There are many resolutions I have for Twenty Set for 2009, but the first was to quit all the blog networks I was in. I belonged to two blog networks and was allowing one other site to syndicate my content, and the truth is I’m just not getting value from any of these websites anymore. In fact, I probably never was.

So the first point of this post is to tell you that for 2009, the only place to read my content will be right here on Twenty Set, with a select number of guest posts on other sites.

The second point of the post is to start a conversation about how blog networks actually add value to individual writers. My argument, having belonged to blog networks and then worked at a company whose main product was a blog network, is that they don’t add value to the writers. Many Twenty Set readers belong to the blog networks that I just quit (and maybe other networks), however – so I’m curious if I’m missing something. I’d really appreciate the feedback in the comments section on the following points.

With that said, here are 6 hidden truths/empty promises of blog networks, in my experience.

Myth #1: All Members are Given Equal Treatment

It is really easy to see what you want to see in blog networks. For example, you may think there must be some process to choosing the best content, when there is really preference given to certain members. (Think power-users on Digg.) Or you may think that every member is writing for free when, in fact, plenty of the so-called “members” of the website are getting paid for their content, especially if they are freelance writers or write articles specifically for social media submissions.

Don’t fool yourself. Blog networks are as hush hush about the treatment of their members as HR of Fortune 500 companies are about the salaries of their employees. They don’t want you to know that the person in the next cube over doing the same job as you makes $10,000 more. So trust this: Other people are getting special treatment because of their connections rather than their talent. Other people are getting paid while you write for free. And companies are getting away with it, because their members don’t know any better.

Don’t forget that a blog network is a business, and you’re the little guy with a blog.

Myth #2: You’ve Been Chosen Because You are a Good Writer

Joining a blog network is not an opportunity, it’s a favor to the people behind the blog network who are trying to make money off of you. Blog networks are starving for members, because in the social media world, high membership numbers are the only thing that makes a website relevant.

Sure, some blog networks may have an application process, but that is merely a formality. Two facts: 1) Blog networks accept pretty much anyone who can string two sentences together (for evidence, please see some of the content that makes it onto the blog network), and 2) Blog networks get most of their members by finding them on other social media sites and through the web.

The next time someone tells you about an “exciting opportunity” to join a blog network, just remember that they are seeking you for a reason.

Myth #3: You Will See an Increase of Traffic on Your Blog

I’ve syndicated my work on three different Gen Y/Women sites, and generally see less than .1% of each site’s traffic make its way to my own site on a day I post. That means only 1 out 1,000 people who read their site will click through to mine (and that’s only if they link in the first place, which some blog networks don’t). Furthermore, there is pretty much no long tail effect in the days after I’ve had a post up.

So let’s do the math: Even if the site were to get 20,000 visitors/day on a day I posted (which is, quite frankly, a generous estimate for most blog networks), only 20 of those people (or less) would find their way to my site. This number decreases the longer I’ve been on the blog network.

Meanwhile, the blog network benefits from member’s content in numerous ways. If they are using any social media strategies to drive traffic to their site, you can bet your content is being submitted to stumbleupon, digg, or other content voting sites. This means that not only can you not submit the content from your own site (SU and Digg don’t like duplicate content submissions), but also if your content is popular it drives traffic to the blog network instead of your website. The blog network also benefits from the comments people are writing on your articles and the pageviews your articles generate are added directly to their bottom-line traffic, which is one of the few other stats that makes a blog network relevant in the social media world.

Furthermore, every time you syndicate your blog to a network, it decreases the SEO (and inadvertently, traffic potential) for your own blog. First, your blog’s pagerank may be lower than their website’s pagerank, which puts them ahead of you in search engine results. Second, duplicate content on your blog looks spammy, and if you are giving permission to other sites to duplicate your content your entire blog will look like the copycat, even though it’s the original.

It’s exploitation at its finest, really, and if you are writing good content joining a blog network hurts your personal blog more than it helps.

Myth #4: You Will get “Great Exposure”

Freelancers will be familiar with this phrase, which is probably why they are getting paid to write on blog networks while you aren’t.

Anyway, getting “great exposure” is only true the first few times you syndicate or write posts, maybe. Because by joining a blog network you will become part of a community that has one voice, sort of like being a cog in a ticking watch. Furthermore, people who read community blogs are not looking for specific individuals, but rather specific topics – so the “great exposure” only happens for truly outstanding voices that can write differently enough from the community voice and get the community’s readers to take notice.

It’s hard to be truly outstanding though, which is maybe why you wanted to join a blog network in the first place. But just like there are no shortcuts to running a marathon, there is no easy way to become a prolific blogger, especially on a blog network.

Myth #5: The Blog Network is There to Promote You

I can guarantee that any blog network does not care much about promoting you, the blogger. The goals of the blog network can range from getting investment money from angels/VCs to promoting the founders to bulking up the website’s pageviews for better ad impression rates. Trust me, you are the last person on the company’s priority list.

Think of it this way – if Facebook told you their goal was to promote you, as a member, would you believe them? Hell no! So why would you believe a smaller network who is hosting your data on their site, just like Facebook does? Good question.

But an even better question is why do you use Facebook? Because Facebook has a ton of members, so it can be used as a tool to reach lots of people, and, if you are social media savvy, you can certainly promote yourself through it. Does the smaller blog network have enough members to warrant the same type of membership though? Probably not.

Myth #6: You Will Make Money

Even after all the evidence I have given, it would not surprise me if someone still thought they were ever going to make big money from a blog network. As I already explained, a member is the last priority of any blog network, and blog networks rely on the fact that the creators are somebodies and the actual writers are enough of nobodies to work for free or little money. It sounds harsh, but in most cases it’s true – for proof, look at the Problogger job boards where many bloggers get paid a whopping $2-$3 a post!

Bottom line: no one sets up a blog network that they aren’t profiting from more than you would. In fact, the term “blog network” is practically code for “I want a website with lots of content that I don’t have to generate myself.” And actually paying for good content, the way a newspaper would, is expensive. Expect in an economy like this to see the little money content generators made to drop even further.

******

So if the goal(s) of your blog are to make money, become an A-list blogger, or promote your physical blog address, don’t join a blog network.

If your goal is to establish yourself as an “expert” or get attention from a certain niche or community, offer to write a guest post for the blog network instead. If your work is superb, you will gain a credential and attract a portion of the regular readers from that blog network. If you are really good they will happily read and subscribe to your actual blog, and you will develop a community around your own blog rather than get lost in someone else’s community.

If your goal is to be exploited, fall in line with a million other mediocre people, have your content essentially stolen, or work for pennies per hour, maybe join a blog network. Or maybe I’m just seeing this negatively. But to me, with the availability of Twitter and Facebook and Linked In, most people would do great just marketing their blogs themselves, provided they write good content. And if I’m going to pour my heart into something that people end up enjoying, I don’t want to get aggregated into another company’s bottom line without any compensation.

What do you think? Am I missing some reason why people would continue to be on blog networks? If not, maybe consider dropping your memberships to blog networks as well. Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

64 thoughts on “Exposing the Hidden Truths and Empty Promises of Blog Networks

  1. I am syndicated at one of the blog networks that you dare not name.I’ve already decided that once I find a full time job, my syndication and community leader days are over because I’m not getting much of a return on that investment.  For now, it’s just resume filler — I’m getting experience in community evangelizing and online writing. I haven’t been picking up subscribers at my own blog and I don’t receive any monetary compensation — the bulk of the people that wind up at my blog find me through Google.  Nor do I think my best posts are getting syndicated.  The most recent one was just a half baked a ha moment that had no business being syndicated. The only plus is that I have made a number of connections via the network that I didn’t have before. But what I’ve found is that I only circulate with people that joined about the time I did, and I have very few new “Friends” following that initial burst. I found it really funny that a commenter on the blog of the site of the G”randmaster of blogging,” with regards to the network we dare not name, suggested she charge people to take part in the blog network because it’s such great exposure. . . I laughed at loud at that suggestion.  As if I’d spend time researching and writing to pay someone to post my work.  No thank you. So for me, there were short term gains in terms of contacts made/endorsements received, but now it’s just resume filler until I have new job.  Then I’m out.

  2. Wow, interesting take and you definitely brought up a lot of things that have crossed my mind in being part of a blog network. I started out as an ardent supporter of blog networks, but I’m coming to realize that maybe I’m not getting, as Zak says, that much ROI. I do feel that certain members get preferential treatment, and in many cases those who befriend the people in charge who get the most out of it. (Then again, this mirrors the real world, does it not? So maybe I can’t complain.) Additionally at times I feel myself bending over to try to fit the mold, to make my content show up on a front page when it’s normally not what I’d write at all. I can’t say that being part of a network hasn’t had its benefits. I think, for example, that’s how I found your blog, as well as a couple of others. For the most part, I don’t find that a network drives very much traffic in my direction — however, often it’s the individual relationships and/or connections that I’ve built through a network that are valuable, more than a great deal of traffic.

  3. Interesting post, Monica.  I think you make some solid points, especially in highlighting the directly negative aspects of sharing content traffic between your blog and the network.

    However, I guess I question slightly the premise of your critique.   Does anyone really join a blog network and expect to get more traffic on their own site, or to get paid, or to have their content chosen based on merit?  I was never promised these things, nor did I particuarly expect or count on them.  You cite “hidden truths and empty promises” that are covered up by myths… but at least for Brazen Careerist, I was never really promised anything.   I had no illusions about what was happening.  This was clearly a start-up company that would eventually be profiting from the eyes laid on my content.  Now it’s true that they didn’t advertise this explicitly to me, and sold it to me as a “community” and as an “exciting opportunity” to connect and share with other Gen Yers.  That’s not a lie; it is those things too.  While they didn’t explicitly tell me they were a start up looking to profit from my content, they never led me to believe I’d get more traffic or get paid either.

    The point I want to make about the value of blog networks is this: the value is gained indirectly.  It is not measured in page views or dollars, but in ideas and community and legitimacy and other fuzzier, subjective values and denominations.

    Now, I don’t blog to make money or to promote myself, but I do enjoy maximizing exposure to what I write.  For me it’s a mixture of hobby, personal development, and self-enrichment.  Our content is CC-licensed to be used and distributed by whomever as long as we are given credit.  Whether eyes fall on it through the blog, feeds, networks, aggregators… as long as I get credit and maybe a link back to my blog (which BC gives), then I’m cool.  I do understand that other bloggers write for other reasons: to promote their brand, to make money off of ads on their site, etc.  So they should definitely think twice about joining a blog network if their goal is to maximize views on their actual blog.  But really, I don’t see how it can hurt, in the aggregate, to give your content another channel to propegate through  Just like books and news actually gain value from being indexed by Google: you may not get the value from that particular view, but the more eyes your stuff is seen by, the more people will click through to your site, subscribe to your own feed, follow you on Twitter, etc.

    Another important point is that you’re going to get more value the more time you invest in that community.  The more you read other posts on the network, the more you comment and dialog with other writers, the more you engage the moderators… the more likely you are to be featured on the front page, linked to by those other writers, and generally seen as a power player in the network.  It’s not enough to simply give the OK to have your feed added to the network stream.  A network is not an aggregator; it’s a venue with an audience and community that takes engagement and investment to pay off (figuratively speaking).

    The value I get from being a member of a blog network is:
    – legitimacy (I get a badge for my blog and feel “legit” because I’m a member of a greater group of bloggers.  This both gives my blog some superficial sheen of authority, and gives me a little self-confidence and pride as blogger)
    – community (Similarly-aged and -minded bloggers that might not otherwhise have read my content see it, and I read theirs to expand my own views and ideas.)
    – exposure (Who knows how many people read my stuff on BC and never come to my blog, but if there’s one reader that does then that’s one more reader I might not have otherwhise had.)
    – motivation (I know that a moderator will look at my content and consider it for the front page of the network, and so I work that much harder to polish it and make it a little more interesting)

  4. Also, your comment system seems to be a little out of whack… seems to strip all the pararaph breaks and other formatting right out?

    Jarred, sorry about this. I tried to fix this manually on your comment and a few other long ones, and hopefully did an okay job. I’ll have to look for a permanent solution later today! – Monica

  5. Monica,
    Sparking a great discussion here. Kudos on the chops to post something that raises these kinds of questions but isn’t bitter. To be fair, I’ve been in the loop (on some level) with your former employer since the very initial discussions about the network, and these were the kinds of questions I raised then and the answers I’d basically had to come up with myself – since of course I could look at my own numbers after launch and see the trickle down traffic to my site was measly compared to what had been implied. I do think Jarred brings up some good points, regarding to me what is the fundamental difference between two pretty big camps of professional-niche blogging these days: Do it for cash or do it for personal branding. To me, that’s the distinction that’s missing from your commentary. I understand and agree with you that the blog as an entity gets the short end though blog networks. But to me, the larger question is, what are you going to do with your blog? Because if you’re not making money there anyway (and don’t plan to) then it seems blog networks wouldn’t cause much damage. So if you’re in it for your personal brand or online name/reputation/identity building, then join tons of blog networks, because that will give your brand equity it wouldn’t have otherwise online. But now, back to the question of the blog as an entity. Since I blog about the value of relationships, I see this whole issue from that perspective. And I had hoped BC would help me form more relationships – probably, it could have, (and it has, a few) but the fundamental issue to me is, I didn’t have the time to put into it to get that out of it. At the end of the day, that element of it is like one more social network, and I simply don’t have time to spend doing that all over the internet. I can also say, Jarred, just FYI, that BC hasn’t always been so generous with their links. Now at least they link to your blog with your name and profile and in your posts. In fact, BC is nearly always at the bottom of my inbound traffic for the day. At the start, they linked to your profile, which had a tiny link at the bottom that linked to your blog. I was never happy about that, so I am glad to see they changed things. I am not that jazzed, though, that when a post of mine is published, they strip out any info on my RSS subscription when I put that at the bottom of my post (it used to post, now it’s stripped) and that the conversation I take the time to cultivate there isn’t shared back at my own blog. So I’ll have to say, there are definitely times I feel like BC takes way more than it gives – but it is not alone as a blog network. It seems to me the only great examples of blog networks I see are the ones that pay their own communities openly, transparently, and proportionally to the work they do to build the content and the community. So if BC is struggling, I would suggest that they find a way to make the model of generosity and community work for helping us bloggers monetize our own efforts. Better believe I’d do a lot more with it if that were the case – and I would be fine if they benefited from that, too. But I think they will find unless there are some absolute, concrete (possibly unique) ROIs they provide to their bloggers, they will start to see their ranks decrease. We’re all figuring all this out as we go along, and to me, what I am learning is that being open and offering true, measurable value means you have a product or service your members will actually use and build – and sell – for you. Thanks for the thought-provoking insights! Best wishes as you embark on this journey – hope you learn and share a lot!

  6. I think if you are an experienced blogger, you probably don’t need to utilize a blogging network too much. Most likely because you’ve already built up a community around your blog. But, for beginners, a blogging network like BC can be a good way to learn about blogging, blogging styles and writing in general.

    I also think that you can get connected with others who are discussing similar topics and learn how to stretch your own niche. I think your post provides a great alternative view to understanding the true purpose of a blogging network and pulls the “wool” away from your eyes.

    Also, if you are properly promoting your blog, a network might just be a great way to connect with others you may not otherwise know in the blogosphere.

    Otherwise, a great and insightful post…

  7. Monica:

    Sorry, this is gonna be a long one…

    I’m a part of at least one of the same blog networks, including the syndicated network of which you spoke. To be fair, when I was first starting out with blogging, I was grateful to have found such a place (I contacted them), and still am for all I have learned and the connections I’ve made. These networks were useful in that it expanded my audience, challenged me to be honest with myself and my readers in my posts, and helped me to grow as a blogger — though I’ve always been a writer/journaler, blogging was a completely foreign concept to me.

    I believe, for me, these networks have served their purpose. I’m now connected to some fascinating, intelligent people whom I may not have had the chance to otherwise meet. Yes, part of my recent successes has to do with my own blog and my own desire to connect, but I do believe that these networks have facilitated those relationships, and in that regard, I credit these networks.

    However, I also believe that I’ve gotten out of it what I need to, and lately I’ve been questioning my role in these networks. I think that they are great in helping bloggers get a start, build a community, and, in most cases, provide some terrific information. However, what’s the next step? I think that they only bring you so far, and that you have to carry yourself the rest of the way.

    I’m still a part of those networks because I enjoy the connections and the community I’ve built for myself through those networks; however, I’m starting to realize that, for me at least, it ends there. And maybe that’s the whole point of it — to connect. Maybe they’re not supposed to take you further. Maybe the rest is up to you.

    Those are my preliminary thoughts. Now regarding your post:

    1) “It is really easy to see what you want to see in blog networks. For example, you may think there must be some process to choosing the best content, when there is really preference given to certain members.”

    This I have found to be true, and what I found to be the most frustrating. Of course I would love to see my name in lights, to be respected for my writing. I think that’s what anyone who joins a blog network wants, in the first place. But I also want to read relative content and quality writing. I can pinpoint a few posts and blogs who were chosen for awards and/or headliners whose content had me scratching my head for their relevancy, and yes, I’ll admit that I had been frustrated when I thought that my blog offered more relative insight and wasn’t recognized. However, that’s what happens in a network. I get it. I can only hope, in the future, that quality blogs/relative content is highlighted — less for name and more for what it brings to the table.

    2) Blog traffic. This is especially why I think I’ve already gotten what I was looking for — and why I don’t perceive it bringing me any further. Your percentage is almost right on the ball. I initially had a high increase in blog traffic on my blog, but that’s because next to no one was reading it. Joining these networks was a chance to get my name out there, but as I formed new connections, met friends, and increased my visibility, I began to see traffic decreasing from the networks and exploding through other forms of social media (Twitter is still my greatest gain in blog traffic, but it’s wonderful because it has become less about traffic and more about maintaining my relationships with readers as people in another way).

    The question you bring up is one I’ve debated for a number of months: whether or not to remain a member of these networks. For my personal/personal development blog, absolutely. The connections I’ve made have been invaluable from both a professional and personal standpoint, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. However, with a new professional blog in the works, I’ll probably refrain. These networks have taught me so much, and through them, I’ve learned how to stand on my own two feet. But as they are limited in what they offer, I can also see them holding me back. I think, like anything else, you get what you can out of it, and move on if that’s what it takes.

    Thanks for the post and the chance to voice my thoughts. I’ll be hopping over to your blog more often.

  8. From my personal experience, a blog network (or any network, for that matter) can provide certain things to some people, but can’t make everyone happy all the time. For myself, I don’t know if I’ve gotten much (increase in readership, however, I’m honestly not that good of a writer. But I’ve certainly been exposed to a much better variety of writers, styles, and opinions than I otherwise would have found on my own.

    I think, over time, that people either outgrow networks that they are in, or their goals change and those new goals don’t mesh with the network structure. If that’s the case, then moving on is good for both parties. Using BC as an example, it can provide (at least in the front end) an audience that may otherwise not find you, or won’t be able to determine your content from a quick browse of your own blog. But it doesn’t give much to a more established, potentially income-earning blogger.

    Much like an NFL coach starts as a low-level assistant, rise in stature, and then gets a chance to run the team themselves (and the large contract that goes with it), the same can be said for bloggers. If you’re already a well-known commodity, then a network like BC isn’t needed. And as for what posts / writers get promoted, that’s more a sign of a good editor than anything else.

  9. You’ve covered some great points Monica. As a Community Manager I struggle with this kind of stuff every day. Because believe it or not, part of Brazen’s overall goal is to make the Community a valuable place for its members. If that wasn’t true, I’d be out of a job.There are certainly tons of improvements we could make to the Community.  And to Tiffany’s comment above, I think part of the answer involves continuing to hand over more control to our network. It started with profiles, and will hopefully continue with blog posts, comments, etc. We’re always looking to improve the experience for our users. And reading this post pumps me up to start bringing more value in this new year.

    What I think is the most valuable part of any blogging community is its ability to help you network with other people. I’ve seen some great collaborations occur between community members, I even know a few people who got jobs. And for some people (as Raven points out) a blogging community can be a support network, for new bloggers to find inspiration or for established bloggers to reignite their passions.

    I can’t speak for other communities, but on Brazen, we do our best to help all our bloggers meet their goals.  Since we’re a small team, it’s impossible to reach out to every member individually, but when members come to us for help, we do our best to support them in any way we can.

  10. Right on, Monica. I was quite close to doing a post a few weeks back to recommend bloggers out there, who rely partly on BC connections, to set them selves up for going solo if Brazen goes down the drain. But that had no place on my blog – theme wise – and also was just a kinda negative idea. You went about it in the right way and make some good points. That being said I may as well hang in there. My readership basically couldn’t get any lower!

  11. Just a side note, but I have to say I’m impressed with the quality of discussion going on here. The fact is, blog networks are not the only organizations struggling with these types of issues right now. Newspapers and other websites are currently stuck in a paradigm-shifting idea about how to 1) make money and keep existing (advertising is taking its own course right now) 2) harness the power of a community for its own purposes 3) still add value to the very community they exist to serve and make sure there is not a mass exodus – to keep them coming back, finding unique value, and being engaged.

    Think about MySpace for one example, and USAToday for another. So many thoughts on both of these, but I’ll move on and say I would extrapolate this issue out not just to blog networks that are exclusively blog networks, but to all websites struggling to answer these problems.

    Have you ever thought about how much money Facebook makes just because of your activity on that site? Sure, you may not create content there, but your activity there inherently does nothing to benefit you but makes money for them. This realization can apply to all online communities, so I’m glad Ryan brought that issue up.

    The ones that survive will be the ones that LISTEN to the problems, engage the community in finding solutions they want and need, and answer the issues – fast.

  12.  I still don’t really get Brazen Careerist, even though I’ve read anything and everything I could find about it.  I’ve even read comments on Penelope’s blog hoping for a clarification of the business model.  I enjoyed this post as well as the thoughtful discussion in the comments.
     
    That said, I found your blog through Penelope Trunk and Brazen Careerist, and I’ve added you to my RSS feeder.  I enjoy Brazen Careerist because as a young professional I have been introduced to other young professionals I would never have sought out by other means (facebook, etc). At least with Brazen Careerist you know that the people who are blogging are typically open to networking and receiving opportunities.  I don’t facebook friend random people and try to spark up conversation, but here I am commenting on your blog.
     
    Kudos for following your gut and doing what you think is right.  I hope Brazen Careerist flourishes and the team is able to make the impact they desire.

  13. I’m not going to be as lengthy as everyone else… I don’t have a ton of thought on this at the moment, but here’s a comment I literally got today on my blog:

    “I saw this post because it was linked from your “sex is a distraction” article, which was linked from one of the blogs I read regularly.”

    I’m still getting new readers from BC. Though, I admit, that I have begun to wonder at what point being syndicated takes away from your own website’s traffic. Something like 60% of my traffic comes from referring sites. Can’t beat that with a stick.

  14. Seems to me that a good step that blog networks could take is reporting to its contributors how much traffic their content is getting.  I requested this from BC at the end of last quarter when they asked for suggestions.  This way, there would be transparency, at least to the hard “numbers” value that blog networks bring.  Obviously this would not be easy and blog networks have little incentive to offer it… but I think it would help.

  15. Also, to follow up on your response to my first comment (and thanks for responding!), I do not doubt that community managers don’t read every feed item every day.  But just like  I want to grab attention with my résumé in case someone actually looks at it, and then draw them in with compelling experience… so do I try to make my headlines attention-grabbing and my content interesting and unique.  There’s no guarantee of fairness, but that fact alone encourages me to work that much harder!

  16. Monica,

    Thanks for your reply. I want to try to answer some of the comments you made…

    I hadn’t before thought of blog networks working like social networking sites, but that’s a great comparison, and, for what I’ve found myself using a blog network for, it’s also spot on. But then it brings up the question — why were blogging networks created in the first place? Was it to serve as a place to gather content, solely? Or was it meant for discussion, contacting, and sharing of content? I ask because I really don’t know what the primary goal was, though with the networks I belong to, this seems to be the trend. In that regard, I think that absolutely they serve as a social networking site in their own right.

    I don’t plan on leaving the ones I’m in yet because I’m still getting something out of them — which is cementing stronger connections and engaging in conversation. You might be right — it might be sentimentality, wanting to give the network another chance, but I think it’s more along the lines of the same reason why I’m still on Facebook and MySpace, though I rarely use it — it’s another avenue of connecting, and, in a way, increased visibility.

    I think my situation is a bit different in that I’ll soon have two different blogs — one more personal/personal development, one professional. The fact is, those are two separate audiences. If I were maintaining one blog, I might be more inclined to reconsider belonging to a network, needing to weigh the pros and cons and its affect on my blog. However, as it stands, I’m able to take what I’ve learned from these networks and apply it to marketing and forming connections through my new blog. Basically, my personal blog — through the connections of these networks — has helped get me to where I can form connections on my own. In this respect, I’m moving on.

    I think that a network needs to be mutually beneficial. When I find that I’m no longer engaged, that’s the time to cut the cord completely, so to speak. I think engagement is one answer to your question about staying power — the more involved you are, the more likely you are to see a return and thus hang around (I’m thinking Twitter).

  17. Hey Monica, this is a fantastic post and I think you handled this issue extremely well and in a very fair way. Awesome job on creating a relevant and lively discussion. Another aspect that I think merits some discussion is that online networks have the ability to be less transparent than something that is offline, which is why they can get away with a lot of this. While it’s great that online networks connect people in different locations and time zones, often the people who make up the network don’t interact with each other or the network creators in-person. While online interactions can be quite genuine, there are limits on what they can achieve when you “meet” a person online.  There’s something to be said about observing and talking to people “face-to-face.” It’s perhaps easier to hide stuff or not communicate fully when you’re e-mailing or “talking” to someone from behing a computer screen. The post and comments do a good job of examining the the pros and the cons of social networks. I guess it all comes down to what your goals are and to what extent you think a social network can help you meet them.

  18. ***To Monica***

    In reference to a blogger moving on benefiting both parties, I think it’s a matter of short term and long term effects. In the short term, the network might lose a bit of traffic. But they (a) still have the archives, and (b) it gives them the opportunity to showcase other members and diversify their brand (or narrow it, depending).

    Think of it this way: JohnnyBlogger becomes so well known that just about all of his posts are features on a network. It could be argued that the network gaining traffic due to his posts, but is losing traffic because people think the site has become too JohnnyBlogger focused. Not to mention, most fans have moved on to his site anyway. If one particular blogger has become large enough to overshadow the network as a whole, then I think the network suffers. Just my thought.

    In terms of becoming a commodity in your niche, it comes down to knowing when to break free of a network. Too early, you may not have a following. Too late, then the network might be too intertwined with your brand. Do people outgrow social networks? Absolutely. I still have a MySpace, but I use it to contact certain people in an easier format. I use Facebook, but again, it’s only a tool that facilitates the conversation.

  19. Monica –  One reason I get annoyed with blog networks is because of the “anonymous” people who comment simply to be difficult.  They play Devil’s Advocate with the sole intention of pissing someone off as opposed to having a conversation.  It ruins the discussion and the post becomes a childish game of “who can out-wit who.”   
     
    Keeping a conversation on your blog allows for a much healthier dialogue.  (This post is a great example.)
     
    And I really like how Susan and Andrew mentioned that you can “outgrow” a network.  I’ve never thought of it that way… but it makes a lot of sense.  I’m rarely on Facebook/Myspace anymore, but the time I spend on Twitter has skyrocketed. 
     
    I’m not ready to leave my blog networks yet… but seeing the transition from  Facebook –> Blogging / Blog networks –> Twitter   makes me wonder what my next step will be. 
     
     

  20. No offense to you Monica but the comments have seemed to eclipse the post a bit (which is a good thing of course, it means you’ve hit on something here). Very thoughtful post and comment.

    As both a participant in and owner of a blog network, there are some definite negatives to participating in a blog network as a blogger, especially if it is a poor format. I think making it clear where content is coming from (including links both to the author’s website and original post) and keeping it intact is extremely important. I have obviously advised people who have asked me about SEO impact to really research it. I have been on a blog network for nine months and I haven’t seen any disparate impact in page ranking. That being said, my experience is not other people’s experience.

    I think blog network owners should really position themselves as consumer content portals, not blog promotion portals. I think selling it to blog owners that the site is really designed to attract viewers (not bloggers) is smart and honest. I’ve told people that I’d be happy to add their site to our blog network but it probably isn’t going to be featured that often (if at all) because it doesn’t mesh with the site. For the consumer of content though, blog networks can be good. for them. For the HR people that come to my site, they like it because they like seeing everything there. They have favorite authors and such but they’d rather not deal with an RSS reader or go to 50 different sites.

    I am fine with people participating one way or another. I think blog network owners have to think about bringing value in someway to their content providers though. If people start feeling like our blog network is not valuable anymore, what good is it for me to fight that unless I am willing to change or discontinue?

  21. Fascinating discussion Monica.

    It might not be an entirely accurate reference, but this reminds of when I started out coaching back in 2002 (heady days).  Bunches of coaches would get together, all exicied that they could be more effective and have more effective businesses if they pooled their talents into a network organisation.  It gave us all confidence, a sense of community and a sense of a larger contribution.

    I joined a handful of these, each one promising a successful business by leveraging the networks and talents of each member.

    It didn’t work, purely because a client wants buys a solution from a particular coach, not a package from an organisation (at least in personal coaching, things work a little differently in the corporate market).  I was a little naive in joining these, but 7 years on the real value is in the connections I made and am still in touch with, and as Jarred pointed out – “in ideas and community and legitimacy and other fuzzier, subjective values”.

    Sure, these weren’t online networks, but the parallel is that the networks I was a member of had no ROI, and no viable model of getting ROI over and above some pie in the sky numbers on a piece of paper.  If there were concrete benefits (as Tiffany mentioned) – to the consumer as well as the contributor – then the network would have been a viable one.

    Networks are only useful depending on where you are on the curve.  If you’re climbing the professional curve you’ll find a professional network useful.  If you’re at the top of that curve you might find it useful to find new talent, but you won’t be engaging with it in the same way.  As Susan said, there comes a time when the networks have served their purpose, and then it’s up to you to go the rest of the way, or find another network that can facilitate your rise up the next curve.

    That’s the trick I think.  To be able to provide enough engagement, enough members and enough functionality to be able to respond to different levels of contributor and consumer — and to evolve that over time.  The difficulty is that blogging networks are more vertical in scope where social media is more horizontal.The other element is us lot – humans.  We’re hardwired to do the easy things that work  — doing something difficult that doesn’t work soon gets tired, and we either look for ways to make it easier or move on entirely.  If you’re not getting value (perceived or otherwise) from what you’re doing then you’ll move on.  Of course, the value you get could be from adding value to the network or finding ways to make it more effective (a nod of my head to Ryan) rather than a more concrete ROI.

    The human element relates to what I’ve been saying about the curve – what’s of value today might not be as valuable to you a year from now or even a month from now.  That’s just as it needs to be.

    Blog networks, like any network, should expect a churn of participants, because that’s the very nature of the resources they’re dealing with.  Ryan’s got a tough job…

  22. Monica Yes, I appreciate the boldness. You know, when people ask me about a topic or view, I warn them with this, “do you want me to be nice or tell you the truth?” You simply told it like it is! There are many points I want to comment on but for the sake of time, a short note on building a blog network around your site. I think people would see more returns from investments in trying to grow their own community and readership. I’ll have to come back later to offer more feedback, thanks for sharing! 🙂 -Miguel

  23. Fantastic post Monica.
     
    I was one of the first bloggers syndicated at Brazen Careerist (under a different name, my real one, which I’m now contractually not allowed to use online for reasons of high-profile litigation I and my law firm are involved in) and had myself (and my content) removed about 6 months ago. Regarding your point 4, I always felt like people who had a different voice actually had  NO chance of being heard there, and that the network promoted homogeneity of thought and subject matter. And it was in line with this policy that there was the exclusive club of 6 or 7 bloggers who constantly had their posts on the frontpage because they were somehow in accord with BC’s homogenous and BEIGE vision, notwithstanding the authors’ mediocre writing styles or lack of originality of ideas.
     
    Anyway, I’ll stop rambling now. Just wanted to say I wholeheartedly agree with you, and have not regretted removing my content from the various blog networks.

  24. Great post! It is just this type of discussion that finally made me get off my ass and start blogging myself. I am new to this, although have been reading your blog for some time. I wanted to let you know that I admire your writing and decided to write a post over on my own newly-started blog outlining the recent discussion between you and Rebecca Thorman over at Modite. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks again for an insightful post on an issue where I originally only saw the benefits.

    -Patrick

  25. Monica, this is great stuff – thank you. I have so enjoyed reading all of the comments – you have built an amazing community. I have to laugh though, because after reading the entire post and all the comments, I thought to myself: “how did I find this post, anyway?” Sure enough, I followed my tracks and discovered that I found you through a post on a syndicator called Bizzy Women, which led me to a post on Modite, eventually leading me here. I have now subscribed to feeds from both you and Modite, so I guess sometimes syndication does work ;-)I will say that I always click through to the original blogger’s site and leave comments there rather than leaving them on the syndicator’s site, but perhaps most people don’t do that.  I look forward to reading more from you!

  26. I’d say at first blush, I expected something more from the blog networks I’m a part of – but it quickly became apparent they are only as successful as you make them to be, and are only a small piece of whatever life pie you are trying to bake.

    For me, blogging in general was never about becoming famous or making money.  It was to say something.  I think blogging, and being part of a network has exposed me to a wider variety of opinions, and perhaps a slightly larger volume than if I had just been a solo act.  But I think the best thing it does is give me clarity and context.  Sometime I’m absolutely baffled by why my peers are thinking and saying, and the blog is just a simple aggregator to filter than info through.

    Dunno.  I can’t see how blog a network’s negatives outweigh even the marginal benefits one may receive – once we get over the psychological disappointment that our name is not likely to be plastered in everyone’s minds any time soon because of it!

    Keep writing – that’s the point I think.

  27. You’ve really nailed what has been bothering me for a while now – I’ve always gotten more value from joining smaller networks (or smaller groups within networks). The connections are more personal, conversations are easier to follow and I make more genuine connections. As the networks grow, (which they ultimately must do to make a profit) it’s hard to keep up. A person can only add so many new “friends” and keep genuine relationships. So the network outgrows the people who made it what it was, and eventually they go on to the next thing to try to get back what they had in the first place.It’s a tough situation, and I’m not sure how to solve it. I see the same with Twitter. Where once I would follow anyone who I found interesting, I’m finding it takes a lot more to get my attention for new followers. It becomes overwhelming.

  28. You’ve hit on a very significant issue. Recently, I’ve begun to think that blog networks provide you with the same thing that a good resume letter provides–merely a contact–maybe. So the real question remains, for what do you want a network?

    All the research–and there’s been a lot of impeccable research over the past ten years on social capital–pooh pooh technology networks.

    Ferrazzi (Never Eat Alone), Ronald Burt (UChicago genius), and Wayne Baker emphasize the absolute necessity of face-to-face networking for opportunities, mentoring, and organizational insights.

    If what you’re looking for is effective trustworthy mentoring, the most you’re liable to get from technology is a “possible contact.”

  29. It seems that one key point to highlight here is that no network or community can honestly promise big rewards as a result of membership. The fact is, no matter how much traffic a site gets, the “trickle down” online isn’t scientific. It would be interesting to see a study on this topic…If blogging communities benefit their individual members and in what ways. As with everything career related, goals shift and change. For those seeking exposure and “membership,” communities are great. If a blogger has a specific goal regarding traffic and that need is not being met, the community is not a good choice. Certainly, no one wants to be involved in a community they believe to be taking advantage of them.All that said, I “found” many of the best Gen Y blogs I read (including  your blog and many written by my fellow commentators) via BC. When it began, I was thrilled to have a place to go to find well-written, interesting commentary by smart bloggers – all in one place. I do wish they made it easier to follow individual bloggers. I think it’s gotten a bit better recently. The fact is, the bloggers I like, I now know where to find – even when they aren’t on BC’s “front page.”

Leave a Reply to Jarred Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *