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Mar 02, 2004

Comments

Matt Haughey

Those are great ideas, but I think the tough part is paying contributors enough. You can't make that much money with a blog so it's hard to see paying 5-10 people more than a few hundred bucks each month, tops.

And given how easy it is to start your own topic-focused blog, slap some google ads on it and make all the money, you'd think those experts on teen technology would just have their own blog on the subject.

gen kanai

matt's criticisms are spot-on. I think that Denton's business model is challenging because the barriers to entry/competition are low and the payouts are not that high, yet.

The other problem with the lifestyle perspective is that people/users/consumers don't consider themselves from that perspective, even though companies may benefit from using that lens. What I mean is that people love gadgets/new technology hardware. Sure they are students/ middle-managers/ urban-tech-whatever, but they don't often self-identify as such.

I don't have the silver bullet, or else I'd be out there doing it ;)

michael

definitely understand the challenge of making a buck on a blog. but what about flipping the model around, and enabling gadget bloggers to sort of "compete" for space on gizmodo? either (a) gizmodo centralizes and divvies up revenue according to post popularity / page views or (b) gizmodo filters posts from other "registered" publishers, aggregates those, drives traffic to the individual contributors' sites, and then takes a cut of their google ad revenues.

ok, maybe too complicated. weblog media is pitting its individual bloggers against all the other individual bloggers. unless you have a very singular voice (like cox's on wonkette), that's going to be a very tough game to play. why not co-opt the rest of the folks that are playing in your field, and get them to contribute to your efforts, and figure out a revenue sharing model?

oh, and gen, to your point... people don't self-identify. but they do self-aspirate. folks aspire to the chic exec. or aspire back to their college days. or the suburbanite who wants a bit of the urban hipster. it's that aspirational qualities that make magazine media work so well...

Anil

"they do self-aspirate"

'round here, we call that "breathing".

michael

and aren't you the clever one, mr. dash. (if they're breathing, they're aspiring.)

shoop

*cough* Epinions *cough* attempted a lot of what you are suggesting, msippey.

Matt Haughey

*cough* Epinions *cough* attempted a lot of what you are suggesting

Yeah, and I've made (checks account...) $2.47 in the past three years that my highly respected reviews have been on the site.

Woo! It's on me, I'm buying newspapers for everyone here!

Brian

Google Adsense is great and all, but won't a site make more money off banner ads?

I'm guessing Denton's thing was providing a one-stop ad buy service, and by having a staff dedicated to taking care of the advertisers and business development he has a very scalable model. As he adds each new blog he only has to add a fraction of a sales person, and it's through that sort of growth that he's going to make any real money.

It's great that Pete is starting his own blog, but he's going to have to do all the grunt work himself.

michael

ok -- an attempt to shift the discussion a bit. assume that making any money on a web-based publication is really hard work, unless you're at massive scale.

so -- what would gizmodo the service look like? and how would the web publication support that service?

M.Kelley

AdSense will only make some sites money, but why not use the affliate programs with eBay or other sites, to make money I'm making about a nickel to a quarter a click on my banners and that's about what the google ads cover as well. I'm working the "offline" channels now, trying to get banner advertising sold to companies, to provide more targeted banners.

You can't limit yourself to one ad format.

shoop

Matt, Epinions didn't exactly work out for the majority of the content providers (writers), but it was a platform for aggregating user-contributed, focused, category specific (vertical market) content in an ad supported environment. They had distribution/feeds (XML-RDF), co-branding deals, affiliate sites, etc. And they did flirt with the channel/lifestyle angle, but only in holiday or marketing promotions (what to buy the road warrior for xmas, etc.). But that is neither here nor there. Sorry you only made a few bucks. Some folks made thousands.

Re: Gizmodo
Did all the readers relate to Peter or did they just appreciate his (almost) transparent aggregation of interesting gadgets? Will they follow him to engadget because they "like" him or because engadget will (attempt to) provide consistently more content per/hour (day/week) than gizmodo? If it is the latter, than scale eventually becomes the issue. The single writer/editor/blogger doesn't scale, but if you get too many writers you lose editorial consistency, and the user's trust that a site earns through its consistency (time-based and content based).

But, the central issue is capitalizing on the aggregation. I like Michael's idea of a sort of "kick back" system of publishers, aggregators and advertisers, but this doesn't seem practical since the content publishers don't need the aggregators as much as the aggregators need the content to "push" or "pump." (though a variation on the theme sort of works with Pricewatch.com, though there is no content involved, just product aggregation/placement.)

Couldn't you theoretically have a sizeable group of aggregators who would feed links into a central system where a handful of lifestyle editors select "demographically" appropriate posts to display on their "lifestyle specific" blog? Isn't this what happens already, albeit in a somewhat unprofitable and inconsistent manner as people post things they found on Gizmodo and add their own editorial touches? I guess I'm talking about a sort of vertical blog network where the profits are divided amongst the linkers and the editors and calculated based on the click-through rates of the links and the ad share revenue for that day. For example, if John submits 5 of the 10 links that get posted for a specific day, then he would get 50% of the ad revenue share (split between editor and linker at some agreed percentage) for that day, less some sort of percentage for "allowing" him the opportunity to submit links (which ensures that he doesn't spam the database with links to non-specific things. If a "linker" found that he was having more success with Editor C than Editor A, he could focus more on Editor C's "lifestyle" category to increase his daily take or he could try and find a balance whereby his links got posted on several lifestyle blogs, thereby increasing his ad share.

I dunno. Maybe I am over complicating things.

Personally, I like the idea of Salon-like day pass scenario coupled with ex situ vertical specific lifestyle targeted advertising.

Nick Denton

This is a really interesting discussion, so I'm going to weigh in here. Michael's advice is absolutely spot-on. Coverage of gadgets needs to be about the user, not the producer. It's all too easy, in any specialist publication, online or offline, for writers to take on the mindset of the marketers writing the press releases. Most readers don't really give a fuck whether the latest handheld has 256MB of RAM -- just let it be fast enough, and look cool.

As for business models, frankly, there isn't one, not yet. It's fun to stir up a bit of trouble, with Fleshbot or Wonkette, for instance. But neither does much more than cover costs. The Gawker sites are an indulgence, not a business. There's probably money to be made being nice to advertisers, and building up a mailing list for sponsored email, as Daily Candy has shown. But Gawker-like sites are too edgy to be appealing to mainstream publishers. Troublemaking, or financial reward: in media, it's usually one or the other.

By the way, the new team's starting today on Gizmodo. Joel Johnson, who ran nycgamer.net. And Brendan Koerner -- of Wired and the Village Voice -- is doing a star turn from Friday. Having seen how a blogger becomes a mainstream journalist -- Elizabeth Spiers, formerly of Gawker, has sharpened the front of New York Magazine -- it will be interesting to see how someone like Brendan adjusts to the blogging medium. I've given the new editorial team this URL, so they can steal all your ideas.

Jon Gales

Re: Brian and M.Kelley

Depending on the topic, AdSense can really bring in the bucks. Ask Matt how he does with PVR Blog. A gadget site is great for targeted text ads because there are a lot of advertisers.

I make a surprising amount of cashflow from MobileTracker, and it only has a fraction of the traffic of Gizmodo.

I have a very hard time believing that Gizmodo/Gawker/Fleshbot aren't making more than they cost.

Morgan

Sure it'd be easy to slap up a site and toss feeds up there for the profit... but then why are so few people doing it?

Fact is, it isn't all that easy to maintain, and certainly not without a single stake-holding editor. Streettech.com and similar sites try hard to build a community of writers, but even then they struggle to keep up with the content flow of Rojas - even when he was working on Gizmodo "part time." A reader knows when the writer is invested in their reporting.

The key selling feature for any of these aggregate sites (and yes I'll concede they are all ultimately a round up of readily available feeds) isn't the links or the products they showcase, its the way they present the products.

My favorite meta-news sites openly express their opinions, give thoughts, and sniff out the bullshit for the readers prior to posting. If I wanted straight news I'd crawl slowly through the feeds myself. If I wanted rhetoric, I'd turn on Fox News. I enjoy the fact that prejudices are openly acknowledged by many online journalists, it helps me get a bearing on where I stand in relation. Rojas and his kin aren't pitching products, they simply present them with a few quick words of warning, and let us make our own impressions.

Deton and other's seeking ad revenue need to take this into consideration most of all. Nothing makes a reader more nervous about a post than seeing an ad for the same gear at the top of the page.

AJ

I agree that the wrong ad can make a reader 'nervous' about the publisher's intentions, but I think that most readers can tell if you're playing it safe for your sponsors, or really giving them some meat. I've found (as a reader and publisher) that if you give them a good read, whatever side your politics/product loyalties fall, they'll keep coming back. As for profit and such, I suspect the blog game is one where those willing to find rough it for a while, and find creative ways to monetize their sites will ultimately benefit. There are some interesting blog models out there, right now we're giving our venture a try and so far we're doing pretty good.

hugh macleod

I'm guessing the point of Gawker Media is not to make money, but to create a "Nick Denton Brand" which Nick can leverage further down the road on bigger, more lucrative projects.

It's easier to get people to do what you want if they've heard of you. My guess is Nick's got something up his sleeve and he's not telling.

Small hip, indie publications usually don't make money, but they do get you invited to parties. And New York is all about these litttle invites.

That's my guess, anyway.

henry

With all the talk of blog empires, it's worth remembering that bloggers like DailyKos, Instapundit, Atrios, Talkingpoints and others are each netting far more, individually, than the blog empires... or even the average journalist. Bloggers are the most empowered, motivated, brilliant group of people in media history. How can any corporate publisher, whether Calacanis, NYT or AOL, beat the blogosphere as a network for sharing readers and advertisers?

JasonCalacanis

There is a very simple reason Nick Denton is not making money off of his blogs right now: he is not really trying. As Nick and I have discussed there are ways to make money off blogs, but Nick isn't doing this for short term money. Nick is doing this to build brands that will be a) sellable or b) licensable (a subsection of sellable of course).

This is, of course, a brilliant strategy for Nick. In another year or two he will have 100,000 people a day coming to his various blogs, maybe 250,000. Someone will buy his sites for $1 - 5m and he will look really smart for not worrying about making short term money.

Now, as for us at WIN (The Weblogs, Inc. Network) we are going to try to make money now and make money down the road.

The bottom line is that bloggers like Peter Rojas are one in a thousand. Nick has an eye for talent and letting the talent grow without getting in their way. This is Nick's best skill.

Of course making talent and keeping talent are two different things. I think Nick Denton will become the Saturday Night Live of blogging: he will find and nurture talent for people link me (not to mention established players like New York Magazine). Nick is fine with this from what he's told me. He is going to own 100% of his brands and have new editors every six to 12 months. Good idea on his part.

Anyway, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Nick and I will both be at Tavern at the Green in a couple of years trading war stories.

Heck, don't be surprised if you see Nick and I partner on a blog at some point.

Jon Gales

Jason, you are right that Nick's not trying. What gets me is he acts like there isn't a way to make money even if he tries. That's just wrong. Why not make money now (even just to pay your editors a decent wage) and then sell later on. You'll have an even higher selling price if the revenues look nice.

greg.org

Tavern on the Green? Sheesh, I hope that's not the endgame.

There seems to be a lot of conflation here in re moneymaking: money for making content (writers and editors getting paid) vs advertising, sponsorship, and affiliate revenues. Prioritization and pursuit of these revenue streams will vary for any given weblog(ger); it depends on whether you're trying to be the next Conan O'Brien, the next Vernon Jordan, or the next S.I. Newhouse.

I've always assumed Nick was going for S.I.'s spot.

Will

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned RedEnvelope yet. They organize products by recipient (Teens) and occasion (Easter), as well as type (Jewelry). Perhaps Gizmodo could use a similar approach? It's not too difficult to implement with Movable Type and users might appreciate the ability to view news by lifestyle (Urban Hipster) or product type (PDAs).

The difficult part is placing the news and generating additional user-specific commentary. Categorizing a product as a PDA or camera is one thing, but the lines blur when you're trying to decide whether it appeals to a college student, a teenager, or both. And how many of those categories do you create, anyway? Seems like you could nitpick about how to pigeonhole people ad infinitum. Once you've placed the product, you'd also have to position the product for the lifestyle. The copy should probably be different for each target audience if you really want to add value.

No Name Joe

Maybe Nick doesn't want others to know he can make money. Similar to how Steve Jobs says there's no money to be made selling music (the $ is in the iPod). What's in it for Nick to brag about how much $ he's making?

Bryan C

The lifestyle/user direction seems very hard to do right. I'm a middle-class male, I don't live in a city, I'm not a soccer-anything, and I've been out of school for years. There are lots and lots of people like me, but somehow I never see myself or anyone I know reflected in those sorts of sites or publications. The writing usually goes all fluffy soon thereafter, forcing the readers to turn to other sources to actually find the real information they want to know before they spend their money.

Jon Gales

Steve Jobs claiming there isn't money in selling a song for 99 cents is a lot more believable than Nick's claim that porn doesn't make money. Think of the tech behind the iTunes music store. Credit card companies take a good chunk of the 99 cents ($.30 transaction fees...). Record companies a good bit. And then Apple's keep gets to pay for the staff and marketing.

Nick uses MovableType and low-paid employees. But still claims he can't even hire a designer (yet he hired 37 Signals?).

Noel D. Jackson

"Nick uses MovableType and low-paid employees. But still claims he can't even hire a designer (yet he hired 37 Signals?)."

laughs. how right you are.

Torsten Jacobi

I have to agree with Jason. Weblogs offer a new and mostly very satisfying reading experience. If commercial weblog will have the potential Jason, Nick and I are thinking has to be proven. There is a reason start-up companies are called ventures...

There is the risky way of establishing a blog brand and sell it later on to an established player Nick is following. More promising in my eyes is to provide substantial revenues from the beginning through affiliates and targeted advertising. We at Creative Weblogging http://www.creative-weblogging.com have chosen to pursue this way with more than 11 weblogs so far. I guess any brand value comes or does not come naturally. It's no risk to add revenues from the beginning :-)

To increase the competition and to offer you another choice between the Engadget and Gizmodo try our new http://www.gadgets-weblog.com and it will give you another personal perspective.

Peter Caputa IV

question for jacobi, calacanis, denton and rojas:

I have some thoughts past selling adverting for generating incremental revenue on gadget blogs.

- as mentioned b4, email marketing and promotions are two ad tools that are not being explored by the "profit driven weblog companies."
- event and conference organization and promotion (the ziff-davis model)
- localized event promotion (for a gadget weblog, promote a madden tournament at the local arcade)
- consulting to companies at the product design stage.
- you must get free gadgets to play with from manufacturers in hopes that you'll write about it...resell these on ebay.

To monetize a blog, it seems that we have to get past the simple textad/banner ad advertising model. What do people think of these things as possible revenue streams?

Torsten Jacobi

Peter,

interesting thoughts!

1-4 are viable options, however they only make sense if you reach a certain size. AlwaysOn made a good business out of their publicity in the Valley. But I guess we will see some of these additional revenue streams being discovered soon.

Point 5 is certainly a good one, alas you often only get these nice gadgets for rent or in a limited version.

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