Blog Networks have a problem. Do you go for that one hit site or do you go for the niche categories and fill out the long tail? At the beginning it looked as though Weblogs, Inc. was going to fill out the long tail, but as writers come and go (many times because of the Overjustification Effect) the smaller sites were left to wither and die, while the more mainstream sites caught on and grew. Leading the charge was Engadget and due to its success it was able to start moving into the long tail of technology with with Engadget HD and Engadget Mobile.
Following this was the expansion of the mini-Joystiq network with WoW Insider, DS Fanboy, Xbox 360 Fanboy and others. All of the content on these mini-sites could easily appear on Joystiq, but that causes a couple of problems.
- There is a lot of content hitting the Joystiq frontpage already and this would multiply that by a large amount causing people either to just give up on trying to stay updated or simply miss some items completely unless you configure the feed to include the 50 latest items.
- Lots of people just don’t care about all video game news and just want specific genres.
The mini-network addresses this and does so very well. In this instance, WIN has started with the big site approach and then moved on to the Long Tail. However, does the Pareto Principle apply in this case and if so can we learn from it?
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that for many phenomena, 80% of the consequences stem from 20% of the causes.
I’m sure we have all heard of this rule in one form another and looking at the traffic numbers for the Joystiq network it seems their approach has been paying off. Over time Joystiq became part of the elite 20% with regards to traffic and reach and therefore reaching down further into the Long Tail began to make sense because Joystiq was able to push the traffic to those sites. Not many networks have this advantage and the only other one that comes to mind is Gawker Media.
Instead what we are seeing from many blog networks is rapid growth in all areas and simply believing they can play the numbers game. If you have enough sites eventually the traffic will build up to a level that allows for a critical mass of traffic sharing right? Well, not really, but it is easy to think that. Instead, what you get is a lot of little sites that can’t even begin to cover the Long Tail and although the common perception is that covering most of the Long Tail is a rewarding effort, simply being part of it is not enough.
So what do you do if you are a content network? It is definitely easier to start a new site instead of trying to make one a hit, but I think making one a hit is definitely more valuable than adding 50 new sites. You need to become part of the 20% of the Long Tail then you can worry about the rest. How does this apply to 9rules? It’s a bit different in my mind, because in some areas we do have the largest sites, while in others we might just cover a good portion of the Long Tail. However, we also have the 9rules site itself, which helps change things a bit.