Black Friday–Are We Seeing The Demise of Blogging Networks?

I have been watching the recent demise of one of my favorite blogging networks called Know More Media. A business blogging network with its focus on the business world. I have been reading Easton Ellsworth’s blog since it’s inception at Business Blog Wire. As I understand it they intend to discontinue paying their bloggers as of this Friday on August 1, 2008. An open letter from Jeremy Wright, CEO at b5Media to the leadership at Know More Media was my first alert to this happening. dead.jpg

I have also been following the rumors, innuendo and some of the people involved with the blogging network at Weblogs, Inc., a blog network company that was purchased by AOL, and the idea that they too may be stopping the payment to their bloggers for the content that they are providing. They are supposed to also learn their fate on August 1, 2008. I would say that this Friday could be referred to as Black Friday as it relates to the blog networking agencies.

What is the cause of this demise? I believe there are two components to this dilemma and it starts with the economy and the ad spends we are seeing in the online marketing realm. I too have felt the economic crunch with companies that were early adopters to enter into the social media arena. Experimental marketing such as the kind I provide, is usually the first to suffer the cuts of companies tightening their belts to prepare for the new downturn. Companies using blogs to market their products and services are still seeing the advertising as experimental not being able to yet show a return on their investment. Measurement of social media marketing is still in it’s infancy and companies are falling back on what they believed was working before they began to experiment and then experience tougher times. The economy has taken its toll. Advertisers are repositioning their budgets to go to something more stable and more quantifiable.

Another problem I see is the way blogging networks are managing their properties. Some of the companies that are in trouble with their networks are those companies that are not flexible and have the ability to move with the market. The leadership of these companies are beginning to see what happens when you rest upon your laurels and get too comfortable with a business plan that really must grow with its market and adapt to market changes. Leadership continues to take profit and not go back to those leaner times. In addition, since the sale of Weblogs, Inc., we have seen the emergence of social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace and the explosive emergence of microblogging sites such as Twitter and other applications. These blogging networks must also evolve to adapt these tools to make them a part of their own properties. They may have some components in place, but for the most part relying on their bloggers to keep them profitable is a tough chore for those bloggers and it will not last forever.

What do I see for the future of the likes of blogging Networks? I see smaller niche networks fracturing off to make single networks and written by perhaps multiple bloggers. We are seeing the emergence now of social sites such as in the food realm, the sports realm, and the automobile industry and other hobby type sites. The mommy blogs have embraced the idea of community and are some of the best in the business at making a social group made of many bloggers. The only problem we are seeing is the bloggers themselves are not making money from these groups. It’s an advertising property for the owners. Groups that are joining as a member/friend/follower of the group as a whole are becoming their own target market. They are generating content for the group and it all ends up in one place. They have built in forums for discussion, they have feeds that are brought in from each member of their own member blogs, and they have a Facebook look with each community member owning a certain part of the real estate. We see it now with FriendFeed Groups and other places.

Some of the players like b5 and others are still able to show profits because they have positioned themselves to give the best product. I believe even b5 has adjustments that they make on a regular basis to bring in new properties and cutting off the parts of the network that are bringing their number down. A type of survival of the fittest as it relates to their participating core. The problems we face have to do with metrics and what those with money see as the value. I have heard tell that those that have a target audience with the most impressions are the most valuable and are riding that wave. It seems Jeremy Wright is able to continue to surf that wave.

What do you think. What is the new thing to replace networks? Do you think networks are here to stay? As we all become our own citizen journalists, how can we monetize that content, or is their a different way of thinking for advertisers. These are questions I get and wrestle with on a regular basis. Any ideas?

[photo via Benny Bloomfield]