: Not that you could/should/would possibly care, but in case you have no life, I’ll join in the rather self-aware blog trend of posting the Q&A with the New York Times reporter who wrote the Nick Denton story today. Click on “more.”
(Then again, I shouldn’t make fun.)
SORKIN: What do you make of Nick and his mini-empire? (I’d also love to hear a bit about how you met him and your original interest in Moreover.)
JARVIS: I discovered Moreover online and, in those heady Internet days, begged for my company to invest. (It’s an Internet investment that is working, by the way).
When I first met Nick, he showed me this amazing new thing he called blogging. I frankly had no idea what he was showing me; only later did I understand the significance of this: Tying history’s easiest, cheapest publishing tool to history’s best distribution network, the Internet, would have tremendous impact on media. Nick had the vision to see that. It took me a little longer.
Nick then had the good sense to turn blogging into a business, not another bubble. He recognized that what sets weblogging apart from other media is only how incredibly inexpensive it is. With no production costs, no presses, no trucks, and no physical distribution — not to mention, no editors — it means that you can create a new content business with next to no investment and with such low cost that you can turn a profit far more easily and quickly.
I created Entertainment Weekly and it took Time Inc. years and $200 million to turn a profit. Nick made Gawker and Gizmodo profitable in months with an investment in the thousands. Granted, EW is now a $300-million-a-year business and Gawker Media is a thousands-a-month business. But the risk is lower and the profit is quicker in weblogs.
Nick is fond of saying that a weblog throws off the cash flow of a lemonade stand.
I put it this way: Once he has a couple of dozen weblogs, he will have the equivalent of a Burger King franchise. He won’t have an IPO. But he will have a business.
SORKIN: Do you think that blogs – broadly speaking – can ever become commercially viable businesses with acceptable returns for investors, etc.? Or are they just hobbies?
JARVIS: Weblogs are hobbies for some and businesses for others. What makes them work as a medium is that so many people care so passionately about publishing — about finally having a voice, a medium, and an audience — that they do it for free; it is their labor of love. That attracts the critical mass of audience and buzz that makes this new medium work; that is the proof of concept. Then some can come along and create businesses. If they keep those businesses and their ambitions small, they absolutely can succeed. And the definition of business success is simple once again: It’s profitability.
When you think about it, this is the first time in modern history that individuals can be media entrepreneurs without tremendous financial backing. One person can start a media property and bring it to success without huge investment and without big backers.
Or to look at it another way: Rosie might work as a blog, not a magazine. And Rosie the blog would not have cost hundreds of millions of dollars (let alone tens of millions of dollars of legal fees).
Will weblogs give acceptable returns to investors? Well, probably not — because weblogs won’t need investors.
SORKIN: What is your take on Nick and other bloggers reliance on Google and Overture to drive whatever advertising revenue they do receive? Is this going to be a sustainable form of revenue? Do you think Google and Overture will try to take a bigger slice of the cake?
JARVIS: Weblogs are a tremendous vehicle for targeting. Now, Google and Overture are able to take advantage of that — and weblogs are finally able to get some revenue from them. But I believe that mainstream advertisers and agencies will discover this soon enough and then Google and Overture will no longer be the only games in town. This may require weblogs to join up in advertising networks; that will come when there are more weblogs with more audience; now, weblogs are still too small for the big advertisers to notice (at first, the same was said of the Internet). But we do know weblogs are effective marketing and targeting vehicles; Nick is producing for his advertisers — and that includes not just Google but also Absolut; I’ve sold magazine subscriptions on my personal blog; political candidates and causes are now advertising on various weblogs via Blogads.com. Blog advertising will grow as weblogs grow.
SORKIN: About Fleshbot: Do you think this will work? (Define “work” however you want.) Is the mix right? Will it be acceptable to read at the office? Or is it still too dirty? And, of course, is porn still cool?
JARVIS: My answer to all your questions on Fleshbot: I’m not sure. I thought Fleshbot was a good idea. But only time will tell whether it wears well. It’s certainly not work safe. Even so, the traffic in the first days has been huge by weblog standards.
SORKIN: Gawker called itself “over” because of all the exposure. Is it still cool?
JARVIS: Gawker calling itself “over” was the ultimate Gawker conceit. And it was really just an extension of Nick’s philosophy on promotion: He wants his weblogs to be discovered and abhors excessive promotion. So when New York Magazine slathered all over Gawker, his only antidote was to militantly demure.
SORKIN: Nick is planning to start a half-dozen more blogs next year. What do you think about the public’s appetite for more blogs? Are we in the beginning phase or the beginning of the end?
JARVIS: We are witnessing the never-ending nichefication of media in America. It started with the remote control; it grew more nichefied with cable and the VCR; it exploded in a media big bang with the Internet. Every niche can create its media; every niche can find its media. The audience now creates media; that is the real significance of weblogs. That is the future. The mass market was a short-lived phenomenon of the last century.
So I believe we will see no end of new niches and no end of new weblogs. Nick will be able to create a company with a couple of dozen similarly targeted weblog businesses. And there will be other businesses using weblogs to target different groups.