Printing Money

The idea that one could earn a living through blogging, especially considering the relative infancy of the computing industry as a whole and the internet in particular, fascinates me. Twenty years ago, such an occupation did not exist; today, websites like The Loop, Marco.org, and Daring Fireball attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each month, generating a steady and respectable cash flow for their respective authors Jim Dalrymple, Marco Arment, and John Gruber. When I started writing this article five months ago, before it fell through the cracks and was lost until just recently, The Loop attracted an average of 400,000 visitors every month and claimed an audience of more than 17,000 Twitter followers. Today, those numbers have jumped up to an average monthly audience of 1,230,000 and a Twitter following just shy of 31,000 between The Loop’s own account and Jim Dalrymple’s. As for Marco.org, five months ago the site engaged an audience of around 500,000 every month and a mere 1,500 people followed the associated Twitter account, whereas today the two mediums have increased to 600,000 and just over 5,500, respectively. Daring Fireball, impressively, boasted an amazing mean of 4,000,000 pageviews each month, which has increased to somewhere between four and five million since then, and a Twitter following of 43,500, up to 55,000 in recent months.

Before continuing I would like to make something very, very clear: my intent in presenting these numbers is not to glorify one site while degrading another or to in any way poke fun at a particular blog, but simply to make known the extremely impressive audiences these sites lay claim to in order to lend credence to this next batch of numbers dealing with the revenue of each blog.

The Loop, Marco.org, and Daring Fireball all achieve profitability through sponsored blog posts and ads via The Deck, a service I will touch on later. The sponsored blog posts run for six or seven days and sell for $1,500 on The Loop, up from $1,000; $2,400 at Marco.org; and a whopping $8,500 on Daring Fireball, up from $7,500 five months ago, and $6,500 before then. As of this writing, each site has no more than three open spots up to mid to late July and early August. On The Loop, for each sponsor Jim Dalrymple makes two blog posts, places an item in the sidebar, and posts two tweets — one at the beginning of the week, and one at the end. Similarly, John Gruber posts twice thanking the week’s sponsor, once as an actual post and again as a Linked List item. Finally Marco, who previously did not make sponsored posts and only generated revenue through his site from The Deck, thanks each sponsor once during the week in a post syndicated across the site, the RSS feed, and the Marco.org twitter account.

As previously mentioned, all three blogs also make use of a service called The Deck. During my research of The Deck in preparation for this post, I found a number of aspects of this ad network intriguing. Of these aspects, the one I found most notable deals with selection of sponsors: rather than allowing any site or service to run an ad on The Deck, Jim Coudal, the site’s owner, must have used and, if applicable, paid for the site or service in question. Not only that though, he must also like the service. Though the analysis and discussion of such a business model could — and may, in fact, at some point in time — become an article of its own, a brief overview of its effects must suffice for now. By limiting the number of sponsors featured through The Deck, Jim Coudal has cultivated a strong brand association with his network. As Horace Dediu discussed in an early episode of The Critical Path, in order to succeed a company must affiliate itself with a positive idea. In The Deck’s case, the affiliation conveys quality and craftsmanship, ensuring anyone viewing an ad accompanied by the disclaimer “Ads via The Deck” that the product in question excels at its purpose.

As for The Deck’s revenue model, week-long ad campaigns sell for $8,900 and guarantee in the ballpark of 765,000 impressions over the span of the ad. Alternately, advertisers can also purchase a “roadblock” which, in exchange for $8,900 per day, guarantees that every ad appearing on The Deck’s fifty-two sites comes from a single source. Based on last month’s numbers, that equates to roughly 3,642,000 impressions. Unfortunately, these are the only publicly-available figures for The Deck; no one but those already a part of the network know just how much revenue The Deck brings to the sites its ads appear on. Even with only the few figures available on The Deck’s site and the few others we can derive with a bit of math, The Deck is still a very interesting initiative and will likely be the topic of a future post.

Through these two revenue models John Gruber and Jim Dalrymple both make a living, and Marco Arment uses this additional source to supplement his diverse income stream. Regardless of what purpose it serves though, each site inarguably generates an impressive amount of money every single month, proving that there is, after all, money to be made blogging.



A little bit about this article

I chose to write about the blogs of Jim Dalrymple, Marco Arment, and John Gruber for one simple reason: each of the aforementioned bloggers either currently co-hosts or at one point in time co-hosted a podcast on the 5by5 network, of which I am a huge fan.

Although I initially intended to also discuss podcast sponsorships, I decided that the business models of these two mediums was too different to discuss in the same post, and so I left that topic for a future article.