Weblogs Inc. network this afternoon, a week after cutbacks and work slowdowns across the network put staff into a panic and shed a negative light on the business of blogging in general. Moe told staff that in fact, Weblogs Inc. is growing fast, seeing record traffic and consistent revenue growth.AOL Senior VP of Programming Marty Moe held a conference call for all the bloggers in the
Immediate staff reactions though have been anything but positive. While Moe tells a story of aggressive growth, we're hearing that the bloggers who made the business are feeling manipulated and let down.
Aggressive international expansion has already begun and more is expected. Why the cutbacks and slowdowns? Moe said that blogger compensation costs were exceeding allocated budgets and needed a breather before major restructuring. From now all on each Weblogs Inc. blog will have its own budget and run as a semi-independent business.
Posting schedules should be back at or near what they were before once budget bumps are resolved, Moe said.
Moe told bloggers that the network saw record traffic in July, with more than 300million page views this month from 41m unique visitors. There was not any mention of how those numbers were distributed, though Moe emphasized the success of properties other than mega-blog Engadget. It's notable that Engadget founding editor Ryan Block recently announced his departure from the company.
2007 revenue grew by 115% and 2008 is on track to grow by "solid double digit margins," Moe said. Despite widespread unrest among staff, blogger compensation has also continued to grow, he told staff. Budgets for blogger pay grew 35% in 2008 and full time staff has already grown by 20%.
Moe emphasized that the company plans aggressive expansion outside of US markets, some having already begun. Properties have been launched in Germany, Poland, Korea and Spain but haven't been announced as AOL sites yet.
These claims are corroborated by reports we're hearing of AOL headhunters contacting top bloggers about expansion of new and existing properties.
How About A Raise Already?
Some bloggers complained in the call that they had not recieved a raise in more than 2 years, despite their properties seeing growing traffic. Moe told them that breaking the budgets out blog by blog would make those kinds of decisions "easier to make."
Moe also explained that many of the blogs that have faced cuts were struggling to reach a point of profitability that was desired. The same markets, from DIY to weddings, would be engaged with in the future - the company just hadn't decided how to yet.
Internal Reactions: Not Good
We're hearing from sources inside the company that morale is at an all time low and today's call may have made things even worse. Moe's denial that deep cuts are what is occurring was not well received. Smart bloggers on staff are cutting right through the corporate-speak, we're told, and it isn't a pretty picture. The rank and file is putting up a bigger fight than corporate apparently expected and things continue to be messy.
Update: Some Weblogs Inc. bloggers have responded in comments below that they are not upset at all. Note taken. We have received confirmation from multiple AOL employees that this post is an accurate representation of how many people inside the company feel.
If Marty Moe was describing the situation accurately, then Weblogs Inc/AOL is not at all an example of a blogging down turn. It's instead a story of one of the biggest blogging networks in the world getting lean and mean as it shoots towards the stars.
Maybe it's just a matter of whose framing of the events you believe. A blog network needs happy bloggers though, and AOL seems to have anything but that. What does it say for the business of blogging and new online media in general? That's what we'll be watching for.