The Coming Corporate Takeover Of Blogs

Business Week wrote an article predicting a corporate takeover of blogs. Here are a couple of quotes from the piece:

“A prediction: Mainstream media companies will master blogs as an advertising tool and take over vast commercial stretches of the blogosphere…. Take a look at blog advertising today, and it’s hard to see a glittering future. Sure, enterprising bloggers make room on their pages for Google-generated ads, known as AdSense, and earn some pocket change.

…Still, blogs could end up providing the perfect response to mass media’s core concern: the splintering of its audience. Advertisers desperate to reach us need to tap niches (because we get together only once a year to watch the Super Bowl). By piggybacking on blogs, they can start working that vast blogocafé, table by table. Smart ones will get feedback, links to individuals — and their friends. That’s every marketer’s dream.

…The big companies have what the bloggers lack. Scale, relations with advertisers, and large sales forces. They can use these forces to sell across all media, from general audience to bloggy niches.”

Henry Copeland, the genius behind blogads, the guy who made blogging profitable (I’d unhesitatingly recommend blogads, which I use at RWN, to any blogger), strongly disagrees with Business Week.

“Umm. Guys? A number of indie bloggers already make more each month than you make. And their year-over-year growth trajectory is a lot greater than yours. And they don’t have to worry what the boss thinks. And they’ve each got a brand name people adore. And they’ve got the lowest overheads in the publishing industry. Who do people want to work for — your failing industry, or themselves?

Allow me a prediction: indie bloggers are going to kick corporate @ss.”

Unfortunately, I have to disagree with Henry here. It would be pretty easy for corporate America to take over “vast commercial stretches of the blogosphere” and eventually I expect it to happen.

Here’s how it could play out:

Let’s say Fox decides to get into the blogging game in a big way but they realize that most big name pundits who have gotten into the blogging haven’t necessarily done very well with it (Of course, there are certain exceptions). When you think about it, that’s understandable. If you’re someone like Bill O’Reilly, do you have time to do your top rated television show, your radio show, write books, do speaking appearances, and run a blog that requires multiple updates per day? Probably not.

So what does Fox do?

Here’s a concept: go to 20 conservative bloggers with audiences ranging let’s say from 2500 readers a day to 20,000 readers a day and offer them a two year contract for a job with “FoxBlogs” — 20 blogs set up off the main Fox webpage.

Let’s say they offer a salary between $25,000-$40,000 a year, health care, vacations, the works — plus, no restrictions on content & on staff web designers to handle any problems. How many bloggers would take that deal? Probably a lot of us, because that’s the dream many of us have: to live off of our writing.

So let’s say Fox has now committed 750k a year to get 20 bloggers who bring, let’s say, 150,000 – 200,000 readers to the table initially.

Then Fox really gets to work.

They add links to these bloggers from their website, they cycle them into the guest lists on Fox, they get them slots on Hannity & O’Reilly’s radio show. Give it a year or so and the same 20 bloggers who were pulling in 200,000 or less readers per day could be doing 1-2 million sets of eyeballs per day. If you can have 2 million readers after 1 year, are 3-4 plausible for year two? Sure. 5-8 million year three? Sure.

Think that’s too much of a stretch? I don’t think so. After watching how much success Nick Denton has had promoting blogs like Gawker & Wonkette, I’ve come to the conclusion that a moderately talented blogger can become a big name in a hurry based on little more than marketing.

Fox has a much bigger megaphone and much deeper pockets than Denton. When it comes to promoting blogs, they would be on a whole different level. If they chose to take 20 blogs and really focus on them for a year, 500-1000%+ growth over the course of the first 12 months is entirely possible.

Then if Fox succeeded, you might see CNN do the same thing with liberal blogs. Then Microsoft might try something similar with tech blogs, etc., etc., etc.

When all was said and done, you’d end up with a few really big independent blogs and everybody else with any kind of audience at all working for corporations. The rest of the blogosphere would be reduced to sort of a “farm team.” You go out, you prove yourself by building an audience, and one of the big corporate blogs snaps you up and gives you a salary.

Again, this might seem like a stretch. But keep in mind, you could probably capture 80%+ of the audience of the entire blogosphere (left, right, tech, personal, you name it) by snatching up a few hundred key blogs and money is no problem for the big boys.

The only thing stopping the corporations from taking over the blogosphere is that the corporations haven’t decided to do it…yet.

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