Gawker Bucks vs Journalists Bucks

The New York Times has a story in today’s business section about Gawker, which is trying to set up a model of advertising-supported weblogs. The article talks about a story, published on IwantMedia, which gave a little more of a view into Gawker’s financial model. Bloggers are paid $2500 a month plus bonuses, based on the site’s performance. Expectation seems to be that each site will make around $75,000 a year (that would come out to $6250 per month). With those bits of information, I decided to investigate how blogging compares to journalism as a career.

My methodology was relatively simple. I would take a sample of sites and figure out the word count for each entry, get an average word count for that day and then build several models. For each day, I would pick up the first entry posted on that day (in other words, the last one in the list of entries for that day), copy all the words for that entry in Word and use the Word Count feature in Word (which can be found under Tools) to get a word count on that entry. I would do the same for the first 12 entries, since we know from the Lockart Steele interview that the Gawker requirement is 12 entries per day. I would also count extra entries and get a different word count to see what the addition are adding.

According to Nick Denton’s site, the top three blogs in the Gawker empire (beyond the porn-oriented Fleshbot) are Gizmodo, Gawker, and Defamer. So I decided to start testing how the stories lined up in terms of word count. As a sample, I decided to use last Friday (May 6th), the most recent workday. Here’s how the three sites break down.

  Gizmodo Gawker Defamer
Story #1 161 23 86
Story #2 140 58 101
Story #3 129 127 266
Story #4 46 142 86
Story #5 111 128 170
Story #6 86 127 127
Story #7 62 38 22
Story #8 197 144 69
Story #9 168 116 277
Story #10 85 703 333
Story #11 129 66 523
Story #12 93 828 218
Number of entries 26 19 13
Entries over Quota 14 7* 1
Word Count (first 12 entries) 1407 2897 2278
Words Count (Entries over Quota) 1314 1906 101
Word Count (all entries) 2721 4803 2379
Average Word Count (first 12) 117 241 190
Average Word Count (daily total) 105 253 183
  • Word is that Gawker has two editors so I am not sure whether this represents a number of stories over quota

The first thing that I find interesting here is that the average is the 100-250 word area. As a matter of fact, if I average the three sites, I get an average of 183 words for the first 12 entries and 180 words for all entries on that day. I’m going to use these numbers to make a few calculations as to the revenue model for a blogger. For the following calculations, we will make two more assumptions: on the low end, a blogger will make $2500 per month. On the high end (based on the idea that a site will make about $75,000 per year), a blogger will make $6,250 per month. With those now established as the watermarks, let’s get closer to potential revenue numbers.

  First 12 entries All entries on May 9
Average Word Count 183 180
Average Words/Day 2196 2160
Average Words/Month 43920 43200
Word Rate at $2500/month 5.7 cents 5.8 cents
Word Rate at $6250/month 14.23 cents 14.47 cents

So there you have it, some actual revenue numbers for professional bloggers. So how does this compare with what journalists make? In order to get some comparisons, I decided to start looking at the per word rate of freelance reporters. According to the National Writers Union, mainstream publication pay an average of $1.60 per word. However, if you’re willing to move to Canada, you can write for averages between 30 cents to $2 per word for trade pubs. So, based on this, it looks like rates for bloggings are not particularly competitive. Granted, I have not looked at the quality of the work (I’m leaving that kind of subjective analysis to others) so the argument will continue but, if you’re into blogging as a career, you now have some benchmarks you can use.

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