Our weekend interview is with Rich McIver and Andy Hagans of BizNicheMedia.
Tell us briefly about yourself
Andy and I began working together while students at Notre Dame. I think we were drawn together by our mutual goals to never wear a suit, and to always have leather couches and big screen TV’s as an integral part of any office that we worked in. We are also both work-a-holics so that was a natural draw.
Tell us about BizNicheMedia – What motivated you to start a blog network? What are your goals?
We (Rich and Andy) started BizNicheMedia last spring after having some (limited) success in our various individual blogs. We then decided to to go much larger and opt for a blog network, allowing us to take advantage of the community traffic that a hub and spoke network provides as well as the economic efficiencies inherent in managing a blog network as opposed to writing on a few blogs.
The short-term goals of BizNicheMedia are to provide highly monetized best of breed niche blogs which become dominant in their particular niche. The long term goals are to make us fabulously rich while simultaneously improving the web by providing quality content on topics that are often overcome with spam and garbage.
When you look at your your network versus most of the others – you’re covering some pretty unique topics, is this part of your strategy?
Yes, we go through a pretty complex process of vetting our topics. But of primary importance is how well the topic will monetize over a variety of mediums including adsense, affiliates, direct advertising, chitika, and others. We are also careful to consider whether there is a real need for a blog that provides actual quality news and information on that niche topic. We’ve gotten a bit of heat for publishing blogs on consumer finance topics (such as debt consolidation), but the fact is, when you juxtapose our original content with that of splogs and the other junk out there, we actually do think our blogs bring value to readers.
Tell us about being a Professional Blogger – how did you get into this lifestyle? Do you think it’s a viable career option for the long-term?
Being a professional blogger is a mixed bag as far as lifestyle goes. We originally got into this to never work a 9 to 5. Little did we know then that we were trading that schedule for an 8 to 10. But in all honesty, working for yourself is really rewarding and although the work requires more hours it is always fun. The tradeoff isn’t for everyone, but it seems to work well for us.
You have a post from earlier this year where one of you had commented that your part-time bloggers weren’t really as tight of a part of your team as you had wanted – what has happened since then?
Earlier this year we really got serious about improving the camaraderie of our network writers so as to improve the quality of the blogs we produce. While our primary goal is financial, we take very seriously the obligation to improve the web through providing quality content. To that end, we decided that having dozens of part-time writers really wasn’t a successful model insofar as it did not have our writers heavily invested in the company. We have since transitioned to having fewer writers who each take on a bigger writing load in our company. The transition is not yet complete, but thus far the results have been very positive.
Would you mind talking a bit about the relationships that you have with your bloggers?
Our bloggers are spread throughout the world, literally. Bloggers are located in four countries and spread across 7 time zones. So for those based in the US communication is merely a matter of picking up the phone, while for those based elsewhere communication is almost exclusively over email. Despite these limitations we try to develop a relationship of mutual trust between our writers and us. To accomplish this we try to accomodate the unique needs or each writer, as well as be as upfront as possible. Because of the tenuous nature of an online work work relationship, we try to make our authors more comfortable with the system by promising to always cover any reasonable sudden transition costs, and to deal in good faith with them no matter the situation. There is no avoiding the fact that as a for-profit company some difficult decisions must be made, but we always try to follow the mantra that we will be forthright with our writers regarding those decisions.
Earlier this year, a copy of the Weblogs, Inc. contact was posted online. Around the same time, 9rules released publically a copy of their own relationship document with their bloggers. What are your thoughts on these two vastly different approaches?
The blogosphere loves transparency, for sure. Of course, a business is not under any kind of obligation to let third parties see its contracts. The real issue is, how do you want your company to be perceived? And that sort of thing sets the tone.
What do you do when you’re not blogging?
When i’m not blogging I am usually either running, reading, cooking or spending time with my girlfriend. Andy on the other hand, spends most of his free time watching football, reading and smoking his pipe.
Your computer & OS of choice? Why?
I use Acer laptops. The Chinese make a darn good computer which I have always found reliable. I also don’t trust the service packages that come with a lot of US companies’s computers. So I find it refreshingly honest that Acer gives no pretense of service and simply passes the savings on to you. As far as the OS, i’m a windows man. Andy on the other hand uses a crusty old Thinkpad, which he refuses to replace. Then again, that’s what you would expect from a mid-western blue collar boy.
Software that you use each day?
Websites you visit each day?
and of course our own network hub which we constantly comb for errors and improvement opportunities.
What advice would you give someone who is new to blogging and looking to increase their traffic?
Apart from the now trite mantra to increase your quality content, I think the biggest initial step is directory submission. I know its relatively easy, but with 95% of blogs today earning less that $20 a month, its a step that most authors have not done. Getting some one-way inbound links, even from just free directories is an easy step that will get you a minimal level of traffic. Although there is much
more that can be done, taking this small step can at least give your content a chance to gain you enough natural links to attain some serious readership.
What’s next for BizNicheMedia in next 12 months?
BizNicheMedia is wrapping up the growth phase that we began a few months ago. In the next two weeks we will put up another 11 blogs. But once these are up we will work focus our attention on continuing to improve our content and completing a final round of link building for our older blogs and the first round for these newest blogs. That will carry us to about March at which point we will be working on new blogs of a distinct nature which will better diversify our monetization streams.
Our thanks to Rich and Andy for taking the time to answer our questions. Visit BizNicheMedia to learn more about their blog network.
Want to do an interview?
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