Don’t call me a blog or a blog network … but Look at Me

Filed as General on September 6, 2006 6:53 pm

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eGonzo Weekly by Martin Neumann

We’ve always had 9rules screaming and shouting “we’re not a blog network! … really, we don’t belong. We are different.” They were the loners in this game for a long time.

But now I can see a new trend – one of anti blog network, and saying as much without fear or favor.

Long gone are the days (err, last year) when no one wanted to offend. Now, everyone just wants to be noticed in this mass of clutter we call the blogosphere. And they’ll do anything to get noticed.

Look at me! Look at me!


First we had SyntagmaMedia recently wash their hands of the whole blog network label and launch into we’re now a “web network magazine”. That received much coverage here at The Blog Herald. The jury is still out. But from all accounts it’s designed to reach different audiences … to be different. I understand the theory behind it.

Why do you think someone like David Krug could manage such name recognition after all his online escapades? Because he was different. He shocked us but alway thrilled.

Now we have an outfit calling themsleves Dashmedia Network who have gone to the next level in trying to be different… insulting the collective blogosphere.

The blogosphere is getting dumber by the day. Do something about it. We have taken it upon ourselves to lead the way to slightly more intelligent blogging. We are currently sifting through this shitpool called the blogosphere hoping to find a few well written blogs.

Hmmm… Aside from that, to me this is a sign that blogging is maturing, and maturing quickly. Blogs are changing. People coming into blogging expect and demand things differently. And blog networks, their blogs, their content, their business models are being questioned more and more.

I’ve seen a vast number of newish blogs hit the scene over the past three months – more so than in any period before. If there was a front door then they’d be kickin’ and a screamin’ – but we all know that there is no closed doors in the blogosphere. It’s open … one for all.

Competition is a fierce beast at times and I can see some tough and fierce and nasty times ahead as blogs everywhere scream “Look at Me! … Look at Me!”

Almost makes me want to buy back BlogNetworkWatch.com from Matt here and have some serious fun with it, because I think the next 12-18 months are going to be real fun in blogging and in blog networks as competition will make or break many … and either way no one’s going to go with the flow quietly. The times they are a changin’.

Six months is a long time in blogging terms. Twelve months is a lifetime. Last year was fun. Now it’s business and all about competiton.

We all wanted the blogosphere to get as big as it could. But are we sure that’s what we really wanted? Did we have any choice?

I truly wonder how long it takes before the b’sphere fragments into little groups and niches in response to the barrage of clutter … something like a 9rules. Hmmmm…

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  1. By Aaron B. Hockley posted on September 6, 2006 at 10:15 pm
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    Are blog networks even relevant to the average reader? I would say no.

  2. By HART (1-800-HART) posted on September 7, 2006 at 12:54 am
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    But now I can see a new trend – one of anti blog network, and saying as much without fear or favor

    Well, maybe Aaron follows that trend.

    Personally, as a reader I look forward to surfing the sidebars filled of network code and/or blogrolls of related sites and non-related sites but by similar authors … I think that’s the future for people like me. Everything is already in its place, with the RSS Feeds and Bloglines etc – I have sites to go to and pretty much know what I will be reading. I need to be set free to just surf for the entertainment factor. Part of the entertainment factor is the randomness of it all .. which you can only find by surfing network linkages …. If you are looking for something specific, well – that’s different.

  3. By Mike Rundle posted on September 7, 2006 at 1:14 am
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    When will the 9rules namedropping ever stop! :)

    I don’t think categorization of some type of media company based on blogs is necessary as long as you’re making users happy. I still don’t see the majority of blog networks aggregating and concatenating their content for easy user browsing… something I’d consider a must. A blog network could have 100 blogs but if there’s no centralized place to see all content then how do I discover new blogs? How do I stumble upon an article that sounds cool, read it, then read 10 pages of archives and get hooked? Where’s the contextual continuity? As a reader that’s what I’m looking for… a way for me to see all your content at once, decide immediately, and then open up links in tabs or subscribe. Showing the blog’s title does nothing for the stickiness factor.

    Calling a blog network something else could be a first step in redefining your brand, if that’s what you’re interested in doing, but that’s only the first step. Competitive differentiation is an absolute necessity however too few blog networks do this beyond “what we pay bloggers” or “what topics we cover”. I want to see social features built into networks, network-wide tagging and custom aggregation, build-your-own RSS feeds, mashing of content with additional entertainment sources (splice Flickr photos and YouTube videos into RSS feeds), guest authors, comments integrated into articles, user-centered designs and not ad-centered designs, consolidation of blogs into larger meta-blogs, etc.

    These are just a few innovative things that blog networks could do with their vast content resources but aren’t doing for various reasons, and I don’t mean “everybody besides 9rules” here because we’re not doing all of it (yet) either. This type of stuff is what breaks you away from the pack in terms of blog networks… forget the naming convention, companies can just innovate past everybody else instead of simply changing their name ;)

  4. By Martin Neumann posted on September 7, 2006 at 2:26 am
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    Aaron,

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    “Are blog networks even relevant to the average reader?”

    I’d say no – unless it’s within a farily tight niche where one blog within a network leads naturally to another and so on. Know More Media is the main one I’m thinking of in this regard: their niche is business and that’s all they do (hopefully!).

    So a reader coming to a KMM blog not knowing what KMM are might navigate the sidebar if KMM sell their network more.

    Personally, I think blog networks should cross-sell their blogs more.

  5. By Martin Neumann posted on September 7, 2006 at 2:40 am
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    Hart … but you’re a different species all together. :-)

    I too love the randomness one gets by just drifiting from blog to blog, link to link – but it’s getting harder to find the time for this.

    I guess you’re talking about two aspects to reading blogs: the one where you have your personal favorites and visit day-in, day-out and the other: time just to drift around.

    What I see, is that each individual will put up their own personal barriers and start to limit the blogs they will visit, almost like a personal echo chamber. I see this as a way to fight back the overload.

    The more quality blogs that appear (and there are many coming up) the more many will have to limit their blog intake to their exact desires to keep some balance in their blogging day.

    It’s no coincidence in my mind, why I’m seeing more and more blogs and posts on topics such as time management, rss management, stress relief etc.,

    Every other week I read a post where a blogger half-jokingly admits to a rss problem and posts how they’re cutting down on their feeds – sometimes scraping all their feeds and starting again.

  6. By Martin Neumann posted on September 7, 2006 at 2:58 am
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    Mike … good to see you.

    I like 9r name dropping – but I liked this one because I begun with 9r and finished with 9r.

    Thanks for your “innovative” comments. Lots of food for thought and ideas there. Awesome!

    I think every blog network owner should read your comments. Seriously!

    “A blog network could have 100 blogs but if there’s no centralized place to see all content then how do I discover new blogs?”

    I agree with you there 100%. Take my previous example in a comment: Know More Media.

    They would surely benefit from such a centralized place to showcase all their blogs. If they want their network to be a “destination” then they’ve got to incorporate some of the ideas you threw up – especially social features and content mashups for me.

    You’re right: at the end of the day it’s all about keeping readers/users happy. I guess if you want your blog network to be more sticky (and also rise above the pack) you’ve got to make readers comfortable being there and knowing they’ll have easy access to the rest of the offerings.

    Good stuff, Mike.

  7. By John Evans (SYNTAGMA) posted on September 7, 2006 at 4:22 am
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    Martin, you don’t need to go back to BlogNetworkWatch, just set up WebNetworkMagazineWatch. It’s the future. :-)

    Mike, I agree with your “contextual continuity”. We’re doing that on our new “front page” which will appear on a new domain shortly. However, the rest of your suggestions about “stickiness”, “aggregation” etc. are soooo old school. All this tech gets in the way of “normal” readers who don’t thrill at the mention of OPML outliners. Simplicity is the key to readability, and that doesn’t mean the joys of Netscape, Digg or other “Web 2.0″ jungles. It means the ease of access of a plain old print magazine. A contents list, a summary under the titles, and the blog equivalent of a page number – a link.

    To obtain the loyalty of non-geek readers (who outnumber geeks by a million to one) you have to offer familiarity and content that’s varied and never dull. All lie within the remit of the common or garden print magazine publisher. That’s our pitch at Syntagma Web Network Magazine.

  8. » SYNTAGMA - 40-Site Web Network MagazineSeptember 7, 2006 at 4:57 am
  9. By Martin Neumann posted on September 7, 2006 at 5:20 am
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    John … WebNetworkMagazineWatch … Zing! Touche :-)

    Good point about “geek” and “non-geeks” users – it all depends on who you are targeting with how you approach the way you present – although I think with time, even the average non-geek user will become more adapt with new ways of working the web.

    geek and even semi-geek folks expect a bit of web 2.0 stuff. The average reader, not so bothered with rss (yet) and all they would just want is the basics (or familiarity).

    It’ll be good to see how you go about it at Syntagma, John – you know I’ll be watching. ;-)

  10. By Mike Rundle posted on September 7, 2006 at 10:25 am
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    Hey John, definitely hear what you’re saying, but don’t think I meant that you should flaunt RSS and Ajax ahead of the user’s experience. My parents use RSS but they don’t know anything about it…. they know that if you drop in a page’s URL into Bloglines something magical happens and they can read it every single day. My aunt uses Yahoo’s new My Web 2.0 and can get daily news and feeds there but she still doesn’t know the ins and outs behind XML and RSS. She picks content and it shows up.

    The goal would be to allow users to pick content they like across various topics, merge it into an RSS feed (don’t say it’s RSS, possibly just “feed”) and then give explicit instructions on how to work that into external applications. Or, something that we’ve been toying with for awhile, is to build an aggregator-type application directly into 9rules so that they can just click and read with no tech knowledge required.

    Forget the technical jargon associated with this and think of the concept: giving users the content they want, in the format they want, in the way that they want to read it. Personalized, direct access to content that they want to read. “Old school” would be forcing users to find all this content, bookmark it all and then visit it once per day. “New school” would be finding it for them, bringing it to a centralized and personalized area, and then letting them do what they want with it. Whether that personalized area is the web, inside their browser as an add-on, the desktop, email, newsletter, IM, it doesn’t matter…. just give them what they want, when they want it, and let them be the master of it.

  11. By Ankit posted on September 8, 2006 at 1:20 am
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    Wonderful suggestion Mike.

    I have said it before too, Blog networks need to evlove into social networks. They need to build mashups from the blogs in the network. They need to get readers hooked up in the Network, and also be an active participant in the network, not just be a guy who is limited to giving only comments.

    Changing labels, I doubt would have any significant effect on the success or failure of a network. Neither being offensive or insulting anyone will help you in future.

  12. By John Evans (SYNTAGMA) posted on September 8, 2006 at 3:31 am
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    Social networks, like most of Web 2.0, don’t make money. Blog networks at least gave the promise of some commercial return. Part of the problem is the word “blog” and the techy nature of those who formulated the template – and the name.

    It’s not just about “changing labels”, although the word “blog” has to go for credibility. It’s a fundamental shift away from technological showmanship to serious publishing of world-class content. Magazine fits the bill for that better than most other names.

  13. By Martin Neumann posted on September 8, 2006 at 4:12 am
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    John … social networks / web 2.0 – I’m still waiting to see a viable business model (ie: it’s nice having all those eyeballs but show me the revenue!).

    “the word “blogâ€? has to go for credibility” – oh man, so my idea to do a “blogazine” (ie: a mixture between a blog and a magazine) you don’t think will work?

  14. By Ankit posted on September 8, 2006 at 8:54 am
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    John! Blog networks do make money, but not all of the Blog networks.
    Only a handful of them are able to even hold their bloggers. And those networks who are making money, are very much doing serious publishing of world class content.

    I am not still not able to understand the fundamental shift, one can get from changing labels. Maybe I am missing something…

  15. By John Evans (SYNTAGMA) posted on September 8, 2006 at 9:17 am
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    Ankit, I said : “It’s a fundamental shift away from technological showmanship to serious publishing of world-class content.” Which surely makes sense.

    As for holding bloggers authors, in a year not a single one has left Syntagma Media by their own choice.

  16. By John Evans (SYNTAGMA) posted on September 8, 2006 at 9:20 am
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    Martin, “blog” refers to the dynamic HTML used in the platform. Your readers don’t want to know that, so why burden them with the knowledge. Call it a Webazine or a Web Magazine. Much more user-friendly. :-)

  17. By Ankit posted on September 8, 2006 at 12:11 pm
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    Oh Cool!.. I got it now.
    I wish Syntagma Media more success in coming days.

    Cheers! :)

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