There’s been a long discussion for a week now on Wisdump on why Blog Networks Failed which branched out at 901am with the reasoning that blog networks don’t seem to be paying their bloggers enough. Jeremy Wright took it a bit personal, wrote “Do we pay our bloggers enough?“, and was a little frustrated that outsiders are always criticizing b5media without an inkling of suggestion for improvement or an alternative solution of some sort.
I’d like to break the ice and offer a possible solution from how I see it in the perspective of a network blogger.
Offer a better starting payout than the rest in the industry.
WIN, back in the early days under Jason Calacanis, were offering at least $500 salary per month for their new bloggers. Of course there was a quota of 120 posts a month or you get subtracted $4 per post under that total (please correct me here Jason if I’m wrong). Know More Media was paying $5 per post for new bloggers and $7.50 for veterans (blogging for them for over a 6 months?). They’re even paying $1 per legitimate comment the bloggers made on other blogs. Really nice incentive, IMO. The key here is the starting payout which will really motivate your bloggers.
b5media’s $1.50 per 1,000 pageviews may seem like a nice formula but with you will eventually learn that not all niche are searched equally. So, a nice title with just 3 pictures of the Oscars at a celebrity blog could get tens of thousands of pageviews but a great entry on another blog about rag dolls may barely break 100 pageviews. The rag doll blogger might as well join the celeb bloggers and earn more per post.
The solution here is to create equitable content/traffic benefits.
To separate a good post from a great post and to motivate your network bloggers to write more compelling and creative content, offer traffic bonus. How about a flat $50 for every post that hits on Digg, Slashdot or Reddit’s frontpage and another $25 if you get linked from any of the Technorati Top 100 blogs like TechCrunch, Engadget, etc?
Back when I was still working for Microsoft, we used to have seniority bonus. That is, for every year you stayed with the company, you get paid an additional month on top of your annual salary. In the blog network, this can be done on a quarterly basis instead of annually (as it’s too long IMO). So, if you stayed with the network for 3 months, you get your last week’s earnings doubled for that quarter month; you get your last 2 weeks earnings doubled on your 6th month; last 3 week’s earning doubled on your 9th month; and a whole month’s earnings doubled on your first year with the network. The longer you stay, the bigger the benefits you get. Very effective for blogger retention.
If you follow the route of the base pay, make sure you get your blogger’s attention every time they turn a year more on your network. With a year-end performance assessment, you check and consult with each blogger how they fared so far and factor that as a percentage in increasing their base pay. Let’s call it profitability bonus — if at the end of the year, their blog exceeded the expected revenues, they get a cut (between 1% – 5%) of the total profit for each respective blog.
Travel & Training
Are you sending your bloggers to trainings, seminars, workshops or conferences? Do the travel bloggers get travel benefits? Are your SEO bloggers given the opportunity to go to SES? Do you conduct internal webinars regularly? Are newcomers given a manual or guidebook in effective blogging? How about a book subsidy for your literary bloggers? Do you provide them with tools, resources and research materials to make their blogging routine more effective? I have heard of blog networks that have dedicated people working for all the blogs’ link building, social media optimization, and other seo stuff as well as providing research materials for the bloggers. Now that’s professional support.
This is a non-monetary benefit but will be considered by your bloggers as a bonus being part of your network. Give them free network-branded t-shirts, caps, mugs, bags, jackets, even hi-tech headphones with mics for those who might be interested to include a podcast in their blogs. They’ll be more proud to be part of the network and you get free offline blog marketing for it too.
So, what’s the perfect formula?
I couldn’t say, really. Each blogger will look at it differently. The closest, I believe you can come up with is to mix a whole bunch of them. All the points I mentioned above are part of the salary package. So, a base pay plus traffic benefits, plus performance benefits, plus coverage, plus others will more or less hit the sweet spot for a nice blogger payout.
Remember that running a blog network is just like running a regular business or company and your employees will always look beyond the monetary benefits. It’s not always about the money but their total working experience in your network.