So I've started a topic-focused blog, eBook Culture. Yesterday I outlined my personal goals for the site. Today I'm going to review examples of successful topic-focused blogs, from two people who are leading the way in this type of blog.
PVRblog: product-centered content
Probably the most well known example of a topic-focused blog is PVRblog. It's about personal video recorders (PVRs) and in particular Tivo. It features news, reviews, and how-to articles on this topic. Launched in July of 2003, it was created by Matt Haughey. If that name seems familiar, it's because he also runs the community weblog Metafilter and a popular personal blog (plus some other blogs). According to the About section, there are 3 other contributers to PVRblog apart from Haughey.
Tivo dominates the PVRblog homepage - as I write this, 8 out of 10 articles have the word 'Tivo' in its header. Otherwise a good indicator of the content is the category list: Gaming Consoles, How-To, News, Op-Ed, Product Reviews, Products, Q & A, ReplayTV, SuperTiVo Project, TiVo, Windows Media Center XP. We can see from this list that PVRblog is highly product-centered, which may sound obvious given the title of the blog. But in many ways it explains why PVRblog is such a success - it focuses on a trendy technology product that a) consumers want to buy and b) people want to learn more about because it's so new.
PVRblog makes its money from advertising. So let's take a look at what adverts populate the homepage. They're all on the right-hand side and led off by Google ads, followed by 3 small text ads with the header "Current PVR Deals". Further on down the page, there are Amazon links to "Books on PVRs". The same ads are on the individual entry pages.
Haughey wrote an informative article in October 2003 entitled Blogging for Dollars. In it he tells how he immediately made money, a lot more than he thought he would, from the Google ads. He gives 4 pointers to making money from Google ads:
1. Pick a topic.
2. Consider your topic as it relates to the web.
3. Be passionate and write your ass off.
4. Design for Google and your audience. ("About half of all the traffic to PVRblog is from a Google search.")
Nine Rules Network: breadth rules
Paul Scrivens has been described as "the busiest man on the web" - shades of a James Brown complex perhaps ;-) But seriously, Scrivs does indeed have many irons in the fire. As well as operating a successful web design blog called Whitespace, he has at least 6 other blogs on the go which he's dubbed a "network". Initially I think Paul had a plan to make all of the sites have similar branding, so that it would be obvious they're all part of a whole (the 9rules network). However I believe he has gone away from this approach and is now trying to give each site a unique brand. In either case, it shows that branding and design plays a big part in Paul's topic-focused blogs.
In order to study Paul's approach, I thought I'd review his latest blog called (interestingly!) Big Money Tip$. It's about "the many different ways people make money online" and gives a lot of great advice for optimizing your website in this regard. Once again, I'll list the categories as it gives a good indication of content: Ad Networks, Affiliate Marketing, Affiliate Programs, Google Adsense, Online Money, SEO, Webmaster Tools.
A feature of Paul's blogs is that he writes often and fast. Well he has to in order to cover 7 blogs! The articles on Big Money Tips are mostly short and sharp, but there are typos that give it away as being quickly written. However, don't mistake this to mean a lack of quality content. The advice on this blog (and all his others) is always interesting, very focused and often very informative. He must do a power of research and work on his blogs, so as far as I can see the "busiest man on the web" label is well-deserved.
On the homepage of Big Money Tips, there is just one block of Google ads in the centre of the page. They're unobtrusive, as they use the same style as the rest of the content. The same ads are on the individual entry pages too. I looked for the other types of advertising that Paul mentioned he uses in his network - eg MarketBanker. I couldn't see them here, but I see he runs non-Google ads on Version2. The other feature Paul has on his network is an Amazon store called The Roe.
Both Matt and Paul show that to run a successful topic-focused blog, you have to put a lot of effort into delivering highly-focused and informative content. This has the double benefit if delivering the content that your readers come looking for (and if Matt's advice is an indicator, half could arrive via Google), and also ensuring that the adverts on your site consistently match up to your topic. It also helps to be passionate about your topic, so that you as author learn as much out of the site as your readers!