Blog networks: Reaching the public, displacing the establishment

Blog networks are collaborative blogs. They give readers an interesting destination, like a newsmagazine, with more content than blogs with just one or a few authors can usually offer. For bloggers, joining a blog network provides more visibility and respect, and allows busy bloggers who can only blog occasionally to build an audience. There are blog networks in most fields. Here’s a snapshot of (most of) the major blog networks in science and culture:

What is a blog network?

Blog networks are a collection of independent bloggers distributed under one umbrella. Often each blog maintains a small degree of branding, such as a title for a blog, or some unique artwork. There is a fine line between a blog network and a group blog, but typically the blog networks give each individual blog more individual branding.

Another key defining characteristic of blog networks — as opposed to commercial blogs, like political, news, and gadget blogs — is that in the sciences and arts, the bloggers are usually unpaid, or minimally paid. They are usually professionals working in a field, e.g., scientists and academics, with a lot of knowledge about their field, and a strong interest in communicating with their peers or the public. The most popular blog networks are operated more like businesses, and their bloggers are paid either per-article rates, or shares of ad revenue, but that’s much less than the blog network would pay professional writers to create content from scratch.

Who runs blog networks?

Blog networks tend to either be commercial (e.g., Wired Science blogs, Science Blogsthe Arts Desk), or grassroots (most of the rest).

For commercial publishers (both old guard, like Nature, and upstarts like Science Blogs), blog networks are a partial solution to the collapsed business models of old. Advertising can no longer support large-scale publishing, but if the bloggers are working for cheaper than professional journalists, the numbers might work out. (There are many fully commercial blogs, with paid staff, such as the New York Times blogs, and Discovery News. That’s a great format, but is not a blog network of independent bloggers.)

For grassroots networks, the opposite force is at work. By pooling resources, small groups of bloggers can reach a large audience in a way that was only possible for large publishers with massive distribution arms a few years ago. Many of the grassroots blogs have budgets of only a few dollars a month.

Who doesn’t run blog networks?

Curiously, despite their stated missions to connect with the public, museums and membership societies are conspicuously absent. Societies of chemists, ecologists, musicians, and historians, have not rushed to create blog networks. (One pleasing exception is AGU’s new blog network of 7 scientist-bloggers.) And museums have neglected to set up blogs for interested experts, volunteers, docents, citizen science leaders and educators to connect with the public. Blogs written by staff at museums and societies typically have less volume than a blog network can deliver, and more controlled messages.

Show me the networks!

Here’s some links. If a blog network is missing, please add it to the comments on this page.

In the world of culture, artsJournalblogs is the only in the above list that is a blog network in same sense as the science blog networks. “There just aren’t that many true blog networks in the humanities,” says Dan Cohen, director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason.

Did I miss your favorite blog network? Comment below!

2 comments on Blog networks: Reaching the public, displacing the establishment

Larry Cebula

03 Mar 2011, 2:53 am

This is a really useful post. Another place where networking is happening is at single topic aggregators that pull content of blogs or Twitter and bring them together on one magazine-like page. is one such aggregator and Digital Preservation Daily is an example of the technology in use:


IDEA » Online advertising is ripe: Using or launching ad networks

08 Feb 2012, 12:14 pm

[…] publishers, or one blog network. While there are already a lot of science blog networks (see my post on blog networks last year, or this list from, there’s room for more blog networks that […]


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