Bloggers Creating Networks

The days of the lone blogger may be numbered. The nation's most popular Internet writers are starting to organize themselves into networks to maximize readers and advertising dollars. The evolution of blogs mirrors the way TV and radio grew.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

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And I'm Robert Siegel.

With millions of blogs on the Internet, don't blame yourself if you can't keep up with them all. Advertisers are having the same problem. They know that there are substantial audiences who get their news, their humor, their gossip from blogs, but reaching them has been difficult. Now a number of companies are starting blog networks to serve up all those consumers in one place. NPR's Robert Smith has the story.

ROBERT SMITH reporting:

The life of a political blogger can be a lonely one.

Professor GLENN REYNOLDS (Instapundit): The great thing about blogging on your own is it's like being a stand-up comic. It's all your show. The bad thing about blogging on your own is it's like being a stand-up comic. It's all your show.

SMITH: Glenn Reynolds, also known as the Instapundit, says he's always tried to link to a wide range of other bloggers, but he's finding he can't keep up with them all. So he's become part of a network of some of the heavy hitters in political blogging, Pajamas Media. Started by Roger Simon, the conglomerate has something that few blogs can tout: $3.5 million in venture capital and a big business dream.

Mr. ROGER SIMON (Pajamas Media): By aggregating ourselves together, we sort of want to become The New Yorker-slash-New York Times of the blogosphere here.

SMITH: And Simon's up-front about the power of a network. It's a model that advertisers can understand.

Mr. SIMON: You know, we are going to offer advertisers a large network of viewers with a certain demographic so they can say, `Ah, yes.' Volvo says these are people all--a lot of these people need to have a nice Volvo that's safe, etc.

SMITH: It's an old story.

(Soundbite of radio broadcast)

Unidentified Announcer #1: This is NBC, the National Broadcasting Company.

SMITH: The NBC radio network pioneered the form 80 years ago. Up until the 1920s, radio was a pretty amateur affair. Like the modern Internet, there were a slew of ideas about how to fund the media, including coin-operated radios. But NBC and the other fledging networks provided the scale to hire the best performers and bring in the big companies in advertising.

(Soundbite of radio broadcast)

Unidentified Announcer #2: The makers of Johnson's Wax and Johnson's Water-Repellant Glo-Coat present "Fibber McGee and Molly"...

SMITH: Of course, radio was expensive and had limited bandwidth. The network concept is still controversial in the Internet world. The launch of the Pajamas blog network was largely ridiculed on the Web. It initially debuted as Open Source Media until they found out a public radio program had the same title. They had to quickly change the name to Pajamas, a reference to the insult that bloggers sit around in their pajamas all day. But the more scathing criticism of the new network asked `Why bother?'

Mr. JEFF JARVIS (Writer, Buzz Machine): I think that the Internet destroys networks.

SMITH: Jeff Jarvis writes the blog Buzz Machine.

Mr. JARVIS: You'll make your own network. You'll find the blogs and the podcasts and the vlogs that you like, and that's your network.

SMITH: Jarvis has been down the conglomerate network road before. He started the magazine Entertainment Weekly before becoming a blogger. Jarvis thinks that even without organized networks, there is an opportunity for bloggers to become more savvy about their collective power.

Mr. JARVIS: Advertisers do want to figure out this world of citizens media, but to buy on blogs today and podcasts and so on is too complicated. So we have to make it easier for advertisers.

SMITH: The question is what model will become the dominant form of network on the Web. For instance, the company BlogAds offers many networks to advertisers. You can choose between putting all your ads on military blogs or ones for Republican women or TV blogs. Henry Copeland is the founder.

Mr. HENRY COPELAND (BlogAds): Those are the ones the bloggers have created. I mean, bloggers come to us and say, `Hey, I notice there's a network of New Yorkers. I'd love to--you know, I'd love to do something like that for my city.' And we say, `OK, you know, here's the tool. Go ahead and do it.'

SMITH: These are loose affiliations, and the bloggers share the ad revenue. On the other end of the spectrum are commercial blog networks that are run top down. Weblogs Inc. has 80 different blogs like Engadget and the Autoblog that are centrally owned and controlled and linked to one another. Shawn Gold is the publisher.

Mr. SHAWN GOLD (Weblogs Inc.): You know, it's sort of the model that a best seller or something that sells well because it's selling well. So the more popular our blogs get, the more popular our network gets, you know, everything starts to rise together.

SMITH: It's a model that at least one mainstream media company thinks is profitable. The Weblogs network was recently sold to AOL for a reported $25 million. But even the new networks say they have to be careful. In the rush for ad dollars, no one wants to kill the one thing that made blogs popular in the first place: a passionate voice saying things that no one else will. Pajamas optional. Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

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