The Network

9rules vs. Squidoo

After reading Michael Arrington’s entry about how he thinks Squidoo might be dead in the water I thought it might be fun to do a comparison between the 9rules Network and Squidoo’s network of lensmasters. The last time I wrote about Squidoo it was over at Business Logs, and Seth Godin himself took the time to comment twice on that entry which was pretty cool of him. Is Squidoo a blog network? Is 9rules similar to Squidoo? Here we go:

The basic premise of 9rules is to find great, independent content, and showcase it in an effort to build recognition for that author and to help users locate good blogs on their favorite topics. You can’t join 9rules just by submitting a form and selecting a password, your weblog has to be approved and selected as being of a high quality.

The basic premise of Squidoo is that anyone can create a Squidoo-hosted weblog (called a “lens”) about any topic that matters to him or her. You can create as many lenses as you want, on as many topics as you want, and other people can build lenses on the same topic you’ve chosen. I believe the goal of Squidoo is to create a collective grouping of information with the aim of providing users multiple points of view on both broad and niche topics.

Squidoo aggregates user content, 9rules aggregates user content. Squidoo doesn’t own the content, and neither does 9rules. From an outside perspective, it could be argued that 9rules and Squidoo have similar models, however there are some pretty important differences:

Reputation & Quality
At Squidoo, anyone can create a lens whether you know what you’re talking about or not. You could write a lens on golf and be a scratch golfer who has been playing for 20 years, or a lens on intricate stock trading practices without knowing the first thing about the market, there is no difference — readers don’t know if you’re an expert on your topic with something interesting to say, or someone who knows little about their topic and might give you misinformation.

That’s the major distinction between Squidoo and 9rules: our members’ content has been poured over and analyzed to make sure it is of a higher quality, and that the members are experts in their given field or topic area. Compared to the number of people who submit their blogs, we only take a very small percentage to make sure that we maintain high standards for our members and our readers. It is through this process that we keep 9rules what we wanted it to be: a showcase of high-quality web content. If we let anybody join 9rules then we’d just turn into another weblog directory — no value provided to anyone.

Different Benefits
As far as I can tell, the key reason that people create lenses on Squidoo is because they get a little profit sharing from the Google AdSense that Squidoo runs on all the lenses. I recently made $.05 from my single-entry Squidoo lens, so writing for Squidoo is not exactly lucrative…. so if it’s not lucrative then where’s the incentive? This is exactly the point that Arrington brought up, where someone who is an expert on a given topic could create their *own blog* and write the same content they would for their lens, but make a truckload more money while they do it. If monetary value is the only thing Squidoo is promising lensmasters, then I think they need to re-evaluate their compensation scheme.

9rules, on the other hand, does not pay members to join the Network, nor do we pay them to keep on pushing great content out to their personal weblogs. We do help them monetize their weblogs through various means (and will be doing so in a much more direct manner very soon), but the benefits of 9rules are more difficult to quantify than with Squidoo. 9rules members have networked and landed new jobs, new client gigs, and even book publishing deals through some connection they made or enhanced while they were a member. We’ve doubled, tripled, or quadrupled some of our members readership and RSS subscriptions once they’ve joined (results may vary!), and in many cases we’ve given our members a new sense of professional pride in the content they produce. Not everybody is a member of 9rules, so the people who are feel a lot of camaraderie with their fellow 9r members.

Different Marketing Plans
Squidoo was launched via a very well-known and publicized beta program, and now they’re struggling to maintain that recognition and excitement. However with 9rules, we’ve actually done our best to keep growing organically and steadily over the past year, benefitting our members more each month, finding new and interesting ways of creating value for our readership, staying more under the radar, etc. This month will be a big month for 9rules: we’re having our 4th submission round (last round 509 blogs submitted!) and are releasing some brand new functionality that we’ve been working on for awhile. We don’t go around showing off, but we do take pride in the fact that our membership is growing, our readership is growing, and more people know about the 9rules Network now more than ever. We’re trying to grow organically and slowly, simply because our plans for the future rely on a very solid foundation and we wouldn’t want to jeopardize that for any reason. Some have criticized us for taking our time, but I think that moving slowly and steadily is much more difficult than running a 100 yard dash and then falling flat on your face.

Squidoo and 9rules both rely on user-generated content to provide value to our readers, however we do this in very different ways. Squidoo lets anyone add content to their site, but we only let a select few in. Squidoo lures authors with limited profit-sharing, but we have other types of benefits that we believe are more important than a few bucks a month. Two different businesses, two different business models, but we both have the ultimate respect for the independent web and content creators from around the world.