One of the best sites you can join to connect with other bloggers is Blog Catalog. PandemicBlog has had the good fortune of being able to sit down with Tony Berkman and Oscar Tijerina of Blog Catalog to discuss their past, their new widget and the future of the site itself. This is the second interview in a series of interviews which PandemicBlog will be conducting with movers and shakers in the worlds of social media and marketing.

Blog Catalog

For those out there who are new to the game, give me the one sentence description of Blog Catalog.

BlogCatalog is the fastest-growing member-driven social community for bloggers.

Isn’t BlogCatalog a lot like MyBlogLog? How are you different? How are you better?

BlogCatalog’s purpose is to help bloggers connect, share ideas, and grow through group and general discussions. It also provides a variety of tools, features, and widgets to help bloggers. So our emphasis is on building a community and helping bloggers rather than an interactive volume-driven blog directory. We also screen blogs to minimize splogs, spammers, and questionable content.

What are your vital stats? How long have you been around? How much have you grown? How many users do you have?

When Angie Alaniz and I acquired it last year, BlogCatalog was a basic blog directory with a heavy emphasis on adult content and splogs. Our team cleaned up the membership and began integrating robust social network features such as a general discussion board, groups, and neighborhood feeds. Since then, we’ve added a number of tools and campaigns that strengthen the community and help bloggers improve their blogs. Right now, BlogCatalog has approximately 100,000 blogs indexed. More than 15,000 are submitted for review every month. Traffic, in the same period, has gone from 30,000 a month to well over 4 million.

We hear you’ve got a shiny new widget. Tell us about it?

Yes, that’s right. We just released a News Feed widget. It is a powerful little tool, that when added to your blog automatically displays what you are doing on social networks.

The widget is a member-driven application. Bloggers were telling us that they wanted to streamline networking, stay up to date with friends across the Web, and share their own social network activities without having to visit eight to twelve networks. So the widget was a logical next step in that it made this information customizable and portable. Portability is the next evolutionary step in social networks. People want to manage when, where, and how they share data. This widget helps do exactly that.

So it’s like social network cross-pollination! What is the biggest benefit of this for the average blogger?

The biggest benefit for most bloggers is that it allows your friends to know what you’ve said on Twitter, what article you’ve submitted to Digg, what site you discovered on StumbleUpon, or what song you’ve listened to on Last.fm where ever you place the widget. This also allows them to connect with you on Twitter, Digg the article you submitted, check out the site you stumbled, or discover that you have some of the same musical interests. It makes sense because people tend to connect online with people who they share interests with.

How many people have begun to use the widget since launch? Is it too early to ask?

It’s too early to say. However, what you might find interesting is that many bloggers have already found that the widget can be used for a number of additional applications. Some bloggers are using it for a recommendation tool, some bloggers are using it to update one blog across multiple blogs, some are using it to increase their opportunity for a viral post and some have set it up in a way that only displays their affiliate marketing links. It’s become their product recommendation engine. It’s surprisingly versatile in ways we never considered; every day, different bloggers are trying to find new uses for it. We originally looked at the widget as a way for bloggers to make their social network activities public on their blogs. No matter how you use it, it adds real value to a blog.

The widget connects with your social dashboard on BlogCatalog, right?

Yes. Except, rather than share information about all your friends, it only shares your activities. Unless, you point to your friends post, link, or StumbleUpon, Digg, etc. submission.

When the widget is placed on a blog will it increase page load times?

Not that we are aware of, at least not in any noticeable amount.

You mention on your website that this widget will help things to go viral. How will it help?

As I mentioned, if you submit an article to Digg, anyone who subscribes to your widget or sees the widget on a blog or site might Digg that article. Even more amazing, if your friend Diggs it and also has the widget, then all his or her friends might also Digg it. That’s a very powerful way to share information.

Isn’t the “viral potential” something that is still very dependent on the number of people following an individual? If I don’t have a large community of friends then just because I Digg something doesn’t mean that it will now go viral.

There are never any guarantees that something will go viral. However, the size of your friend network or number of blog readers is not part of that equation. We know several bloggers that have very few friends and readers by comparison to top ranked bloggers. Yet, these bloggers are read by top ranked bloggers. So sometimes it’s not about the quantity of people you know, but the quality of people you know.

Other than the potential for more efficient viral spread, do you think the widget has potential for marketers to reach consumers in new ways? Have you thought about that at all?

I suppose there are applications, but we really didn’t develop the widget for marketing purposes. We developed it to help bloggers.

What’s next for BlogCatalog in general? In terms of widgets?

What would you like to see next? … Maybe we’ll do that!

Is there anything that could make you leave/abandon BlogCatalog? (a tough one, we know)

There was a time last year when I was speaking with several potential investors, including venture capitalists, about the possibility of making BlogCatalog the next bright and shiny new object. But I decided to pass because it seemed to me that every proposal would require us to move away from our core values. Maybe one day BlogCatalog will be the darling of the Internet, but right now I like the idea of being a diamond in the rough. It gives us the opportunity to stay focused on helping bloggers and working to enhance their experience as opposed to always thinking about ourselves. It’s more fun our way, don’t you think?

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We’d like to thank the entire BlogCatalog team for agreeing to this interview and sharing their insight, history and vision. It will be very exciting to see how this new feed widget affects social media as a whole and to watch Blog Catalog grow in the coming year.

Keep an eye out for future interviews from the social media world.

Written by Brennan White