Blog hosting has long been viewed as a low-margin business, primarily the domain of free or cheap hosting services. But as blogs emerge as popular sources for real-time news, the largest commercial blogs now require industrial-strength infrastructure to manage bursts of traffic.
"Choosing a hosting provider often feels like a trivial decision for bloggers starting out, but all it takes is one post to hit a site like Digg.com, and the traffic spike could take the blogger’s site offline,” said Richard Kershaw of WhoIsHostingThis.com. "It’s vital for anyone serious about blogging to make sure they’re hosting with a company that can scale up as their blog grows."
Hosting high-traffic blogs has evolved into a niche for several providers, including Datagram, Media Temple and Voxel, which were featured in Kershaw's recent analysis of where leading blogs are hosted.
It's a business that could be poised for growth as layoffs and bankruptcies mount in the newspaper industry. Many of the veteran journalists being laid off are likely to refocus their efforts on building blogs and web sites to deliver the news, expanding the online publishing ecosystem established by the blogosphere.
Datagram, which is based in New York and also operates a data center in Connecticut, hosts The Huffington Post and the Gawker network of sites, which includes Gizmodo and Lifehacker in addition to Gawker.com. "Datagram embraces the role blogs play on the Web in democratizing the dissemination of opinion, entertainment, and information,” said Alex Reppen, CEO of Datagram, who said the company is "proud to offer a secure and reliable hosting environment to support blogs’ growth and cultural influence."
Voxel, which is also based in New York, hosts the political blog DailyKos as well as Perez Hilton, the wildly popular entertainment blogger. Part of Voxel's appeal is that it also operates a content delivery network (CDN) that can help customers maange traffic spikes. "Our clients are demanding greater scalability, while needing to balance growth with staying competitive amid tougher times," says Raj Dutt, Voxel's founder and CEO.
On the West Coast, Los Angeles-based Media Temple is home to TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable and DoshDosh. The company's popularity with bloggers is a case of organic growth, rather than a strategy to host high-profile blogs, according to Alex Capehart, the VP of business deveopment for Media Temple.
"Some of our biggest high traffic blogs and blog networks were all smaller clients," said Capehart. "For example, Techcrunch has been with us for years and we've worked with them from their single VPS server to a flexible and stackable complex hosting setup. It's very satisfying to help them focus on their core biz without distractions of growth and server solutions."
While high-traffic blog hosting is a larger market than it once was, a surprising number of top blogs continue to host on free or cheap blog hosting services. New research from Pingdom shows that 21 of Technorati's Top 100 blogs are hosted either at TypePad or Wordpress.com. Of the hosted blogs, 27 were running on the open source Wordpress platform and 12 are on Movable Type.
That supports the notion that while some high-traffic blogs may require more infrastructure, the blogosphere skews toward the most affordable solutions available. "Hosting a high traffic blog can be a good thing, but I personally haven't seen a recent development to make it more lucrative (for a hosting company)," said Capehart.