From blog to brand: Sarah Smith, Jo North and Dani McAllen (NZ Blog Collective)

After recognising a need for organisation in the the New Zealand blogging environment, Sarah Smith, Jo North and Dani McAllen decided to create an online directory that serves as a collation point for Kiwi blogs, and thereby makes it easier for readers to connect with content specifically relevant to Kiwis.

By creating the NZ Blog Collective, the trio of online entrepreneurs have brought together bloggers of every persuasion under one roof. But unlike many online communities, their facilitation of social interaction isn’t restricted to the online environment. 

In addition to providing an online abode for Kiwi bloggers, the founders of the directory also arrange periodic social sessions, during which members of the blogging community can come together and meet in person. The most recent event, hosted at the Empire in Auckland, saw bloggers from all over the city shaking hands and sharing drinks for the first time.

This real-life interaction, when combined with the online directory, creates an effective base upon which further collaboration between writers and business owners is made possible.

And although the project is still in its infancy, McAllen says that they “have grand plans [in 2014] to turn it in to something amazing that will really help individual bloggers here in New Zealand, and help the NZ blogging community rise to a new level.”  

How/when did you start the NZ Blog Collective? 

It came about after Fashion Week 2012. Dani had one idea, Jo had another, and Sarah another, about what they wanted the NZ Blog landscape to look like. We decided to band together and try to create a place where bloggers could be found, have their own profiles, be contacted by companies and brands seeking the right blogger for their campaigns, find information, tips and resources for their own blogs. So far we’re up to phase I, but with three full-time jobs, a couple of university studies, three recent engagements and a few new pets between us, we’ve got a lot going on but rest assured, we are amped for 2014!

How has it changed since the early days?

So far the NZBC hasn’t really changed much since it started, however this year things are going to change big time. We’ve been in talks with multiple blogging agencies and companies in Australia about partnerships, but we’re being really selective and making sure if it is a route we go down, we take the right one. Although Dani is an Aussie (don’t hold it against her) she, like Jo and Sarah, all believe in helping to guide the New Zealand blogging community in the right direction.

How do you go about financing your site? Do you make enough to live off your website?

The NZBC right now is in phase one, we’re looking to get phase two off the ground by mid-year and by the end of the year we hope to be in a position where the project will be able to pay for itself.

What approach do you take to advertising?

We love it! In the right context. Every site is different, and they need different forms of advertising. But we believe, if you’re transparent about it, it’s all good. 

What type of advertising works best for your site?

One of the big themes in online advertising this year, and especially with blogs, is the development of mutually beneficial partnerships and the creation of brand experiences. Any advertising packages we do develop will be with this in mind. We aren’t likely to pursue the traditional route of charging out banner ads on a CPM basis that’s for sure.

Do you collaborate with any other websites?

We currently operate as a directory for blogs, which is just a third of the end game for us. In that context we do collaborate with them, and we plan on taking that relationship to the next level this year.

Has anyone ever offered to buy your site? 

Ha not yet! Though we have been talking to a few people about investing to help us get these next phases kicked into a higher gear.

Have you got any funny stories about running a site in New Zealand?

That we are all still really good friends? Insert chuckle here.

What advice would you give to newbies wanting to make it in the online industry?

Know what you want and stick to your guns. Yes free things, like champagne and shiny objects are great, but like anything – they can only fill the void for so long. Nothing feels as empty as a crusading blogger who starts out to change the world, and six months later is writing vapid and soul-destroying content about a mascara they don’t even care about. Stray true to yourself, your readers, and you’ll come out the other end.

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