The Death Of Blog Networks?

By Yaro Starak
39 Comments

I saw this coming years ago and thankfully I made adjustments back then too.

If you watched my video on Conversion Blogging and the blog posts leading up to the release of the video, you know I was advocating a move away from the Page View Slave (PVS) model of blogging for money.

The PVS model relies on the raw number of page views you can deliver to advertisers in order to increase or maintain a level of income from blogging. Following the PVS model you set yourself up for hard work literally forever, plus you tend to put all your eggs in one basket, relying on traffic from Google to keep the page views up and in some cases, trading that traffic right back to Google in the form of AdSense click income.

Blog Networks In Turmoil

Today I had a chance, after supporting the new Blog Mastermind students and taking some time off, to catch up on the activities in the blogosphere.

One particular thread caught my attention, starting at Problogger with Darren’s short post on Talking Blog Networks, linking through to a post by Jeremy Wright, CEO of blog network b5media, on his feedback about the challenges of running a blog network and ending with Wendy Piersall’s thoughts on what the closure of a high profile blog network means to people in this industry.

I’ve never been a blog network owner per se, but I’ve owned multiple blogs and at one stage considered launching my own network after successfully branching into a second blog. Needless to say, I know the challenges you face coordinating bloggers, hiring good ones and monetizing the sites by selling the page views. It’s not easy for one person to do and I was stretching myself at times when trying to do it for just two blogs, so I can only imagine what Jeremy goes through at b5 with hundreds of blogs even with the support of a company team around him.

This is why years ago I decided to focus on long term asset creation and look for a means to get leveraged outcomes from what I do with blogs without wholly relying on the creative talents of other bloggers. I’ve never had intentions of trapping myself to a desk running a huge company as a busy CEO either, so I look for ways to keep things small, yet exponentially profitable, without giving up time and lifestyle freedoms.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made good money being in charge of blogs that I didn’t personally write to (leveraging other people’s talents, but always in a win-win relationship), but the job is taxing – people managing is always taxing. If that’s a role you are prepared to fulfill, perhaps for a short term period, you can make it work, just be aware of what you are signing yourself up to if you decide the blog network model is something you will pursue.

Is The Advertising Model Broken?

The blog networks I know of presently use a challenging business model. You have the aforementioned issues of building great blogs based on other people’s talents, monetizing their work using a model that depends on delivering page views and finding enough advertisers to keep your head above water.

Selling advertising from a website is a great way to generate income, it just can’t be the only way you do it. Advertisers come and go and what you earn fluctuates greatly depending on economic conditions. What you earn from advertising alone is not usually enough to live off, you need to throw other income sources into the mix.

You should never plan your future based on earning a certain amount of money from one source of income. Like Wendy lamented in her article, the money could be gone much sooner than you think. Wendy also described the situation faced by the Know More Media blog network, the one that closed down and thus triggered the discussion of blog network viability we are having now.

Know More Media was, as Wendy stated – “caught between a rock and a hard place” – forced to shut down because their income was driven by page views coming from Google search traffic and turned into income by selling text links and paid reviews. Then Google slapped penalties on sites that sold text links and paid reviews, dropping their traffic, hence deterring advertisers from spending any money.

Unless you can make money in other ways or source traffic from somewhere else, you are screwed – and let’s not forget it’s challenging enough just to keep the network active.

Advertising is a Viable Model – But Not For Everyone

The best media can attract premium sponsorship and make good profits, but for all but a few very elite blog networks or top blogs, you simply won’t pull in huge CPM (or other sponsorship) rates to run a company off or live off as an individual. As Jeremy states – you won’t get much more than AdSense rates – and heck, who wants to live and die based on CPM income in the first place?

Just like in the offline world – large premier magazines can become million dollar companies, but they are few and sit at the very top of the food chain. Small ezines run by individual fans are certainly not likely to become full time income sources for their owners.

Alborz Fallah, you may remember from the million dollar blogger interview, has a blog in a position to earn good money for each unique visitor he delivers on his blog, but it’s not as if his case is typical. He enjoys premium payouts because of the position of his blog in his industry and what topic he covers.

Most bloggers – and I believe most blog networks – are going to need to learn how to monetize what they do using better business models. Relying solely on how much traffic Google gives you or the money coming from a handful of advertisers, is not a comfortable way to build a business.

Don’t Follow The Page View Slave Model

The answer, simply put, is not to rely only on page views for your income. Follow the model that other businesses have used offline for years – put your energy into acquiring leads and customers, not just readers and how many pages they read.

Put in simple terms – decide on a business model and the industry you will tap into, build real assets you have 100% control over and then look for the highest leverage outcome you can acquire, or at least high enough that you are happy with your returns.

Put even simpler – build a blog in a niche you love that is profitable, create an email list from the traffic you attract and then monetize that traffic with advertising AND affiliate products AND your own product funnel.

In other words – everything I talk about in Conversion Blogging

Why does this system work better?

  1. By filtering blog traffic to an email list, you “capture” the value of a visitor (or at least the potential value)
  2. You own your email list, thus your income source cannot be taken away
  3. You can recycle the same content and deliver ongoing value that has a purpose behind it beyond just increasing page views
  4. You can elevate relationships with people beyond just reader and publisher – you create customers
  5. Your income streams are more easily diversified
  6. Once you start selling your own products the margins will always be greater than any CPM network could ever pay out

Wendy has started to make the changes to her business by creating product offerings at SparkplugU, a series of online courses she teaches, along with her team, to help people build home bases businesses.

Will Blog Networks Evolve To This Model?

I’ll admit the Conversion Blogging system won’t fit every type of blog out there and some will always rely on advertising income. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if some blogs in blog networks begin to offer products and publish email newsletters to begin the process. There is huge untapped value in blog readerships, if publishers realize how to leverage them for profit in more ways than just throwing advertisements in their face.

This change does require a shift in the type of business model a blog network follows, which can be a daunting challenge. No longer are you in just the “publishing” industry, where your job is simply to entertain and educate with content. Now you must learn how to create and manage customers – a completely different kettle of fish. For this reason alone, it might be too much for most blog networks to change – it’s just too different from their current core skill-set. A writer is not the same as a marketer, but they are certainly not mutually exclusive occupations.

If direct marketing firms like Agora Publishing can sell information products in many different verticals, using sales funnel business models based heavily on email marketing – and make millions of dollars doing it – I can’t see why blog networks can’t do something similar.

It might require divesting certain niches to focus on the more profitable and applicable areas, but it can be done and represents a huge potential for much better profits than the current advertising model. Best of all, it can be applied in-addition to the advertising model, so it’s a method for making more money by further leveraging the efforts already put in to build the blog network in the first place.

Yaro Starak
Thinking Blogs

PS. Follow me on my Twitter feed for the latest shenanigans – http://www.twitter.com/YaroStarak -

About Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

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39 Comments

  • Yaro,
    I was reading something else about this and they kept mentioning “blog alliances” as an alternative to “blog networks.” I’m not familiar with that concept and wondered if you could help me out.

    I’m imagining something of an aggregated blogroll and maybe a group of blog owners hiring a common ad broker. Does such a thing exist?

    • I’m not sure of the specifics, but I assume it’s a less formalized arrangement where perhaps the bloggers work together to share traffic/links and come together under an umbrella brand, but there it’s not controlled by a central company or person.

      Each blogger retains control and ownership of their blog and earnings, but they work with other bloggers to help grow their traffic.

      Like 9Rules for example. But don’t quote me on that :-)

  • Great article! My two cents is that a successful blog should be able to easily market a related “DVD of the month” club (subscription) to it’s readers.

    That’s the model I’d go if I were good at blogging… Yaro, you da man

  • I run a small network of about 7 blogs and I haven’t honestly seen this coming yet. I monetize my blogs with Adsense and some with affiliate marketing. These are absolutely not MFA blogs. They have quality content in them, authored by American writers and are building a good readership.

    What I did to ensure their success? I did not work on them all together. In stead I built them one after the other. I placed goals for each blog and only after it was achieved, I moved to the next. In the long run, I plan to build a network of 10 solid blogs and take them to the next level.

    I don’t see blog networks dying. Just my opinion. Either that, or I understood you wrong.

    • No, not dying at all. My article title was a question, not a statement.

      They may need to evolve their business model, but all things have to change over time anyway, so nothing new there.

  • You can notice the same reliance on page views and advertising in the domain industry. The only difference is that top domains do not have to rely on posting every day to maintain traffic levels. I see a shift towards development of websites with a view to long term value creation but I think companies and individuals can only do that by using the advertising model in the interim to support development costs of long term value creation.

    I think when it comes to managing multiple blogs, authors, designers etc it really comes down to your expectations. I used to expect that everyone would work like me and now that I’m a bit more tolerate of other people’s work styles and pacing. As long as you know things will get done right in the end there is no point fussing over minor details and adding more stress to your work day.

  • Hi Yaro,

    I think you’re right about advertising – it will only ever be a few major blogs in each niche that will ever be able to rely on it.

    This leaves selling stuff – either your own or other people’s (goods or services). For blogs focused on hardware they may not need much of a sales funnel. (If you sell a million of one widget consistently that could be good enough.) For the rest I think we will need a sales funnel: for our own and/or other’s stuff. For me at the moment I am focused on developiing my first entry -level offering: a membership course.

    It’ll be interesting to watch how this pans out over the next year or so I think.

  • I’m just keen to make enough cash to wind my own commitments down. Which is why I enjoy your posts and thinking about your ideas, man, thanks.

  • I totally agree with what Yaro on this one. I did have several blogs at one time and still do. I find writing content daily started becoming a chore especially when writers block set in or due to some commitments, I can’t write that much.

    Instead of becoming an asset, the blogs can become a liability especially if your readers expect something new each day. Because of that, I stopped writing content & focus on non time sensitive material. With a bit of keyword research on the related topic, I wrote what I noticed to be articles that people searched for driving organic traffic to my blogs, so that I don’t need new articles everyday.

    Even then, advertising dollars are not easy to come by. Conversion blogging is similar to what sales people do offline. An email follow up allows you to have “follow up calls”. Not only does it build relationships, but it allows up sells, cross sell, etc but all the while, you think of benefitting the customer. Enriching their experience.

    It is a must have for all bloggers and I see that being implemented on several blogs I visited lately.

    james

    • James,

      I agree with every word and just want to add an observation – I’ve seen that if you’re posting rarely that lowers your rankings for the keywords in Google. So obviously the frequency of the posts is an issue.

  • Great points Yaro, I’ve always believed in having “more than one basket” so to speak. So, not relying only on ads, but moving into a conversion blog model is something that appeals greatly to me.

    I think it’s the best way to build a sustainable business with a blog. Anything can happen with advertisers and google likes to hand out slaps like free coupons.

    Putting all your eggs and income in the Google basket is not a great business plan in my eyes, and should only be part of the plan. Having diversity among your income streams is the best way to sustain a business…but of course…you know that already :)

  • This makes sense Yaro,
    but it is not that simple to find creative ways to monetize a blog. In my opinion trial and error is one of possible ways to do that.
    Thanks for this great article!

  • There must be more than just the advertising revenue to depend on if your aim is to make money entirely via your blog. Having said that, what you say here makes eminent sense and I too believe that the whole caboodle is in for a major shake-up soon.

  • This is likely one of the main reasons print magazines try so hard and give such heavy discounts to get people to subscribe by mail.

    All told, they probably make more money off the issues sent directly to subscribers. Magazine distribution syndicates and other middle-men are notoriously well paid. By having direct contact with the customer, the distributor can’t suddenly pull the rug out from under you, and you build a relationship with the customer that allows you direct access to their undivided attention.

    Like in all things, human beings sometimes take too long to bring lessons from the past into modern context. The cycle continues.

  • Yaro, I’m totally with you on this one. I don’t get blog networks. As a reader, I feel -0- reason to click through the network. I never click the ads, even the affiliate ads. I would say I’m about 95% ad blind at this point.

    What I’m always intrigued by are the “goods” that the blogger has personally created and is selling. The blog establishes the authority for the product, in my opinion. It helps me to make an informed purchasing decision. I get a real feel for the blogger, their style and the potential for their product.

    That’s the model I’m using for my life coaching practice. I hadn’t realized it consciously as “conversion blogging” but that really is it. I’ve been loving your videos and picked-up some new ideas I hadn’t even considered.

    Good stuff, Yaro. Keep it coming. The more you can post about conversion blogging, the better.

  • That’s an Interesting opinion. I am a slave of CPM or PPC ad models then – my blogs do poorly on actual sales of products.

  • What about for the reader who doesn’t want content delivered via email – first I read print, then moved to email, now I consumer via RSS. With social networks and also niche-based ones isn’t that also a viable option? What about creating a social network just for your reader base using one of the various tools out there, such as Ning?

  • [...] I thought that everyone would really benefit from Yaro Starak’s latest post entitled The Death of Blog Networks. The title is a little misleading because it gives the impression that the article is about some [...]

  • I think a huge challenge for any business is not being ready for growth. Often we think that if the business grows quickly it is a good thing but if there are not plans, systems and resources in place then if you grow too big it becomes a negative thing.

    There are lots of good things to learn about this whole situation and this is a great post Yaro.

  • [...] problems which I face with running multiple blogs are not that different from the problems which blog networks face. Infact, if my blogs were to become more successful I would definately consider co-branding these [...]

  • Yaro,

    Google is indeed slapping everybody selling links and doing paid reviews. I’m not running a blog network – yet, but I run a directory network

    Yes, I admit you are right – I am too dependant on Google, in such a way, that if Google change it’s policy on certain practices on the Net, I will be out of business within days.

    Email list – now THAT’s the real asset in the end, isn’t it?

    Thanks for the great insights, Yaro :)

  • Coming from a print publication background, I can say that there are plenty of publishers that don’t rely on advertising dollars at all and make good money doing it. I’m thinking here about trade publications, mostly in the business-to-business sector, where ads can hurt your crediblity.

    Those kinds of publishers do the kinds of things you talk about in conversion blogging. Your subscriber lists become very valuable and content is generated to meet the needs of those subscribers. Writers and marketers work together easily under that model. I’m sure there are people out there who will figure out how to make that work for blog networks.

  • EXCELLENT article and thanks for the mention Yaro! :)

    I have concerns about the ad industry these days – pushing me to spend even more time on SparkplugU. We had a great family outing last weekend that entailed a lot of driving. It was disconcerting to say the least to see so many stores out of business, favorite restaurants gone, etc. The economy certainly seems to be in the worst shape that I have ever seen it – more reason than ever for people to start up a blog/internet business on the side. It’s just too risky to rely on one source of income right now – even if that is your ‘job’. :)

    • The offline businesses can be seen and we can react to the bad times. I wonder how the online business scene is really. Is there some source that can come up with the health of online businesses?

  • I actually believe that blog networks are going dead. It seems like so many blogs to come out of the network hardly have any traffic going to it. I really think a blog network is very pointless unless you get writers who will actually advertise for the blog they are writing for.

  • Hmnn indeed no knowledge is a waste. I thoroughly enjoyed this post because of my management background. The post made me feel like I was back in my MBA class listening to a professor analyzing a real life business scenario.
    The points raised demands that a serious blogger sit down and do a review of the plan he or she is running with. Nobody wants to be caught off-guard.
    It is now obvious that professional blogging is more than just writing, it is a business, and the management gurus are taking over from the technical guys.
    I love this ;-)

  • Yaro,

    Your concept of really focusing on building our email list and selling products to that list and not only count on ads for our blogs is crucial and one that I will focus on from now on.

    Thanks for these words of wisdom.

    Miss Gisele B.

  • Hey great post. I totally agree, if you are solely relying on advertising for income and just relying on Google for traffic then you really are screwed. Your business could be gone in a blink of an eye.

  • [...] is still room for some niche blog networks that do not rely on CPM ad rates to survive. I like Yaro’s take on this and I hope that the SparkPlugU guys will do the same. This is the way I hope to grow a [...]

  • Thanks Yaro! I knew there was something I wasn’t getting about the blogging business. This makes it clear. There has to be product to monetize beyond advertising.

    Also, your article points out the need for a blogger to have a good solution for email blasts, contact list management and segmenting, etc. Any suggestions?

  • Hey Yaro, a couple of things.

    Blog Profits blueprint was an awesome read, and following just a few of those strategies got my blog traffic increased quite a bit in a few weeks.

    This post here has come at just the right time for me because I finally got my blog at htp://danielmcgonagle.name to reach desired traffic goal of 10k visitors a month.

    Once I reached that goal, I told myself I’d worry about better monetization afterwards, and that’s where I’m at right now.

    What do do now that the blog is a PR3 and traffic grows each month?

    Sell my own products?
    See adspace and sponsored reviews?
    Do the Linktextads thing?

    Adsense is not an option for me since there’s a certain blindness to those
    on quality content sites like mine ( all humility aside for just one second)

    Anyways, great post, and I’d be interested to know your thoughts about what to charge for selling adspace? Is there a formula for going rates for certain Alexa, Technorati, Google PageRank, and unique visitors or is it merely “charge what
    you can get”?

    Thanks in advance,

    Dan

    • Hi Dan,

      I think you should head into my article archives (see the link “Articles” above in my navigation bar) and spend a bit of time reading up.

      I’ve got posts there on how much to charge for advertising, selling products using the sales funnel model, text links, etc.

      There’s lots of free education if you are prepared to spend the time reading and absorbing.

      Good luck!

  • I am glad to see them go. Most of them were the same rehashed crap on every blog.

  • Yaro,

    This reminds me of Robert Kiyosaki, when he points out that you have to be the business and not be IN the business in order to reap great rewards. Building a scalable business is the way to go, especially if you are trying to grow your business. And I couldn’t agree more with your Blog Profits Blueprint, focus is key in whatever venture you take on. Thanks Yaro!

    Entreprini

  • Dear Yaro,

    I came across your blog in the internet and I am very impress with your achievement. 2 years ago I started some internet business but failed to make any good sales. I started my blog a few months ago and I did not realized that blogging too can make some money. After saw your blog, now I know that there is some other ways to earn some money in the internet. I will subscribe to your newsletter and come back to your blog for any latest updates. I hope to make some real money soon. Cheers.

    Andrew

  • Great information again Yaro. There is sure to be a new fangled way invented that acts like a network.. maybe the ‘alliance’ is the way to go… who knows? It will be interesting to see what evolves to fill the gap if networks do fail

  • great stuff , i bookmarked it. very knowledgeable article.

    Thanks
    Misbah Mumtaz

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