Zero Sum Game

The “Blogging for Dolars” cover story in Business 2.0 offers tidbits of information on pay-per-click and banner (CPM) advertising rates, but somehow the math doesn’t add up in a piece that dwells on a handful of stars in a breathless, “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” tone suggesting that you, too, might grab blogging’s brass ring if only …

But while that is what we might like to know, it is a formula no article can disclose because — as this piece suggests — success in this new realm comes in ways that are paradoxically predictible and unpredictible at the same time. For instance the article features John Battelle, whose accomplishments and contacts make him an odds-on favorite to succeed in the blogosphere.

At the opposite end is Fark.com, which the piece calls “a collection of reader-submitted links to amusing videos, jokes, and curiosities from all over the Web.” It is described as “incredibly cost-efficient” because readers post links to amusing stuff; because that material is hosted elsewhere, which means lower traffic-hosting costs; and because its payroll consists only of founder, Drew Curtis, and two contract (as in no benefits?) staffers. Curtis told the magazine he expects Fark, with 40 million page views a month, to “soon log monthly ad sales of $600,000 to $800,000″ and Battelle is paraphrased as predicting that Fark will become “the first indie blog to earn a million dollars a year in profit.” I’m left scratching my head. Given the foregoing stats, why is Fark not already there. Are there only two months in the year? Are those two contracts raping poor Curtis? Or are the bandwidth costs astronomical? The math doesn’t seem to jibe with the optimism.

Easier for me to grasp is the anecdote about “journalist Mark Frauenfelder (who) founded Boing Boing, then a paper-based cyberpunk zine, in 1988 and took it online in 1995.” Today it has 325,000 daily visitors. Awesome! Hard work, over many years. That is news we all can use.

Some other points to note. At one point the piece cites “Web ad agency Organic (which) puts ad spending on blogs at $40 million this year.” Elsewhere it says “blogs, they’ve exploded: There are 50 million of them, and two new ones are launched every second.” That all falls under the heading of “don’t quit the day job.”

And that’s of course good advice for the average blogger who is neither connected nor posessed of whatever mad genius propels a handful of those 50 million to sudden fame. But don’t let me discourage you. My words may be tinted green. Because in this “Attention Economy.,” when getting noticed has become the coin of the realm, surely envy is poised to gain market share among the seven cardinal sins.