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?