Writing should be free – Businessblogs

Let’s play spot the difference.

Businessblogshub.com is a US website that aggregates and pushes out business writing from people wanting PR.


Businessblogs.co.nz does the same here in New Zealand. Can you see the difference?

It’s buried a bit, but if you dig around you will see that the US site is free for contributors to register and place articles, as well it should be:

But it costs money to do the same for the NZ site. Just how much – well they used to have it on display but the number is now hidden behind a form. From memory it was in the range of a couple of hundred dollars. I’m informed on the quiet that existing contributors are currently not charged.

I could not find the company registration in NZ, and yet the terms of service keep referring to an entity called “businessblogs.co.nz.” The address in the terms of service is the same as for PropertyTalk.com, which is a registered company. The owners of that company are Marc and Donna Krisjanous, and the person behind the businessblogs twitter account is apparently named Marc as well.

If you are a writer considering paying money to business blogs, I recommend that you do not pay – instead simply start you own blog. It’s simple and essentially free.

The blogging software I and many others use is WordPress.com, and they take care of all the technical stuff so you can focus on writing. You can purchase a domain name for a few dollars from within WordPress (the only cost), and they make it simple. WordPress takes care of all of the findability (search engine optimisation) and you can focus on writing.

If you are from businessblogs – then make the site free. The website, as a clone of the USA site and containing many of the same articles, is simple and easy to use, but it’s too easy to compete by starting your own blog.

About Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs
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25 Responses to Writing should be free – Businessblogs

  1. Hi Lance
    You’re a good friend and I value your opinion and blog posts, but I wonder if you were fair here. Marc (who is also a friend) lives locally and I would have thought you could have at least contacted him so he could respond to your assumptions/allegations before sledging him publicly – the same beef Rod Fyfe had with the Listener for not giving him the opportunity to respond to them sledging Air NZ.
    Your own blog tries to sell ‘web analysis’ in the most spammy of fashions for $500. Deliberate/in jest? may be. Maybe not. But if I was to attack you for that dreadful example of website marketing on your site, I’d contact you first privately to give you the opportunity to respond first.
    Marc’s a local. Lives 40 minutes a way. That in itself is irrelevant in this WWW age, except being kiwis I would have thought we think twice before hanging a neighbour out to dry on the smell of an oily rag.

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    • Lance Wiggs says:

      Marc is welcome to respond, but my comments stand.

      And yes the website analysis service is pitched like an ebook – deliberately, as an experiment, and, yes, unsuccessfully so far.

      Sadly or happily I am increasingly connected and conflicted these days. I’ll keep trying to write it as I see it.

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  2. Peter says:

    An interesting post Lance. I think more people need to be aware of the ease of setting up your own blog and publishing for Free. There are also plenty of sites which will allow users to publish for free in the same way that businessblogs is charging for.

    In the case of businessblogs, I would guess the payment would be for displaying content in front of a pre-qualified audience? I know Marc does do some syndication to other sites, so in that case there is little difference to mediacom, spinitwide and all the other press release syndicate sites.

    I read Marc’s site from time to time and find he is doing what a lot of other internet marketing companies are, trying to make a living from a range of different tools, some successfully and some not so much.

    http://www.campaignhub.co.nz/ (another or Marc’s sites) seems to be more questionable, but with the every present ‘social media guru’ being unavoidable at every turn, I am not surprised that his model has come under scrutiny.

    I am interested to hear what Marc has to say on the issue of free v paid as I have always been a believer that free is best, But it is hard to know if its working for businessblogs.

    I guess the real question I would like answered is;
    Does using a service like businessblogs offer the customer any value at all?

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  3. Fraser Mills says:

    I don’t agree with your conclusion that BusinessBlogs.co.nz should be free. A quick analysis of their RSS feed shows 166 subscribers through Google Reader compared to 16 subscribers for LanceWiggs.com and what would be zero for a new blog. Marc has grown the @businesstalk account on Twitter to have one of the biggest followings of any account run by a New Zealander.

    Yes I would recommend any business to have their own website and blog, that is a no brainer. But if you want to advertise or market your business then it is a business decision whether the BusinessBlogs network offers value for money. Value for money I think this offer would rate a hell of a lot better than money spent on many other forms of traditional advertising.

    When I first came across BusinessBlogs last year the site came across as a rip off of Hubspot.com but I got in touch with him to find out what he was up to. And while the ideas may not be 100% new I know Marc has put in a lot of time and effort to find out what works and what doesn’t. I think what he has developed, more so his CampaignHub service, is quite interesting and he should be applauded for offering a Kiwi solution for Kiwi businesses rather than bashing him to make his services free.

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    • Lance Wiggs says:

      thanks Fraser

      I always worry that charging contributors is a signal that the content is being pushed, and has an agenda (such as a PR angle) rather than being edited or simply someone’s own untarnished opinion.

      It’s a tough world in online media game – the money is flowing to the newspapers still, and the online world is still figuring out how it will work in the long run. Allaboutthestory is trying to position itself for whatever happens, mediating between editors and independent writers looking to sell their quality content. That’s a different goal from sites like this one, infonews and businessblogs which are about getting content out there, and monetising (or not in my case) through various means. Only qualified buyers, for example, can see content on allaboutthestory.com.

      By the way I see about 300 subscribers on Google reader and 160 on feedburner for this blog. I’m not sure whether the feedburner numbers are included in Google, and I am doubly completely not sure how what percentage of those actually read the feed.

      Reader numbers on RSS are not something I check often – I don’t write this blog or twitter to build raw numbers of readers, otherwise it would degenerate into entertainment much as the main media sites tend to do. I guess this sort of comment exchange (see below) ranks as entertainment for some, though that’s not the point of the post.

      The point of the post, and much of the other posts on this blog and of the columns I am now writing for Fairfax, is to expose good and bad business practices in the hope that we can all improve. It may have come across to Marc and others as bashing, but what is done is done.

      Like

  4. Marc says:

    Hello all,

    I have already addressed on Twitter Lance’s comments about BusinessBlogs. What he found while trolling our site is a mistake that should have been removed months ago.

    BusinessBlogs.co.nz is free – it is designed to help businesses in New Zealand “get found” on the Internet.

    What I find typical of Lance is ability to moan, complain and generally be a complete waste of reading space taking crack shots at everyone but himself.

    He did not contact me first to find out if the statement is true.

    About 6 months ago someone told be to have a watch of Lance and see the perfect example of someone lacking any skill to make a positive impact in NZ and was more like a virus in doing more damage than good. They were right.

    I forgot about Lance after that – as most people do once they read his articles.

    BusinessBlogs.co.nz is going from strength to strength and has already had interest for purchase from overseas buyers.

    Hopefully I will never meet Lance as he seems to be a complete Troll.

    Cheers

    Marc

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Wow, Marc, what an own goal. Some people can take criticism regardless of where it’s come from and actually use it to engage and improve (read some of the other ‘trolling’ here where people have done exactly that). I guess you’re not one of those sorts of people.

      I’ve met Lance and he takes as good as he gives and never stoops to abuse. However abuse and vitriol is all you seem capable of giving out.

      Good luck with your site, I won’t be using it or recommending it based purely on your response here.

      Like

      • Rob says:

        I agree, name calling and what is a very agressive post is most uncalled for, and not particualy professionally.

        His statement,

        “He did not contact me first to find out if the statement is true.”

        sort of contradicts himself, because the information was printed on his website, so Lance was 100% factually correct. Lance wouldn’t have known that that was an error.

        The guy should suck it up and take the critism, becuase he made a mistake.

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    • lance says:

      I’m a blogger not a journalist Marc, which for me means that I write it as I experience and see it from a customer perspective. We all have that right.

      For my Fairfax columns I tend to go a little further, but not necessarily to the point of interviewing the owners. For example, I called the RiteBike customer line but did not call the founders for my latest column.

      It’s great that you have now changed the text in the about page to make it clear that the service is free.

      Please focus on the ball and not the player.

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      • Rob says:

        You blogged on the factural information from their website, so you didn’t make any error. I don’t agree with everything you say, or all your opinions, as everyone is different, but I think you were on the money with in this case.

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  5. Marc says:

    Oh and Siobhan Bulfin is right in her review of the pure SPAM you provided. Web Analysis for 500!! Yeah Right.

    I cannot locate your site in any of the major search engines. Go back to school Lance.

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  6. Marc says:

    Hi Fraser,

    The RSS stat is strange. The RSS feed for Feedburner for BB is currently at 1054. But I have seen it go up to 2000. I have heard Feedburner is a bit funny on keeping count :).

    See image of current count here: http://businessblogs.co.nz/bb_images/feed.jpg

    Like

  7. Matt Harman says:

    Interesting perspective Lance – but not really sure how what BusinessBlogs is doing is any different than the classic media business model of trying to get people to pay for reach?

    Certainly right that anyone can set up a blog for free – but, as you know, not all blogs are created equal. That’s something I imagine you probably discovered when you started contributing to Stuff and seeing the benefits of their ability to funnel audience to your (very readable and informative) blog.

    Course I don’t know anything about the audience reach of BusinessBlogs, but the idea is a pretty classic, old school business model – aggregate a valuable audience and then find a way get people to pay to connect with them.

    My main concern would be, if you’re going to get people to pay for placement, it should be entirely transparent to readers that’s what’s happening.

    Like

  8. Fraser Mills says:

    RSS subscriber stats isn’t something I would normally look at either but I used it as a very quick indication of relative readership size.

    I have been reading this blog for a number of years and the feed I subscribe to, and got the stats from, was from https://elevatorfactoids.wordpress.com/feed/

    Seems strange, maybe an old name for the blog??

    Like

    • lance says:

      You are right Fraser – that was the original name for the blog. After a while I realised that it meant nothing to anyone except for me, and so I made it eponymous.

      Like

  9. Marc says:

    Hello all,

    Yes I must admit I was rather too personal with Lance and should have been more reserved in what I know about Lance and my opinion of him. Lessons learned.

    I have written my own post on the subject with some interesting comparisons between BusinessBlogs websites which for Lance states “should be free” and the business which he is a director of which charges 20% “transaction fee” for selling peoples content.

    http://businessblogs.co.nz/2010/09/03/are-content-hubs-changing-the-game-for-how-media-sources-content/

    Cheers

    Marc

    Like

  10. Marc says:

    Due to the support I have received from readers of my post I would like to extend a challenge to Lance in support of his idea that all content should be free. If Lance truly believes that all content should be free and demands that sites like BusinessBlogs should follow this model then I should expect that his site: allaboutthestory .com provides their services for free instead of charging the writer 20% commission.

    I have updated my post with the following statement.

    “In fact, since Lance is so passionate about content being available for free as stated in his blog and since BusinessBlogs absorbs all costs associated with providing our services including our staff costs to help others succeed, I would like to present a great and positive challenge to Lance! I challenge Lance to drop his 20% “transaction fee” and offer his service for free just like BusinessBlogs does. That way the people who do the real work – namely the authors of the content get all the revenue! I know this would be greatly appreciated by the authors. We all know what Demand Media is doing to the value of producing quality content so this would be a great show of support from Lance!”

    Like

    • Lance Wiggs says:

      Different business at a different end of the market Marc.

      Like

      • Marc says:

        Yep thought that would be your reply. Everyone else should be free but not you Lance.

        The more I get to know you the more I see double standards.

        So what do you do to earn 20% on someone else’s work? I can generate between 2000 and 10,000 views for 1 piece of content on BusinessBlogs all for free.

        Like

        • Lance Wiggs says:

          Different model Marc.

          Writers post their work on allaboutthestory.com to get exposed to buyers, and they do set their own prices. The commission comes out of the sale, just like Trade Me. It’s actually a lot lower than the industry norm for syndication.

          Like

  11. Marc says:

    Okay – sounds like you charge the commission because everyone else does.

    I have had a look at your model and I think with my staffs skill set and our networks we can provide the same service as you do but for zero commission. There are other ways to make money apart from charging excessive commission from people who are struggling to find buyers for their content.

    One thing I am still confused about is that you state my sites should provide a free service even though it does cost us yet you seem to warrant a commission rate of which you seem reluctant to tell everyone why? 20% for a $400.00 NZD article would cover hosting costs for one of my sites for a month including international bandwidth. Methinks you are taking avantage.

    Like

    • Scott says:

      Marc, I thought you’d come to your senses, posted an apology and left it at that like a sensible adult would.

      Instead, you come out ranting about a “challenge” like a child at primary school without even getting a simple fact right.

      Nowhere has Lance said that all content should be free. In fact he explicitly states in the headline that “WRITING should be free”. If you could read the post again with a calm temperament you’d note it’s purely a recommendation to people that they can write their own blog for free.

      That’s it, that’s all he said. He tried to inform readers of his blog about more options when it comes to distributing their content. I don’t know what you’ve found so frightening about this but your desperation to get back at Lance is somewhat scary and your lack of understanding of business models doesn’t bode well for your site’s future success.

      Like

  12. Marc says:

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for the opinion. My focus has changed from addressing Lance’s concerns about BusinessBlogs and now the concern that Lance is actually providing a service to writers that is not offering them a decent service.

    It appears, in my opinion, that Lance is quite happy to attack the likes of Telecom for what he deems as poor service instead of first providing a realistic service to his own customers.

    I would like to hear your opinion Scott on how Lance can have a business that has a flat fee of 20% per sale per article regardless of the sale price? Would you consider that slightly double standard? If another business did the same I would guess Lance would be quickly writing another post demanding that the business offer a more favorable commission structure and “stop ripping off people”.

    Cheers

    Marc

    Like

  13. Scott says:

    Hi Marc,

    Well as flattering as your request is I can’t accurately comment on Lance & Co’s business model as I know absolutely nothing about the business of journalism, or content creators, selling their stories to distributors (eg newspapers) if what I’ve assumed AllAboutTheStory do is correct.

    I do know however a little bit about other sorts of distributors or intermediaries and I’m yet to come across one that was completely free, that had no vested interests and survived.

    Apple charges 30% of the sale price of any iPhone/iPad applications sold through its online Application store. Developers could distribute their applications for free but then they’d have to set up a whole bunch of services and provide a whole number of guarantees and some how try and market to every single user which barely makes it worthwhile if at all. A flat fee of 30% seems to work well for Apple and last I heard Lance mostly sung Apple’s praises.

    So, in relation to AllAboutTheStory charging a 20% flat fee I’d have to assume that they’ve analysed the market and are being cost conscious in setting this fee. I’m not sure how this is a double standard, it’s a pretty standard business model and AllAboutTheStory seem to think they’ve found a gap in the market. Go them, go the free market.

    Lance simply calls it as he sees it. I don’t know what the problem is with that. Sometimes he’s right, sometimes he’s wrong but you don’t start conversation or innovation with cupcakes. I’m not exactly why you think he’s “attacking” Telecom. I’m no daily reader but most of his posts seem to be about pain points and as such I would think are very valuable to those companies being analysed. I’ve heard and read of some very creative and productive reactions coming from what he’s written.

    That’s what’s especially sad here. Lance did you a favour by letting you know how your site was coming across to your potential customers. It looked like you were charging for a service that also looked like it could’ve been provided for free from a multitude of places, of which Lance suggested one, WordPress. Here was an opportunity for you to say ‘Hey, actually here is how my service works and this is why it is different and here is the value it adds’. It was a golden opportunity to engage in a creative conversation that you’ve turned into a negative and then exacerbated the situation by turning it into a vendetta.

    You’re not really interested in my opinion on AllAboutTheStory’s business model, you just want to be vindicated. As such, there really is nothing I can offer you to make you feel better about the approach you’ve taken.

    Regards,
    Scott.

    Like

  14. Marc says:

    Thanks Scott,

    No problem. I like the idea – at a high level of AllAboutTheStory but I have talked with a couple of people and they think the same service can be offered for less than the commission he is charging including a % charge based on the price requested for the product. They suggested BusinessBlogs could be a perfect fit to offer this service but with more options and features. I am still thinking about this as we have a heap of other cool stuff already in development.

    I have actually removed my post on Lance on BB as two of my most close friends pointed out to me that I actually “sounded” like Lance – trying to get views/attention based on attacking other people.

    This is the last you will hear from me regarding Lance as the amount of time I have already afforded Lance is way too much. I will go back to focusing on what I am good at which is building sites to help business people succeed.

    Cheers

    Marc

    Like

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