Introduction to Blog Networks

I’ve done a little study in the past few years on ‘movements’ as part of my interest in emerging forms of spirituality and one of the things that I’ve come to know a little about is how new movements often start as fairly chaotic and disconnected entities but generally over time will (in order to survive and thrive) self organize and form clusters (that’s a terribly generalized comment – but for the sake of succinct communication I’ll leave it at that).

This can be seen in many instances throughout history across many different types of movements (big and small) and is currently happening in blogging (I guess we could call it a movement) also.

With the rise in popularity of blogging we’ve also seen a variety of ways for bloggers to self organize and cluster together. This has happened in many ways through people attempting to collate blogs (like technorati and blog pulse) but also through different blog directories and lists that attempt to categorize blogs (eg blogtopsites) and blogging communities (eg blogcritics) where bloggers work together on different projects.
This has also been seen in the emergence over the past couple of years of the ‘blog network’.

Blog Networks come in a range of shapes and sizes and have been designed with different purposes in mind – but in a sense if you strip them all back they are simply clusters of blogs that are in some way linked together under a common name or banner.

Most of these networks are have some commercial aspect to them while others are more about about promoting blogs and social networking.

The most prominent and long running of the current range of blog networks are Gawker Media and Weblogs Inc – both of which have numerous blogs with massive traffic and business models that make them quite large and profitable business ventures (in fact Weblogs Inc recently sold to AOL for a reported $25million (USD) – one of the reasons that I suspect the blog network space has become quite crowded in recent months).
In addition to these two large and prominent networks there are many others that have emerged around them. No one really knows how many there are (and there is some debate about what is and isn’t a network) but perhaps one of the best lists going around is that at the Blog Network List which currently tracks 75 networks. I’m certain it doesn’t cover every network out there but it’s a pretty good list.
As you’ll see by perusing the list – networks really do come in a large variety of configurations ranging from the very big with a large number of blogs with a wide range of topics, through to the very small and tightly focused networks that are targeting smaller niche topics.
I’m not going to talk here about specific networks or their pros and cons (I’m a co-owner of one myself so I’ll let others comment on that topic) but I do want to explore a common question that I’m asked by ProBlogger readers:

‘What are the Benefits and Costs of Joining a Blog Network?’

This question (and variations of it) is something that I get quite a bit, especially from newer bloggers attempting to work out whether it’s better for them to set up a blog on their own as an independent or whether it’s worth working with others in their blogging.
In my experience (as someone who runs independent blogs, networked blogs and who co-owns a network) there are definitely both real benefits AND costs that should be carefully weighed up before entering into an established network (or starting your own). In the coming day or two I want to write at least two posts exploring these topics.
Obviously I have some vested interest in the topic and will write from this perspective (please keep this in mind) and would invite the comment of others who are both independent and networked bloggers.

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