Friday, October 21, 2005

Starting a blog with or without your company

Sometimes your boss is a knucklehead.
And perhaps that's what's going on with the editor mentioned in this post on Businessweek's blogspotting. The editor says his team wants to start a blog ... but the publisher will only back it if the blog supports itself with advertising.
Now just think about that for a second, and put yourself in that publisher's shoes.
Imagine your staff came to you and said they wanted to do more work and create a new product. Imagine they said there was no cost.
Can you imagine saying no? Can you imagine telling them to "sell" the thing first?
Look -- I run into this stuff fairly often. And it's these same publishers -- fearful of change and quick to crush an initiative -- who complain the loudest that their editorial staff isn't ambitious.
And I'm coming to believe that the best move is to just ignore such publishers.
The media word is changing. Someone is going to be left behind. And perhaps it should be your boss.
If you're an editor with a good idea and an entrepreneurial personality, then you don't need your publisher anymore. Heck -- that's the great lesson of citizen journalism. Anyone can be a publisher now. And if you have a few bucks saved, or if you're young and/or brave enough to risk the loss of stability, then you don't need anyone's approval to create a product.
Launch the product. You already have the editorial skills.
Monetize it. Here's a guide. (Or don't monetize it. Just do it for the potential it has for your career. Do it to prove that you're right. Do it because you can.)
You can do it on the side and still collect a paycheck. If you don't get caught first, tell your publisher what you've done after you've succeeded.
Or just quit now, and call the knucklehead in a few months and tell him he can buy your business.

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  1. It helps to think about what's really at stake.

    A half hour a day dedicated to posting, 240 days a year more or less. That's about three weeks of employee time. Let's say the writer's salary is $40K plus bennies, so we're talking about $3K of revenue for B/E or around $10K needed for a favorable margin.

    $10K for want of a blog.

    If it were $100K or maybe even $50K if it's a small pub, there might be reason to side with the publisher. For $10K and the negative press, it becomes a silly argument.

  2. I was really lucky to have a publisher and editorial director, not to mention a new media department, that was totally behind me when I said I wanted to start up a couple of blogs related to our magazines' industry niches. We haven't made a dime on them (yet), but the intangible benefits have been, I think, more than worth the time and effort involved.

    It may be heresy to say, but B2B publishing is about more than just money--it's also about community, relationships, and conversation, which are three things a blog can support in ways magazines can't. That's worth a lot, even if it doesn't add to the bottom line financially.

    And Rich, who says it has to be done on company time? Here I am on a Saturday, snooping through my RSS feeds for more blog fodder...

  3. Hi folks,
    Rich's assumption of a cost of about $10,000 a year is probably pretty reasonable. Although as Sue says...and all of us know...much of blogging is done on personal time.
    And I would think that any smart publisher would think $10,000 is a small price to pay to send a message that the company encourages innovation and ambition.
    And heck...the thing could turn out to make money.
    To me, this is a no-brainer.