As I was rebuilding my server and website yesterday, thereby demonstrating the do-it-yourselfness of online publishing, the blogger I most admire, Andrew Sullivan, announced that he’s taking his blog from The Dish away from The Daily Beast, the latest media outlet to host it, and relaunching it as an independent, ad-free site, asking readers for $19.99 a year.
Sullivan envisions this framework to be “the purest, simplest model for online journalism,” he wrote: “you, us, and a meter. Period. No corporate ownership, no advertising demands, no pressure for pageviews.” (Take that, BuzzFeed!)
First of all, I have already pre-subscribed to Sullivan’s new project. $19.99 for access to one of the leading public intellectuals of the day is a bargain.
That said, Sullivan is fooling himself, albeit nobly, if he believes what he is doing will “forge a path other smaller blogs and sites can follow.”
Sullivan has had the benefit of exposure to a national audience via his relationships with established media companies such as The Atlantic and Newsweek. To think that MyNeighborhoodBlog.com or whatever can just hang out a shingle and expect readers to pony up twenty bucks (or $10,000 as one subscriber ((or is it donor?)) gave to Sullivan yesterday) is a fantasy. Oh sure, generic local blogger might be able to pull in a few shillings, but not enough to pay the bills. Certainly not enough to work 365 days a year, as both Sullivan and myself do.
No, to be a commercially successful blogger, as I am (in fact, I think I could make an argument for being one of the most commercially successful bloggers in the country — not most widely read, just commercially successful — one must resign themselves to being, at the end of the day, an ad salesman.
That is what I am. Blogger. Reporter. Publisher. Writer. AND — and this is the important part — ad salesman.
Many of the ads you see on this site and most of those running on SaintPetersBlog during the busy seasons of the legislative session and the run-up to an election would not exist had I not forged a relationship with the advertisers. They would not exist if this site did not provide a value to said advertisers.
The political online advertising market barely existed three years ago and what there was of it was and is still dominated by two or three websites, such as the SayfieReview.com. The consulting, lobbying and public relations firms which advertise on this site were, for the most part, not advertising anywhere else before I beat a path to their doors. And it is that beating of a path which is the hardest aspect of my job.
Anyone can sit in their robe and blog. But to make it commercially successful, where it pays for the clothes and formula for your three-month old child, as SaintPetersBlog does for me, well, that’s an entirely different beast.