Friday, March 11, 2005

Blogging Value Chain

I've recently been thinking of ways in which to explain the components of the blogosphere to a business-oriented, rather than technical, audience. It seemed to me that the value chain, as described by Michael Porter, might provide a good starting point. The value chain describes business in terms of activities. There are two types of activity: primary and support. Primary activities are those that directly involve the product itself.

In the context of blogging, the product is the weblog, and, in particular, the posts that comprise it. So, in the blogging value chain (BVC), primary activities are those that directly involve the posts. First among the primary activities is writing: the composition of a post. It's what I'm doing now, using Blogger's post editor. I'll edit in a link to this diagram of the BVC.

Next comes the publishing of the post to the blog. Once published, it is ready for reading. It can be read using any browser, since a blog is a particular type of web site. However, if you follow more than a few blogs, regularly visiting each web site becomes cumbersome and time-consuming.

This is where syndication comes in. Publishing a post to a blog usually produces not only the web pages that comprise the blog, but also a "feed" that describes updates to the blog. Multiple feeds can be viewed at one web page or within one application; this is known as aggregation. Hence reading can be adjacent to either publication or aggregation in the BVC.

Surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in November 2004 suggest that most Americans who read blogs do so using a browser, rather than an aggregator. Hence the three-activity (write-publish-read) path is more common than the five-activity path (write-publish-syndicate-aggregate-read) in terms of users. However, it is likely that the five-activity path is more frequently trodden, since heavy blog readers are likely to use an aggregator. Note that the five-activity path is less work for the reader, since it streamlines the reading activity, and the two extra activities are automated.

The BVC includes three support services as well as the five above-described primary activities. These services do not directly affect the content of the blog (i.e. the posts), but are nonetheless important. First, and closest to the content, is the template, which specifies blog page characteristics such as layout and fonts used.

Next come technical services. This is something of a residual category, to describe components not yet covered. An example of a service fitting into this category is Feedburner. It adds value to a blog's feed by providing statistics on the use of the feed (and in other ways, described at the Feedburner site).

At the top of the diagram are financial services, which pay for the other BVC services and activities, and sometimes enable the BVC to be a profitable system. Advertising is an example of a financial service. Tools such as Google's AdSense are located at the boundary between financial and technical services. Advertising is not the only financial service that may support a blog: the writing and publishing tools may be purchased by the blogger, or they may, like Blogger, be provided at no charge.

So that's the BVC. It illustrates the blogging process in terms of activities and services, and hence in terms of opportunties to add value. The BVC may work well for audiences already familiar with the value chain as described by Porter in Competitive Advantage. The value chain is described in many subsequent books, articles, and web sites (such as this one).

Thanks to: Todd Amicon for producing the above .gif from my scrawled original; Richard McManus for encouraging (although perhaps puzzled) comments on said scrawled original; and anyone who cares to comment, in this blog or by email, on questions such as the following. Are there other frameworks and diagrams with the same objectives as the BVC? Does the BVC work as a means of explanation? Could it be improved so as to be a better one?

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7:35 PM  
Blogger Berny said...

I have been wanting to know something specific about blogs for some time now, and seeing this diagram of yours, it seems you would be the right person to answer my question. Is it possible to trace a blogger's geographic location from his posts. I mean, if I want to know how many blog posts at a particular service, say Blogger, is coming from, say, France, is there any way of going it?

4:16 AM  
Anonymous vfwh said...

Interesting initiative, to do the BVC. I'd say however that you have missed out on an important element of the BVC, it's the interaction, namely:
- commenting
- trackback
Your inclusion of syndication as a subset of publishing and of aggregation as a subset of reading is clever, but I'd say that trackbacking should also be included in Publishing and Commenting in Reading.
They seem pretty fundamental to me both in the value proposition of blogging and in the actual added value that they create for blog content.

2:05 PM  

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