Whatever Happened To Blog Networks?

Paul Scrivens has posted on the topic “Why blog networks failed” over at Wisdump.com.

Do you remember those things that we called Blog Networks? You might have paid attention or you might have gone about your life like nothing changed and that’s one of the reasons why they failed. ‘Failed’ might be a harsh term to use, but of the hundreds of blog networks that started in 2005 and 2006 which ones are thriving and by ‘thriving’ I don’t mean staying above surface?

His line of reasoning, which is mostly sound, follows the Calacanis line that atomized blogs are less effective revenue earners than major titles, like Engadget or Boing Boing.

Readers of Syntagma may recall we’ve been considering this proposition for up to a year. The reason we’ve amalgamated our 50 domains into three network magazines, and pruned a great many others, is our recognition that the model was not flexible or attractive enough to make the breakthrough in revenue terms.

I believe “blogging” as content provision peaked possibly as far back as a year ago. Other, more traditional or hybrid, models have more to offer, I believe, in connecting with a technology-and-information-bemused audience. Blog networks are fading as Web 2.0 is slowly sinking into a rosy sunset.

But I also think Scrivs underestimates the amount of time it takes to get a content business going. Even Weblogs Inc took 18-24 months to build a site to a decent readership. That takes staying power as well as trust in the model.

What has happened is that following the success of a few sites which grew rapidly in a market with little competition, thousands of copycat operations have appeared like mushrooms in a damp forest.

BlogWe have saturation point in gadgets, autos, gaming, and gossip. The failure of many blog networks is largely one of imagination and genuine innovation. Just look at the derivative stuff out there.

As for the model, it can evolve, adapt and morph into newer forms. But, as we well know, it takes an immense and constant effort to accomplish this. It’s not for the fainthearted or the easily discouraged.

Content as a business is not synonymous with “blog networks”. There are some great content sites out there that are not blogs or networks.

I agree with Scrivs that the blog network model has failed as a road to easy riches. But, if you’re in it for the longer term, and innovate while bringing in traditional publishing skills, there may yet be solid achievement round the corner.

Bottom line : There will always be a need for good, informative, well-researched content with commentary while search engines expand and refine their techniques. How that content is presented is important but less so than its usability by the audience. A blog will get as many readers as it is usable.

People do not like to spend too much of their free time trying to interpret what the writer wanted to say. The easier the blog is for use, the more readers it will get. The simplicity of the content is one of the most important things here as well as the way how a reader can get to it. So, in a way, it is not that blog network is fading, not at all. Actually, it is flourishing simply because of the ability to edit and enhance the way how the content is displayed and how usable a blog is.

The only constraining factor is excessive competition squeezing out some operators. But then, that’s always been the case in every industry since wheelwrights started up in the Stone Age.