The Free Blogging Freeway

There have been murmurings for a while that the Google-owned Blogger/Blogspot company cannot continue operating for much longer without a profit model.

The latest harbinger of blog-death is Injinuity over at Unadulterated Arrogance. In a short article entitled “Why blogger shall die,” he says:

I am neither Nostradamus nor am I a gypsy with a crystal ball, but this is what I foresee: A year down the line blogger.com will either cease to exist or metamorphose into a paid-only avatar, and both the outcomes . . . are bleak for the blogosphere.

Granted, I am not renown for my powers of clairvoyance yet I still paint this picture of doom with certainty and I do this on account of my understanding of economics. At present I don’t see a valid revenue model when it comes to blogger.com. I don’t see any sources of income for a service of this magnitude . . . I am highly skeptical of this practice in the long run. . . . the inflow of funds is minimal or non existent.

Injinuity and others like him are right: a company cannot exist on kindness alone. The disastrous profit plans proposed by 95% of the Website businesses introduced in the 1990s are what lead to the eventual collapse of the Internet boom times and the infamous stock-market bubble burst. But the Blogger/Blogspot service was once ad-supported, with Blogger Pro memberships allowing ad-free and enhanced usage. Google gobbled up Blogger, graciously removed all mandatory ads, made all services free (with no storage-size limitations), regrettably removed FTP access, and innovatively added slick new design templates. I don’t think they did this by mistake or for purely altruistic reasons. There is excogitation at work. A plan.

I added Google ads to my site in a vain hope that if enough Blogger users use the Adwords service, Blogger might remain free. Otherwise, Google will at some point have to force ads onto the blogs. My fear is that they’ll put the ads at the top of the page, making the blogs look ugly (like so many other free website hosting spots). By placing the Google ads near the bottom-right of my pages, they’re not a big problem. Hopefully Google will allow users to continue controlling where the ads go if they do force ads back onto the sites. Allowing users to continue profit sharing if they’re Adword members would also be nice (not that I’ve ever gotten a single dime from the ads I’ve had running on my blog, mind you).

At the same time, I could see Google bringing back Blogger Pro -- if they have income coming in from a pro service, they could afford to add some of the many blogging features that Blogger currently lacks (most of these features would only be available to Pro users, at least when they’re first rolled out, I presume, because otherwise there wouldn’t be as much incentive to turn pro). Blogger Pro might still be cheaper than the other Blogging services, but it would be ad free (assuming Google will eventually force ads onto the free Blogger), have a few extra features, and would allow FTP access (for greater HTML control) and/or a full export function so blogs could be properly backed up.

Another option would be to introduce a super-low-cost alternative . . . . Google could start charging a very small fee (say, $10 a year or $20 for five years, etc.) to use Blogger; a million users paying Google $20 for their little blog on the web would, cumulatively, generate a lot of capital. A modest enough price would be hard to pass up, especially for people who already have a Blogspot up and running. Simultaneously, it would drive away a lot of these fake blogs that have hijacked Blogger (the link farms, auto-generated product-hyping blogs, scam blogs with a million links leading back to an overseas pharmacy scam, etc.). If the fee is extremely reasonable and Blogger promises to do away with the fake Blogs, it’d be a good deal for everyone (there are so many fake/commercial/ad/scam/spam blogs on Blogger right now that clicking on the Blogger’s “Next Blog” button has become practically useless).

Also, Google’s purchases of Picasa, Hello, and Blogger and their invention of Gmail all seem strategic in nature -- each product alone is nothing to wet your pants about, perhaps, but taken together, coupled with Adwords and Google and Google News, you can see a well-crafted nexus forming. While companies like Yahoo crowd their homepages with a lot of useless junk and services that don’t belong together, Google is slowly gathering and inventing products that can both elegantly stand alone and work together to form a useful, powerful suite of tools. Expect much more integration of all these products in the coming years, along with a powerful IM tool that might just tie it all together.

And what if Google makes a move to allow an open-source browser/email combo like Firefox/Thunderbird to be fully integrated with Blogger, Google, Gmail, et al? What if they didn't just allow it, but financed it? Then Microsoft’s Explorer/OutlookExpress/Hotmail combo would be seriously walloped. Example: What if ThunderBird could access Gmail without having to POP all the messages down, so the storage space stayed on the Google servers, but you’d have the full power of a designated email program to boot, and maybe you could also post from the program to your blog, etc.? Google already appears to be dancing around ideas of this nature.

I think taking on the big, soulless corporate guys like Microsoft and Yahoo is a semi-open goal at Google. And Blogger is one piece of that puzzle. So don’t expect it to die, despite all the slowdowns, bugs, outages, old technology, and limitations currently plaguing the service. A service that, by the by, is extremely easy to use, making it the best service out there for beginners; is great for lazy people like me who don’t want to worry about fussing with programming, paying, and designing more than necessary; and is amazingly cost free and ad free and has beautiful, simple little templates (I managed to muck the template up on my own Blogspot, but hey, now it feels more like home).

Google has done nicely with Blogger, despite the minor quibbles we may have. Quibble: the recent posts/total posts/total words info on my user profile page hasn’t updated in like 8 months. And occasionaly a bug erases half of my post while I'm in the middle of typing. A real downer. Oh well. I still love Google, Gmail, and Blogger. It’s not just a corporate slogan: They really have made the web a better place. Maybe they'll turn evil and super-corporate one day, but for now they're still the good guys in my book.

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Related Post: Blogging About Blogs That Sometimes Blog About Blogs.

5 comments:

injinuity said...

Google are already a big corporation.. they are wolves in sheeps clothing....

adwords, gmail, blogger they are slowly and steadingly trying to outdo microsoft.. google will soon launch a portal similar to msn and yahoo.. trust me

Milondollarhotie23 said...

Google kicks ass. If you got you just got it.

fantababy said...

good analysis. Yaeh your theme is simple and unique.

if everything happens as told by you it would be nice.

Greg Smyth said...

Nice post. You've managed to pull together a few of the musings I've had on the whole Google axis. Clearly, though, I hadn't approached it in a holistic/business model way. Food for thought - I'd be surprised if you weren't eventuslly proved at least half right.

Lucas Brachish said...

And then came the Google Chrome browser, eh?!