Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Arrington's Roll-Up The Blogs Strategy Won't Work - You Can't Roll Up Egos

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 19, 2008

Mike Arrington, publisher of Techcrunch says that it should be possible to roll up the top tech blogs into a "big fat CNET crushing $200 million/year in revenue business."

Dan Farber, editorial chief of CNET's News.com, says bring it on:

It's pleasing to have Mike and others targeting CNET. It must mean that we are at the top of the heap. Competitve envy comes with the territory.

In his post: The blogosphere's Napoleon Mr Farber points out a simple fact that gives CNET an edge over blogs such as Techcrunch.

...importantly, our troops across CNET News, Webware, Crave and Reviews are in the field as I speak, getting after the important stories.

Blogging is not reporting...

I agree. I'm out nearly every day and often in the evenings too, getting original content, scoops, news, and analysis. Most of the content on Techcrunch, and other blog sites is commentary on the news.

Techcrunch does get some great scoops from time to time, but that's not its main business, which is profile of web 2.0 startups. And that is true for the other high traffic blog sites.

You can't crush CNET with blog posts about news stories and profiles of online service companies.

Ego aggregator...

And there is another reason a rolling up the top layer of the blogoshpere won't work: it's a personality driven business and the egos can barely fit on the Internet let alone within a single company. Would Om Malik work for Mike Arrington, or vice versa? No way. That's true for every other A-list blogger.

Roll-ups and consolidation are a natural trend within all industries. Companies acquire other companies and reap economies of scale and other competitive advantages.

You can roll up companies but you can't roll up personalities.

Already rolled...

Also, the roll up has already been done. FM Publishing did it and continues to do it. It signed up many top blog sites to its advertising network.

And Dan Farber already did it too. When he was over on the ZDNet side of CNET, he collected some of the top bloggers in the tech sector (see my blog over on ZDNet - Tom Foremski IMHO.)

Cult of personality...

My strategy with Silicon Valley Watcher is to gradually move it away from being associated with my personality and towards building a strong editorial team staffed by media professionals - reporting on the business and culture of Silicon Valley. If that sounds like a traditional media firm that's because many traditional media principles still apply.

Today the distribution channels are different and the business models for media companies are different. But there is a lot that hasn't and won't change.

What hasn't changed is the fact that teams of media professionals create great media consistently. That's a far more effective and scalable business than personality-based media (i.e blogs).

Giant blob strategy flaw...

Also, Mr Arrington's analysis of the CNET crushing capability in creating one giant blob of a blog site is seriously flawed.

The disruption to CNET and other large media companies is coming from search engine marketing, not from blogs. Quite simply, it is more effective to advertise on a search engine than on a news site.

GOOG's quarterly financial results show this very clearly. Each quarter revenue growth from its own sites outpace revenues from content-partner sites such as the New York Times.

It is search engine marketing that might eventually crush CNET. It certainly won't be a blog site, no matter how many blogger egos are crammed into it.

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