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Passion, the Long Tail, Blogs and Revenue

Written by Scrivs on February 2, 2007

This week AOL closed down both PVR Wire and Divester because it didn’t make business sense to keep them running. The logic behind this was simply a matter of economics.

Part of the reason for this natural expansion and contraction that we go through isn’t just about the per-blog profitability. One of the facts of this business is that larger group blogs require less management than a one-man blog. If someone leaves a one-man blog you have to scramble to find a qualified replacement, send contracts back and forth and then train your new blogger. On a group blog, the existing team trains new bloggers and the loss of a part-time blogger or two doesn’t require immediate attention.

Brian Alvey

I can completely understand the logic behind this from a business perspective. It just kind of sucks though because people like to trumpet the greatness of the Long Tail, but it doesn’t seem to have a place when one of the resources is people. The Long Tail works well with digital goods (Amazon), but when people become one of the products the only part of the Long Tail that matters is the big fat part. If you own a content network and the sites involved in it, it always made sense to us to focus on a couple of great sites and after some time you could expand from there. Thinking that the Long Tail of publishing is going to make you rich won’t happen unless you can really scale into the thousands. This is what made About.com so successful.

Because of the model we have setup here at 9rules we are able to fully utilize the Long Tail because we do not depend on the size, traffic, or revenue of our sites. If you are a business that tries to do both large sites and the long tail there is a good chance you will just fall in between, which is akin to an abyss. If owning your own site and writing content you own is about passion, then let’s keep it about passion and not what numbers you need to reach to stay alive. If you wish to make that big payday with your site as well there is nothing wrong with that. You won’t make it with FM Publishing until you make their traffic quota because it doesn’t make sense for them to work with little sites. So until then (hell even after) you might as well write for you.

Businesses such as Weblogs, Inc. do what they do very well, but were never meant for the Long Tail. In sports terms you can consider them the Major League baseball of content networks. They can’t afford to keep single A players on the Yankees. They need all-stars while other places try to create an All-Star game with single A and AA players. 9rules is A, AA, AAA and the MLB without the All-Star game and now we just need to build a bigger stadium with better parking due to expansion (remind me to never use a baseball analogy again).

We can only hope that the writers of Divester and PVR Wire don’t get too discouraged with how the big dogs play. This concludes our annual entry about the Long Tail.

  1. chris rhee Says:

    Too many baseball acronyms for me. Stickball is so 1930’s, mayne.

  2. Mike Rundle Says:

    Wow, you’re right about that annual post thing Paul, that’s a bit freaky.

    That middle abyss is definitely not where you want to be. Either you have the resources to expand to the size of About.com or you need to tighten ship and only run a handful of blogs, there’s no middle-ground. Rarely do you see a content network owning 150+ websites or blogs, and still have a dozen of them be standout stars the size of Engadget, The Superficial, Cute Overload, Dooce, etc. etc. Before WIN was acquired they routinely let blogs die that weren’t pulling the traffic or revenue, and then refocused their efforts around the ones that were doing well. This tactic worked very well and allowed them to expand vertically with the game-specific blogs and the Engadget offshoots. They spent time and money building the brands of Engadget and Joystiq and then once the audience was there they dominated both niches with additional blogs on gadgets and gaming.

  3. Jesse Gardner Says:

    It really does make sense to keep a few high quality blogs or go whole hog. I think it’s basically comes down to the purpose of your blogs/network.

    For example, I design websites. So blogging for me is not about making ad revenue. I’d be sunk if it were. For me, blogging is about establishing a relationship with current and prospective clients. It’s also a way in which I can talk about the industry and share my perspectives with others. This again helps to build credibility and ultimately turns itself into revenue when I strike a chord with like-minded people looking to do business.

  4. Alexander Says:

    I favour passion over profit motive any day… one thing that gets boring quick are all the “pro” blogger types who generate reams of essentially wishy-washy content simply to optimize traffic flow and ad revenue. Manufacturing filler content has got to be dull work, and its even more boring to come across. Worse yet is the trend to simply flop down thought fragments as complete posts. Oh well… that’s all just personal preference.

  5. Ashish Mohta Says:

    Long tail is good way to get to know whats going on your site.I agree with the design model been setup for 9rules.Though It would have been better if made more interactive.

  6. Nicholas Says:

    Looks like patience in AOL’s case is not one of their virtues…

  7. Arthus Erea Says:

    Are you using the long tail effectively? If you were, then there would be far more sites within 9rules. However, you instead have a big “few” (in terms of the internet a couple hundered isn’t very much). Not that there’s anything wrong with this… it does ensure quality content.

  8. Mike Rundle Says:

    Great entry Paul.

  9. Leo Says:

    You are right.. fate About.com is a rare chance…

  10. Why Blog Networks Failed » Wisdump Says:

    […] If you are to make money off of these sites you need them to make it big. When AOL began dropping WIN blogs it shouldn’t have come as any surprise because they have to look at the bottom line. Same can be said when b5media closes a site although I’m pretty sure they said they would never do such a thing. Point is, if you start a blog network and its intention is to make money you have to do it the right way and there is simply no money in tiny blogs that require resources just like there is no big money in investing in penny stocks. […]

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