Rafat Ali Discusses “The Economics of Content”

Paid Content’s Rafat Ali is profiled in Media Bistro. The piece looks at his background, exploring his moves from journalist to blogger to a business owner backed by venture capital. Here are a few of the highlights:

Q. Obviously you’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur…
A. No, I did not. In 2000 and 2001, I came out of school (Ali has a Masters in Journalism from Indiana University), and like everybody, I wanted to be a magazine feature writer. But the world doesn’t work that way.
You come to realize that being a magazine feature writer, like writing for The New Yorker or Esquire, just doesn’t happen. When you go to a journalism school, they don’t try to teach you that you will, but that’s the image you get: feature writing is glamorous. That’s what I had in mind. I never thought I would go out and break news. I never thought of myself as a reporter. But it turned out that way.
Q. As one of the first blogger-entrepreneurs, you’re also the closest to the end game at this point. What’s your exit strategy? And what will be the likely fates of your contemporaries?
A. We don’t have an exit strategy. I’ll tell you that right up front. If two years down the line someone says, “We want to buy your company,” we’ll be in a position to have that discussion. Our company should be in good enough shape that we’re ready to flip the switch if we need to.
Q. Do you think what you are doing now is fundamentally any different than classic newsletter publishing or trade publishing?
A. Not really… Well, yes, in the sense that the economics have gotten much leaner. And yes, because you can come to market much faster, you can run on a leaner budget, and you can break stories as they happen because of the tools. But, at the end of the day, it’s all about sales. You have an audience; so how do you sell that audience to an advertiser?



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.