Have blog networks really failed?

Paul Scrivens on Wisdump has started (continued?) the conversation/meme that blog networks have failed:

All the blog networks after WIN and Gawker spent so much time trying to make something from little bits and pieces that they forgot to evaluate what might be important to them. You can build 100s of sites, but what does that change? It just means you have 100s of sites to micro-manage now which takes away your resources.

Many blog network owners knew this yet they continued to push on and add more sites before making any of the previous ones relevant. Almost like how project managers add more coders to a project thinking it will get done faster.
Source: Why Blog Networks Failed » Wisdump

As you all know, I’m a part of b5 media (Pimp Your Work and Homely Scientist are my blogs and I’m the Channel Editor for Writing and Literature—feed) so excuse any bias I might have.  That said, however, I think there is some valid critism of blog networks, including b5.  It is hard to manage a large blog network with lots of niche blogs.  You have wide ranges of traffic, blogger engagement, blog quality—all of these things make it hard to monetize the network.

WIN and Gawker had the benefit of flagship blogs that could, to some degree, carry the rest of the network.  I think the primary benefit of any blog network is the aggregation of audience and resources.  Looking at a network overall, you are attractive to advertisers.  Hosting blogs together, you can take advantage of economies of scale for hosting, etc.  Matt Mullenweg is right in pointing out many networks’ flaw—management.  Management of any network is a real challenge.  An ongoing challenge.

It’s too early to tell if blog networks have failed.  Paul is showing his own 9Rules bias in his post. He didn’t talk about Federated Media.  That network model appears to be working just fine.  This is not to say b5 isn’t working, Paul just didn’t point out FM.

Personally, I think blog networks haven’t failed, but they aren’t completely proven either.  The models are in flux.  Do you launch lots of niche blogs (like b5) or do you build off a couple big anchor blogs (Gawker and WIN) or do you build a “federation” of sorts (9Rules and FM)?

The bottom line really is, how do you build traffic across a network and increase ad revenue?  Ad networks that cater to blogs aren’t doing a great job of leveraging all the blogs they have.  They are all fighting for advertisers and the advertisers know it.

So perhaps the real questions isn’t whether blog networks have failed, but whether there are better ways for bloggers (whether solo or in a network) to leverage advertising.

See also BloggingPro and 901am.


  1. Tris
    Paul didn’t talk about FM because it isn’t a blog network by any stretch of the imagination. It’s an advertising network, in the same field as BlogAds and Glam. Of course I’ve taken issue with 9rules being called a blog network in the past, but I can say with full strength that 9rules is much more a blog network than FM will ever be.

  2. Great question. I really like 9Rules. I don’t know how well they’re doing numbers wise, but there’s quite a bit of activity. I’m not sure how bloggers can leverage advertising. I’ve often wondered about creating strategic alliances with a group of bloggers and brainstorming ways that our combined efforts could be greater than the sum of our individual effort. I’m not there yet, myself, but perhaps some day.

  3. A blog network will fail for the same reasons any publisher fails; lack of readers and/or advertisers; too much overhead; overpaid writers and managers.

    There are tons of small magazine publishers today with tiny readerships that do quite well.

    If you keep your management and overhead costs reasonable compared to your readership and advertiser base and you are an authority and influential in your space you can do just fine without the kind of numbers that make the VC’s drool.

    Not every company needs to go public to make a good living for its owners and employees.

    That is exactly the beauty of a well run blog network or independent blog. You don’t need expensive offices, printing costs, mailing costs or all the other things that come along with magazine, book, or newspaper publishing.

    one guy in his house can make a living. Or lots of guys in their respective houses can pool their resources and have it managed by a good team with good ad sales and all make even more together than they might individually.

    Advertisers like dealing with fewer rather than more people than they have to.

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