Hi Daniel, welcome on board. Tell us a few words about what you are doing.
Daniel: In August of 2008, I had an idea of opening a music blog because I had a great connection in the music industry. Within a few months later, we were experiencing 40,000 – 75,000 unique users on a monthly basis (very small WordPress set up); little did I know that I had something powerful in my hands; I just thought of it as the ‘normal traffic for a small blog.
We are now working as a Media Network that conducts surveys and publishes them; we deliver news in three languages: Japanese, German, and English and receive a massive amount of traffic (reaching 3 million users each month) working with revenue models like CPA, CPM, CPC, and other classical advertising campaigns.
The idea behind Bloginity was simple. Our network believes in the importance of dialogue and of sharing views. We believe that everyone has the right to self-expression, freedom of thoughts, and deserves to be heard. Although today we deliver more news reports than actual opinions, we still make sure to deliver the same content that sparks and enriches and stimulate people’s lives. I believe it adds meaning to our lives, and that’s why it should be treated with utmost care and respect.
So it’s a classical online business. What do you need to start an online business nowadays? Do you need to be a technical person?
Daniel: It’s a classical online business; however, we are not just a ‘blog’ or a ‘news website’; we like to refer to ourselves as an online magazine. We incorporate the same advertising tactics as if they were made for offline advertising. I think to start an online business; you must be online-savvy. A few good pieces of advice I was told were to Learn from others, stop thinking big, and focus your efforts.
As far as technicality goes, if you know PHP, HTML, and CSS, you can save a lot of money knowing exactly what needs to be fixed and how to express yourself when something needs to move elsewhere. Understanding what a good solution for a business (using Tumblr, WordPress, or Blogger) is can be a very hard decision to make, and people quick to think that and choose the wrong one. Doing SEO for the company is a very, very important aspect, and letting someone else do your SEO might backfire; it is basically like you are handing your balls to them, literally.
You used to work as a freelancer/employee in New York. How did you decide to start your own company?
Daniel: I’ve been doing online work ever since I can remember myself. Suppose it’s finding the latest schemes how to run bots in old Blizzard games and collaborating with online forums that create communities of traders. Every job I went to, I took that talent with me, of understanding how the Internet works, of understanding that when I arrive at a website – that website is owned by someone who probably designed it and controls the content. Nothing is ‘generic.’
While practicing SEO these past few years, I managed to bring great results, which like you mentioned, got me to collaborate with big industry name companies. Understanding what SEO can do for you was the best gift I could ever ask for. That’s pretty much when I started optimizing my own sites and developed affiliate skills while creating landing pages for better CR. It’s a gift; there is no say – but I truly believe that SEO people are not born doing SEO. It is something you can learn and learn well.
You mentioned you have 2 partners on whom you know you can rely: Brian Willett from the USA and Ben Xie from Hong Kong. How important is it to have skilled partners for a business?
Daniel: In the past, a leader was a boss. Today’s leader must be a partner with their people; they no longer can lead solely based on positional power. Having Brian Willett and Benjamin Tse by my side is probably the best thing Bloginity Networks has ever seen. Their ability to brainstorm but the idea together within 48 hours is unbelievable.
Brian joined us as a journalist; I noticed his skill within the first weeks. He was eager to learn about SEO and how to optimize his content to be better. Every article he wrote was receiving 50 comments, if not more. Today Brian serves as a company executive, CCO (Chief Communication Officer); he is in charge of pretty much the entire staff, every article that goes into our network, every press that goes out, he is in charge of content development and also has a say in every change to our network.
Benjamin, who read my SEO blog, decided to reach out and try to optimize his very small-scaled WordPress blog. I don’t know what made me hand him my Skype name, but when I saw his blog and realized he designed it, I was almost left in some sort of awe. Within the first 48 hours, he and I kicked it and started putting together mock-ups of what ended up being the Bloginity Networks. With large help from the Gabfire Themes team, we managed to do a great collaboration and designed a one-of-a-kind WordPress template that is so advanced it is absolutely mind-blowing.
There are a few things I recommend to those who are looking for partners
1. Know what you need
2. Look in the right places
3. Hire a lawyer
4. Be very picky
5. Assign roles and stick to them.
Having a partner, how is this different from having a regular employee?
Daniel: It is not so different in our case. We have the Chief titles, I am the company CEO, and they both report to me and have employees working under them. It is just like having a manager – It’s just that they do their job at such a superior level that they deserve to have company options.
Do you think your company has roots in you playing games as a child? (Daniel told me he was a gaming addict). I’m asking because sometimes parents don’t feel like gaming will influence their children’s lives for the better.
Daniel: I think that playing games surely got me to be an internet-savvy person and lead me to learn HTML, PHP, etc.
What are the most important revenue models for an online business like http://www.bloginity.com/ ?
Daniel: Advertising, without a second thought. There are many ways you can do revenue streams for an online business like CPA, CPM, CPC (all very similar), you can do full-page advertising (which falls into the advertising folder as well), and you can also do music revenue, collaborations, sponsorships, partnerships.
If I could recommend to anyone what it is that you need to learn before opening a site like ours, it would be: define your audience – and then be sure that it is a good audience to advertise to.
Since starting up, how many employees you hired?
Daniel: I keep on talking about this business advice that I’m getting and following. It is a really great article written by entrepreneur Neil Patel, ‘Business Advice in three words’ (ref: http://www.quicksprout.com/2010/02/03/business-advice/); he reminded me of a very old saying
1) Hire employees slowly
2) Fire bad employees
But as for your question – our network has hired approximately 35 contractors and 4 full-time employees.
What are the most important http://www.bloginity.com/ topics?
Daniel: We recently ran a very interesting survey about this topic. We write a lot about Celebrity Scandals, and let’s face it, Americans love their celebrity gossip, and nothing seems to dominate the headlines like a scandal involving a famous actor, athlete, musician, or politician. According to a new survey, we ran more than half of American adults (52%) said they feel validated when a celebrity is sent to jail, feeling the punishment fits the crime committed. Just 24 percent of adults surveyed said they are surprised to learn about a celeb going to jail because they normally don’t receive a harsh punishment for their crimes. In comparison, 17 percent feel disappointed in the star that’s a role model for children.
56 percent of Americans prefer to read about celebrity crime to any other celebrity scandal, including celebrities entering rehab or making and distributing sex tapes. You can read more in this press release in Yahoo! Finance (ref link http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Bloginity-Networks-Survey-bw-3467385107.html?x=0)
What about the typical consumer of your content? How do the demographic look like?
Daniel: We target a female audience, 18 – 35, mainly industry people who are either bloggers or live celebrity lives. We’ve had so many times cases in which we wrote about a celebrity. Their management called us up to include a different image (a more recent one) or ask us to remove some content, or even give us feedback and let us know that they liked the article. So we are sure our audience is either the celebrities themselves, their management, the webmasters, and everyone else who comes from Google News and other referring sites. Our demographics are the biggest in the English-speaking nations: USA, Canada, UK and also big in Germany and Japan. (as we’ve launched in different languages, http://japan.bloginity.com and http://de.bloginity.com)
How does http://www.bloginity.com/ differentiate from other similar sites? What makes people come back?
Daniel: I like to think of our cool way of reporting news, our staff, and because we create our own personal unique opinion and reports. People share the same thoughts, we always leave room for more thoughts, and our readers love that. They also love to communicate with us via comments – and we always reply back. Our web design is unique, our topics are great, and we are just rocking it!
Just to give people an idea, could you share the most important metrics of your traffic?
Daniel: Surely, in a report we recently published about June 2010, we had a string of successes for our Network. As of June 2010, we were pleased to share encouraging news in terms of our company’s health. In the past months, we have seen steady growth, with revenue and readership increasing beyond even our most optimistic expectations. Our focus on efficiently producing high-quality, unique content has helped us stand out among our peers. The most important metric is bounce rate and page view per person, which we are struggling to achieve (our goal is 13 pages per person), and we are now on 5.3, and bounce rate as low as 10.1%
Online is still a new business. Does the educational system prepare skilled workers for this? Or it’s something you should learn on your own?
Daniel: I’m a high school dropout. The educational system did not teach me anything! Besides, from talking to all my friends that are the same age as me, it seems like the educational system left them hanging to the moment where they need to figure everything out – themselves. You should learn your own – however, I don’t encourage people to leave high school or college. If I could, I would stay there and learn, but I am not eager to study; I like to teach.
Daniel, how old are you? And is online a business only available to young people?
Daniel: I’m 22 years old; it is available to anyone who is willing to work hard.
At the age of 16, you moved to America to consume the American Dream. Is the American Dream still possible during the crisis?
Daniel: I won’t lie, the past two years have been very rough, especially to start a business, and now it’s hard to maintain it. But we are a great team, and we are pushing forward and succeeding.
Any plans for the future?
Daniel: We are planning to expand our network, partner with more blogs and recruit more authors and create a beautiful and reliable network for both readers and advertisers to join. We recently launched the network’s homepage; http://www.bloginity.net; there is lots of information to be learned there about our staff and about us.