John Evans - Blogger Interview Series - Number 5

August 13, 2006 – 12:52 pm

by Darren

The highly anticipated 5th installment of the Blogger Interview Series is here. This time we feature John Evans, of Syntagma Media.

Bloggers’ Bio
I’m a fulltime author, journalist and owner of Syntagma Media which produces Syntagma, a Web Network Magazine.

I live in the West Country of England. My new book is “The Nirvaneans — A Natural History of Nirvana”, which will be published by Humdrumming on June 21 next year.

The 6 Question Interview

1) Tell me about your history in blogging. What led you to blogging?

I really started in internet marketing when my business Dial Publishing was producing print and online courses in business, technical and creative writing. A remnant of this still exists as our blog: Tech Biz Writing, which is reprinting my book, Technical and Business Writing.

I ran two websites, The Dial — which was a litblog in static HTML, before blogs became commercially popular, and a forum, Writing and Editing as a Career.

My first blog was on a couple of years ago and I got hooked on the ease of updating it. One of my first blogs was Syntagma — a Greek word used in linguistic philosophy meaning making something out of small parts, as words make up a sentence. This was moved to its own domain on a Wordpress platform after Jason Calacanis sold Weblogs Inc for $30m or so to AOL.

Syntagma Media quickly became a reality about the time everyone was jumping on the blog network bandwagon. It now employs 10 authors (bloggers), two office staff, and a few sporadic helpers on the technical side.

2) I know you have a commercial interest in blogging, as I do. What makes you think blogging is a good business?

“Blogging” is generally seen as a solitary activity by people wanting to make an unconventional point, or as a kind of distributed successor to forums. If you’re not involved in the geeky world that dominates the blogosphere, or in political activism, you have to redesign yourself and your work to reach out beyond the blogosphere to a wider internet community searching for niche products and information. You can then link up with paid advertisers outside the blog specialists, TLA, Adbrite etc., which often use Alexa to determine your fees and thereby depress your income if you’re not tech oriented.

So, using blog technology, yes, branding ourselves bloggers, no. Syntagma now has its own advertising site:, which sells advertising direct for us. It’s still in beta, so will change and improve, especially when we get a full-time ad space salesperson.

3) Your blog network is known for your very stylistic header design. Do you design them yourselves and what influences your work?

We now have a new header designer with us: Clive Allen, who writes our Formula 1 Latest site. He has a degree in fine arts so has added some nice touches to a number of our blogs. Most of them, though, I did myself. At first some of them were dire, as I’m no designer, but I’ve improved, and I’m proud of Art NYC and Our Man in Stratford, which demonstrate “the new me”.

Blogs can be very boring to look at, so I went with the notion of brilliant colours at the top and in the sidebar to give a sense of energy to what is still a simple river of posts design. Life’s too short to get Chris Pearson designing 40 blogs. I’m not sure it would add very much to our income, anyway. There’s a great benefit to be had from simplicity.

4) I called your SyntagmaMedia a blog network, but I think you’re changing that direction a bit. Tell me what your direction is, and why?

This reflects what I said above, that blog networks are geeky things that appeal to the Techmeme set. We’re looking way beyond that now and see ourselves more as a continuously-updated, online, distributed magazine, with each “blog” as a topic section with its own domain and standalone capability.

If that sounds a bit tortuous as a definition, we’re actually badging ourselves as a simple Web Network Magazine. I think more people will go down this road because it makes sense to create a bigger space for yourself now that the blog network field is heaving with new entrants.

5) What have you done to attract quality bloggers to your blog network?

I knew a number of people who were good, compelling writers from my litblog days. Three have come on board from Writers Blog Alliance, and a further two from a commercial tie-in with the British publisher, Humdrumming.

Steve Newman, for example, is a well-known Shakespearean actor, playwright and theatre director. He writes, Our Man in Stratford, Jazz Groove and A Publisher’s Diary for us.

Others just got in touch and asked, like Marshall Sponder who writes our Art NYC site. Generally most of our bloggers are based in North America, as is 80 pc of our readership, so we see ourselves serving the US market first and foremost.

6) What’s the best way for a blogger to make money, in your opinion?

There are two ways : You can do a Darren Rowse ( Darren is basically an SEO operative who’s drifted into teaching the art thanks to the success of his problogger site.

Or you can get into commercial blogging for a network where all the tech, SEO and platform provision is done for you. You have to stick with your good blogs though, for up to a year if you want really to get the most out of them.

Then again, you can set up your own blog network or Web Network Magazine. Be aware that this option will swallow you whole, leaving little time for anything else.

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