In this interview, we discuss how Matt entered blogging, the rise and fall of BlogMedia, why the Blog Herald was sold to Splashpress Media, and what his goals are for this year.
Tell us a little about yourself
I’m 34 years old – originally from America’s Crossroads in Indiana. I grew up in an incredibly small town where my family still resides.
I ran away to college to escape the small town lifestyle and got to see some amazing places in Indiana and Massachusetts. For a long time, I lived in Woods Hole, Massachusetts on Cape Cod soaking up the coastal lifestyle before moving to Minnesota in 2005.
I’m an avid cyclist – I prefer to ride only Trek Bikes – and I really wish I lived in a warmer climate.
How did you get started into blogging?
I actually started blogging not too long after September 11th in a private blog using Dave Winer’s Radio Userland – one of the first desktop based blogging tools. I needed an outlet to talk about what was going through my head – and what I was experiencing at the time.
In the winter of 2005, you launched the BlogMedia Network – one of many blog networks that launched around that timeframe – tell us about that experience
The internet was just really getting started when I was in college – my business partner and I started a small business focusing on website development and IT consulting in 1994 when we were both still in college. We’ve been able to maintain that business over the years – morphing into professional blogging in 2005 – and now into a larger business handling project/program management, social media/blogging, and continuing (as we always have) to own and operate niche websites.
Since we started out small and then built up our business from there – we’ve never had to take outside funding. We’re pretty proud of that fact. Then again, we have run up significant debt on our credit cards back in the early days that we later had to pay off..
We’ve always tried to ride the trend – when I was still living in Boston in 2004, we both attended BloggerCon 2004 at Harvard Law School – the unconference hosted & ran by Dave Winer. It was there that I heard Jason Calacanis talk about what he was doing at the time with a very-small Weblogs, Inc.. I just wished I had listened more closely to him at the time.
It was about 18 months later that this really sunk in – and we launched BlogMedia that fall with a small set of blogs.
I was approached by David Krug, who at the time was well known in his role as Cowboy from The Jack of all Blogs, to start a single blog. This became a strong partnership that lasted throughout most of the next six months.
It was a great experience overall – some blogs did incredibly well – others did not.
Our approach was similar to what b5media has been able to pull off successfully – take a wide and deep approach to the blog network business. Unfortunately, going wide didn’t work as well for us. It’s tough to oversee writers when you lack passion for certain subject areas – like sports for example – and thus we had some challenges as we look at this wide network approach.
In February 2006, you purchased The Blog Herald from Duncan Riley – what can you tell us about that purchase?
At that time, The Blog Herald was the leading blog covering the burgeoning professional blogging industry with a wide set of coverage. There were larger sites, such as Darren Rowse’s Problogger, but they were focused in different ways than The Blog Herald.
When the site first came up for sale, we were interested in buying the site – but the rumored $60-75k asking price was out of our range. When that sale fell through David was able to negotiate with Duncan and secure a deal that was acceptable to all of us. I believe this was the first of many large & successful deals that David has been able to negotiate.
I’ve written extensively about our time as owner of The Blog Herald over at our problogging site – we did alot of things right, and we did alot of things wrong. There are certainly things that I think I would do differently if I had to repeat that experience today.
In November 2006, you sold The Blog Herald to Splashpress Media. At the same time you were selling off large portions of the BlogMedia network – and even changed the name to Problogging, Inc. – what was going on that drove these changes?
More than anything else, it was the rise in workload on the consulting side of our business that drove this decision. But it was also acknowledgment that we really weren’t cut out to run a large blog network. Our interests are much more in the technology & social interaction side of blogging – and less so in running a large – wide focused – blog network.
We were also motivated financially because there were many buyers looking to grow in the blog business – and were paying a premium for sites in some of the genres where we had a presence – so it just made sense to part ways with several sites.
Interestingly though, we really never planned on selling The Blog Herald as a part of this. I half jokingly told David to go find us a buyer for The Blog Herald – and he found 3-4 within 24 hours. We were able to make a solid deal with Splashpress Media that just seemed to make sense. I was back in my hometown for Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family in what I’ve described elsewhere as “one of the most relaxed environments you can imagine” – so we made the deal.
It has been really cool to see how the site has grown, changed, and expanded over the last eighteen months – and it’s neat in a personal way to see Thord onboard as the editor after we brought him on as a columnist nearly two years ago…
After selling those properties in November 2006, you’ve been largely absent from the blogosphere until this year – what have you been up to?
Several things have actually been happening since that fall.
First, I’ve been in graduate school most of that time at the University of Minnesota – which has kept me incredibly busy and sucked away almost all of the free time that I once thought I had. Fortunately that’s ending soon and I’ll regain some sense of balance in my life again.
Second, I’ve been consulting through our current venture, which I’ll talk more about in an answer here in a bit.
Finally, I’ve been completely and totally addicted to World of Warcraft.
Tell us a little about your new venture at Bryghtpath LLC and some of the websites that you’re involved in through your new venture.
After we wrapped up the sale of most of our web properties owned by Problogging, Inc. – we actually wound up dissolving that firm and launching a new LLC called Bryghtpath LLC. We just wanted a fresh start and liked the LLC format better than the S corporation that we were before.
Our focus to date has been around our constantly growing consulting business – which is primarily focused in Boston and the twin cities of Minneapolis & St. Paul, Minnesota where we’re based. We’ve been working internally with several companies here in the twin cities on their blogging & social media strategies. We’ve just recently wrapped up a project where we have more than 1100 employees of a Fortune 100 corporation in St. Paul blogging internally on top of Microsoft Sharepoint (their platform choice, we recommended WordPress-MU). It’s been fun to help those corporations get their employees to connect with each other in this way. We’re working with them now on a Wiki pilot – fortunately this time they’re rolling with MediaWiki which powers Wikipedia rather than the Sharepoint based wiki platform from Microsoft.
In addition, we’ve been building and acquiring niche websites in areas that we’re passionate and interested in. For example, last year we acquired Shadowpriest.com – the largest forum dedicated to the Shadowpriest class in World of Warcraft. The site has grown enormously in traffic since that time – and we have a blast playing the game and participating in the forums there.
Talk with us a bit about some of the tools that you use for blogging – and as one of the principals in a small business.
My main blog platform is WordPress. I was previously a Movable Type disciple, but I switched to WordPress in late 2005 and haven’t looked back since then. I usually just blog directly in the administrative interface – I used to use some desktop blogging tools but the web interface is just alot easier and more distraction-free for me to use. Your mileage may vary, of course.
I’m a hardcore Apple/Mac user – but I do use both a Dell Desktop & Laptop so that I can be compatible with the needs of our clients.
What are your plans for this year?
Several, first, to finish graduate school with a reasonable GPA. Second, to be the best writer/online journalist/podcaster that I can be.. and Third, to continue to just try and be me… Beyond that, I’m open to other writing/consulting gigs – contact me over at our Bryghtpath site.
Disclosures: I interviewed myself and therefore had complete control over the questions :)
Matt Craven is the former editor & publisher of The Blog Herald. Currently, Matt is the co-founder of Bryghtpath LLC, a consulting practice located in Woodbury, Minnesota. Matt's presently looking for new blogging gigs. Ping him at matt (at) bryghtpath dot com. You can follow him on Twitter.