat to some inside people and they deny it.

Also the more I think about it the more I doubt it – I mean can you imagine Fleshbot and Defamer etc in News Corp? Gawker is the edgey blog network – the one that prides itself on offending and breaking a few rules. Maybe my sources are just trying to put me off the scent – but I just can’t see it selling to News Corp or any other mainstream media outlet.