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Do You Put Out for Free?


I was reading Matt, you know, Matt that founded WordPress, and he called out Seth Godin on having a typepad with a name like Seth Godin. Matt made the following point that I found astounding:

it drives me crazy that people like Seth Godin and John Moore are pouring countless hours into creating priceless content as sharecroppers on domains they don’t own. To clarify, I have no problem that they’re using Typepad, but for goodness sake put it on your own domain. When someone Google’s you the first hit shouldn’t be

Now Matt goes on to make the bigger point that your name is the most valuable thing you have. Seth later chimes in about the fear of changing over as he might lose links, and Matt agrees with that fear- the bottom line is Seth began blogging in ’02 and that’s a hell of a lot of links- this got me to thinking about those on and that defend Active Rain. The point holds true that you have no control over your name or the product you produce on their service.

As most already know Active Rain got a nice punch of cash to the tune of nearly $3million from HouseValues and the reality is, if no one was on active rain, what would its value have been? Probably zero.

House Values purchased the names and the millions of words, search terms, & pages of information, email address, personal profiles and the like- honestly Active Rain could have gotten more, as obviously the information is invaluable, but the almost $3 Million aside, it goes to prove Matts point. Sites like blogger,,, and others build their value on the backs of millions of subscribers, and readers, which begs the question, why would you do it?

Take Zillow and Trulia for example, they are providing great services to agents and consumers, but at the same time, agents are providing a service to them- you’re building their value, why? What’s in it for you? We all race to do this same thing in Google, and we even pay good money to do it, but why? Your name, your value, priceless?

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We all complain about splogs, and other forms of content theft, but the fact is, they don’t have to steal it, most just put out for free.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. loren nason

    January 29, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    How Right you are Benn. But Seth unfortunately has a point and switching now he would lose links.
    But the whole point of owning your content and domain is missed by some many people and some argue that it doesn’t matter.

    This quote from a comment on a post at AR about email addresses:

    I think what comes after the @ sign is just a matter of what system you use, whether it’s, AOL, gmail, hotmail, charter, earthlink, or any number of systems out there. What comes BEFORE the @ sign really matters. Think of the car dealerships in your area; most of them have the owner’s name attached to them. In the car world, if you can’t put your name to the product then you shouldn’t be in the business.

    We can keep trying to tell people to “own” their content on their own sites but lots of them just don’t care.


  2. Robert D. Ashby

    January 29, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Benn – Excellent points and I understand Seth’s issue. I ahve been fighting my fear of losing what I have built up at FLorida Mortgage Report. But since it is Typepad and they basically control it, I have been looking to switch to WordPress on my own host where I control it. My site is now where near as long standing as Seth’s but I did manage to get it to #21, even briefly in the top 20, on Google for “florida mortgage”. What would you recommend for me?

  3. Benn Rosales

    January 29, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    I agree with Matt, we had to make this same move on blogger for Lani- it isn’t that hard:

    We both started our blogs in 2002, you in January and me in June. I switched my domain from to earlier this week, and the good news is that it’s not that bad. I’m 99% sure that Typepad does the proper 301 redirects. (I’ll double-check that.) You don’t lose any traffic because everyone going to your old domain in search results (or links) is just redirected. The listed Pagerank takes about 1-2 weeks to transfer to the new domain, but like I said earlier you don’t lose any traffic during that time, because the old URLs still work.

  4. Benn Rosales

    January 29, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Further advise is this – it never matters when you’re new and you don’t know any better, Seth was once a no name himself, but on the internet where anyone can be a megastar, why not plan on it. Why be behind the curve as Seth is, having not planned well enough in advance to his success and do it NOW! Nothing against Seth, but why not look further down the road and take control of your content.

  5. Robert D. Ashby

    January 29, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Looks like I definitely need to get off my keister and just do it now before I get too far behind. Now I have to figure out which template to use. Thanks for the advice.

  6. Bob Stewart

    January 30, 2008 at 12:32 am

    As a point of clarification……Housevalues did not ‘purchase’ any of those things. They made a minority investment in ActiveRain.

    Every member of ActiveRain is free to take down any content they have contributed. Participation in ActiveRain does not somehow transfer ownership of that content, although I don’t believe you are contending that, I just wanted to make that clear.

    I do believe they need to ask themselves: what is the benefit to them in contributing………for many of our users who lack the technical expertise (or the time) to set up their own sites, it’s a matter of skill level and available time. Some people are genuinely interested in the friendships and the camaraderie they find on the site. There are many different reasons that people choose to participate on ActiveRain, no one answer covers it all………although I do believe they should be asking themselves the important question of:

    “How do I benefit from this relationship?”

    Most will have an answer that keeps them involved. If there is no answer for them, we would hate to think they would continue to participate.

  7. Benn Rosales

    January 30, 2008 at 1:01 am

    It is I who will make a point of clarification here: I meant it in loose terms- advertising on such a site with no agent contribution would be worth nothing as I said, however, having a site with such rich content, and high activity from both consumers and agents gives them (HV) a lot for such an investment. I can understand why Active Rain would want to make that clear- and I digress to the larger point.

    The larger issue while we’re at it- Active Rain is using agent content to make money- site with zero content equals zero dollars. A site with content equals millions, I say brilliant to Trulia, Zillow, and now Active Rain. My point was, it is their names that are actually the value added asset in this deal, if the agents want to trade that for the buddy system, thats okay with me too. I wont even get into what a name and a complete profile is worth to a marketing machine right now. So let’s talk about something else…

    Since you mentioned it, what are the terms of the millions invested? What do they get exactly? 3 million for a minority holding?

  8. Lance Winslow

    January 30, 2008 at 2:56 am

    Yes, I agree that the ActiveRain platform and business model is brilliant. I also believe that this platform should be used in many other industries. Free content, boat loads of it and then it is up to ActiveRain to find a way to make money using that content as a draw. Lance

  9. Benjamin Bach

    January 30, 2008 at 4:10 am

    I started at a blogger site, then moved to wordpress, now I have a blog on my own domain. When I switched from blogger to wordpress, I didn’t have too much ‘juice’ to speak of, but the recent switch, was more involved
    It took at least a week or two for my new domain to start showing up in google searches, but now, a few months in, all is fine – both my blogs (new and old) rank very well for the same terms, and the old blog directs people to the new one. Not ideal, but it works.

  10. Michael Price

    January 30, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I would like to be kissed once in a while, looking the technorati results for my blog the number of sploggers stealing my content is too much to keep up with. Guess that makes me a “Blut” – “a blog slut” and I’m giving it up for free!, “No means No!”…. I can’t live with myself…….

  11. Matthew Rathbun

    January 30, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Honestly, I’ve been posting on both AR and my personal blog any article that I right for this very reason. When HV poured money into AR, I stopped posting there all together. I am not a fan of HV and felt that their money was just them buying leads and materials from ActiveRainers. It’s not why I joined and contributed. I don’t want one more crummy company calling me and asking for my biz. It’s on the verge of harassment.

    If nothing else, setup a godaddy URL and direct it to TypePad or WordPress, so that you can carry it with you, if you must switch…

    LOL Michael! A BLUT… we need to go add that to Wikpedia!

  12. Kris Berg

    January 30, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    From an agent’s perspective, I just don’t get AR at all. It’s branding, stupid, and you either build your own or you build someone elses. And I think (short digression) this is why we are seeing more and more agents leave the warm blanket of their Brokerage and hang their own shingle. Some of it is the resulting autonomy for sure, but there are no two ways about it – We are moving in a new direction where the large company’s brand actually threatens to diminish the individual agent’s own branding and business development efforts versus help. The structure of our society has been turned on its head (it’s the Meatball Sundae thing), and I wonder a lot these days if the value in aligning with a big, powerful, capitalized overseer is waning, at least in terms of the credibility that name might bring us.

    Back on topic, beyond social rewards (which rarely pay the bills, and that is why G-d created Bunko groups), why would anyone work their tail off writing content for another? One of the biggest values of the blogging platform is the ability to connect with your potential customer, and not just as a a one-way stump speech, but as a conversation. Heck, unless you are an AR member, you can’t even comment, so by my estimation, the chances of one finding their next client through AR are… pretty darn minimal.

    We are finally starting to generate measurable client trust and new clients through our San Diego Home Blog, in large part, because we promote our blog on every piece of advertising that we produce. “Visit us on Active Rain” just doesn’t pack the same punch. This is not to say that Active Rain hasn’t built something impressive, or valuable, but the issue I see is to whom the real value accrues. For the agent without the knowledge or time to figure it out, there are plenty of people who would be delighted to help them for a fee. And for the people who don’t have time, then blogging is not an activity they should pursue – on AR or anywhere else.

    End of rant.

  13. Athol Kay

    January 31, 2008 at 8:26 am

    AR is basically a shortcut to a high PR “about me” webpage. It takes the average non-AR blogger about 9-12 months steady blogging to get their blog ranking higher for vanilla searches on their own name. For some people that is a big appeal. Whether that works for getting leads that pan out is another question though.

    Kris said – We are moving in a new direction where the large company’s brand actually threatens to diminish the individual agent’s own branding and business development efforts versus help.

    And we pay a crap load of money for that “help”. This business is gonna get really werid over the next few years.

  14. Jay Thompson

    January 31, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    What Kris said. She’s a freaking genius.

    As for Seth losing links, sorry, but that’s a lame excuse. All Seth has to do is post:

    “Please link to me. I’ll link back to 1 out of every 1000 that do”.

    Poof, his link problem is fixed in two days.

    Besides, Seth doesn’t really need links. I suspect he has a few subscribers that would follow him wherever he went.

    Why not install WP on Or heck, drop the kid who has a check for $50K…

  15. Robert D. Ashby

    February 1, 2008 at 5:49 am

    I have started my transfer and it actually got me thinking of new ideas for the future. Of course now you will have to read this post to see why. I think Seth could do something similar if he really wants to.

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