One of my first comments on Performancing was on an article by Nick Wilson on the idea of a ‘hub and spoke’ model for blog networks.
This would operate by having a central blog giving an overview of a topic, with individual blogs about specific aspects – for example a motoring central blog, with satellite blogs about Ford, Nissan, etc.
I mentioned at the time that a friend and I were setting up a blog network just like this and would let you know how we got on. Well, on 10th February we launched Real Life News so I thought I’d give an update on what we’ve done and why.
The model we have adopted is to create hubs around key topics and recruit fans to write individual blogs. Our first channel is Football (soccer), and the individual blogs cover English Premiership football teams and leagues around the world. All the blogs are run and hosted by us.
Some reasoning behind this:
- by choosing fan-based topics we attract writers who are passionate about the area. We ask for examples of their writing so we can check their style (and sanity), but we go for passion over journalistic style
- by going for start-up writers we don’t have to ‘buy’ blogs into the network, but we do have to start from scratch.
- Although each writes about a specific team or league, there are good opportunities for overlap/cross-referencing. For example, the Newcastle United blog said the team were looking at a German manager, so the Bundesliga blogger wrote an article giving background on him.
- The bloggers can also comment on broader football issues. We did an interview with the Football Association (the governing body in the UK) and published it on our homepage with no opinion, instead encouraging the bloggers to give their view of the interview on their own blogs.
- We decided to have all the blogs on our site because we want to create a focal point for people wanting to read about the topic areas.
One question raised among the comments on Nick’s article, was how to start a hub and spoke network. Do you start with the hub or the spokes?
Our plan was to launch the hub along with a minimum 5 blogs. A hub on its own is just a blog and the spokes on their own have little or no benefit in terms of creating a community.
We set up on Blogger with posts focused on what we were trying to do – rather than about football – and used it as a landing pad for the recruitment. We managed to get 6 blogs up for launch so achieved our threshold. Now we have something live, we’re getting more interest from potential writers as they can see what they would be involved with. We’ve signed up 2 more since launch (to go live next week) and are talking to 4 others.
Moving into other subjects in future should be easier having existing traffic and some the credibility of a live site.
In terms of traffic generation the volumes are small – but bigger than we expected given that all the blogs are new. And because they are written by real fans and we’ve adopted a very open approach to other sites (viewed as part of the wider subject comunity rather than competitors), we’re getting good mentions on other football blogs.
So that’s where we are. We haven’t come across many blog communities (which I feel are slightly different to standard blog networks) so hopefully there is something others can take from what we have done.