How To Build An Audience On The Internet: The Kevin Rose School Vs. The Fred Wilson School

Editor’s note: This guest post is written by Tom Anderson, the former President, founder and first friend on MySpace.  You can now find Tom on FacebookTwitter, and Google+

What kind of content creator are you? Kevin Rose or Fred Wilson?

Blogging or “self-publishing” in any form was supposed to democratize and revolutionize the media industry. Content creators no longer needed mainstream platforms to get their voices heard. Bloggers weren’t beholden to editors, and self-publishers could monetize their content with AdWords or any host of ad network partners.

Three days ago, Kevin Rose posted this on Google+: “Decided to forward to my Google+. G+ gives me more (real-time) feedback and engagement than my blog ever did.” His decision set off a little debate on the pros and cons of doing so.

Kevin’s decision was made rapidly, and may well be reversed when it suits his needs. His sense of G+ went from questioning the value of the service in his first post (since deleted), to musing on how Google+ was more like a blog, to completely switching over on Friday. (I prodded him via text message on Thursday: “dude ur totally going to replace ur blog with Google+”)

Where to host your content is a tricky issue. When blogging started to become a serious endeavor and Internet folks realized they could amass their own audiences, they naturally assumed it was important to own their domain, control their distribution list, maintain the links that have been built up to their content, or in summary, control their own destiny.

And again, this is not just an issue for bloggers. It’s about web presence generally. Remember TV commercials promoting AOL keywords. Would brands have been smarter to promote their own websites? How about musicians using Myspace as their only website? Bands first used MySpace as an adjunct to their website, but gradually more and more of them found maintaining their own website a pain and shut them down entirely. Even major recording artists printed their MySpace URLs (and not their website URLs) on their CD covers. Visit those MySpace URLs now and they’re ghost towns. How about Youtube video channels. Can you imagine a day when Youtube is no longer the best place to find video?

Phrasing the issue in a new way, and perhaps a better way is: Should a content creator go to his audience, or should he expect his audience to come to him?

In the offline world, most writers would never think to publish their own magazine or newspaper. A writer uses the distribution of a larger platform/brand (WSJ, NYT, Time) to get his story and name out. But on the Web, some have argued that technology has changed all that. Has it?

That model of posting everything on your own domain might have worked in the earlier days of the Internet. But who is so interesting that they can get a large enough audience to keep a bookmark and check their website? Technorati doesn’t show a single personal blog in the top 100.

Personal brand (general recognition), site loyalty, and SEO is sort of the slow-build attractor to the old model of self-publishing. Clearly today, a blogger needs a mechanism to notify people of his posts—an email list (still semi-old school), Twitter (short posts leading & luring to the long-form), guests posts on largely trafficked sites (such as TechCrunch), and social networks like Facebook (Fan Pages) and Google+.

In the end, where you make your home depends on why you create content. If you want your little spot on the Internet to share some media or express your musings, then Tumblr or any other platform may be for you. If you’re Mark Suster or Fred Wilson, you may not want the level of engagement something like Google+ could bring. As VCs who hold the perceived keys to the kingdom for many a young entrepreneur, Mark and Fred probably appreciate that people have to do a little work and research to find their respective blogs and interact with them. They’d probably rather limit the discussion than be overwhelmed by the engagement and traffic that posting all their content on G+ would bring.

But more than anything, I think, you need to remain flexible and pay attention to how the Internet is evolving. There’s no one-size fits all strategy, and you’ll probably want to modify your own strategy as it suits your needs. As certain traffic sources (tech blogs, social networks) rise and fall, you may need to ride them up, and transition your audience on the way down. When Tila Tequila (a MySpace user with millions of friends) started to see MySpace was a sinking ship, she jumped to Twitter and later to Facebook. If you’re looking for a certain type of audience, then maybe you need to find where that audience hangs out, bring your content to them, and hopefully—if you want—bring some of them back to your “home base”.

Kevin abandoned his blog in an instant, whereas Fred built up his blog over years and years. What school do you belong to?