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June 11, 2003
ANDREW SULLIVAN RAISED ANOTHER TEN GRAND in donations yesterday. Meanwhile, I bought a yoga strap (the deluxe $9.99 kind!) and scheduled a couple more visits with my stretching trainer. Computer-spine is on the run!
On a more serious note, I've seen a certain amount of jealousy and grousing about this around the Blogosphere (er, Sullivan's ten grand, not my yoga strap), and I'm not sure why. You can blog for the money -- in which case you should be very glad that Andrew is raising the bar, and generating a general sense that it's okay to donate. Or you can blog for fun, in which case why should you care if he's getting some bucks out of it?
I don't try to make money from this site because (1) I have a day job; (2) this is a hobby; and (3) I'm afraid that -- as with Tom Sawyer and the whitewashed fence -- this would cease to be fun if I tried to turn it into a job. I appreciate the donations to the site (which, beyond bandwidth charges, in general go for fun gadgets, software, etc.), but the return on my time is minuscule. It's like a guy with a $50,000 electric-train collection who occasionally sells one for more than he paid and says "see, I'm turning a profit!" (For me, the donations' greatest value is that they offset the hatemail. People who like your stuff enough to send money outweigh any number who send nasty emails for free.) It's different for Andrew, who's actually making a living.
Hobbyist-bloggers shouldn't care that he's making money. Journalists and would-be pro-bloggers should be ecstatic that he is. I don't see why anyone should be upset about it.
UPDATE: Roger Simon has some comments on selling his book online via the blog.
The Insta-Wife has had an interesting experience. She's pitching her documentary to TV outlets while also selling it online, which gets a revenue stream going and helps demonstrate its viability. So far she's made back over 20% of her investment via web sales, in about 6 weeks. That's not bad for a documentary (most of which, I think, don't ever make back 20% of the investment). It's also interesting -- and here's where the tie-in with Roger's post comes in -- that how it sells via the web isn't very strongly correlated with traffic. I've plugged her film here and on GlennReynolds.com (hey, it's traditional in the industry to plug the work of good looking people who sleep with you, right?), but she's gotten far more sales, from less traffic, when websites or print media that focus on people interested in violent teenagers, mental illness, etc. send people that way. A hundred pageviews by people who are seriously interested are worth more than thousands of pageviews by people whose interest is only casual.
I think that cottage industry will do very well via the web, but the missing link is still putting the interested people together with things that they're interested in. I suspect that niche-marketing publications like Gizmodo may go along way toward filling the gap.