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Valedictory Interview with Duncan Riley of The Blog Herald

Duncan and son

To mark Duncan Riley’s departure from the blog news scene following the sale of The Blog Herald, we publish a valedictory interview which he has kindly granted to Syntagma.

If this sale seems like a death in the blogosphere, that’s not how Duncan sees it. As you’ll gather from the interview, he’s brimming with ideas for front-of-house Web-stuff, as well as looking forward to the heavy backend burden he carries at b5media. I never knew Australians could work so hard.

Interview with Duncan Riley

1. With the sale of The Blog Herald, and leaving aside b5media for now, do you have any major projects slated for the blogosphere this year?

I’d like to start a few new side projects, but only where they don’t take too much time away from my work at b5media (with 80+ blogs and growing, even doing something like implementing a new plugin can take two full days).

Obviously I’ve turned Weblog Empire into a forum and I’m hoping to spend a bit more time on this once all my duties with The Blog Herald cease. I’ve had a few approaches to do joint projects with people but, particularly with conferences/ phone type things, the tyranny of distance and the time zone makes things a bit difficult on that front. I’m open to writing gigs as well. I’ve done a fair bit of work with the mainstream media over the last 12 months so its something I’ll be looking at.

On other things, I’m looking at getting my book project, which I started 12 months ago, finished, although I’m also looking at things like ebooks as an alternative. A book itself takes a lot of time, whereas you can split the contents of a large book into smaller niche ebooks and do things such as direct affiliate programs, which means that you’re actually giving other bloggers something they can make money from as well, as opposed to just Amazon and the big publishing companies.

New things? I’ve always enjoyed challenging myself to do things I haven’t done before. I’ve got a couple of Australian-related domains and I’m looking at using one as an Australian Memeorandum style service but it’s early days on that front … and I’ve got to learn how to script it yet. Being Australian it’s always been a bit of a worry for me personally that I know so little about the Australian Blogosphere and yet along with people like Darren Rowse I’m considered amongst the Top Australian bloggers in the world.

2. What are the main lessons you’ve taken from the sale of The Blog Herald and how would you advise someone thinking of selling a blog or network?

I think it’s still a bit early to speculate or give advice on selling a blog network. I have noticed on Sitepoint recently that people there are selling turnkey blog networks (with little or no traffic) for a couple of hundred USD, and of course the ability to set up multiple blogs and call them a network is much more easier today than say 1-2 years ago. Aside from Weblogs Inc., there isn’t really any precedent in relation to sales that I’m aware of. I think given the proliferation of blog networks, it’s something you will see more of in the future though.

Lessons from The Blog Herald sale …. without being publicly critical of anyone involved in the sale (particularly the first aborted sale attempt), I wouldn’t do it the same way again. I’d rather not rehash the whole thing but I would give this advice:

* Sites like Sitepoint are full of people who will only consider revenue and are incapable at looking at the bigger picture, they really don’t get blogging.
* Keep your sale time short, and make it public. I honestly believed that selling The Blog Herald publicly would be damaging to the brand itself. There is little doubt that there has been some damage (and hence it didn’t make $72k the second time) to the brand, but a lot less than I expected. If I regret anything it’s that I didn’t just go public with it in the first place. I know talking to some people that they feel that the trust I had built up through the site was damaged by the secrecy, which is a fair call.
* Always insist on a non-refundable deposit from American buyers upfront on a big sale. When I first put The Blog Herald on the market, my father said to insist on getting a deposit because “American’s can’t be trusted”. Sure, it’s probably a little bigoted but as with the first sale attempt he was unfortunately right.

I can’t reveal the identity of the new owners at the time of writing this (they did pay a deposit I’m happy to say), but I can say that they are American, and the experience in dealing with them has been first rate. Great group of people. First class professionalism without any of the hype or marketing-speak you often get out of professionals (particularly in my field of marketing).

3. What’s the future for b5media?

Weblogs Inc…. just kidding. b5media continues to grow at an amazing rate, and traffic is more than doubling monthly at present. We had our first 1 million (raw) page-view day last week. I don’t have to hand a more recent figure but we are certainly fluctuating pretty close to that figure now daily. Blogs such as cellphone9, vh1realityworld, Desperateblog, Pittwatch and others now regularly surpass blogs like The Blog Herald and Ensight in terms of traffic. Other blogs may not have as much traffic but are star performers in terms of CPC revenue.

We’ve obviously come off a massive expansion period and although we still have a number of blogs under development or ready to be launched, we’re moving now to spending more time improving our current blogs, making sure that all our bloggers get the help and assistance required to make the best of the opportunity b5media provides them. Personally I’m working with our channel editors and staff to update blogs to the standard b5media template, working on getting everyone on WP2.0.1, rolling out plugins to make life easier, that sort of thing. A lot of back-office stuff, but things that need to be done.

As for the future, if you can tell me when the Google PR Dance will be over I might have a better idea. We’ll keep on working at what we are doing now, and continue building the blogs up. As I’ve written in the past it takes 6-9 months realistically to get most blogs established and going really well. Sure, some will fire straight from the beginning, but this is the exception not the rule.

4. Any hints on what The Blog Herald sold for? I’ve heard $30-40k US.

I’ve not heard those rumors and I’m under contract not to discuss the sales price. The only thing I will say is the new owners got a bargain, they know it, I know it, and they are as happy as Larry about it. But at least I know that it’s going to a good home, with people who appreciate blogging, and who are dedicated to taking The Blog Herald brand to the next level.

5. How is Weblog Empire’s new role coming along? Are you taking up Darren Rowse’s idea of a sharing of skills project linked to it?

Weblog Empire’s going really well. I haven’t been able to spend as much time there as I’d liked with the issues surrounding the sale of The Blog Herald, but I intend to spend more time with it in the future. The initial feedback has been great, people are doing deals in a non-threatening atmosphere where they can filter the link requests and discover some amazing new blogs as well. Indeed I might even start doing a weekly member profile thing there (like 100 blogs in 100 days at The Blog Herald) to give some of the members a plug. A really interesting array of sites and things people are doing.

6. What’s the single most effective monetization step a blog or network can take?

It’s hard to pin this down to one thing, but I’d suggest not thinking about the money is the tip I’d make. You are far better of focusing on things such as content (both in terms of quality and quantity), traffic, design and all the things involved therein. If you’ve got a decent blog with good traffic the money will flow naturally over time.

Thank you, Duncan. That’s been illuminating.

2 Responses to “Valedictory Interview with Duncan Riley of The Blog Herald”

  1. Hey guys,

    I’m sorry to see Duncan leave BH and did join WE, so at least he’s still around.

    Anyway, who’s Larry??? I guess it’s an Aussie thing.


  2. Yes, he’s still around, Joe. Weblog Empire is his old network converted into something else.

    Larry? It’s an old English/Aussie saying about Larry the lamb.

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