Ben Cohen just couldn’t seem to catch a break.
It was 2015 and The Daily Banter, the political commentary site Cohen runs, kept crashing. “Bill Maher was sharing quite a bit of our stuff on Facebook,” he told me as we sat together on the rooftop of a Washington, DC office building. “And we’d get huge amounts of traffic when he’d share stuff, because it would then go viral.” The Daily Banter ran on WordPress, an open source content management system that relies on various plugins created by its developer community, and huge traffic spikes would cause the plugins to break if they weren’t maintained properly. “We were freaking out because we’re getting millions of readers on one article, and the site’s gone down, and that’s potentially thousands of dollars of ad revenue that’s disappeared. That happened several times, so we probably lost, I would say, tens of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue because the site would keep breaking.” Continue reading
Two years after Jamie Golden and Knox McCoy launched Popcast, a pop culture podcast they host once a week, they still couldn’t attract high quality advertisers despite the show’s loyal and growing audience. “We found the advertisers who were approaching us weren’t quantifying our value in any kind of tangible way,” said Golden in an interview. “And yet we had these fans who would just go to bat for us. Whatever we asked of them, they would do, and they were supportive and stayed consistent. We never saw a decrease in downloads, not one month we’ve been in existence. It’s been growth, growth, growth.”
In November 2006, Mignon Fogarty’s phone rang. She didn’t recognize the number, but rather than letting it go to voicemail, as many of us do with unknown callers, she picked up. On the other end of the line was John Sterling, the president and publisher of Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan. He’d seen a recent item in the Wall Street Journal about Grammar Girl, a hit podcast Fogarty had launched a few months prior that was already receiving nearly a hundred thousand downloads per episode. “He originally called me to talk about doing a book deal,” she told me. But she had already set her sights much higher.
Kyle Taylor knew almost nothing about blogging when, in 2010, he opened up a free Blogspot account. He just wanted a place to write about his attempts to make and save money.