Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Surviving as a Blogger

John Gruber of Daring Fireball is asking for your money. Not out of greed, but because he wants to take his blog to the next level. A financial level.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball is asking for your money. Not out of greed, but because he wants to take his blog to the next level. A financial level, that is.

The move strikes a cord that resonates with every blog writer out there. We’ve all thought about ways to financially support our sites through tasteful means. Some sites — graphicPUSH included — have AdSense banners to help defer hosting costs. Some have a few affiliate programs, like Amazon. Some “blogs” exist solely as link-whoring PageRank pits and affiliate marketing portals. I would be curious to know if anyone at any of these levels is making any money.

Nick Denton, principal of Gawker Media, is trying to build an empire out of blogs. In a recent Wired article, he admits to paying a dedicated writer $1,500 a month for each blog, and while he brings in about $5,000 a month for sites like Wonkette, Gizmodo and Fleshbot, the umbrella company is still bleeding cash.

Right now, there is no money in blogs (*cough*). Not through advertising, which is at record highs right now, and especially not through subscription models. (Even is barely scraping by, and they have 74,000 subscribers and 3 million non-paying visitors a month.)

I think John is making two critical mistakes. First, Daring Fireball focuses on Apple. Only the most hardcore Mac devotees care enough to sift through his exceptionally long diatribes like the Omniweb review. The independent browser is a fine application to talk about, but nine pages are excessive for any piece of software. Most would find it less than thrilling bathroom reading.

Interviews could be interesting, but the people he is talking to are not worth 14 pages. They are not Madonna or Steve Jobs. Perhaps it would be wiser to spend less time writing nine consecutive posts about the same Mac security exploit and go find more engaging people to interview. (Yeah he may be an authority on Mac security exploits, but … nine posts in a row?)

Unlike the Gawker Media sites, who are blogging the shit out of the Three Big P’s (pop culture, politics and porn) and getting visited by everyone from magazine editors in New York to politicians in Washington to the turtleneck-wearing Starbucks troupe, his demographic is so narrow that to expect to make a living out of the generosity of his readers is bordering on delusional.

Which is the second critical mistake: begging for money without something significant to offer. It’s nice to pretend that the Mac/blog community will support Daring Fireball, but in the real world, people want a return on their money. We want value. We want exclusive content, free downloads, unlimited access, whatever. Simply asking for cash is not going to cut it.

You could make the argument that PBS and public radio have survived for generations by asking for donations, without exclusive content. But the similarities end there.

John states, “I don’t think there’s anything else quite like Daring Fireball.” That may be true, from both a presentational standpoint and from his unique (and excellent) writing. But remember Critical Mistake #1. On the internet, there are hundreds of sites that exist solely out of Mac idolatry. By comparison, PBS is the only channel that has Fawlty Towers marathons, live classical music concerts and bizarre reality shows like that one where people pretend to live in the 18th century.

Daring Fireball is an excellent site, and if it had a commenting system, I would post this there. I visit about twice a month, and I subscribe to the feed. I wish John the best of luck in moving forward — perhaps he can succeed where so many others have failed. To me, it just feels like dotcom wishful thinking all over again.

Anyway, back to your regular graphicPUSH.

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commentary + criticism


wrote the following on Thursday December 30, 2004

Interesting Article. btw, Fawlty Towers is Hilarious!