Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Guido should put his money where his mouth is

Most blogs don't make much or any money. I have been running this blog since 2008 and I literally have not made a penny from it. I did have Google Adsense on it for a while and built up a bit of a balance but there is a minimum threshold before they pay out and I never reached it. I also had MessageSpace on here (much to the annoyance of some of my fellow blogging Lib Dems) but again I never actually earned any money from it as I only had it on for a short time and never reached the minimum threshold there either.

A few of the bigger blogs do actually make money. I know that Iain Dale used to when he was a solo artist although I don't think it was enough to cover a full time salary for him. Some of the bigger group blogs such as Lib Dem Voice, LabourList, Conservative Home etc. bring in money too to contribute to running costs.

But the fact remains that well over 99% of online blog content makes no appreciable money. Even the really good quality stuff is usually being produced by people in their spare time for free.

One of the exceptions to this rule is Order Order (the Guido Fawkes blog). My understanding is that the running of the blog and related activities are doing well enough to provide for both Paul Staines and Harry Cole to make researching and writing for it a pretty much full time occupation. I suspect media and other appearances and their recent coup of getting a column in The Star help too but it is all built on the foundation of being one of the most popular and notorious blogs in the country. Indeed Paul and Harry have been kind enough to link to some of my work in the past and I know from my stats that those days are always very busy, reflecting the high level of traffic they get.

But something that I keep seeing in articles on Order Order is jibes at group blogs like HuffPo UK, CiF and others for not paying for contributions. Here is an extract from a post yesterday:

..the HuffSlo Arianna model of slave-journalism is already mirrored over at Comment is Free (of charge). So many wannabees crave having Guardian bylines that they will write for free. Which is just as well, because that is probably the only way the Guardian is going to avoid bankruptcy.

Guido is right. Writers do want a wider audience and writing for respected online brands can enhance reputation and lead to other things. I also agree that it would be good if contributors could be paid for their efforts. I write for Dale & Co and Iain has always promised from the start that if the group blog ever becomes profitable he would share the proceed with the contributors. The fact is though that it is very difficult to monetise a blog.

If Guido is really concerned about writers being exploited online though he is one of the very few people in a position to actually do something about it. He could publish guest articles from writers and pay them for their work. But as far as I know he does not do this.

I think that is a shame as he could put his money with his mouth is. Then his attacks on other blogs that do not do this might have a bit more bite.


Guido Fawkes said...

Of course I have already paid others to write for the blog, who I thought fitted and were in keeping with the tone of the blog. The Guido alumni - there have only been four - have gone on to work respectively for a cabinet minister, ConservativeHome, CityAm and the Indy. Harry of course is now the unchallenged reigning playboy of the blogosphere.

I don't hire people who are ideologically out of tune, we're going to hire someone this summer as a fairly paid intern, I hope they will be good enough to hire permanently. We write tight accessible copy with an agenda and impact.

I don't want guest writers of variable quality who piss off the readers. Tried it once and it didn't work.

The focus on the commercial viability is what has made Guido self sustaining and independent.

Mark Thompson said...

@Guido - Thanks for the response.

I wasn't aware that you had a list of former contributors but fair play.

However I think the end part of your comment essentially makes my point for me. You say you don't want lots of guest writers and it would not work for your model. That's fine but you then go out of your way to slag off other sites that do try and provide a platform for a wide range of different writers because they don't pay them even though by implication you are yourself acknowledging that this would be a very difficult thing to commercialise.