A Taxonomy of Tech Bloggers –Who Will Lead Beyond The Golden Age?

In order to understand the movement in the ever-changing tech blog space, let’s dissect the market to identify trends.

Whether folks agreed or disagreed, the assertion that Tech Blogs are evolving from the Golden Era to the next, continues to resonate as a healthy discussion. I saw responses from many of the blog management teams (Techcrunch, Mashable, RWW, VentureBeat, BoingBoing, and more) both agreeing and disagreeing, as well as traditional journalists at Wired chiming in.

Recap: Four Trends Why Blogs Are Evolving Out of Golden Age
In the previous post, it was identified there are four distinct trends why tech blogs are changing:

  1. Corporate acquisitions stymie innovation.
  2. Tech blogs are experiencing major talent turnover.
  3. The audience needs have changed, they want: faster, smaller, and social.
  4. As space matures, business models solidify –giving room for new disruptors.

The Next Generation Blogs Will Have The Following Traits
Then, it was identified four future trends on what the next-generation blog will look like, in summary: 1) An opportunity for new stars to emerge, 2) Yet, the rise of personal brands will be harder, 3) New models to emerge, long form content not the only way, and finally 4) that a new mix of media will emerge.  To further the discussion on what these trends will mean to this industry, let’s explore even deeper to identify where we should expect to see innovation from.

A Taxonomy of Tech Bloggers
This classification will help to shape who are the players are who should defend, those that are on the fast move, and those that could clinch a new seat as an established tech blog.  To understand, let’s segment the market by class, Ill give examples, and explore at a high level their strengths and challenges.

Classification Example Strengths Challenges
Big Media Blogs These blogs have transcended others and have been acquired by traditional media companies: Techcrunch (AOL), Huffington Post (AOL), RWW (Say Media), Engadget (AOL), ZDNet (CBS) Access to new resources, funding for larger staff, and ability to tap into new revenue opportunities through existing advertising and distribution network of parent company. Will be challenged to quickly innovate, redesign, and hire top talent who may be seeking the upward moving startup lifestyle.
Established Blogs These blogs are dominant players in the space, and are either self-owned, or part of a blog network, among them includes: Mashable, Gizmodo (Gawker blog network), GigaOmVenturebeat, The Next Web (European base), BoingBoing, All Things Digital, (created in house at Dow Jones), Enterprise Irregulars Have solid coverage, strong editorial teams and processes and have established their business model. Some may be content to forge their own destiny and not exit, yet some may seek to be acquired and exit, They will constantly be threatened by the tier above them scooping them, and challengers below trying to out-manuveur them.
Challenger Blogs These players could quickly move into the Established category: The Verge (Vox Media) who left AOL’s Engadget’s to start this visually rich new site with high production video. These players have tried a new approach, and are seeking to gun at the Established by trying a new format, editorial process, and may have connections to scoop stories. While many root for the underdog, they may not have the resources the Established blog networks have, and will be forced to find inventive ways to get what they need, and Established blogs may not link to them.
Emerging Blogs Silicon Angle (by my former boss John Furrier), Kernel (launched earlier this month), Uncrunched (Former Techcrunch writers), and the rumored blog Sarah Lacy may be planning. These up-and-comers are the ones to watch. These folks will innovate, try new editorial approaches, formats, and providing storytelling styles.  In some cases, these blogs may find a niche and own it. While all team blogs started here, this segment likely has the most challenges: Struggle to get scoops, lack of resources, and fight for advertising revenues, and Established blogs may not link to them.
Career Individual Bloggers These individuals have learned to make blogging a career, and may be funded, sponsored, or work for a tech company, notable examples include: Chris Pirillo (multiple sponsors), Robert Scoble (Rackspace employee), Louis Gray (Google+), and many others. Autonomous and masters of their own destiny, they’re able to do their passion at blogging, while earning a living. Difficulty scaling a personal brand into a network, beholden to those that fund them, and difficulty in scooping stories from team blogs who may not link back.
Individual Bloggers Millions of talented bloggers (like you!) worldwide that chime in on topics related to personal technology, careers in tech, and the industry overall. Passion baby, Passion! What a great outlet to get your voice heard.  Most in this space started off here, or still maintain a personal blog. Will be challenged to directly monetize through traditional advertising, but often this medium is used for career growth, promotion of books and speaking, or access to events.  This crew is challenged to maintain their blog, while holding a full time job.

Be a Savvy Blog Reader:  Know How Hierarchy Dictates Behavior.
The behaviors of each tier of blog depends on where you are in the taxonomy.  For example, those at the top of taxonomy are in dominant positions and will to sustain that.  As such, they will: have higher quality production in content, ability to scoop stories, may not link to original sources, all in order to maintain their lead.  On the flip side, those on the bottom of the taxonomy will also have different behaviors: they may give their own editorial spin, find long tail specific stories that mainstream doesn’t pickup, and can give deeper coverage in interviews the top players will not.

Watch the Challengers and Emerging Blogs as Post-Golden Tech Blogs.
Who will emerge as a victor in the post-Golden Age?  The established will seek to keep the up and comer challengers down, as well as the Emerging category.  In particular, the Verge is demonstrating a new approach by a fresh visual layout, high production video, and an experienced editorial team with insider connections.  Secondly, the Emerging blogs continue to grow organically, or have carved a niche that will keep from growing into a mainstream tech blog. As players towards the bottom move up, we’ll see a new “Platinum Age” (Sarah Lacy term) of Tech Bloggers emerge.

Above all Else, Look for Passion.
One of the attractive aspects of this medium is how the individual writer brings forward their point of view, their personality, their opinion.  As such, this has made blogging hold our attention as the rules of traditional journalism have been challenged  Despite the business aspects of running either an individual blog, or a big media blog, we should always look, interesting content, unique points of view, and of course, passion.

I look forward to your thoughtful comments as our industry continues to mature.