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On Blog Networks: Pros And Cons

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Recently I’ve been involved in a few different discussions about Blog Networks, and both their benefits and the disadvantages. To be honest, I find it a little surprising that people are doing things now that are so… 2006… but whateva. In the interest of full disclosure I have been offered spots in quite a few Blog Networks on different topics, but I have only participated for a very short time on only one. That participation was over 3 years ago, but even with the amount of time that has passed it seems that there has not been much change to how they are run.

What Is A Blog Network?

A Blog Network is really a group of blogs that cover a variety of topics under one banner. A great example of a Blog Network (and where Blog Networks need to go) is B5Media. Another example of a Blog Network from a technical perspective, although they probably wouldn’t consider themselves one, is CNN who puts many blog voices under one banner.

Traditionally a Blog Network provides the technical support needed to create a blog, and the blogger provides the content that populates it. With the increasing popularity and stability of WordPress MU, Blog Networks have become another option for the average publisher to expand their presence on the internet with basic technological knowledge.

The Pros Of A Blog Network

  • Potentially increased visibility – By joining with other bloggers, there is the potential for you to increase your visibility. Compelling content is what draws readers in. Someone else’s compelling content of today can bring readers to your own compelling content of yesterday and tomorrow, bringing you extra exposure and new readers
  • Not bearing the sole burden of content – By not bearing the sole burden of content, a huge weight is lifted from your shoulders to stay fresh and relevant. The lessened demand leaves more time for family, friends, and of course Mafia Wars
  • The possibility of earning revenue without the hassle – This always seems to be the biggest pro that bloggers sign up for. Earning money is not as easy as throwing an AdSense block in your sidebar. Today it requires time and effort for effective sales in advertising. With the Blog Network handling the sale of ads on your blog and sharing the revenue with you

The Cons Of A Blog Network

  • Potential loss of visibility – If you haven’t already established a blog, this probably won’t matter for you since being at zero visibility means there’s only one way for you to go and that is up. Established bloggers need to realize that by jumping off their own blogs they are essentially starting all over again. Sure you’ll be able to announce to your readers that you’re moving, but the links that you have built up over time that the search engines use are going dead. They don’t automatically follow you to your new endeavor under a new domain. Some bloggers make a bigger mistake by bringing their domain with them, which will result in those backlinks going to an Error 404 page on the network or worse… to irrelevant content
  • The burden of higher quality content is higher – Sure you are part of a network, but what will make you stand out? Obviously you’ll need higher quality content than the next blogger in order to continue being the authority as you have been in the past
  • The Loss of Copyright – This is the absolute biggest reason to stay completely clear of a Blog Network. You write it and they publish it with their Copyright notice in the footer. This is less of an issue if you are a blogger who is getting paid for both a) content and b) performance. What I mean by that is you are getting paid a set amount per word/post and ontop of that getting performance or “traffic” bonuses. The working MO of Blog Networks is to offer you an ad revenue share based on the number of unique visitors or pageviews that you get. Some Blog Networks will even set a “minimum” performance level (which is usually some ridiculously high number) before they will include you into the ad share. Think about it… if they sell two ad spaces on your blog and collect the revenue but you don’t make their minimum “performance” level they are keeping your percentage… and the rights to the content you created
  • The Loss of Being Able to Determine Your Own Advertising – There is a reason that the FTC has made changes regarding blog advertising. An advertiser appearing in your sidebar isn’t just an acknowledgment of payment, but it can be inferred as an endorsement. So for arguments sake let’s say you have a bad service experience at oh… I don’t know… a motorcycle repair shop. You blog your disgust and how unfairly you and your bike Betsy were treated. You move on to other things, and then one day an ad appears in your sidebar for that very same motorcycle repair shop. Like contextual advertising, you have lost your ability to control who is cashing in on your reputation

What Every Blogger Should Know Before Signing Onto A Blog Network

  • READ THE FINE PRINT – As with everything you do, be sure to READ THE FINE PRINT, especially with Blog Networks where revenue is dependent on performance. The devil is always in the details…
  • Think About The Long Term Effects – I am a big believer in the revenue possibilities along the long tail. Make sure something you create today for them and not being compensated for is something you can use later on for yourself to generate revenue in case they cease to exist
  • Effects On Your Personal Brand – If you join a Blog Network you will surrender a bit of your Personal Brand that will be replaced by the Network Brand. In some cases this may good and in others it may be bad

Whether you decide Blog Networks are right for you or they aren’t is ultimately your decision. I think much of it depends on the entire reason you started blogging. Please, just go into it with your eyes wide open and both the benefits and disadvantages to both you and your readers in mind.