Lessons from the Bayosphere

Dan Gillmor posted today about his experiences creating and trying to grow Bayosphere. He talks very frankly about the beginnings of Bayosphere, its successes, its failures and the conclusion that this well conceived and executed citizen media blog/website simply hasn’t worked as well as he’d hoped.

This is a must read for those who still believe I am wrong about the steep uphill climb faced by new blogs in 2006. I’m not saying this proves my point- it’s not about being right or wrong. I’m simply saying that if someone as well known and connected as Dan Gillmor can create something as good as Bayosphere, get the traffic Bayosphere gets and still conclude that it’s “obvious to anyone who’s paid attention, the site didn’t take off,” what does that say about the chances of a new blog created by some anonymous blogger without Dan’s reputation and experience?

Dan talked about his approach to community building:

We envisioned Bayosphere as a place where people in the San Francisco Bay Area community could learn about and discuss the regional scene, with a focus on technology, the main economic driver. My tech and policy blogging would be an anchor, hopefully attracting some readers and, crucially, some self-selected citizen journalists who’d join a wider conversation.

And the lack of collaboration:

Many fewer citizens participated, they were less interested in collaborating with one another, and the response to our initiatives was underwhelming. I would do things differently if I was starting over.

And, finally, the conclusion that I believe is telling for the potential new blogger:

The evidence strongly suggested early on that this was not likely to be a viable publishing venture for some considerable period without partnerships to bring in both readers and contributors.

Dan makes a lot of other excellent points about community building. Since any successful blog has to be, at least in part, a community, these comments are spot on for blog building.

He also talks about the tension between writing to communicate and the compromises that are required in the search for a profit. Again, all of this is part and parcel of the blogging vs business stuff I am so interested in.

Does this mean that growing a new blog is impossible? No, but it is an object lesson in how hard it is. And if it’s hard for Dan, it’s going to be harder for the rest of us.

More Discussion:

Darwinian Web
The Bay Area is Talking