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.
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).