True Fans Instead



Yesterday, MG Siegler wrote a post titled, “Content Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Drink”. In it, he talks about how there are many mainstream tech writers who put little to no thought into their reporting.

Most are stories written with little or no research done. They’re written as quickly as possible. The faster the better. Most are just rehashing information that spread by some other means. But that’s great, it means stories can be written without any burden beyond the writer having to read a little bit and type words fast. Many are written without the writer even having to think.

Siegler concludes by saying that those who do put thought and time into their work will eventually be out of a job or else be forced to start feeding the pageview machine in order to get enough advertising income to support their writing.

Federico Viticci and Matt Alexander each responded with optimistic articles stating that thoughtful writing does still and will continue to have a place online. I, too, want to add a positive take on what Siegler is talking about.

It has been nearly a year since I took this site full time, and I think it’s fair to say that shawnblanc.net is proof you do not have to feed the pageview machine to generate a full-time income from your website. Nor do you even have to be a prolific, “A-list” blogger.

Compared to prolific writers, A-listers, or team-published sites, my website receives just a modicum of traffic. I average 150,000 pageviews in a month and have a daily audience of 12,000 RSS subscribers. In the 5 years that I’ve been writing here, none of my article have hit the top of Techmeme, Hacker News, Reddit, or even Digg. I don’t have any sources inside Apple, I don’t get invited to press events, nor do I get pre-release review-units of the coolest gadgets.

And yet, here I am, writing this site as my full-time gig. How so?

It’s because I have an incredible readership. Or, in the words of Kevin Kelly, I have 1,000 true fans. Half of this site’s income is from its membership base. And since I am fortunate enough to have readers who are willing to sign up as members and directly support this site, I am not fully dependent upon advertising revenue.

This is, of course, not to say that a membership model like mine would work for every website. But it works for this one, and it’s proof that readers are willing to directly support writers who don’t post link bait.

There are enough people reading on the internet that you don’t have to be mainstream to have a substantial enough readership to support your writing.

As I wrote last summer, my business model for this site is to give current readers — you guys — a first-class site that you want to read every day. My idea of SEO is to write with passion, and my idea of link bait is to publish stuff that you guys love.

Thus, everything I write and everything I link to is for the sake of the current reader. To all the members and readers of shawnblanc.net who’ve made that possible: thank you.