BlogHer: How a Network Became a Curated Community

In this excerpt from his new book Curation Nation, author Steven Rosenbaum examines the origin of one of the first consumer-creator online networks, BlogHer.

Curation NationIf the first curators were bloggers, which seems likely, then blogging is very much on the early side of the curve in terms of where media is going. Blogging and curation are like parts of a set of Russian nesting dolls, with individual bloggers increasingly becoming link gatherers and curators. And on the network side, the emergence of both blog-content networks and blog-ad networks are providing new sources of revenue for bloggers and new aggregated-advertising opportunity for marketers.

Early on, back in 2005, three extraordinary women noticed that something was missing from the Internet. They knew that women were blogging, but there wasn't a central organizing place for them to meet, share ideas, and build a community.

As Lisa Stone remembers it: "Elisa Camahort Page and Jory Des Jardins and I originally suggested the first BlogHer Conference to answer a very simple question. People were asking, every-where we turned, 'Where is a woman who blogs?' And we thought, 'Oh, this can be answered.'"

The mission of BlogHer was at first community, and as it grew and evolved with the Web, there was an economic mission as well. The world of BlogHer is separated into two areas: BlogHer.com, which anyone can join and participate in; and the BlogHer network, which is a collection of the best women's blogs and includes an advertising component and revenue share. The network is curated: only sites that meet the published community standards are allowed to join. And that, Stone says, means advertisers know they are appearing only on sites that have signed off the shared standards for credibility and quality.

Since the launch of the BlogHer Network in 2006, Stone and her partners have seen exponential growth by all measures: traffic, bloggers, and revenues. BlogHer is now reaching over 20 million unique women each month. The network feeds 25,000 blogs that have been reviewed by editorial team members and has a publishing network with more than 2,500 affiliated bloggers.

Says Stone, "Blogging and social media are fantastic opportunities for the entrepreneurial woman, whether she's a specialist in food, family, or in technology itself. And a cornerstone of her strategy really should be a blog, because as much as I love Facebook and Twitter, and as much as most women in the blogspace do, 140 characters is just not the place where you can provide or ex-change the kind of advice and insight that keeps people coming back every day."

BlogHer's unique offering to advertisers is its curated network, which is based on a very specific set of published criteria. The following is a portion of the site's editorial guidelines:

We embrace diversity and expression in all blogs; however BlogHer declines to include blogs with unacceptable con-tent in the BlogHerAds network. We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked that:
Is used to abuse, harass, stalk or threaten a person(s).
Is libelous, defamatory, knowingly false or misrepresents another person.
Infringes upon any copyright, trademark, trade secret or patent of any third party. If you quote or excerpt some-one's content, it is your responsibility to provide proper attribution to the original author.
Violates any obligation of confidentiality.
Violates the privacy, publicity, moral or any other right of any third party.
Contains editorial content that has been commissioned and paid for by a third party, and/or contains paid advertising links and/or spam. Every opinion expressed must be the true opinion of the author.

Beyond those standards, BlogHer has some additional editorial requirements. Eligible blogs must have some history and be live for more than three months. They must accept comments, updated preferably twice a week or more, and have no advertorial or sponsored posts. BlogHer doesn't want any blogs with profanity in the title, and the blogs must be written by women. If these standards sound familiar, they should. This is BlogHer curating its network, creating a consistent quality offering for advertisers.

Beyond the rules, Stone says BlogHer blogs have one thing in common: passion.

"When women ask me what to do with their blogs," Stone says, "I say first of all write about what you passionately love. Be-cause if you truly care about the topic, are you going to be willing to dig into the day-to-day workload and minutiae that come with being your own columnist? Because really this is about taking the values of a traditional media columnist into the social media space. If you care what you are blogging about, you have to go off and read other columnists and communicate with them on their site. You absolutely have to dig into the latest techniques, whether it is writing or technology, and that's the reason that BlogHer.com and BlogHer publishing network has a whole 'how to blog better' series of conferences and articles on our site. It's a major part of our mission, educating the community."

Stone says that bloggers can reveal their personae with both what they write and what they share with their readers via curation. "The bottom line is that it's your blog. It's your voice," Stone says. "If you found something that is so funny, so valuable, so insightful that you say the value that I can give for you today, reader, is for you to read this. Isn't that value?"

Excerpted from Curation Nation by Steven Rosenbaum, reprinted with permission from McGraw-Hill Professional. Copyright 2011.

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