According to the Economist, the answer is yes. As it notes, the blogads model only contributes minorly towards costs rather than generates income. The money making blogs in the States it mentions have signed up to the more targeted kind of ad service that MessageSpace offers. One blogger they talked to was Om Malik:
One big reason why his blog works as a small business, says Mr Malik, is that an ecosystem of support is appearing. Like Ms Armstrong, he farms out advertising sales and administration to a firm called FM, launched last year by John Battelle, who once ran magazines such as Wired and the Industry Standard. In his old business of magazines, says Mr Battelle, the cost of acquiring an audience was “stupendous”—at Wired it was about $100 per subscriber. The cost of building a readership for a blog, by contrast, is nil.
Well not quite nil: “It’s not easy,” he says. Building his audience has “taken me five years, and a lot of sleepless nights.” Amen to that!
Having worked on several small magazines in a past life, working with a blog that gives you access to high quality source material and minimal production costs and offers a direct relationship with a highly intelligent audience is seriously exciting. Despite reasonably high audience figures, Slugger is still in that awkward space where the costs are rising, but the income is still minimal.
However in Message Space for the first time, I think, we have the means of leveraging serious ad income that enhances rather than detracts from the content of the blog. As Alan Moore might say: it’s about engagement, not disruption.
There is, of course, the question of whether Slugger can continue to follow its forthrightly independent line (or rather lines: as a group blog, our bloggers take their own line on events) and take ad revenue from outsiders.
Mickey Kaus raised a version of this concern recently in a diavlog with his regular verbal sparing partner Bob Wright, when he questioned the possible rise of a professional activist blogging class. The possible danger, Kaus suggests, is that the blogger becomes more interested in retaining funding streams, than sustaining the kind amateur interest in a given outcome that makes them compelling reading in the first place.
That’s a bridge we’ll have to cross if, or when, we get there.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty