Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bloggers tell TV and movie writers not to compete with them, pretty please

Michael Learmonth, who quit his day job at Variety to work at blog startup Silicon Alley Insider, doesn't want competition from WGA striking writers. He offers some fuzzy math to scare 'em off:
Entry-level jobs for unionized TV writers start at $70,000 for a 6-month TV season. What does that translate to in the blog world?

Let's make some assumptions:
• You work by yourself, and you're just writing compelling stuff -- no audio, no video, and no other labor costs (we're going to assume you keep your WGA health insurance for the near future).
• You use a network like Federated Media to sell your banner ads. FM generally takes a 40% cut of each ad sold.
• You have a successful, good-looking site that advertisers want to be on, so they're willing to pay you an average of $6 for each 1,000 page views you generate - this is roughly what Nick Denton's Gawker network can command.
• You sell two ads per page at that $6 cpm.

That's $12 for each 1,000 page views, less a 40% comission. At that rate, you'd need to generate 9.75 million page views to match your TV salary.
The math works out technically, though he left an "m" out of commission (Michael, you should write for TV, no one minds misspellings in scripts). But his comparison is quite incomplete.

Here's what Michael left out:
  • TV writers, even great ones, often have to go long stretches without a gig as shows and seasons don't go on forever. Blogs don't have seasons.
  • A blogger with 1.63 million pageviews per month as in his example would be worth a sizable amount of money to an acquirer, especially if its on a hot topic. At a miserable 3x revenue (what MediaBistro got), you'd be sitting on a $420,000 asset. You can sell a blog, but you can't sell a TV writing gig.
  • Many bloggers with that audience size have discovered other types of revenue streams such as books, conferences and licensing their brand.
  • If someone's a talented TV writer and has a network of talented creative folks, why wouldn't they leverage their success into video which commands much higher CPMs?
Bottom line is it would take a very successful blog to equal the value of a nice TV writing gig, but no where near as high as Michael's estimate.

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