The Independent Blog and the Network Question

Well, ain’t it a small world, spiritually speaking.
Pete and Delmar just been baptized and saved.
I guess I’m the only one that remains unaffiliated.

– Ulysses Everett McGill

Darren Rowse has a post today explaining why a blogger should consider joining a blog network.

I have written before on blog networks, and have actually had a couple of inquiries from networks wondering if I was interested in joining one. Because I was flattered by the interest, I thought about it some.

I asked myself what a blog network could do for Newsome.Org and, more importantly, what Newsome.Org could do for it. Until you join a group, human nature dictates that the issue is all about getting in. Insiders know that once you’re in, many other issues arise around staying in and keeping everyone happy.

It’s not an easy decision.

Let’s take a look at Darren’s reasons in favor of networks and see how they might apply to a reasonably popular independent blog.

1) Relationships

This is the great double-edged sword of the network question. Certainly, you would build and cement relationships with those in your network, but you might also chill your relationships with those in other or no networks.

I ultimately concluded that this was a wash. Partly positive and partly negative to the decision.

2) Traffic

This is the primary reason I considered pursuing a network affiliation. We have talked it to death, but for most bloggers, traffic is one of the goals. Traffic equals readers equals comments equals conversations, etc.

Definitely positive to the decision.

3) Expertise

Darren says, correctly, that a network relationship can give you the benefit of the other members’ expertise in blog building, etc. I didn’t think about it in exactly that way- for me it was more about finding some cool, smart people to travel through the blogosphere with. Sort of an extension of my wagon train concept.

Mildly positive to the decision.

4) Administration

I definitely thought about this, and it was negative to the decision. I have too much administration in my life already and I’m reasonably tech-proficient. The last thing I want is to have to remake my page in the image of some network look and feel. Granted, I’m sure some networks are more flexible than others in this regard, but it is something I want to mostly avoid.

5) Revenue

This is the biggest issue in the network question. I am not blogging to make money. I may one day have some text ads to help pay the server costs, etc. and if anyone wants to throw some money at me, I’ll probably take it. But it is absolutely not the reason I write. Plus, of course, the network takes a cut of that revenue, which raises all sorts of other complicated issues. If I ever join a network, it probably won’t be because of the revenue factor. In fact, it would likely be in spite of it.

Revenue complications are a big negative to the decision.

6) Search Engine Optimization

If you get permanent links from other network blogs, you may move up the search result pages. I find SEO for SEO sake a little creepy. Traffic is good and I want it, but I’d rather let it come naturally. SEO is not something I thought about, and it would not be a factor should I ever join a network.

Neither positive nor negative to the decision.

7) Prestige

I thought about this more than I would have expected to. I am, in theory, completely unconcerned with prestige, yet there it was- leading me to think long and hard about a possible network affiliation.

I’m not proud about it, but the prestige factor was a mildly positive to the decision.

8) Learning

Darren mentions that you can learn a lot, about writing and blogging, by being part of a network. I suspect you can, but you can probably learn just as much from reading all sorts of blogs, both network and non-network.

Neither positive nor negative to the decision.

At the end of the day, I didn’t pursue any network opportunities. That’s not to say I never will, but for the time being it doesn’t seem to make sense to join a network.

Darren promises a future article on why not to join a blog network. I’ll take a similar look at that post when its published.