The People Are The Brand

At the Blog Business Summit last week I had the pleasure speaking on the subject of building blog networks with Shawn Gold from Weblogs, Inc and Stowe Boyd from Corante. Towards the end of our panel this question came up (paraphrased):

How do you handle your writers being picked up for other ventures and leaving your network?

While this question didn’t pertain to the 9rules Network because everyone in it owns their own site I was interested to hear what Shawn’s thoughts were on it. I was surprised to hear the answer even though I shouldn’t have been considering their business model, but he said that the blog is the brand and not the people so losing them is simply part of the business.

I almost countered him, but understood that they have to think this way because it’s their business model. However, I always found that the writers are the ones that make the blog. Blogs are about content and without the writers voice there is no content. That’s what I love about our network. Airbag isn’t a brand without Greg Storey’s voice behind it so how could one see differently? Find an interesting writer and you could even make the Ultra Wideband Weblog a brand. Till then it’s just a site with plain writing.

I was speaking with Jason Calacanis not too long ago and he mentioned that our model has the “Martha Stewart” problem where if one of our readers goes crazy it reflects badly on the network. While this may be true, our members understand that it reflects worse on their sites (their pride and joys) than it does us. I would think that the “Martha Stewart” problem would be even worse on a site in the Weblogs, Inc network because it definitely reflects badly on their company since they own the site.

While I fully understand the thinking that you can create a site with a brand and attach writers to it, I don’t think I will be a firm believer in that philosophy any time soon.