Disclaimer: While I have exchanged messages on MyBlogLog with CEO Scott Rafer, I have not gotten his thoughts on the future direction of the company. These are just MY OPINIONS as to what direction MBL should go–with no insider information from MBL.

I also want to note the reasons for writing this–
1) I view MyBlogLog as a very promising web 2.0 company poised to benefit from blogs exploding into mainstream media
2) Business strategy & direction is the fun part of business
3) I want to see MBL be even more valuable as a tool than it already is

MyBlogLog’s goal should be becoming every blogger’s default home page. I truly believe they are well on their way to doing so by adding social networking on top of blogging. Blogging is inherently a form of social networking, but MBL is adding structure and organization to enable bloggers to network more effectively with other like-minded bloggers. Let me also point out that I don’t think selling to Yahoo! is necessary at this point–I agree MBL could make much more money by remaining solo for another year or so. With the rise of blogging, MBL is in a great position. In my opinion, part of blogging success is building a community around a blog, which is exactly where MyBlogLog aims to provide the most value. IMO, MBL is taking the right approach- listening to their existing users, building great features, putting privacy controls in the hands of their users, and providing excellent customer service.

I understand MBL is still a fairly new company, but these are the product features I would focus on in order to create the most valuable blogging tool available:

  1. Strike a Deal with CoComment (or build equal technology themselves)- I’m someone that uses cocomment to track the comments I leave on other blogs. MBL would become much more valuable to me if comment tracking functionality was incorporated into their service offering, perhaps as another tab (everyone wants everything in one place).
  2. Add RSS reader functionality to their offering– Revamp “My Home” to enable it to act as an RSS reader. Essentially, it seems they already have this functionality built (most recent posts shown on the Lifehacker MBL community page). The feature just needs to be expanded (convince people to enter their Feed URL into their profile as a 1st step) to every blog community page and users need to be allowed to place community feeds on their main page. A little user interface work will be required to implement effectively, but nothing too difficult.
  3. Segment blog communities into categories– I would love to browse MBL communities relating to web 2.0, real estate, professional sports, and entrepreneurship without having to sort through the cooking, fishing, and European communities on the site. Provide a way for blog authors to “tag” their blog community with an industry. Each industry should have the Top 50 (or 25) functionality that can be seen on this page.
  4. Enable bloggers to group communities– As a blogger that uses MBL to track which blogs I read, it would be useful if MBL had the functionality to group the communities into user-defined groups.
  5. Advertising Network for Bloggers (longer term)- I’ve already discussed this a little bit in another post. The short version is that many bloggers want to make money from blogging, which has led to a number of companies trying to help them do so. MyBlogLog will be reaching thousands of blogs with widgets, why not bring on advertisers and create an advertising widget that bloggers could utilize to make money (and let the advertisers target as they wish)? I was thinking along the lines of what Federated Media is doing.
  6. Blog stat aggregation (longer term)- MBL is in a killer position to find the most relevant posts from around the internet due to their click tracking functionality. In addition to link tracking, they track page views. The potential to become a portal to discover new and interesting blogs is certainly there, but I imagine it will take awhile to do this on a large scale. Something similar to Digg, but based on actual clicks or links to certain posts rather than what the Digg community deems most popular. Fortune’s “Hunting the Next Google” article this month says, “The web is leaving the days of search and entering an era of discovery. Search is what you do when you’re looking for something. Discovery is when something wonderful that you didn’t know existed finds you.” I think this quote applies more in blogging (which is all about discovery!!) than elsewhere, which means MBL can really take advantage if they play their cards right.

      • Luckily, web 2.0 is a place where a great product doesn’t need to be marketed. It would not be wise to spend marketing dollars to extend brand awareness for MBL other than senior management attending conferences and networking themselves deeply into the tech industry (I’m sure management is already doing this). Since blogs such as TechCrunch, LifeHacker, and Boing Boing have jumped onboard, I think MBL will spread virally throughout the blogosphere relatively quickly. To maximize expansion, an considerable effort should be made to get influential blogs in other, non tech-savy, industries to implement the MBL “Recent Readers” widget.


    • I think an advertising network is the way to go in the long run, as I stated above. Federated Media is making a killing by taking 40% of the ad revenue. If bloggers were made to classify their blog by industry, advertisers would have a great way to target smaller blogs if the ad serving engine was built correctly. I must admit, I think their premium statistics subscriptions are worth the $25 per year, especially for corporate blogs or bloggers who blog for a living. I have access to MBL “pro” for the Zillow Blog and it’s very useful (the free version does not give you real time link tracking & is limited only to the top 10 inbound and outbound links). I think subscription revenues will continue to rise as more and more corporate & professional bloggers join the blogosphere.

Let me end by saying I’m sure MBL CEO Scott Rafer and co-founder Eric Marcoullier will make the right decisions to grow their company. I already know they listen and respond to their users–which is the key to success. There is little business risk in any company if all the features built are the ones that existing users are asking for. Hopefully all of my product enhancement suggestions are already in the pipeline based on other feedback they have received…

  • Since I’m so responsive [ 🙂 ], let me take a crack at it here.

    We appreciate that you care enough to put this kind of investment into a post, but we prioritize differently than you suggest above. We’ll do whatever deal we can (within reason) to help site publishers build deep, valuable relationships with their readers. If we can do that best independently, great. If not, that’s fine too. If we make life better for site publishers, we’ll get rewarded.

    By your numbers on feature suggestions:
    1. We’ve been very tempted by comment-tracking functionality, but we’re still seeking proof that “regular” people care. Clearly the elite care, but it seems like a fairly small elite. Please check this out. We’re already able to collect the comments you make on the sites that we track. It would be easy to create http://mybloglog.com/buzz/members/drewmeyers/comments [not a live page, you’ll get a 404 error] but we’re not sure enough people would use it.
    2. Fubarama and others have asked us for a Top 5 Clicks popup attached to each screenshot on the “View all communities” page. Would this be a good start?
    3. We completely agree, though we hope the members will do a better job than we could. We’re figuring out how to let people build “Neighborhoods” by topic, even people that don’t have a blog in the system.
    4. In part, see #3 above. Outside of a topic-orientation, do you mean that we should make suggestions about groups of like-minded folks based on reading and clicking behavior? To uphold our very careful privacy work, it would need to be a system of invites where a “Group Founder” named a group, invited a few people to kick it off and we auto-invited people from there based on correlations.
    5. Ad widgets are a very interesting idea, and it’s one that we’re just beginning to figure out. The Federated Media guys are good at what they do and pals. We’d be happy to work with them rather than in competition. As long as they continue to improve their disclosure, I also think that PayPerPost could become a great partner for us. I’d love people to take a hard look at what they do (rather than reacting emotionally without research) and let me know under what conditions PayPerPost would be useful in this context. In my mind, they’ve simply done the first good implementation of Ross Mayfield’s Cost Per Influence ideas from summer 2004.
    6. Wouldn’t this be nice?

  • Drew Meyers

    Thanks for the thorough response. I’ll take a crack at a counter-response (I love business strategy debates/discussion).

    1) I do agree-it is mostly the elite that will care. While I definitely see your point in focusing on the majority-I think satisfying the very influential bloggers (who will care about comment tracking) will lead to even more word of mouth for your company. Obviously it has to be prioritized against the other features…but just something to think about.
    2) That would be a great 1st start. However, what I am really driving at is enabling MBL to act as my default RSS reader (rather than myYahoo!). Something super simple would work –just a condensed way to view RSS feeds for the communities I am part of.
    3) I certainly agree letting the members build the communities is the way to go. IMO, building communities is all about user control.
    4) This goes along the lines of #3 above. It would be great if I could build my own “neighborhoods” with the communities I am a member of (#3 deals more with discovery of blogs I do not know already).
    5) Now you’re talking! I think a partnership with FM would be a great strategic move. At business blog summit, John Battelle briefly showed his ad serving application that advertisers use–KILLER technology. I’m still not quite sold on the PayPerPost model–I think it could work IF there were clearly labeled “paid” posts POSTED on certain blogs (but not written by the host blogger).
    6) Yes–it would!!

    Keep up the great work!!

  • Wrapup…
    1. We’ve found that attempting to cater to leading users tends to fail.
    2. Let’s walk and see if running feels right later.
    3/4. Great. We agree.
    5. How about a “paid” tag or microformat?
    6. Sigh…. 🙂

  • Drew, you’re a strategy guy after my own heart… I’m new to MBL, but your advice and this conversation taught me a lot about MBL’s positioning…

    I’ve found it hard to find blogs beyond the economic/financial/tech circles that review strategy well… if MBL works the way it should, I should be your sidekick and we’ll find the strategy oriented blogs together.


  • Really aren’t we just talking about the MySpacing of blogs?

    I’m down with the idea – if for no other reason it moves people away from their eye burningly awful MySpace profile pages. 🙂

    I’d throw StumpleUpon into the mix of suggestions and/or partnerships – there seems to be a natural fit with MBL social features and SU’s site discovery model. The ability to suggest and share new sites or pages into a MBL neighborhood would be great.

    How about a MBL toolbar that you could install to help pull together all these features?

  • Thanks Joel… great suggestions… I’m still new to the social networks (maybe because I’m old and my kids aren’t in high school yet) and learning quickly about how they work…

  • Drew Meyers

    I would argue MBL is a bit different with blogs. Blogs are content where as myspace focuses on people. But yes, there are many similarities.

    I think a MBL toolbar would be very interesting-especially if it included a tool to enable users to see new blog posts they subscribe too- maybe displaying “most recent 5 posts in my community” (meaning all the communities I as a user belong to)?

    Another idea just came to me: What about giving attribution to the “super contributors” of each blog community. For instance, I know Scoble has a couple die-hard readers that engage in almost every comment discussion. Maybe show the top 3 commenters for each community?

  • Drew — we’re thinking about something very much like that. We need to come up with a good heuristic for determining the most important readers — likely a comment of visits, clicks and comments — and then it’s just a matter of exposing that to the community. There are issues with not being able to track RSS reads, but we gotta start somewhere.

  • Drew Meyers

    I’ll certainly be looking forward to your next set of features. MBL is going to be all over the internet before too long (which I’m sure you’re excited about).

  • Thanks for visiting my site and making a comment 🙂

    You’re article is a good read.

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