When I first began working as a blogger, b5Media was at the top of my list of places to work. I mean, Liz Strauss, Brian Clark and Darren Rowse, all bloggers I looked up to, were part of b5Media. As someone who wanted to make a name for myself as a blogger, I felt this was a positive step in the right direction. My little freelance writing jobs blog was doing OK, I had some lucrative freelance writing clients, I just started working for About.com as their guide to Weblogs, a b5 gig was the icing on the cake…and I got in.
Good people, a good vibe…burnout
I dug the vibe. I made many friends and I learned a lot, especially with Darren Rowse’s regular blogging lessons. There was one problem; in order to bring in a decent paycheck I had to work my butt off. My goal with b5 was to work with the best bloggers in the business so I could learn to build my own stuff. However, the more I blogged for b5, the less time I had for my own blog.
Something interesting was happening though. I was writing over 100 blog posts per month for four different b5Media blogs and earning more with my own stuff. I was also beginning to burn out. Trying to make monthly quotas and traffic bonuses was taking its toll. Little by little I began letting my b5 blogs go and when I was offered a full time job as Community Manager at BlogTalkRadio, I gave it up for good.
b5Media made me realize my biggest blogging mistake. I spent so much time building up someone else’s brand, I wasn’t paying attention to my own. My freelance writing blog was doing well… damn well. If I had invested all those hours I put into someone else’s stuff into my own, it probably would have hit years ago.
The beginning of the end
Soon after I left , b5Media laid off many of their bloggers, cut pay for many more, and ceased production on many of their smaller blogs. Partners were fired. Some popular b5 bloggers were hired full time to continue popular blogs or blogs left behind by fired bloggers. Speculation and nastiness ensued around the web. As I watched b5 change from this happy, bloggy commune to a content portal I was sad for my friends at b5 but happy I made the right decision. The whole community element was gone. Everything I dug about the place was gone.
Better off blogging for myself
Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot. However, it was sad to see such a once mighty and promising blog network crumble. It also made me think about my own blog which was being built into a network. Though I don’t rely on VC funding or a board of directors, will it last? Will we continue to grow? I hope so.
I think b5Media’s downfall was that they were too big. They opened blog after blog after blog. They didn’t take the time to build and grow one blog at a time, it was an all or none effort. Beyond the above-referenced A-listers, most blog readers would be hard pressed to name many b5Media blogs or bloggers. The names aren’t as important as the brand. Now b5Media is as impersonal as it gets.
I’m in a better place now. I am grateful for my b5Media experience, but realize that if I put the energy into my own stuff that I put into theirs, my blogs would have started earning and growing years ago. I understand this isn’t an option for everyone, but it’s a good personal reminder.
Is it more important to build your brand or someone else’s? Where is your own time best spent?
What are your thoughts on the b5Media situation?
Robin Raven says
In retrospect, for me, it’s a blessing in disguise. I pray for those who had invested full-time work in the company. Great blog post!
.-= Robin Raven´s last blog ..Help for Haiti =-.
It’s absolutely been a blessing in disguise for me; I was getting less and less interested in my blogs at B5, and I was just looking for an excuse to dump them. They did it for me. :>) Silver lining!
Deb, your insights into the profession are always dead on! Love the inside look at b5- great stuff, interesting. THANKS
.-= allena´s last blog ..APA Style and Freelance Writers =-.
They fail 100%. At least with Jeremy Wright, he would’ve informed people graciously of the bad news. Bad news is softened by a caring voice. Elaine showed no mercy, hasn’t responded to emails and is just unprofessional. It’s a shame, too, because I was once proud to call myself a member of the b5 community. It takes a lot of cojones to start a new site the day after you fire 50 people. It’ll go down the tubes. $8 million lost.
.-= Roberta´s last blog ..Beyonce’s dad ordered to pay child support =-.
Thursday Bram says
Deb, I left b5 not too long after you did and I’ve always had the feeling that I got out while the getting was good. I’m disappointed in what happened to all the hard work I did for b5, but I’m glad I got the opportunity just the same.
.-= Thursday Bram´s last blog ..Literary Agent Secrets — Query Letter Do’s and Don’ts from Laura Cross =-.
It’s better to invest in yourself and your own interests, to be true to yourself. I’m learning that, Deb, I am. I thought I could take steady stuff and work on my passions on the side. Doesn’t work that way.
.-= Mary´s last blog ..Communication Is Crucial In Freelancing =-.
The pay at b5 was abysmal, but it really taught me how to be a professional blogger and how to write good stories. Despite it all, I learned a lot from my experience writing and building a community there. While none of us may be “A-listers” or “household names” the stuff we wrote about mattered for our readers, who were happy to find the niche communities we offered that was welcoming. I was also given a lot of freedom to write in my own style, and I truly appreciated that.
In any case, their handling of this was an epic failure.
I left just before these new cuts. Good timing, I guess! I just felt that things were going downhill since Jeremy left. When I first started, like three years ago, it was much more of a community. I think they made some smart business moves since then, and I always felt like they treated their writers fairly, but in the last year, the way they’ve structured things just made it more of an us-vs-them company. The people at the top, who were once very involved, and even the middleman-editors, became more distant from the actual bloggers, and everyone was being offered different rates, had different terms, etc. so there was this disconnect between bloggers too. I definitely don’t regret working for b5…but I don’t regret leaving either.
“I watched b5 change from this happy, bloggy commune to a content portal…”
That is SPOT ON, Deb. That’s exactly what I experienced, too.
I managed to survive the first round of blog cuts from the Health & Wellness Channel (which is now part of Blisstree), but soon after that is when the painful pay cuts took place (late 2008). Fortunately, very soon after the pay cuts I was contacted by another website to launch the first blog of its new series of blogs (way more control, way less pressure, and way more money than even BEFORE b5’s pay cuts), so I jumped ship. It was bittersweet, really, because like you, I really loved b5 before it morphed into what it was at the time I left, and what it seems to be now.
Like you and some of the other commenters, I definitely don’t regret writing for b5; I don’t even really regret the time I spent focusing on it because, at that time, I was still learning EVERYTHING, so my time probably wouldn’t have been better spent on my own stuff at that point, haha. I learned a lot from b5 and Darren. Basically, I guess I started with them at just the right time to learn and move on. I wonder if b5 will still be able to provide that kind of experience for new and future bloggers.
Nice article… I wrote one similar about working with About.com a while back on AimforAwesome. I’ve just put a link on it leading to this article. It took me a couple months writing for About to figure out the game and realize that I don’t want to be building someone else’s palace.
I too had an offer to write at B5Media but I couldn’t bring myself to sign their contract. I can’t remember what specifically it was that turned my stomach, but I think it was something about what happens to all the content I wrote if they gave me the axe.
I wish all highly talented writers at networks like About.com and B5 – with drive, passion, and persistence, would go on their own and create something lasting for themselves.
.-= Vern´s last blog ..My Russian Roots: Don’t Mess With Me =-.
My thoughts are that it feels really terrible to be left hanging not knowing if you’re about to be fired like the Inquisitr says.
I haven’t regretted my years there, but I do regret the cold mass firings they’re doing now.
Miss Seo says
Why anyone continues to work for b5 media is beyond me.
They pay on average under a hundred dollars a month and expect their bloggers to provide quality content at least four times a week.
They are a scam, plain and simple.
Scammers don’t need to be scamming customers in order to be proper scammers. A webmaster or media provider who pay their writers a lousy wage is a scammer.
And bottom line, most of their blogs are crap. You get what you pay for.
.-= Miss Seo´s last blog ..Tip of the Day =-.
Miss SEO, you’re the scammer here. You don’t know what b5 pays, obviously. You’re just commenting to get people to visit your site.
I held on to the bitter end but I knew this was coming. I agree; they grew too big too fast. It was easy to see. My goodness, they had three thrifty blogs. I thought it was insane. In the last year, I had lost almost all my joy and inspiration from all of the micromanagement and issues that were going on. I’m glad I had a back up plan, but I admit I was about two months away from having everything in place. Sometimes though we need the extra push to do the things we know we should be doing. This gave me the push I needed. I’m thankful for the relationships that I have built with the other bloggers while working at b5.
.-= Karen´s last blog ..The Thrifty Mommy is Coming! =-.
So that’s why B5 media was gone. O_O I’ve been searching about what happened to B5 media, and found your post! 🙂 I really wonder why B5 now is only composed of 6 blogs, and it’s all about a specific niche: Lifestyle. O_O
anyone please tell me about jobs blogs.