Tag Archives: news

The rise of profitable, niche news sites

AdAge profiles The Toast, a “ladyblog” that became profitable within three months after launching. While news sites with large financial backing — FiveThirtyEight, Vox, First Look Media — have been receiving all the media attention lately, there have been a number of bootstrapped, independently-run news sites that have sprung up and quickly turned a profit (Gawker was an early example. The Bleacher Report another. The Awl a third). With display advertising rates tumbling, it makes sense that sites launching without the top-heavy, institutional baggage of traditional news publications are able to thrive. They have much lower overhead and so any revenue can flow pretty much directly to the writers and publishers.

[The Toast publisher Nick Pavich] last year began using vertical ad networks including LitBreaker, BookRiot and Blogads, and employed native advertising. He also brought in digital library Jstor, Warby Parker and several iPhone apps. More than 50 percent of the site’s revenue comes from display ads.

The Toast gets about 2 million clicks per month and a consistent monthly bump of about 150,000, per Quantcast. Traffic-wise, it lags a number of competitors, including Bustle andxoJane. But according to Pavich, the site performs well in metrics such as pages per visit (2.9), time spent on the site (3:14) and unique visitors (16,367).

The site’s unique positioning may be its key to long-term success.

“They have a better chance of success as a niche blog than if they were all things to all women—otherwise, there would be a lot of competition,” says Jim Lin, vp at Ketchum Digital.

Readers that come to your homepage are still way more valuable than those referred through social or search

Pew found that users who arrive at the 26 news sites studied directly spend about three times as long there as opposed to users who arrive via Facebook or a search engine. (By “directly” the study means arriving by typing in the URL or going to a bookmark — or, technically, with arriving without a referer.) Direct visitors also view about five times as many pages per month and visit a news site about three times as often as users coming from Facebook or search.

Readers who still click bookmarks are more loyal customers for news sites than Facebook flybys

Nate Silver’s criticism of traditional news

I would never have launched FiveThirtyEight in 2008, and I would not have chosen to broaden its coverage so extensively now, unless I thought there were some need for it in the marketplace. Conventional news organizations on the whole are lacking in data journalism skills, in my view. Some of this is a matter of self-selection. Students who enter college with the intent to major in journalism or communications have above-average test scores in reading and writing, but below-average scores in mathematics. Furthermore, young people with strong math skills will normally have more alternatives to journalism when they embark upon their careers and may enter other fields.4

This is problematic. The news media, as much as it’s been maligned, still plays a central a role in disseminating knowledge. More than 80 percent of American adults spend at least some time with the news each day.

What the Fox Knows