Neville Hobson commented on my posting on content & network following Blogging Planet’s launch (and gave me a great tip on how to set-up trackbacks on blogger with haloscan on the way).
My argument is that while it is difficult to have popular content without a network, it is even more difficult to build and sustain a network without popular content. I refer to “content” as articles, services, links or ongoing conversations. This extensive definition as opposed to articles alone could be the reason why our opinions appear to differ.
Blogging Planet uses the term “ecosystem” when referring to bloggers network. It is absolutely spot-on. One of the reason bloggers form networks is because they can extract value from their interactions. Members of such ecosystem play different roles and feed on each others. Some produce content, some comment upon others, some aggregate and relay information. The ecosystem works because they all contribute and benefit from it (traffic, recognition, dissemination of ideas, etc…).
I, like many others list NevOn in my blogroll because I think Neville writes thought provoking articles and because his blog often reference materials I like to read, thus saving me the hassle to find them elsewhere. On top of this, the comments I make on his articles allow me to get noticed, thus growing my own network and benefiting from the traffic to his blog. If the quality or frequency of NevOn’s articles were to drop, or if he suddenly shifted his focus to 15th century Norwegian poetry, I, like other members of his network could have less incentive to link to his blog as the interaction value will diminish. By loosing content he would loose his network too.
I therefore think that a content strategy is central to help reach the influencers and relays you need to build a network designed to fulfil your communication objectives. Content is what fuel your network and allows it to live and grow.
It’s an interesting academic discussion anyway: what comes first? Content or Network?