Running Ezra Klein’s numbers

You may or may not know about the Ezra Klein leaving the Washington Post story.

Long story short, Ezra’s one of the few that made it from blogging into the mainstream media (a group that includes Guido, Megan McArdle, Matt Yglesias perhaps Amanda whatsit and, to a lesser extent, me). And he wants to expand the site he’s created for the Washington Post and when they said no, he’s trying to go it alone.

But here’s the thing:

According to Politico’s Byers, Wonkblog gets more than four million page views a month. Traditionally, the Post’s site has been free: its main source of revenue is advertising. To be on the safe side, let’s say that it gets five million page views a month, and its over-all revenue per thousand pages viewed is twenty dollars—a number that is broadly in line with those of other successful Web sites.

That doesn’t, I’m afraid, really add up. My December numbers for Forbes (that is, just me alone) were just under half that number. Not the revenues, I don’t know what they were, but the traffic. Which means that I’m astonished that Wonkblog’s traffic is so low. Can’t see that they can make that work to be honest.

15 comments on “Running Ezra Klein’s numbers

  1. This sort of thing is why I don’t like ad supported models, generally. In the traditional producer/consumer model, the viability of a service is based on whether it has value to its consumer. In the AS model, it is based on whether the consumers to whom it has value themselves have value to an advertiser. So it breaks the producer/consumer relationship that drives the market.

    Down with this sort of thing.

  2. Should include Oliver Kamm on that list. He went from writing a blog to being on The Times editorial team in pretty short order, and I think it was probably on merit rather than family connections.

  3. Ian B, I think it was PJ O’Rourke who said that when something is free, the person using it isn’t the customer, they’re the stock.

    In an ad supported model, the advertiser is the customer who is supplied with prospects (the stock). What the advertiser wants will ultimately prevail. The producer needs to attract readers/viewers of the right kind and sufficient numbers, but only to keep the advertisers happy.

    There are plenty who have gotten rich doing this, online and elsewhere (free to air TV etc), so it must work at least sometimes.

  4. “There are plenty who have gotten rich doing this, online and elsewhere (free to air TV etc), so it must work at least sometimes.”

    Pretty much all of your traditional media – newspapers, magazines, TV – has ultimately been ad supported, no? The subscription fees for printed media have never really made any money for the publishers, they just covered the cost of distribution.

    Except for the BBC, of course. 🙂

  5. Ian B,

    This sort of thing is why I don’t like ad supported models, generally. In the traditional producer/consumer model, the viability of a service is based on whether it has value to its consumer. In the AS model, it is based on whether the consumers to whom it has value themselves have value to an advertiser. So it breaks the producer/consumer relationship that drives the market.

    Arguably, the Google Adwords AS model is less ad/content linked than what it is with newspapers and magazines as the supplier doesn’t know the ad to be produced. There’s lots of stories about the links between how many fashion features a label will get and how much they spend on ads in a fashion magazine (which are quite expensive anyway), the ways that video game publishers corrupt video game reviews.

    Which is why so much newspaper coverage online is linkbait. “Free” content means that writing a film review that is deliberately contrarian will get more hits than some intelligent film reviews, and that’s something that rarely happened with paid content (some movies have acquired a “so bad it’s good” audience, but they still lost money).

  6. What is most interesting in all this is how Jeff Bezos handled it… and his actions alone seem to confirm that Wonkblog’s numbers really aren’t that great. What did Bezos do?

    Nothing.

    After Klein pitched his project, Bezos sat on his hands. He didn’t make any sort of counter-offer to keep Klein in the fold. Bottom line: Bezos didn’t care whether Klein stayed or went. Given that Bezos seems to intent on making the Post a viable, money-making business, it appears that he understands that Klein’s value/brand doesn’t extend much beyond Washington D.C. or the chattering classes.

    I think Klein is going to have to learn the limits of the political-journalism-as-revenue-producer model the hard way.

  7. maguro,

    Except for the BBC, of course.

    Some of the most popular shows on the BBC are part adverts. Strictly Come Dancing is marketing for the celebs that appear for free, who then get appearance work and promotes the badly-paid dancers to celebrities who can sell dance fitness DVDs. Cookery shows are free TV that works as ads for the books they sell on the back. Chat shows are ads for the products people are flogging. Kids shows are heavily funded by merchandise. When an artist plays a “free” show for BBC radio, there’s always a huge amount of airplay for their latest album. When selecting a Dorothy/Maria, what’s that but an ad for a Lloyd-Webber production?

  8. Ezra Klein’s “The depressing psychological theory that explains
    Washington ” was first rate ,as was Dylan Matthews reworking of the Jesse Myerson Rolling Stone piece that preceded it.
    The whole episode capped by Klein’s article says a great deal about modern politics and not just in the US.

  9. Ian B

    Yes, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard really did engage in some fuckwittery today; I’m disappointed.

    Back on subject: if Arnald blogged from behind a paywall, I would pay. No really, I would!

  10. Ezra Klein’s success had always surprised me. He has no skills, no experience, and little of interest to say. He still managed to co-ordinate his pro-Obama Minions in the Journolist thing.

    He is the Adam Sandler of the commentary world – someone whose success is utterly inexplicable given his personality, charm and appeal. We will see if he can survive on his own. I expect not.

  11. @mw
    Right about Montgomerie. Neil Clark is moving into the mainstream (at least he spends so much time with RT that he has somewhat neglected his blog , once voted the best around, so lopping the left-wing end off the available spectrum)

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