I’ve been away for the last few days in North Wales having a few beers and listening to some bands. There wasn’t much signal there hence not much Tweeting. But I did come home to an interesting comment from DGB regular Kevin Ahern. Here is his comment in full:

To be honest DGB , I pop in regularly to see what you have to say , but it is becoming a lot less of a blog and more of a sycophantic mouthpiece for those that give you money , I can read press releases all day in the free mags that keep filling the office bins , but to offer a bit of perspective I would like to see a lot less PR and a bit more gut reaction. I am sure this costs money , my hobbies do , and by all means put ads on the site , but the editorial seems so far geared to the sponsors that I think the ‘blog’ is losing its individuality.

I like Kevin and his comments. He doesn’t hold back and isn’t afraid to go against the grain in the face of what other commenters are writing, it’s what makes for great debate. And hand on heart, I agree with a lot of what he has to say about the site. There is more promoted content on now than there was before I started advertising options. And if Kevin is thinking it, then chances are a few of you are too. So this post really is a personal explanation of why DGB is why it is today.

Forced to grow up

When I first started the site in March 2009, I hadn’t really got a plan as to how the site would go. It was simply started as a placed to let me vent my views of the industry. Oddly enough, my very first post was written (negatively) about my latest sponsor. It was poorly written, with mistakes and the point of the post was scrappy. But after many more posts and opportunities to sharpen my skills, the posts got better. And as the posts got better, so did the sites traffic. It’s was a trickle, but it was a start.

Then I started to tackle some bigger issues. But my style at that time was to go in all guns blazing, ripping either the industry or a company to shreds. Whilst that probably made for good reading and caught the attentions of a few people, it was a tactic that couldn’t last. Some of the posts I made live drew threats of legal action and worse. I had a decision to make. Although my traffic at this point was growing very well, I had to tone the posts down to make sure that the threats of legal action and worse stopped. In short, DGB had to grow up.

About two years in, I had to start writing my posts in a different way. I had to still get my points across, but more concisely, and in a way that managed to continue to engage people, but without any serious repercussions either. That was a lesson in itself as until I started the blog I hadn’t had any proper writing experience. But about a year after taking a different approach, the waters calmed and the site continued to grow very well. To the point that I moved to the WordPress platform and put some serious effort and a bit of cash behind it to give it a more professional look. It was at this point where people started to say that I should explore the options of advertising.

Trying to do something different

If I was going to advertise, I wanted to try and do something different. Rather than just plaster the site in ads, I wanted to try and lend my growing writing skills to the advertising as well. So as well as adverts, I offered post writing for companies who chose to take that option up. UAP were the first to show the site some faith and for 18 months they worked with the site and helped persuade some other companies to sponsor the site as well.

Did I ever plan to cap the number of sponsors? No. At that point I didn’t think I’d have any more than a few, four at the most. I never thought that there would be that many companies wanting to spend some cash on DGB. But as time went on, and traffic continued to grow, demand for advertising continued to rise. If people were wanting to spend money with me, could I really turn them down?

I have got to the point now where some of the sponsors provide the content for me, written in their style covering the points they want to cover. Some allow me to write for them, in my own style, taking my own angles on their businesses and USPs. It’s a nice balance. But what it has meant is that sponsored content is often mixed in with my own personal blog posts. A sacrifice I had to make if I was going to allows DGB to grow and become bigger.

DGB in the future

In a way, Kevin is right, DGB isn’t the site it was in the past. But as I explained above, I could not go on writing in immature, inflammatory ways. It would have got the site shut down and myself possibly in a lot of trouble. So by changing my style of writing and becoming more professional, it won sponsors for the site. Something I am very grateful for.

The last thing I wanted to do however was to lose the site’s individuality. I still think the site is one of a kind. It’s the only industry site which is updated daily with opinion. Yes there are sponsor posts in the mix, but I cannot get away from that. But I still believe that when I do write for myself, its still my own thoughts, tackling some of the industry’s bigger issues in my own approach and own style of writing. You simply cannot say that about any other online or print publication.

That is how I intend it to remain. I still plan to write regularly, at least once a day. I’ll still be including some of the sponsored content, that’s something that I won’t be able to change. However one thing I will admit is that I can probably do a better job of displaying my own content vs sponsor content to make the two types clearer. I’ll work on that in the future, then people will be able to choose more clearly what they wish to read and what they don’t. Not easy, but I’ll give it a go.

But looking forward to the future, I still plan for DGB to expand beyond what it is now. I plan to add my own personal column to the site which allow me to cover other subjects that I have opinion about. I have thought about starting another blog, but I would only want to do that professionally, which I don’t have the time to develop. So as you can see at the bottom of the landing page I have a section ready to go for that. Secondly, I am currently creating DGB Consumer. This will be a branch of DGB especially for consumers which an increasing number are finding their way to. At the moment the site isn’t geared up for consumers. I plan to grow the traffic of the site even more, and I think by reaching out to consumers and help them to connect with out industry a bit better will benefit them, and the site too. Admittedly, this is taking longer than I had planned. Other commitments are a drag on free time, but also that part of the site continues to grow as I think up new things to include within it. I don’t want to launch DGB Consumer half baked. I want it to be right from the start and then naturally grow it from there. Hopefully I’ll have it ready to go live in the New Year.

So, hopefully these ramblings explains why DGB is why it is today. It’s not perfect, it never will be. I’ll continue to make mistakes and I’ll get some judgements wrong. But I need people like Kevin, like the rest of you to keep telling me what I am doing right and what I’m doing wrong so I can continue to improve the site as it moves forward. Personally, a thanks to Kevin for his honesty and hope that he’ll keep checking in once in a while and keep leaving a comment when he feels like he needs to ;-)