If you spend any amount of time reading blogs you probably have come across a blog network. Prime examples include 9rules (Entrepreneur’s Journey is a member), the largest and arguably most famous Weblogs, Inc and the recently launched b5Media.
I won’t go into the definition of a blog network because quite frankly no one really knows and everyone has an opinion of what it should be. The only key ingredients are blogs, a blog network has to have blogs. These blogs are networked together somehow, either by an umbrella brand or a payment structure or a traffic referral system or whatever, and you have a blog network. It’s all about multiple authors creating content on multiple blogs for the good of the people (the readers), building something greater than the sum of its parts.
With the recent big ticket ($25 million) sale of Weblogs, Inc to AOL the monetary potential of a blog network was highlighted. Anything with the word “blog” in it has become hot property. Frankly though, blogs are only just going mainstream and it’s early enough days that opportunities abound in the blogosphere.
Looking at blog networks as a potential business opportunity is mouth watering for a web entrepreneur. The typical valuation measurements are the same as for standard websites, traffic and profits (sometimes revenue for newer businesses and future potential will always play a part in evaluation). Weblogs, Inc pulled $25 million because it had both significant traffic and significant revenues (they haven’t disclosed profits). A budding entrepreneur looking to cash in on blogs should look to the same metrics – traffic and profits – and at the moment, traffic comes from good content and profits usually comes from advertising.
If you look at the current blog network marketplace it is far from crowded. Yes a new network appears to launch every other day lately (and some close just as quickly) but only a few are truly large and/or bring in significant revenues. The opportunity to create a new blog network is definitely there as long as you follow the golden rule in business, niche your market in order to differentiate yourself from the competition.
At the moment most of the largest blog networks are loose collections of good solid blogs on a range of topics. Weblogs, Inc is a complete hodge-podge of different blogs, a media network focusing on quantity to reach as many different markets as possible. 9rules and b5Media also do not discriminate and look to take in or create blogs on almost any topic. The generalised media blog network format is well served and moving into this market would be more difficult.
A much smarter strategy would be to bring together bloggers around a single industry or topic area. The competition in most areas simply doesn’t exist yet. There may be individual blogs on almost any topic you can think of, but there are no coordinated blog network hubs broken down by niches. An entrepreneur could choose a lucrative demographic and either bring together or purchase the current blogs covering that area into a new network or start from scratch, hire bloggers and start brand new blogs for a brand new network.
Dane Carlson of the Business Opportunities Weblog has started doing just that. His niche is business opportunities. He already has a great popular blog that brings in a lot of readers every day. His network is up to four blogs now having brought in some friends to blog on similar topics, including work at home opportunities and MLM opportunities. If he keeps adding more solid blogs his network may become the authority for business related blogging. With enough traffic the advertising revenue will continue to soar and who knows, an AOL sized company may come knocking on his door with a big wad of cash.
To offer a hypothetical example let’s take the home housewife demographic. The audience watches Oprah, reads gossip magazines and probably cares a lot about fashion and beauty. I’m a budding entrepreneur so I’m going to build a blog network around this niche. I’ll gather blogs on topics like shoes, clothing, celebrity gossip, self esteem and makeup. I might look around the blogosphere and see how many independent blogs already exist in this niche. I’ll consider buying or hiring these blogs and bring them into the network. I might raise some capital and put up some ‘Bloggers Wanted’ notices to hire some new writers to pay to produce daily content. I’ll build up the blogs over time, keep the niche nice and tight and focused so we attract a certain type of audience (good for advertising click through rates) and build up revenues. After 12 months I will have an asset, bringing in good revenues and piles of traffic, ripe for a buyout.
It paints a rosy picture doesn’t it. I admit it won’t necessarily be easy. You may find that the advertising dollars never make profits after you pay for bloggers. This could be because you chose a niche with poor click through prices or no advertisers. You might have trouble establishing traffic to your blogs. You might never get bought out because the whole blog craze dies down by the time you have built your asset. There are no guarantees in entrepreneurship but success is only rewarded to those that take a chance.
Those bloggers currently operating a popular blog are in particular sitting on a potential goldmine growth strategy by expanding their single site into a network. By leveraging the traffic and audience of an already established blog, new blogs can be introduced and enjoy an instant audience to build from. If word of mouth and viral blog networking are good to you your new blogs will grow quickly. The current blog networks often succeed off the backs of one or two significant linchpin blogs (for example Engadget for Weblogs, Inc) that form the backbone of the network and bring in significant advertising revenue and exposure for the entire network.
I have a feeling that blogs and blogging are here to stay. I suspect our future may be filled with blog networks that essentially perform a similar role to current media distribution channels. No longer will we look to the big syndicated news sources, instead blogs will provide the most up to date information and interesting content. Ironically though many bloggers may just end up being paid employees of blog networks and their content and blogs owned by the big syndicated news sources anyway. In that case not much will have changed, you just may not need a journalism degree to get paid to write about your favourite topics.
As an entrepreneur or even just a person with a passion for a topic, a great business opportunity exists right now. There will never be this time again, a time when blogging is new and blog networks are even newer. If you stake your claim today your blog network may become the authority source for information on your niche and it might even make you a millionaire too.