Focusing a Blog Network
Like everything else in life, especially in the commercial sphere, blog networks need a focus, a sharp brand, a hook to hang your hat on.
Evan Williams (founder of Blogger.com) recognized that when he reconsidered his podcasting company, Odeo. His mea culpa at The Future of Web Apps conference was brilliant and should be read by all blog network owners, especially journalists following the space.
After buying out his shareholders in Odeo, he writes today that his mistakes were : “not focusing the product, building for other people, raising too much money too soon, etc.”
Blog networks are just the same. If you have a sprawling inventory of 50 or 200 websites, they have to hang together in some recognizable way, both by branding and connectivity. “Channels” are not enough. It’s an engineering term, not a publishing one, and doesn’t resonate with the wider audience.
Evan Williams’s new business philosophy is very similar to the one we started with here at Syntagma. He puts it this way :
* Build things cheaply and rapidly by keeping teams small and self-organized.
* Leverage technology, know-how, and infrastructure across products (but brand them separately, so they’re focused and easy to understand).
Focusing and branding are the key issues here, as is separating the operator from the product. Astonishingly, some Web businesses make no distinction between them. If a new reader alights on your main page and says, “what is it?”, you’re in trouble.
At Syntagma, we’ve started that process by arranging our inventory into three Network Magazines : Allusionz (Arts and Philosophy), LifeTimes (Lifestyles and Celebrities) and 21st-century Phi (Sciences and Future Technologies).
Magazines (French for “shops/stores”) are understood by everyone and immediately break down that public barrier to “blog networks”. You can see how they pan out in the sidebar.
The next step is to add the connectivity and the public face of the magazines, while further developing and adding to the websites already in place.