At the two blog panels I was at during SXSW this year, one common topic was the future of our field and while no one had definitive answers (or maybe they were just hoarding their secret plans!), one common theme that kept coming up was that as a blog grows and expands, it's no longer a blog per se but a name-brand and marketable entity. It turns out that's a mixed blessing.
Recent news that Buzznet was gobbling up Stereogum was an interesting item but not entirely a surprise. As the Daily Swarm article notes, SG wasn't the only place that got an offer to come under the BuzzNet wing. Indeed, I've heard from a number of other blogs that they received the same letter that's posted in the Swarm article itself.
But what is BuzzNet? It's a portal mix of social networking and entertainment, launched way back in 2005. Thanks to some piggy-backing that's done through MySpace, it's grown in leaps and bounds. It also uses Gawker-like celeb gossip plus Digg-like story ratings as part of the site. A lot of the music news can just as easily (and more comprehensively) be found on Billboard or various Associated Press sources but you're supposed to overlook that since they've cannily converged so many Web 2.0 ideas in one place. That's probably why they've been able to raise enough money to run a presidential campaign, not to mention take over Stereogum.
But what's the purpose of swallowing up that blog and trying to get other ones? Being a webpage where you post your thoughts and news and music daily is one thing but many blogs are moving beyond the virtual world to get their name out there, throwing parties, putting on concerts and doing other special events. In the end, these blogs turn into something more than their website- they become a name brand that's marketable. BuzzNet, as it wants to grow and expand and add more content to their own sites, sees these blogs as not just a source of information that they can use but also a hip name that they can latch onto for some recognition- one of the things they were offering other blogs was to set up websites that combined their name with Buzznet (i.e. famous-blog.buzznet.com). It's not necessarily bad for the blogs if they're OK with Buzznet itself and don't mind giving up some of their name cache to them. Also, hopefully for the blogs' sake, these guys pay off in cash and not stock options...
But it's not fair to dump on BuzzNet unless they screw up the blog properties that they take over or take a part of. And rest assured this trend will continue with other, bigger companies who also want to gain the cool cache, the readership, the name recognition and so on. Microsoft, News Corps, Apple and others will soon swoop down on the name-recognition blogs, looking for the same thing. And again, how well the blogs will then do will depend on how hands-on or hands-off these new owners are- in the best case scenario, the cash influx means that the bloggers can spend more (or full) time on their work and do it more extensively. Ultimately, the readers are gonna decide if these changes are for the better or not.
UPDATES: The New York Post now reports that the Stereogum owners have traded in their shares for ownership in BuzzNet itself. There's several news items buried within that, including the fact that Stereogum is valued at $5 million plus the fact that they're dealing with equity trading, which doesn't have a good history. What I said about Buzznet making offers to other blogs still stands obviously and I still think that other big companies will come knocking on the doors of blogs, looking to buy them up.