A Sustainable Business Model For Blogs

I'm thoroughly addicted to blogging. Even if nobody ever reads my blog, I find that writing a little something or two every day is good for me. Not only does it help to keep my writing chops up, but it's good for blowing off steam and advancing ideas.

In the blogging movement, I see a feasible way to change the way people consume opinions and news. I also see a way to deliver on one of the original promises of the Internet - the promise that everyone can be a publisher and compete on a relatively level playing field with the mainstream media, leading to a much truer online analog to the "marketplace of ideas."

At the same time, I see the need for a business model to emerge. There will always be a number of bloggers who do what they do out of the goodness of their hearts and a need to express themselves. But how many people do you know that climbed aboard the blogging bandwagon, posted with regularity for a few weeks, and then lost interest? How many blogs out there were once updated several times a day and are now refreshed only once or twice a month (or not at all)?

Finally, doesn't a true, level playing field entail equal opportunity to pay the hosting bills and earn money based on the audience that blogs are able to aggregate? You see where I'm going here. This movement needs a business model, for those who are interested in making money from the content they put into the blogosphere every day.

Ross Fadner from Mediapost called me last week to talk about RSS. I admit that he caught me somewhat off guard, and I told him that I wasn't following the controversy over blog syndication standards as closely as I would like. (Hey, we're getting really busy over here at Underscore...) But I did give Ross some comments that ended up in a story he wrote. My two main points were that there was a lot of bickering over standards still going on, and that it would be nice to see Microsoft integrate a reader into the next version of Office.

When the story came out, I took a bit of flak for oversimplifying things a bit and/or saying that Microsoft was to blame for holding up adoption (even though I never said such a thing).

On Monday when it came time to write my weekly Online Spin column for Mediapost, I thought a bit more deeply about how syndication should ultimately contribute to a business model for blogs, IMHO. Here's the result.

If you don't feel like following the link, here's the gist of the idea toward the end of the column...We need something that will aggregate blog content based on filters set by the end user. Said aggregation tool should also provide a revenue stream to bloggers, based on how often their content is consumed by users of the tool.

Yes, I know about Kinja, the various blog search tools, Feedster, etc. (I had to clip my two paragraphs on Kinja in my column for the sake of brevity.) While many of these tools allow for customization of feeds, they don't provide a revenue stream to bloggers. This revenue stream is needed, IMHO, if blogging is to become something bigger than it already is. If blogging continues to reside primarily in the early adopter community, it won't realize its full potential.

I'm also aware that some people like blogging just the way it is. But consider this...What if we had a huge number of bloggers all over the world simultaneously posting first-hand accounts of the things that matter to them, corroborating details of newsworthy events and covering news and opinion alongside their mainstream news media brethren? What if folks other than the owners of the most popular blogs could make a living doing this? What if governments had not only the easily-influenced mainstream media to answer to, but also a massive corps of citizen-bloggers?

Blogging has potential - potential to solve the problem of the press release-regurgitating mass media, potential to sway public opinion in ways not yet imagined, potential to keep governments on their toes much like the news media once did. In my opinion, failing to realize that potential is a great disservice and a waste of effort.