A little while ago, we did a post on the acquisition of Level9 blogs by b5media. I speculated out loud about the blog network space and the viability of joining a blog network in particular – using b5media as a case study.
If I were to put myself in the shoes of an aspiring blogger looking to make blogging a commercial proposition, joining a blog network would be an excellent way of getting traction quickly. However in an industry, let alone a technology, that is still in its infancy – bloggers, blog networks, advertisers, businesses and blog readers are still trying to get a grip of this blogging thing. I can only conclude that any blogger looking to hook up with a network should satisfy themselves that the network shared a similar vision and business approach (and profitability) because utlimately their success is your success (and vice versa).
With this in mind, I yammered away and a couple of b5media bloggers popped by, along with Jeremy Wright (the big banana at b5…would that be b1@b5? Sorry, my kid loves that show) offering to help shed some light on my questions:
– Having a quick look around, it would appear to my untrained eye that the blog networks that come to mind all focus on a particular niche or target demographic, for example the 4.5 million uniques/month Sugar network (Popsugar etc) seem to target the women-based iVillage demographic, and ShinyMedia tends to have a more UK-based readership, ditto with Techcrunch’s web audience. What would you say b5media’s approach is in relation to building an audience?
– Shai mentioned that of the 230+ blogs in the b5media network, two blogs remain the flagship offerings – does this pose a risk to the organisation? Is this an issue for advertisers?
– If not commercially sensitive, would you be able to give a rough indication of the split of advertising revenue source ie. 20% direct, x% adsense, x% textlink ads etc? And do you have a preferred mix – what do you see as your long-term goal re managing your advertisers? Do you see yourself moving towards direct or perhaps outsourcing it to providers so you can focus on content (like BoingBoing)?
– Everywhere I turn, it seems you are snapping up great local blogging talent (eg Sara Goldstein aka thebargainqueen, and Alister Cameron) – what is your approach to recruiting bloggers? Do you identify the content space first, then find the appropriate person to fill it or vice versa?
– What light can you shed on your blogger remuneration structure?
– For the potential new b5media blogger, would you say the whole point of joining a blog network like b5media would be the quality of the crosslinking between blogs within the network thus allowing the startup blog an opportunity to gain traction more quickly? With this in mind, do you track the cross-sell ratio, i.e. % of visits originating from the network? If so, can you give an indication of its magnitude?
– do you see b5media as more of a co-op publisher, or a publisher that contracts for content via freelancers?
– Landing VC funding of $2m has obviously allowed you to beef up the head-office function (marketing, developers, operations etc) and upgrade infrastructure etc – what has been the advantages and disadvantages of bringing in VCs? Does it translate to having to ‘Do more in less time’?
– What’s the blogger attrition rate been like since launch? And how to you keep all your hens productively laying eggs?
Some of the highlights for me included:
I see b5media as a media company, so of the 3 options “publisher that contracts” is probably the closest. At the same time, though, I also see b5 as a community, as a supporter of WordPress, as a technology company and as a a place to just share ideas. But, yeah, from a business standpoint, I see our strength being our writers.
In my mind there are a handful of network structures out there that work, each with their own challenges and opportunities. Many of the larger networks, like Shiny, PopSugar and even Gawker, have chosen to focus on one or two key demographics – and for them, that works incredibly well. I’ve always felt, though, that it would be much more exciting to develop a key set of skills as a company and to apply those more broadly.
b5media’s stated goal is to provide the right content to the right person at the right time on the right device (with the right ad tucked somewhere in there!). To me, that means we need to have a depth of content that’s effectively unrivaled in the online content world. We need to be publishing hundreds of posts each day, dozens of deeper articles each week and reaching a critical mass of millions in the US, Canada, Europe and south east Asia.
Our approach, then, has always been to identify certain key areas where we believe we will see significant growth, and to enter those areas with a large number of blogs that would appeal to just about anyone interested in that space.
Base pay: 50-250$/month depending on age of blog, quality of blogger and time with blog. Typically this is a sliding scale based on how long a blog’s been with b5media (this is especially true for blogs we start and then bring writers in for… which is still 90% of our blogs, so is, again, the norm. 0-3 months: 50$/month, 3-6 months: 75$/month, 6-9 months: 100$/month, 1 year: 150$/month, 2 years: 250$/month.
Basically the bas pay allows us to grow a blogger’s take-home pay, even if they aren’t getting a huge amount of traffic. It also rewards longevity, provides milestones (we do reviews each quarter, as part of the pay bumps), etc.
Traffic bonus: Right now this is sitting at 1.65$ CPM (ie: for every 1000 pageviews, you get 1.65$). We try to bump this every quarter. It doesn’t always happen, but we believe that if b5’s doing well, bloggers should see their pay go up as well.
What this means is that the average blogger who writes for a few hours a week and builds his or her blog to 30-50K pageviews/month over 6-9 months can earn 100-150$ and a mature blogger can easily earn 150-250$… While bloggers on large blogs can earn hundreds more.
Thanks very much to Jeremy for lifting the hood. I respect the transparency that he has afforded us, certainly living the values of the open web upon which blogging tries to facilitate.
For those that have come through Jeremy’s blog, I would invite you to take the opportunity to browse the Australian blogosphere. We’re a small country in terms of population but boast a vibrant local web community (here too).
We’ll do a follow-up podcast shortly thanking Jeremy as well as a 2min analysis of his responses.