Anyone familiar with the blogosphere must have observed that group blogs are disproportionately represented among the top blogs. If you find a blog that has zero inbound links and no readers, it is almost always a solo blog. But many of the top blogs are group blogs. In the top ten (according to the Ecosystem) we see that Daily Kos, Power Line, The Volokh Conspiracy and Boing Boing are all group blogs. A similarly high percentage of the top hundred blogs are group blogs.
Clearly, when group blogs work, the power of the group is greater than the power of an individual, making group blogs far more likely to rise to the top. But what exactly are the advantages of group blogs? First of all there is more frequent posting. I’ve been posting quite a bit since I started Half Sigma, but can I keep it up at this rate forever? (How does Glenn Reynolds manage to post so frequently and still be a law professor? As I explained in my post Law school: the big lie, law professors have pretty easy jobs.)
If a group of semi-successful bloggers joins forces, then each blogger brings his own readership to the new group blog, creating a much larger aggregate readership. Do four bloggers with 250 daily readers automatically create a group blog with a thousand readers? Maybe, maybe not. Some of the old readers may not like the new group format. But on the other hand, the synergy of more frequent postings and a larger audience could cause the new group blog’s readership to grow to 2000 per day.
According to Gordon Smith, the best group blogs have a consistent voice. I think he’s correct. Imagine a blog where one person is a liberal, one’s a Christian fundamentalist, and one’s a libertarian. Such a blog has no consistency. Readers would get confused and stop visiting. The group blogs on my blogroll, such as Catallarchy or Gene Expression, all feature co-bloggers that blog on similar topics from similar points of view.
The problem I see with group blogs is that, from the reader’s perspective, the co-bloggers’ individualities tend to become merged with the whole. Often when I read group blogs, especially groups blogs with a large number of co-bloggers, I tend to lose track of the individual names and just think of the blog as some monolithic Borg-like entity. I don’t think this is what most bloggers really want. I’m not getting paid anything for blogging, so my reward is the recognition I get from my readers.
Not all bloggers blog for free. Glenn Reynolds is making a six figure income from Instapundit. Larry Ribstein addressed this issue in his post. Human nature being what it is, bad feelings could develop between co-bloggers when it comes to dividing the profits. What if one blogger publishes twice as many posts as the other bloggers. Does he earn twice the profits? What if the less prolific blogger’s posts are much higher in quality? How do you determine each co-blogger’s contribution to the group blog?
Because of all these troubling caveats attendant to group blogs, I don’t think I’m ready to jump headfirst into the group blog waters. Although extremely unlikely, my dream is to earn a six figure income from blogging, much like Glenn Reynolds. I don’t see how a group blog could provide each co-blogger with that much income.