According to Brad Feld from Mobius Venture Capital (a FeedBurner investor and board member), FeedBurner is testing a new series of blog “networks” designed to contain collections of the top blogs within a specific category. Feld is the coordinator / gatekeeper for the Venture Capital Network, which is the only network that I have been able to locate so far (FeedBurner does not seem to have announced this new feature yet). Feld lists several benefits:
There are benefits to subscribers:
It’s easy to find high quality relevant bloggers / feeds for a specific topic through the aggregation into a Network.
There will be a “micro-portal” for each Network – you’ll be able to go to a landing page that lists all the members of the network, selectively subscribe to their feeds, or explore their blogs.
You’ll be able to subscribe to the spliced Network feed (for example, here is the spliced feed for the Venture Capital Network).
There are also benefits to publishers:
The “micro-portal” will be another place for subscribers to find your blog / feed.
You will get new readers as a result of people that subscribe to the spliced feed (this will show up in your subscriber metrics.)
Advertisers will be able buy ads in the Network with higher quality advertising that is relevant to the readers of feeds in the Network.
You’ll have Network oriented publicity tools (think stuff like “Widget with the latest X headlines in the Network”, or the Banner that I have on the top left of my blog stating that I’m part of the network) which will help cross-promote feeds in the network.
You might make some new friends via your fellow Network members. (Feld Thoughts)
The VC network looks pretty good (I have already subscribed to the feed), but Michael Arrington is a bit skeptical:
The biggest issue around this will be what rules are used to determine which blogs are included in a given topic. It isn’t clear if there will be any real quality control - in his post Brad says each network will have a gatekeeper to make sure only blogs on topic are included, but there doesn’t appear to be any hurdle as to what constitutes a quality blog in a topic. That could work out badly. And if the bloggers and/or the network coordinator are making subjective decisions on which blogs can be included in a given network, this will end in tears. The politics around who’s in and who’s out of a blog network are impossible. I know this from personal experience. (TechCrunch)
I agree with Arrington, the FeedBurner Networks may not be successful depending on the quality control and politics involved in the selection of the feeds. With poor quality control these networks may be no better than the many other blog directories and aggregated feeds already available; however, at this point, I am still cautiously optimistic. If FeedBurner can find high quality coordinators who use an objective selection process combined with good judgment, these networks could be valuable. I anxiously await the next wave of networks and the official launch of this product to get a better feel for how useful these networks will be.