Why publishers shouldn't host weblogs and how they should

Tom Coates, the A-List hunk who once called this humble blog “astoundingly useful” (or something like that &8211; it was in my comments and they’re not searchable and I’m not together enough to capture testimonials on the spur of the moment) offers a cogent analysis of why content publisher shouldn’t host weblogs, meaning mainstream media websites and just about any publisher who values their own brand.

If they insist on doing so he also offers some advice about how to do so most effectively. He never mentions Salon (or Google, for that matter) by name but I think every point he makes hits the bullseye:

His reasons why they shouldn’t do it (summarized):

  • risk of diluting branded image
  • legal liability
  • attrition of the “dedicated, popular and authoritative” bloggers in search of a domain name of their own, extended functionality, and possibly independence from the mother brand
  • There’s no need if you publish compelling and blog-worthy content on your site

For those who cannot be dissuaded, he suggests:

  1. Glean info from a database of people’s weblog posts to inform editorial decisions and highlight emerging news / public interest stories.
  2. Use an associated brand and publicise it heavily on your main site.
  3. Make it possible for your webloggers not only to leave, but also to come back.
  4. Offer a clear upgrade path with various levels of functionality.
  5. Use your high profile to reward the weblogs you host that you think are particularly good.
  6. As part of the service, facilitate migration from the branded presence by building mechanisms to support purchase of a domain name and more powerful server functionality in return for a cut of the registration and a fee for the enhanced hosting (or the removal of adverts, if you’ve used them), retaining access to the content.