Blog networks are appearing all the time. So what’s the big deal? What are the benefits? Are there downsides?
You probably know a blog network when you see one but each is different to the others. There are blog networks that have what are effectively staff writers, such as Weblogs, Inc, and loose collectives or communities such as 9rules. So what is the definition of a blog network?
My description of a blog network is a group of blogs who all group and link together for mutual benefit. You may disagree but I find it hard to be any more specific. For example you might say a common theme is that they approach advertisers as a group but some blog networks do not require that you even show advertising to be a member. Another wrinkle in coming up with a definition is the fact that a blog network could have one author behind all the blogs in a network, it is the blogs that are connected not necessarily the bloggers.
More often than not there is no theme connecting the blogs though in some cases the theme is the whole point, for example FreshDaily blogs are all about Canadian cities.
The social benefit to joining (or starting) a blog network is the sense of belonging and mutual support. It is very difficult to be an expert in everything required to have a really successful blog. Joining with other experienced bloggers gives you access to that group of peoples general blogging knowledge and also shares the specialist expertise of the individuals. One blogger might be a kick-ass designer, another an expert at marketing and there will usually be at least one blog-code-jedi.
Marketing and promotion will gain an immediate boost just through the cross-promotion and inter-linking. Bloggers in networks tend to just naturally refer to each others blogs and if you have a choice between linking to a blog you don’t know particularly well and a friends you are going to go with your friends. Most networks promote the best posts to a central hub blog and do “roundups” and best-ofs where they link lists of posts that you might have missed.
As mentioned earlier, going to an advertiser with the combined traffic of a network can open doors that individual bloggers can not. Also having someone dedicated to the job of attracting advertisers takes the weight off the individual who can get on with the business of blogging. Individual bloggers might even get a regular salary.
With all the benefits listed above you might be eager to either start or join a blog network but there are some downsides you might like to consider before making any decisions.
The first downside is the flip-side to the first benefit; social. With any group of people there are personalities and human traits. Politics, lazyness, greed, grumpiness, bitching, whining, moaning, competitiveness … you can name a negative for each of the positives about joining a group. Hopefully there would be good leadership. Worthwhile feeling out the people behind the network before jumping in with both feet.
Yes you might gain traffic but you might also find you are carrying the network. The 80-20 rule could work in your favour or you might find that everyone else is benefitting from your hard labor. Obviously this is not going to apply in every case and I would even suggest that the holistic effect of grouping together would probably benefit in most cases but again it is worth thinking about. Would you be better off on your own? Certainly for an a-list blog you might be financially better off. Oprah is a celebrity that can command huge paychecks, would team-oprah have worked as well?..
Once you get into the scerio where you have given up control in return for benefits you might find you are losing site of why you got into the professional blogging game in the first place. All of a sudden you have a boss, you have deadlines, you can no longer just write about what pops into your caffeine-fuelled head. Are you ready to have your approach critiqued by not only your audience but the guy writing your pay cheques again?
Black, White and Shades of Grey
I had promised my next post was going to be positive (and I think this mostly is!) but I couldn’t in good concience give the benefits without some of the issues. I guess cheerleading doesn’t come naturally to me.
Only you can decide what is right for you. Blog networks are only going to grow in both number and scale, I can’t see them going away soon. There may be though a benefit in getting in early so you can help shape them and avoid the pitfalls I outlined. Maybe there is a third way? Perhaps you are just the person to find it?
Tell us what you think about blog networks – a force for good?