When I speak about a blog network, I’m not speaking about what is currently defining a Private Blog Network (PBN). A PNB is the black hat SEO tactic of using a network of outdated bogus blogs to create “link juice” for your money website. Nope!
I’m talking about what a blog network actually is. It’s just a network of real blogs managed by a single person or an organisation. In my opinion, it’s a much more interesting and fascinating concept. Having and operating several blogs instead of just one mega site. A dream! That’s what I’m actually doing with my PYGOD Network.
This fascinating business model was literally all over the web in 2005. The blogosphere was runnin’ wild, baby!
Let me give a preview of how huge the blog networks were in 2005 with the following quote:
“Combined traffic for all the blog networks on the list..at least 50-100 million page views per day, if not higher again. If every blog network on this list combined you’d deliver a media company that would potentially have enough long tail influence to be a major, multi-billion dollar company spanning 4 continents, employing hundreds (if not thousands) of people and reaching directly and indirectly to at least half of all internet users on the planet every single day. Hype? look at some of the figures in Alexa for the blogs on WeblogsInc, Gawker and the Ist network for example. Take a look at some of the other networks; Shiny (Media) is making big inroads in the UK, some of the non-English speaking blog networks are trailblazers in Europe and making big inroads. And here’s my next prediction: Jason Calacanis is potentially the next Rupert Murdoch of the blogosphere. The blog networks keep getting bigger and bigger and Calacanis is at the top of the pack.” – posted by Duncan on ProBlogger (June 20, 2005)
Damn! At least 50-100 million page views per day! Figuratively speaking, I would kill to have that traffic on my network. Imagine building a multi-billion dollar media company spanning 4 continents, employing hundreds (if not thousands) of people and reaching directly and indirectly to at least half of all internet users on the planet every single day. Being the next Rupert Murdoch of the blogosphere.
On paper, everything seemed too good to be true. Because it was.
Here’s what happened to the 2005’s almighty blog networks.
Weblogs Inc.was the largest blog network from Jason Calacanis, who was billed as the next Rupert Murdoch. Had as many as 90 blogs and 1,000 weekly posts covering 75 industries. Initially, Weblogs, Inc. consisted of a few dozen blogs, all residing as subdomains of weblogsinc.com. Eventually a plethora of independent brands were established, including 26 stand-alone sites and over 50 sub-blogs. A few of the company principals also maintained personal blogs on the network, including Mark Cuban. Founded on 2003 and dead by 2011. In between, Weblogs Inc was sold to AOL for $25 Million in October 2005. Today, Engadget (itself a blog network of 10 blogs) and Autoblog are the only remaining brands from the company. 🙁
- Gawker Media was the second largest blog network. Back to November 2009, the network was at nearly 400 million pageviews a month, with not a single blog getting under 20 million pageviews per month. But unfortunately, they messed with the wrong guy, billionaire Peter Thiel who did everything possible to bankrupt them. And yes he did! Thanks to an Hulk Hogan sex tape!
b5media. Co-founded by Darren Rowse. A network of 315 blogs on everything from Tax to Bags to College Basketball to MTV Reality TV –with a lot of niches with a total of 10 to 30 million unique pageviews per month. raising $2 Million in Venture Capital’s funding and was eventually sold to Alloy Digital. Today, aside from many dated press coverages, it seems that b5media entirely disappeared from the surface of earth.
- PopSugar Inc. Coutorture Media and all their blogs (10) with the word sugar in it, all redirect to PopSugar.com. Shop Style doesn’t. Now part of the humongous Vox Media Blog Network, see later!
- Ist Media aka Gothamist. Founded in 2003, the Gothamist is the operator and franchisor, in some case, of a series of city-centric news blogs with names ending by “-ist”. Including the LAist, DCist, Chicagoist, SFist, Torontoist, Austinist, Shanghaiist, Londonist,
ist, etc. Shut down in 2017 but was relauched in 2018. Still has 8 blogs active under the Ist Network today.
“I thought if you can make things go viral that’s the closest that you can get to having an immense superpower. You could tip elections, you could over-throw dictators, you could start movements, you could revolutionize entire industries.” – Emerson Spartz, Founder of Spartz Media (2014)
Dosefka Spartz Media“a tech company that’s masquerading as a media company”. Founded in 2009 by fast-talking, avid reader, home-schooled teen genius Emerson Spartz – creator of MuggleNet, the oldest and largest Harry Potter fansite in 1999 at the age of 12. With an approach entirely focused on virality, the network of 30 sites received 50 million monthly visitors, raised $34.5 Million in venture capital by 2015 then… Dose died in in 2017 to became Orchard. R.I.P. GiveMeHope (2009-2016); OMG Facts (2012-2016); Memestache; and many other that fizzled out. Emerson Spartz also left Instagram in 2017… Source: Emerson Spartz linkedin. Nice to see that my PYGOD Network outlived everything he did!🚀
- Shiny Media (5 UK sites) goes into administration i.e. insolvency. Nonetheless, some its blogs are still alive today (its sister title ShinyShiny, TechDigest, Who Ate All The Pies).
- 9rules. Still alive.
- Blogcritics is a blog network and online magazine of news and opinion founded in 2002. It seem to be an online magazine rather than a blog network. Anyway, in 2011, Blogcritics has 3,997 blog writers registered. Damn! Now, Blogcritics features more than 100 original articles every week, and maintains an archive of all its published content. There much be a shitload of content to archive!
- Blogging Ghana is a group over 160 bloggers who are, you guest, blogging there. But I ain’t seeing any blogposts there. WTF are this site are doing on wikipedia.
- Envato. Still alive and kicking.
- Corante. Still very alive and pretends to be “the world’s first blog media company”.
Know More Media. A blog network made of 50 authors writing for more than 60 business blogs (business news and information). Dead. Anticlown Media Network. They had 3 popular blogs. Dead.
- DogTime had 320 pet bloggers reaching over 9.6 million unique visitors a month at its peak. DogTime is alive today and seems to have integrated all blogs into its website. Which make more sense!
Many failed blog networks’ domains are now used by Asian gambling sites.
Those who survived, barely, still with the same 2000ish design:
“If you want to build a business empire and become a billionaire, then focusing all your efforts on one blog and growing that business might be the way to go.”
– Darren Rowse, founder/editor of ProBlogger.com and co-founder of b5media (a now defunct blog network of 315 blogs on a wide range of niches, who raised $2 Million in VC’s fund)
By and large, the highest-earning publishers on MediaVine (ad network) focus on one site.
– MediaVine rep
On the flip side, would you still like to build your own version of the League of Justice with your Blog Network?
It sound extremely appealing to me! In fact, I’ve done it!
The League of Justice analogie is a good one. At least if a superhero is killed i.e. demotenized you have other heroes to cover your ass!
The outliers i.e. success stories:
- DotDash Meredith (fka About.com) Part of IAC Interactive, a public company, and has billions at its disposal and more than 3,700 employees. Est. 1997. Seems to operate 28 blogs. About 240 monthly audience, overall.
- G/O Media. Founded in 2019 and owner of 12 blogs that were originally operated by Gawker Media.
- Stack Exchange Network started with the flagship site, Stack Overflow (for programmers), Server Fault (for system administrators), Super User (for computer enthusiasts), Meta Stack Overflow. Co-founder Jeff Atwood had the vision to create his own version of the League of Justice and the Star Wars Triology on the web. And he succeeded! The Stack Exchange Network now hosts over 170 Q&A sites. That’s a big fuckin’ bunch of super heroes! Isn’t it?!
- GigaOM originally integrated several other technology-related blogs and services into its network. In 2011, Gigaom consolidated this network of blogs and rebranded all of them as separate topic channels on gigaom.com, with channels dedicated to technology news, Apple, cleantech, cloud computing, data, Europe, mobile technology, and digital video.
- Yeys.com has a portfolio of 26 sites in various niches, more than 50 full-time employees producing around 1000 new blog posts every month (33 posts a day). A few are small sites with around 150 posts. Others have several hundred and even thousands of posts in them. Anne, the owner, has been a web publisher since 1998.
- FatStacksBlog is Jon “Fat Stacks” Dykstra personal blog. Jon D operates a digital media company managing several niche blogs, a large email newsletter and offering online courses about blogging. Pretends to make $80K per month with millions of readers. One thing for sure, he knows what he is talking about.
- ShoutDreams Blog Network including 7 blogs managed by Harsh Agrawal. ShoutMeLoud (the main website), ShoutMeTech, Blogger Forum (doesn’t seems available anymore), ShoutMeHindi, CoinSutra, WPsutra, WPHostingDiscount, and ShoutUniversity (click funnel).
“Never put all of your eggs in one basket.”
If your income source is from just one blog, you should seek to expand your empire to ensure that some unforeseen issue doesn’t ruin you financially.
– Harsh Agrawal, Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud
If you still want to start a Blog Network…
Blog Network’s fundamental goals to survive
- Get more readers.
- Grow the engagement level of your readers.
- Maximize revenue by growing the number of revenue streams you have
Valuable goals for any kind of media business whatsoever.
3 Models for Blog Networks
- A small number of HUGE blogs within a couple of verticals, but focused on one audience type (ie: Gawker model)
- A medium number of medium blogs within ONE vertical of content (ie: the Sugar model). PopSugar was all about women’s fashion.
- A medium number of blogs in a handful of verticals, with a brand (or two) unifying them (ie: the b5media model). I don’t think 315 blogs is a “medium” number of blogs?!
- But with one commonality that ties the blogs together, either audience or content or branding.
All advices were from Jeremy Wright, who was CEO of b5media at the time. It was November 2008, when many blog networks started to crumble. The advices still make sense 14 years later. Which is an eternity in the tech world. (Source)
The ONE to Rule Them All
Vox Media a Network of 18 Blog Networks
- 170 million unique users monthly (2016)
I’ve investigated the Blog Network’s bubble of 2005, those who are still active years later and the current blog networks/digital media companies. I was initially trying to dissuate myself to pursue this avenue to instead focus on one thing. But after seeing many long-lasting success stories. I’ve realize that there is a future in it. Just like any other kind of businesses, less than one out of ten will thrive and succeed. Since I’m already 9-deep into it and most of my blogs are seasoned (I’ve been a web publisher/blogger since 2005) and fattened by thousands of published posts. And the fact that I am naturally inclined toward some sort of diversification to be happy. True happiness to me is to write on this blog and working on my Blog Network. Being my own boss. The only people I have to answer to are my clients/customers and readers. Is dedicating all my waking hours to my online businesses (blogs + one estore/blog) is diversification? I guess not!
- FOCUS… Or not?! Well, I’m further more confused after writing this post. Is focusing on an entire blog network can be considered focusing?
- Those who doesn’t learn from history are doomed to fail. In fact, all digital media company are blog networks. Vox Media, DotDash Meredith, and G/O Media are blog networks.
- By definition, a blog network is anything more than one blog. So you only need 2 blogs or more to be a blog network.
- Maybe, I should create another website as the hub of my PBN PYGOD Blog Network! PYGOD Network sounds better.
Health & Wealth
Sources and related posts:
Darren Rowser, founder of Pro Blogger & co-founder of b5media (blog network)
How A Network Of Blogs Is Attracting Over 150 Million Monthly Visitors: Gizmodo and Lifehacker
Emerson Spartz, Co-Founder of Spartz Media (Dose.com) – Keynote Speech