Make Useful Advertising, Make Yourself And Your Clients A Lot of Money

Journalist, turned blogging supernova, Andrew Sullivan announced this week that he will pursue a subscription-based revenue model and forgo advertising and venture capital support.


We want to create a place where readers – and readers alone – sustain the site. No bigger media companies will be subsidizing us; no venture capital will be sought to cushion our transition (unless my savings count as venture capital); and, most critically, no advertising will be getting in the way.

Sullivan managed to raise north of $400K from more than 12,000 reader in the first 48 hours of his campaign–an incredible start for sure–but it’s a strategy for established stars only. He freely acknowledges that just one percent of his readers have ponied up cash at this early juncture, so paying to read an online column is not a mainstream activity just yet.

In other paid content news, BuzzFeed raised nearly $19.3 million in new venture capital funding. The company, helmed by Huffington Post co-founder Jonah Peretti, has now raised a little more than $46 million since its founding in 2008.

Derek Thompson of The Atlantic–an astute observer of important developments in media like paid content–notes, “It is serendipitous that BuzzFeed and Sullivan’s made their announcements hours apart, because their stories belong together even if their styles are opposite.”

Regarding BuzzFeed’s blurring the lines between editorial and advertising in its search for innovate answers to the online advertising riddle, Thompson argues:

…there’s no reason why advertising content shouldn’t aim to be as informative or delightful as an original online piece. That’s not a new idea. Consider it a corollary to the rule set by Adolph S. Ochs, the long-ago publisher of the New York Times: “Advertising in the final analysis should be news; if it is not news, it is worthless.”

I would not say if advertising is not news it is worthless, but I will say if advertising is not useful it is worthless. Much of the news today is not useful; ergo, my standard for advertising is higher.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.