It’s really too bad Seed had me sign a contract that prevents me from talking about anything they do that could vaguely be construed as a trade secret, because the ScienceBlogs model is worth talking about from both a business and a media perspective.
Regardless, there is plenty about ScienceBlogs that is not the least bit secret and is obvious even to an outsider, which I am rapidly becoming having left Seed almost two years ago after starting ScienceBlogs. For instance their latest move: partnering with German publishing company Hubert Burda Media to do a European edition of ScienceBlogs. (press release here)
(Aside: What is it with all these privately-held Western European publishing companies getting into science publishing? Holtzbrinck (German) owns Scientific American and Nature, while Bonnier (Swedish) bought Popular Science and is about to launch a new title called Science Illustrated. I suppose it’s obvious: they don’t answer to shareholders, so they’re free to get into solid, slow-growth niches, and they’re from science-savvy countries.)
Another aside, this one on significance: some people think ScienceBlogs is niche… but it’s only as niche as science itself is. On the web, it’s a monster. Just check out this Alexa graph, in which I compare it to a known quantity, namely the traffic of Sciam.com.
I’m guessing, based on that graph, that ScienceBlogs is doing at least 4 million pageviews per month, and as many as 5-6 million, and scoring at least a million and a half uniques. (Update: Paid Content reports that Seed claims 1.7 mm uniques / month.)
On top of that, everyone knows that, as hobbyists with day jobs who really just want a platform from which to speak, bloggers work for peanuts. (Just ask Jason Calcanis, who built Weblogs, Inc. on the backs of bloggers making $4 a post. Bloggers are making more now — I heard treehugger pays $10 a post and SuicideGirls, which, believe it or not, has a ‘news’ service, pays closer to 12 or 13, but it’s still nothing compared to what journalists get paid for their time… or is it… I’ll have to post on the economics of being an actual blogger another day.)
Update: Paid Content also reports that Seed is now offering revenue share to bloggers, or at least to the ones they’ll launch with in Europe. I sure hope the bloggers in the U.S. are getting the same deal.
The point I’m getting to in a roundabout way is that going overseas is a completely logical move for Seed. That’s because the entire ScienceBlogs model is built around acquiring, acquiring, acquiring. If you’re making money on every single blog, why not just keep adding them to your network, up to the limit of quality blogs that are out there? It’s what Clive Thompson called the Record Label model of the blog business (whose adherents include Weblogs Inc., B5Media, PopSugar and its companions, etc.), and frankly, it’s the future of online media. That, too, I will have to save for another post.
So having hoovered up all the good U.S. science bloggers (believe me, I know… every time I look around for good blogs that aren’t on SB, I realize just how many of them they’ve already got) why not expand into other languages? Frankly the only thing limiting the ultimate growth of SB is the amount of resources Seed wants to throw at it, and possibly also the potential for the overall quality of the site to go downhill if too many voices dilute its lovably idiosyncratic personality.
I’m glad that ScienceBlogs seems to be doing so well. (Seed, the magazine… not so much… but maybe that’s just because I’ve seen the sausage being made.) Mostly because when I was building ScienceBlogs, I was scared out of my mind that, as with all startups, things wouldn’t work out, the company would go under, and ScienceBlogs would be shortly disbanded. But it didn’t, and Michael Behe will forever rue the day.