You know those thoughts you carry around in your head for days, months, or years and wonder when someone else is going to have the same thought because it just makes so much sense to you? Well today I finally found someone outside of the core 9rules group that has the same thoughts as me when it comes to the 9rules model. To say the least, Chrisitan Montoya in this entry has us pegged almost to a tee and I love that.
What I find most interesting about all this is that, despite all the blogging networks out there, there is still only one for people who blog for the sake of blogging. If you want to blog for money there are a lot of options, but for blogs that serve a greater purpose, there is only 9rules. In an industry that breeds imitation, I find this very surprising. 9rules is obviously a great business model, and they have even shared how you can build your own. The only thing missing is the courage and hard work to do the same thing Scrivs and Co. have done. The question is, why not?
What’s interesting is that these networks do exist, but for one reason or another I guess aren’t as well known as 9rules. Not once since we began this Network did we think we were one of a kind in the sense that nobody could copy us (and that’s ironic since we are copying a lot of concepts the Web’s past), but we did want to make sure we weren’t following. Since we had the understanding that our model wasn’t unique we had to find the things that would differentiate us from the competition.
Design doesn’t make the world go round and many Networks and sites have proven that pretty isn’t always necessary to win, but we wanted that advantage. When you are asking independent sites to join your Network you have to give them something to be proud of and the first impression many times is our only impression. When we first started nobody knew what we were doing or what we were about, but we made sure to put up a kickass homepage and I’m sure for many people that alone enticed them to pursue admission into the Network or at least find out more about it.
It’s interesting that so much of the “competition” doesn’t put a greater focus on design because that could easily become a differentiating factor for them.
We were fortunate enough to already have some strong connections in the design community so initially building up a community wasn’t as hard as we thought it might be. However, not everyone else has that advantage. From the beginning we were able to pull in some recognizable sites, which got others interested and it kind of snowballed from there.
Another important aspect of our Community is that we make them happy because they are our customers. We don’t want to have to go out and promote and hype 9rules because we know if we do our job our members will do it for us. People like to talk about things they are happy with and if they don’t talk about it because they aren’t happy it’s in our best interests to fix that.
Balls and Stupidity
It might be because too many entrepreneurs only see the conventional blogging network model (put bloggers on payroll and have them write contrived cookie-cutter blogs) as the way to go. It might also be because very few entrepreneurs looking to imitate actually have the courage to do something as difficult as what Scrivs has done.
What I really enjoy about our model is that to many people the financial benefits aren’t readily apparent and that scares a ton of people away from giving it a shot. Some might think it was courageous to do what we did, while I’m sure others call it stupidity for not trying to go the quick money route, but for us it’s neither because we understood our vision and following that seemed like a no-brainer to us.
Same concept can be applied to 37signals (ahh shit here comes 37s again and Scrivs, everyone run or get your guns out). They consciously made the decision to move away from a successful consulting business to pursue development in a project-managment application that does a million things less than the competition (good thing). Balls or stupidity?
I’m all about taking risks, but they do have to be calculated. There are so many chances to innovate in this type of environment that it’s said to see so many of us have fallen into the copycat syndrome hoping to cash in quickly.
Less is More™
We had two options with regards to bringing sites into the Network. Accept all of them or become very selective. Accepting all of them made no sense to me because we might as well start a web directory to accomplish the same tasks. Our path might make us look like the Evil Empire or the A-List club to outsiders, but with a good site anybody can get in and that’s what is important. Name doesn’t matter. Traffic doesn’t matter. Content matters.
This level of exclusivity has helped us tremendously, but as we grow it will be tough to balance that image along with providing our readers and members with mroe great sites that fit their interests.
I just wanted to highlight some quotes from Christian’s entry that show viewpoints the public may have about us that we never planned on producing.
For one thing, 9rules has just about become the official word on what makes a good blog.
In a sense this is what we intended because we want our readers to know that every site we bring in is going to be good, but the downside to this is this thought…
Any blog that submits on May 17 and gets rejected is automatically seen as a lesser blog than any of the ones that make it in…
That causes some anger in a lot of people while others take it in stride and work on improving their site. We never claim to be the standard when it comes to quality blogs because honestly it’s just a small group of people selecting the sites and who is to say we always know what we are talking about?
I enjoy reading entries like Christian’s that give us an outsider’s perspective on how 9rules looks because as I have talked about before, when you are on the inside your vision gets clouded and maybe you begin to lose sight of what is important.