October 25, 2011

Considering a Return to My Blogging Roots

rem koolhaas dvd

Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect

I find myself at a moment of crisis, one whose details I'm mostly keeping to myself, but a crisis that I hope will become a productive turning point.  I could certainly use one of those!

Faced with my weariness at high volume industry blogging, something I pursued for a little over five years at a hip hop business blog I launched in 2005 called ProHipHop, I'm realizing I can't do that kind of thing right now.  I sold the site and a related web property last year.  That gave me some breathing room as I battled with this multipronged recession but it has not led to a new blogging business as I anticipated.

Instead, after exploring numerous possibilities including two that would make fine business blogs in areas that have not been glutted, I find myself incapable of turning on the machine and building such businesses.

Oddly enough, my recognition that I need to take a break from such attempts and return to blogging as a means of communication and self-expression is inspired not just by my difficulties digging in but by my viewing of a documentary about Rem Koolhaas, the Dutch architect, called Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect.

It reminded me of my love of big ideas and meaningful details brought together productively in real world projects.  But also of my love of thinking through concepts for the sheer joy of creative thought.

In a sense, that's where my blogging began, back in 2002 with a blog about hip hop, culture and politics called Hip Hop Logic.  The earliest version of that blog is lost and a later version became part of a web project called netweed that was intended to be a platform for alternative culture and was inspired by a number of influences that I discuss at that site.

Blogging at Hip Hop Logic and building a variety of resources at netweed, some that are no longer available, taught me a lot.  I went on to create other blogs about politics and alternative culture but eventually became best known in the world of blogging for ProHipHop: Hip Hop Business News.

Honestly, I thought of ProHipHop because I realized if I wanted to make money blogging, I should probably write about money.  It was the first dedicated hip hop business blog and allowed me to become surprisingly well known among "tastemakers" and "influencers" in the world of hip hop.

I left that world for many reasons, including the fact that I had to deal with a lot of negative attacks and mishandled my response in a manner that undermined the business I was trying to build.  But it was also undermining my love of certain forms of hip hop music and my desire to help other bloggers.

During the early years of ProHipHop, I boosted many unknown bloggers, some of whom went on to become quite well known.  And some of those were the ones who either attacked me viciously once they had the attention they were seeking or stabbed me in the back the way self-centered careerists are prone to do.  I'm past most of my negativity about those betrayals but they also keep me from returning to that world and made me happy to have a successful exit.

In any case, having learned quite a few lessons, my work there led to my current parttime position blogging about the music industry for Hypebot.  But it has not led me to a new phase of industry blogging as I anticipated.

In fact, I've decided to return to blogging about things that interest me because I need a platform to share those thoughts and to open up possibilities beyond processing huge amounts of daily news, jumping on breaking news and generally wearing myself out as have so many people in professional blogging.

But I still love blogging and still think it's a great way to build a business, build a brand or just build a platform to share one's thoughts.  And the latter looks like what I'm going to do.

Update to follow!

October 20, 2011

Blogs Boost New York Magazine's Website Traffic

new york mag logo

New York Magazine's website has developed daily news blogs in addition to magazine-related content and they've helped grow web traffic to a claimed "10.5 million monthly unique users for September". This is the site's highest traffic since its launch 13 years ago and advertising dollars are also up.

New York blogs include:

Vulture - Entertainment News

The Cut - Fashion

Daily Intel - New York News

Part of their success can be attributed to high volume posting with new content going up every 6 minutes between 8:30 am and around 7 pm with eight or nine different pieces added overnight.


Federated Media: Acquires Lijit, Does WordPress Ad Deal

federated media logo

Federated Media was an early player in the blog advertising space, focused not just on ads but on sponsored posts and conversational media. They've just made two big deals that now give them access to a lot of web properties.

The first was the acquisition of Lijit, a company offering web tools and advertising for many smaller web publishers. This move extends Federated Media's reach to 77,000 additional web publishers beyond their current partners.

Now they've made a deal with Wordpress owners Automattic to provide advertising to Wordpress.com hosted blogs.

Federated Media says their "advertising programs will now be available as an opt-in program open to all WordPress.com publishers in the United States."

The "Federated Media Publishing, Lijit Networks and WordPress.com combination will reach nearly 247 million unique visitors in the U.S." so this is definitely big news for Federated Media and for bloggers and web publishers using Lijit or hosted on Wordpress.com.

October 19, 2011

The Michael Jordan of Tech Blogging & Pals on the Future of Professional Blogging

scott hanselman twitter

Solo Bloggers vs. BlogCorps

In a surprisingly disappointing Roundtable convened by MG Siegler on the Future of Professional Blogging, a group of bloggers famous in the tech world answer the question:

"Is the future of professional blogging more built around successful teams or individuals? Why?"

The question locks the respondents into a false binary resulting in surprisingly dull answers by people who generally seem pretty smart. But that's the nature of binaries. They destroy the interesting complexity of life.

Which makes me wonder, how can one describe a blogger known primarily in the tech world as the Michael Jordan of blogging? Tech blogging, maybe. But Michael Jordan? A world class athlete known far beyond the realm of basketball? Such comparisons really speak to the insular nature of the tech blogging scene.

But it does raise another question:

If MG Siegler is the Michael Jordan of blogging, does that mean his move into the world of venture capital will be like Michael Jordan playing baseball?

In any case, check out the Roundtable for yourself. If you haven't grown weary of the insular world of tech blogging, you might find something in there that interests you.

Related Business of Blogging Coverage:
MC Siegler, Former TechCrunch Blogger, Explains the Tech Blogging Game

October 17, 2011

The Business of Fashion Blog The Sartorialist

sartorialist book

The Sartorialist - From Blog to Book

Scott Schuman's highly regarded fashion blog, The Sartorialist, recently celebrated its 6th year.

The Business of Fashion's Imran Amed took the opportunity to examine the business of The Sartorialist which is apparently pretty good:

"The Sartorialist had around 13 million page views last month, a 44 percent increase over the same month last year...If current traffic levels are sustained and significant portion of the advertising inventory on The Sartorialist is sold, it could theoretically make Scott Schuman fashion's first million dollar a year blogger."

Schuman started out building his reputation at Style.com and GQ while continuing to build his blog:

"Once The Sartorialist began to attract serious global attention, Schuman left these high-profile gigs behind to focus on building his own business. With his newfound independence, Schuman knew he would have to build out his own revenue streams. 'You have to constantly spread out your streams, so if one stream starts to dry up you can go on.'"

Additional revenue streams have included gallery shows with prints of his photos going for between $1500 and $4000 each, special projects with fashion brands and a book also called The Sartorialist but ads are taking the lead:

"Like other photo bloggers, Schuman also sells his images to magazines, through his agent, Jedroot. But by far his biggest (and most stable) source of revenue now comes from ad sales on The Sartorialist website. Initially, Schuman worked with Style.com to sell his advertising inventory, but has taken this function back in-house, explaining that he is in a much better position to sell the ads himself because he understands the website better than anyone else could."

Scott Shuman has taken a path that few bloggers can follow but that doesn't mean one can't learn from his example of blogging about something he loves to do and finding multiple revenue streams in order to build a livelihood:

"'You can really make a living out of this,' said Schuman emphatically. 'It's tough, but if you work really hard you can create a business, if you're smart about it and have something real to say.'"

MC Siegler, Former TechCrunch Blogger, Explains the Tech Blogging Game

anil dash on blogging

Anil Dash on MC Siegler's Post

MC Siegler, who left TechCrunch to join Michael Arrington at CrunchFund, recently posted about the game of tech blogging, describing it as a numbers game focused on "pageviews, scoops, and Techmeme."

Oddly enough, one commenter I ran across labeled the post a "parody" of tech blogging but, if you pay attention to what tech bloggers have been saying (and complaining) about the business, you know that it's a pretty accurate look at tech blogging today.

Other writers would put it differently but for the top tech blogs making that money, it's a cutthroat race these days as it is in many other sectors of blogging as a business from hip hop blogging to gossip blogs.

Sadly, Siegler's approach to blogging is only satisfying for winners.

Happily, there are a lot of ways one can build and profit from blogging without it having to be a stats game.

BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2011 in Los Angeles

BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2011 LA Promo Video

This year's BlogWorld & New Media Expo's Los Angeles edition is taking place from November 3 to 5. I think the upbeat video above gives you one sense of the conference but it basically seems to be a massive social media conference with a big emphasis on blogging.

I found the Attendee Profile pretty interesting:

40% of attendees state new media is their primary business.
42% of attendees produce a blog.
24% of attendees produce a podcast, internet radio or TV program.
64% of attendees are men.
36% of attendees are women.
50% of attendees earn at least $50k/year from their new media activity.

Reality TV Blogger Launches Reality Ravings Consultancy

Australian reality TV blogger Emma Ashton is launching a consultancy, Reality Ravings Consultancy, that will "offer expert advisory services to both potential reality show contestants, and to the shows themselves."

The consultancy is built on Ashton's achievements with Reality Ravings, an Australian reality TV blog, she launched in 2007. Her blogging status led to her identification as a reality TV expert by the media, leading to numerous media appearances in Australia. She also launched a Reality TV Insights Survey that has given her more media attention and helped establish her as an industry researcher.

For $275, wannabe reality TV performers will receive:

A consultation over Skype or phone to find out about you, including your background, skills and personality and why you want to go on the show;

A tailored application is drafted and sent to you to upload online or send in; and

Ongoing advice when you get to the interview rounds.

Ashton also offers:

Speaking engagements including panels, conferences, lectures, workshops and seminars about blogging and reality TV;

Freelance writing for articles, reviews, submissions, speeches and reports;

Pre-production and concept testing advice for new reality shows;

Post-production evaluation;

Research related to reality TV shows; and

Expert commentary on reality TV.

I don't have any idea how well the various aspects of Ashton's offerings are being received but this is certainly a nice look at how one can build a brand and related services around a topically-focused blog. The survey is particularly smart for building authority.

Personal note:

Back when I blogged about hip hop business, I tried to find partners to create a hip hop demographic survey. My research training is in qualitative methods so I needed a quantitative partner but I was unable to pay for the needed support.

I understood why researchers outside of hip hop were only interested in participating if paid but I could never understand the short-sightedness of hip hop marketers who could have been involved. It would have given any of them national visibility that would relate to their business interests and yet none of the people I discussed it with could see that. Then again, that lack of vision helps explain why none of them have achieved national recognition in marketing since.

Getaway Travel Blog Conference Planned for South Africa

Getaway Travel Blog Conference

Getaway Travel Blog Conference

The first Getaway Travel Blog Conference is scheduled for November 5th in Cape Town, South Africa.

"South Africa's top bloggers and online gurus as well as industry experts from digital marketing agency Quirk, will talk on all aspects of travel blogging, from writing, photography and video to design, search optimisation, marketing and making money from blogging."

The conference is being organized by Getaway, a South African travel magazine that also produces the Getaway Travel Blog. The blog apparently has "over 100 contributing bloggers."

October 15, 2011

Bloglovin': Another Popular Site Ripping Off Bloggers

Lauren Indvik at Mashable takes a look at Bloglovin' which aggregates content from fashion blogs.  She describes it as a "visual RSS reader and community."

I'm going to refer to it as an aggregator because, to me, a reader provides access to the content of RSS feeds for individuals while an aggregator publishes that content publicly. My feeling is that the existence of full RSS feeds is not a license to republish one's content in full and that doing so without permission is a ripoff.

I especially don't like this statement from the Bloglovin' FAQ:

"Can I remove my blog from Bloglovin'?"

"Bloglovin' is meant to be a service where you can follow any blog with a public RSS-feed, so we don't remove blogs."

I find this attitude inexcusable and it's honestly one of the reasons I do not provide full public feeds to any of my blogs because people feel it's ok to take stuff without permission and try to make money off it.

As stated at Mashable:

"The bulk of Bloglovin’s undisclosed revenue is advertising. The startup has worked with numerous large brands, including L’oreal, MTV, H&M and Levi’s to develop display campaigns, as well as facilitate partnerships with various bloggers. Svenson acts as the go-between for said partnerships, connecting brands with bloggers not only with the largest audience, but also ones that are a good fit for the brand in question."

Now working with bloggers who agree to work with you is a positive. But the site does not mention anything about rev shares so I'm assuming that they will take your blog and only cut you in if it serves their agenda. If they're doing something more fair, they would be smart to make that clear cause, right now, they look like ripoff artists.

I have some other concerns but I'll leave it at that. RSS does not automatically imply a license to republish one's content and when blogs like Mashable big up ripoff artists like Bloglovin', it's a reminder of how far downhill bloggers have gone in protecting each other.