Interview with Paul "Scrivs" Scrivens of 9rules

September 12, 2005 in A person, An interview

9r_rounded_whiteIt always bugs me when people younger than me are way smarter than me. Especially when they're nice guys. Paul "Scrivs" Scrivens is barely 25 years old and already has a productive entrepreneurial effort underway building a loose network of high quality blogs under his "9rules" banner. When I asked him if he'd be up for an interview he replied simply: "Sure, I'm down. I'll try my best not to look retarded."

For those unfamiliar, blogs are becoming big business. Heavyweights on the scene like Nick Denton (Gawker, Gizmodo, etc) and Jason Calacanis (Engadget, Cinematical, etc) have proven that there can be big money made from highly trafficked blogs. Lone power blogger Darren Rowse announced to much attention recently that he's personally making well over $10,000/mo ($15K in July) in Google AdSense revenue from his blogging ventures.

WorkHappy.net recently become a member of the 9rules family so it seemed appropriate to ask Paul a few questions about what he knows best.

Hey Paul, thanks for taking a few minutes to share some of your ideas.

Not a problem at all Carson. We love your site and we are here to help our members in any way possible.

1) You've managed to gain a fair amount of visibility online and I now see bloggers all over who are clamoring to become a part of 9rules. How were you able to drum up this kind of interest?

In all honesty it was a lot easier than we thought it would be. We were very nervous before the first round of submissions opened up because we figured we would only get a limited number of sites that wanted to join. To our surprise after that first 24 hour round was over we received over 120 submissions. Once we began adding sites to the network, many people understood that we really were going for quality and some of the sites were already well-respected in their communities. This led to a lot more interest from other bloggers that wanted to join the network.

Not everyone that blogs is willing or able to generate a lot of traffic or earn 4-5 digits per month from their blog and being part of the network helps you a tiny bit if you wish to achieve those goals. The main aspect of the network though is the community that the members have built around it. I would not be surprised if you see some new projects coming out in the next couple of months from our members that have been collaborating within the forums.

Quality is rewarded everywhere we look. Quality products get buzz, but how many times does a quality blog get the buzz that it deserves? I think this is a big reason why many people are wanting to get into the Network. Our values match theirs and the same goes for our readers.

2) For a while you were building a group of your own blogs, much like Darren Rowse, and you had some respectable success. You were making north of $5,000/mo just with that, you sold CSSVault for some nice change (5 digits I think you said). What caused you to change your model with 9rules?

Making money from blogs is not easy and making that much is really not easy. The effort I put in really didn't match the rewards in my mind. I have always wanted to be part of something big and simply working on my own sites was too limiting. There are only so many hours in a day and so much time and effort I am willing to spend on sites that I run. I enjoy tackling new challenges and running the CSSVault was no longer a challenge and I was quickly losing interest and I could see the decline in quality so I figured it would be best to sell it to someone who had more passion to run it.

The 9rules Network is a small part of the vision I have for something much larger and much more challenging to achieve. With this concept I was able to bring together a talented group of individuals and receive feedback and ideas from a much larger group of people than I would have if I tried to continue doing everything myself. I never thought to myself I want to be financially okay. I always thought that I want to be a millionaire and blogging for myself wasn't a path I saw that happening with.

3) You recently changed your agreement terms for 9rules members shifting from an ad revenue split, to not sharing any ad revenue that a site generates. Are you nuts?

It only made sense to make this transition because the sites were putting in the work to generate the money so they should be the ones earning it. It also sets us up for implementing a project we have had in our heads for a long time now. The real driving force behind this decision though was the fact that we knew we could get even higher quality sites into the network without the worries of a 10-page agreement or complicated revenue structure and it has already paid dividends.

It was a choice between adding a couple more dollars to the bottom line or investing in a greater number of high quality sites which increases the value of the network in the long run. We chose the latter.

4) What advice would you give other bloggers out there trying to build traffic so they can cash in on advertising revenue?

Hmmm, I get asked this a lot and there is never one definite answer.

  1. Be true to yourself. As cliche as that sounds it is the first thing you must always do as a writer. On too many sites you will see people write what they think the public wants to hear instead of writing about what they really think. If you have nothing interesting to say then maybe you shouldn't start a blog, but I have yet to find someone without anything interesting to talk about.
  2. Never think there isn't competition. You will find almost everyone says that you should find your niche, but unfortunately every niche is usually filled already. That's not the problem. The problem is not standing out. Too many people create copycat sites that do nothing different from the competition. How many Engadget/Gizmodo sites can you name? I can only name those two, but there are plenty of them out there being ignored because they offer nothing different.
  3. Be controversial. Not all the time, but some of the time. Don't say something you don't believe yourself, but say something that is bothering you that many people fail to discuss. My Ignoring the Hype series did this and it was a huge success.

5) Can you share some of your favorite sources of business inspiration and ideas? (e.g. certain blogs/books/magazines)

Wow, there would definitely be too much to list if I decided to list everything. Books I recommend anything by Seth Godin (and his blog) and Tom Peters. Both offer common sense advice, but it's stuff that we overlook so often in our lives.

Magazines I enjoy Wired and Business 2.0. Wired simply because it helps you see trends in the mainstream that you might want to try and jump on. In the blogosphere we are usually the early adopters so we tend to think every new trend will be hot, but it isn't really mainstream till it hits Wired and other publications. That usually gives you an idea of if it will really be successful or not.

As for blogs there are really too many to list because I think a lot of business minded individuals are seeing the value in maintaining a blog. Of course I would have to put WorkHappy on that list. 

Honestly though, the best thing any person can do is read everything they can get their hands on. I run through multiple books and magazines a month and am constantly reading blog entries. I don't pretend to know everything and it's amazing how evident that is when you read a VC's blog for example.

Finally, experience is always the best teacher. There is only so much you can read without actually trying it yourself.

Thanks Paul!

Anytime Carson. Thanks for keeping a kickass site for everyone to read.

Paul has agreed to respond to a few reader questions in the comments of this post if you'd like to ask him something I missed.

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It's probably worth mentioning that workhappy.net is a member-site of the 9r network... just sayin.

Posted by: Sam | Sep 13, 2005 2:03:16 PM

Hi Sam, I think I covered that when I said...

"WorkHappy.net recently become a member of the 9rules family so it seemed appropriate to ask Paul a few questions about what he knows best."

And the 9r icon to the right should help clarify too. And your comment, so thanks.

Posted by: Carson McComas | Sep 13, 2005 2:11:19 PM

Great article.

And just to clear it up: the 9rules Network doesn't tell it's members what to write about, and the members get no kickbacks for articles such as these.
If we write about the network and our love for it, it's because we really love it.

I only say this because it seems as if the first comment implied negative motives behind this article.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 13, 2005 7:57:50 PM

Yeah I wasn't inferring any "funny business" just thought it was worth mentioning, and I guess you did too becuase you said it in the post and I just flat out missed it. *sigh* I'm going back to lurking.

Posted by: Sam | Sep 13, 2005 9:31:40 PM

Hey Sam, no worries man. I appreciate the participation.

Posted by: Carson McComas | Sep 13, 2005 10:19:39 PM

Can I just clear something up? Are you saying that you *are* a member of the 9rules network?

Good advice about standing out in a crowded market, though. It's a piece of the proverbial to create yet another gadget blog, but the hard part is making it different. And that isn't just the case for gadgets. Virtually every niche is gonna show the same kind of competition.

Incidentally, are you sure all niches are filled? I can't seem to find any clog blogs anywhere?

Are there any clog blogs?

Posted by: barry bell | Sep 14, 2005 6:59:25 AM

You know what Barry? Off the top of my head I cannot think of a single clog blog. If you can start one and it's pretty good maybe we can get it in the Network. Clogs are a difficult subject to write about however due to the complexity of trying to get them on your feet and walk around.

Posted by: Scrivs | Sep 14, 2005 7:09:04 AM

And yes, WorkHappy is a member of the 9rules Network.

Posted by: Scrivs | Sep 14, 2005 7:09:56 AM

How many no-namers have been included in the 9-rules network, and how has that affected their readership and/or adsense revenue?

When will the next round of submissions open up? I'm eager to submit my site.

Posted by: Kyle Posey | Sep 14, 2005 7:12:27 AM

Hi Kyle, not quite sure how you define "no namers" but I'd venture to say that (and I'm asking for trouble here) aside from Scrivs himself, Airbag, Molly, Keith... and?... pretty much everyone else is a no-namer. WorkHappy.net, for example, is quite a new blog (I'm certainly not a household name) but the content here seemed to resonate with Paul and co. so here I am. Being part of the 9r network is good for traffic for sure (Let's just say that Paul gives much more than he receives). AdSense is more complex than a simple traffic numbers equation however and if someone is hoping to strike it rich from AdSense by being part of 9r they've got a goals problem IMO[1] and shouldn't bother. I'll let Paul respond to the question about timing of the next round.

[1] What I mean by that is that I think one will find involvement with 9r most rewarding when one's goals are in line with Paul's. Namely, building and being a part of a great content network. Of course there's a capitalist motive behind what we do, but like any good, quality capitalist venture, it's not the primary goal.

Posted by: Carson McComas | Sep 14, 2005 7:39:01 AM

Yeah, I think that anyone trying to "strike it rich from AdSense" probably needs to re-examine their goals. But I've had google ads on my blog for a couple months now, and I don't think I've received a single click. That honestly doesn't bother me too much, I'd rather see people visiting my site and participating in my posts.

But I do have to wonder, how are people making any money with adsense? My site would probably have to get 5k views a day to generate $1.

And no-namers? *I* am a no-namer. I think anyone with a readership of less than 100 people a day, or that doesn't know anyone else in the 9-rules network would probably be considered a no-namer. It's nothing derogatory... I'm just betting there are a lot of people in the 9-rules network that either have friends in the network, or already had a decent readership to begin with.

Posted by: Kyle Posey | Sep 14, 2005 8:19:27 AM

Hi Kyle, what I meant was that if someone is specifically trying to boost adsense revenue by being part of 9r, they'll probably be dissapointed.

FWIW: I knew no one in the 9r network when I joined and Scrivs had no idea what my readership was (still has never asked). He just thought I had some passable quality stuff here so wanted me in on that merit alone.

Posted by: Carson McComas | Sep 14, 2005 8:35:08 AM

I will use the term "no-namers" only because I am trying to stick to the context of the discussion. Many of the sites, heck the majority of sites we let in are by people who receive less than 1000 pageviews a day or even week. When reviewing sites not once do we look at traffic numbers or even ask for them, we simply look at content and if it fits our goals, as Carson stated, then it's in. And the problem with "namers" and "no-namers" is that this community is so insular that once you see a couple of links pointing to a site you easily get the impression they are famous.

Far, far from the truth. I have a name (many times it's bad names) in many circles, but am no where near being known like Fried, Denton or Calacanis.

Posted by: Scrivs | Sep 14, 2005 12:28:18 PM

As for when the next English round will occur, we are not sure yet. There are still Round 2 submissions that need to be emailed back and we are beginning the Spanish 9rules shortly.

Best I can say is that it will occur before the year is up.

Posted by: Scrivs | Sep 14, 2005 12:30:37 PM

Nice interview!

I just wanted to comment in response to Kyle Posey's comment: I recently joined the 9rules network with my newest blog and I'm a no-namer among the community (and I still am a no-namer, even after joining). Like Scrivs already mentioned, he never asked about my traffic -- they just reviewed the content.

I don't know very many people in the 9rules network, either. I read a lot of blogs in the network, but before joining, I only talked to a few of them (and many times, I only talked to them once or twice for a minute or two). So it's definitely possible to join without having "connections" within the network.

Posted by: chris rhee | Sep 14, 2005 1:29:00 PM

And without the 9Rules Network I wouldn't have found that neat blog with those hilarious articles of yours Chris.
Nice Interview. I read a lot of the blogs in the network and it's pretty decent to learn a little more about it.

Posted by: Peti | Sep 15, 2005 3:18:16 PM

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