Over on CelebrityCowboy, David Krug has posted an analysis of the rise and fall of blog networks. Coming from David Krug, I did not expect something so seriously written, though I guess I should have known, with him putting “The” in front of it. (Just joking Dave.)
He mentions a few key points on what he has noticed about blog networks including:
1. Leadership Burnout
2. Crappy Location
3. Bad Paintjobs
4. Supersized Egos
5. Failure to Listen
I have to agree with everything he has said, but I think that it can be more than that. You have to really want to make something work and continually improve on it. Blog Networks are slow growing, and can be expensive for certain people to start. I have come across all the things that David lists in his post.
For leadership burnout, I recommend that the owner/leader of the network tries to change things up. Sometimes changing roles, directions, or scaling down can really help refocus both your own mind, and the network’s goals. If you find that you are the writer with all the drive, and your boss is in a slump, talk to him. Maybe he just needs to throw some more responsibility your way, or needs to hire someone to help him our, or could use some advice on sites that could be removed or amalgamated.
To solve the crappy location problem, it really is about the blog. I don’t think any one subject is a bad place to start a blog. I think that there is so many people online looking for some great content. So if you know you can get out of the echo chamber, and bring something new and interesting to the table, you can succeed.
Look at what the top three in your subject are doing, and try to list two things you would improve or change with each site. Write those all down, and then think of how you can impliment those improvements into your blog without losing the original power or draw that the top three have.
Find some young designer on Sitepoint or TalkFreelance, and get them to make what you need. I don’t mind a blog network having a unified template design with some color changes on each site, but try to look better than the average blog. Your design can help you stand out just as much as good content can.
It might cost a little bit to look nice, but if you are going to launch more than one blog, or really want a blog to be successful, a nice design can definetly be worth it, and can sometimes make the difference between bookmark/subscribe worthy sites, and visit once sites.
There really isn’t much that the egotistical person can do in this situation. So the employed, or not-ego controlled partner has to do their best to remind the big headed person that they are acting as such.
Failure to Listen
This goes well with number four in that you don’t know everything, so if you stop listening, you might miss an opportunity that could have meant success for your blog/blog network. Even swallowing your pride, and specifically asking for feedback can sometimes be hard, but if you open yourself up, and listen to what your readership has to say, you might be surprised.
In the end, his best comment about the whole thing is about going slow, and doing it right.
If I had to do it all over again. I would focus on building one site with multiple solid partners. Then as time grew on after a year or maybe even to I would branch out into one or two other sites instead of trying to grow so fast I couldn’t keep up with the work involved. So Future Blog Network Owners of the World remember to build one site at a time never losing track of your goal of building a large network of sites.
Working with multiple blog networks, I have found the ones with more than one person at the helm do better. Not only are you working to make a site better to fill your pockets, but there is someone else to worry about and that might make you give that extra five or ten percent that you need to make something a success. It also allows both of you to divide the stress and workload. David is 100% correct about taking one idea, pooling talent and resources, and making that idea work before moving on to expanding it into other areas.
I think some networks expand too far too fast, and even if they make a profit, they are still lacking a structure that will allow them to really survive for long periods of time without dramatic shifts. There is a reason why some companies are top heavy in management, marketing, and accounting.
I really think that Blog Networks, more and more, are going to have to shift towards a much more traditional media structure with editors, advertising managers, fact checking, and realize that the only difference between a newspaper and a blog network, is that doing it online can be a much cheaper medium.