Paul Miller resigned from Engadget the other day. Engadget is an AOL company and Paul resigned because of the growing view he sees at AOL that content is becoming a commodity.
Indeed he is right. More and more large companies are taking the view of Mao Zedong that, “quantity has a quality all its own.” Leaked AOL documents show their desire to pump out more “content” to get more pageviews to get more ad revenue. Their recent purchases of the Huffington Post and Techcrunch are part of this trend of trying to grab as many pageviews as possible.
AOL isn’t alone. Yahoo purchased a content farm, Associated Content. Demand Media’s recent IPO gave them a market capitalization larger than the New York Times. USA Today has added Demand Media content to their online travel section.
It seems that there is a very big budget arms race going on with very larger media players all based around pumping out tons of low cost content and amassing as many pageviews as they can.
How can an individual blogger compete with this? We don’t have the budget, staff or Google authority to get away with even a fraction of what the big boys are doing.
The answer is simple: we don’t.
You can’t win if you try to play their game. It’s impossible.
If you are an independent blogger you have to think like an insurgent fighting a modern, organized army. You need to engage in asymmetrical warfare.
Insurgents can’t buy aircraft carriers. They don’t have jet fighters. They probably don’t have anything more than old pickup trucks and AK-47’s. They have to think outside of the box and do what they can with what little they have.
Likewise, as a blogger you might have nothing more than a hosting account with WordPress and a Twitter account. It might seem like you have an impossible fight on your hands, but if you rethink the fight, you can achieve some big things.
- Terms of victory are different. Occupying forces have to win. Insurgents just have to not lose. The big military force have expenses many orders of magnitude greater than the people they are fighting in an asymmetrical war. AOL needs tens of millions of unique visits and billions of pageviews to break even. They have expensive office space and (comparatively) large staffs. You are probably a single person with almost no overhead. Getting 1% of the audience, or even less, could be a huge victory for a single blogger, where as it would be failure for a big player.
- You are committed. An invading force will eventually pull out. The people who live there can’t leave. The people who are fighting for their homes and family have a much greater incentive to fight. Everyone who works for AOL is an employee. They might get fired tomorrow or leave for a better job. Unless you die or decide to quit blogging you probably aren’t going anywhere.
- Locals know the landscape. One problem occupying forces have is knowing the local culture, language and landscape. Guerrilla forces know the locals and where to hide. Likewise, a company like AOL, nor any of their websites, will ever be able to develop personal relationships with their readers. You will wont see meetups, discussions in comments and personal opinion in the large corporate blogs like you will in smaller blogs. Being a person and being personal is a huge weapon for the little guy.
Remember, the great promise of the internet was never making more money. It was reducing costs. This bodes well for the little guy.
You might never get the traffic of an AOL blog, but that doesn’t matter. You might only get 1-10% of the traffic, but you can have 100-1,000x lower costs.
You can find success in a world of SEO’d content farms by just redefining victory, using the tools at your disposal, and playing to your strong points.
Viva la blogosphere!