This page considers the business of running blog networks.
It covers -
Much traditional newspaper and magazine publishing is
based on publishers employing writers whose text appears
periodically. The publication attracts readers and thereby
attracts advertisers. Revenue from those advertisers allows
the publisher to pay the writers.
A preceding page of this profile noted questions
about whether individual bloggers can make a living by
blogging, along with claims that attempts to make money
through advertising or corporate handouts are contrary
to the "spirit of the blogosphere" (or merely
illegal if payment
is not disclosed).
Some "blog entrepreneurs" have adopted traditional
publishing models, establishing groups of blogs that are
written by employees and by unpaid interns. Those blogs
are operated on a for-profit basis, with the publisher
being funded through advertising sales rather than by
subscription payments from readers of the blogs or from
syndication of content to other publishers.
Such commoditisation of blogs - evident in Jason Calacanis'
sale of his Weblogs, Inc group to AOL for US$25 million
in 2005 - appears to have attracted more attention in
the 'old' and 'new' media than enthusiasm among writers
and investors. There has been little emulation of groups
such as Gawker and Weblogs, Inc.
That is likely to continue, as 'old media' (in particular
major newspapers) increasingly occupy the space through
establishment of blogs that feature their branding and
Gawker's flagship blog reportedly has around one million
unique visitors a month. Information on how long they
stay is not publicly available. Gawker's Fleshbot, concerned
with adult content,
is claimed to have some 2 million visitors per month.
Other Gawker blogs were however closed in 2006 and the
traffic to some Weblogs Inc blogs appears to be more evanescent.
What is the regime for the hacks who generate text for
groups such as Gawker?
Gawker manager Lockhart Steele indicated that the professiona
l'editor' for each of its blogs is under contract to post
12 times a day for a flat fee, ideally with eight posts
prior to lunchtime to attract daily return visits. Those
editors supposedly scan the web for items, supplemented
by pointers from readers and other authors. Remuneration
includes bonuses for generating spikes in the number of
visitors, presumably reflecting performance agreements
with advertisers on the sites.
idea is that this is a full-time freelance gig. They're
supposed to be able to do their blogs and have enough
time to do magazine articles or something else.
We pay a set rate of $2,500 a month. But one thing that's
interesting about Gawker is that we've begun to incentivize
our writers based on the traffic to their sites. Our
bloggers can earn more money that way.
continued that they can double their salary through rewards
for increased traffic figures, claiming "we want
each of our writers to feel a little bit like an entrepreneur".
In the finest tradition of Grub Street, Gawker also uses
unpaid 'interns' -
no pay, but they get a lot of exposure. Blogging for
Gawker is not necessarily a long-term career move. It's
not like, "I'm going to be a blogger for my whole
life." You come on board, you do a blog, and it's
a high-profile gig for you. And then you probably get
a magazine or a newspaper job offer out of it. It's
a way to circumvent having to go work at a daily paper
in Arkansas for two or three years.
Stowe Boyd sniffed that
people are hirelings. What they are cranking out are
the 700 words they signed on to produce
went on to complain in the New York Times that
as such they were indistinguishable from any freelance
writer, losing the "spontaneity and individualism"
of blogging, centred on bloggers "pursuing their
muse" rather than a salary.
Gawker competitor Weblogs, Inc boasts that is
a blog company run by bloggers for bloggers; as such
we're committed to keeping blogging authentic and honest.
We want our readers to trust our blogs, so we've committed
to the following: There is a clear separation between
advertising and editorial on all WIN blogs. Our bloggers
are not involved in the advertising process. In fact,
our bloggers find out who's advertising on our blogs
at the same time as the audience! Bloggers do not receive
free products or services from the companies they write
revenue and profitability
Anxiety about authenticity and the commodification of
a self-conscious (or merely self-involved) online 'counter
culture' - evident in pre-blog works such as Thomas Frank's
incisive The Conquest of Cool: Business, Culture,
Counterculture & the Rise of Hip Consumerism
(Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 1998) or Joseph Heath &
Andrew Potter's The Rebel Sell (New York: Harper
2004) - is of importance for the financial sustainability
of the blog groups.
Their blogs walk the line between spritzy upstarts and
online tabloids, with critics accordingly assailing them
as "just old media in new media clothes", clothes
that aren't necessarily more enticing than those worn
by the blogs of newspaper and magazine companies, or by
ezines such as Slate.
Gawker's founder Nick Denton, the Clay Shirky of commercial
blogging, reportedly decided that although a single blog
might not make tangible revenue a group of sites - particularly
those operated on a commercial basis, with low overheads,
occupation of niches and an emphasis on attracting traffic
- might be viable.
Steele claimed in 2005 that Denton's group
profitable. We're very small, have no overhead, no office
space. Everybody works from home. And you heard what
we pay our writers. ... He had the idea that no one
site would probably ever make a fortune. But if you
have 10 sites each making $75,000 a year, then, O.K.,
maybe it's not like Conde Nast money, but it's a nice
next page (splogs)