You Can Work Around The Rules, But You Still Have To Sell Sponsors On The Idea

Last night I made a post about how scale is all in the online publishing business. This morning there’s another, polar opposite point of view to consider thanks to David Carr at The New York Times.

If you were going to assemble a business plan for a Web site, you would look closely at everything The Awl did and then head in precisely the opposite direction.

Carr points to the funny name, the site’s topical drift and its audience numbers as potential issues for The Awl. Carr says the founders–Choire Sicha, Alex Balk and David Cho–have overcome the obstacles through a mix of hard, and smart, work.
Yes, the site’s revenue is still dependent on ad dollars, but they’ve managed to secure said dollars while keeping costs down through measures like working from home.

“Without a doubt, nothing would be going on without David,” Mr. Sicha said. “Writers who work on the Web are taught to flee whenever the guy from business side comes around. But we can build all the nice little audiences we want, somebody has to figure out how to explain to advertisers where the value is.”

Mr. Cho, a veteran of College Humor and Radar, must be a great explainer because he’s cut sponsorship deals with Ann Taylor, Yahoo Search Terms, Kia Motors, Gillette and Merge Records.
“I think that we can realistically expect to be in the low millions in terms of annual revenue in the next 18 months,” Cho said.
By the way, an awl is a long pointed spike that can be used to make holes in wood or leather. is clearly piercing holes in the logic that one’s site needs to be massive to succeed on a financial basis.



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.