Whale Oil is proposing to try a new means of generateing income in a difficult online environment.
Old media has struggled with income and the transition to extensive online content. New media is also finding it tough.
Much of online advertising revenue has become dominated by major international players like Google, through genereal websites like Facebook and Youtube.
Some New Zealand blogs raise a bit of revenue from advertising (Kiwiblog, Public Address) or sponsorship (The Daily Blog). The Standard ditched their advertisiing, citing modest returns that compromised site integrity (my words from memory).
The Standard and Public Address also ask for donations to contribute to site running costs.
Most blogs don’t even bother trying to raise any revenue.
The one big exception to all of this is Whale Oil. as Pete Belt explains in FROM THE PASSENGER SEAT: WHALEOIL IS CHANGING.
It’s been quite a ride since October 2012 when I put my hand up as an (unpaid) volunteer.
I get asked occasionally how I got ‘this job’. Well, to be honest, I had to create it myself. About mid-2013 I said to Cam, “I want to do this full time and I want you to pay me.” He didn’t flinch. He replied that if I wanted to be paid for helping him out, I needed to grow the blog, so we could grow the advertising income that could pay for my exorbitant fees.
This made Whale Oil a two-income blog as it also supports Cameron Slater.
During Dirty Politics, the traffic on this blog went through the roof, and we had a reasonably good income from the advertising. In fact, once I was paid, there was some left over for the Slater family too.
But before, and since then, Cam’s relied on your donations to supplement his income. Mine is steady, but any lean month and the Slater family are having a tough time.
Whale Oil has tried a number of revenue earners, including intrusive levels of advertising, merchandising (Belt says that has been disappointing) and using the begging bowl.
But obviously revenues are an ongoing struggle. Despite this they are adding costs:
Worse, we’re growing. It’s not just about meeting my costs. As you have seen, Journalist Stephen Cook has been putting in serious hours on some very meaty stories, and he’s not doing it for free either.
I’m dubious about the claiming that they are still growing much. But if they are paying for a journalist (is this where Freed has ended up?) perhaps it’s the growth in costs that Belt is referring to.
He then sort of explains what they are looking at as a new way of generating income.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing a new way for us to make money. You will be able to opt-in to complete small consumer surveys. You can opt-in to receive direct email from us. In return for this, you get the chance to see much more targeted advertising, be offered “members only” deals and, in general, start a new money-making infrastructure that is going to succeed where the old models have failed.
Here’s our promise: if you, our audience, commit to supporting this new way for us to turn a dollar, we will reduce the amount of advertising as it is displayed now. And if that continues to work, we expect to remove all display advertising from Whaleoil.
The aim is two-fold: 1) we can maintain what we do now, and we want to grow (that needs more money), and 2) we no longer rely on advertising for our ‘survival’. This means any attempt by opponents to sabotage our income stream is going to fail.
I realise all of this is a little woolly, and you’ll want more details, but this is just to give you some background and explain why you may see, for a while, both advertising and other “pop ups” that want you to answer questions.
Yes, it is a woolly explanation. Time will tell how it works out.
I’ve been a strong critic of some aspects of Whale Oil, including Belt’s ‘moderation’ purges that began mid last year. Banning large numbers of commenters must have had an impact on particip[ation and readership.
And revelling in doing things dirty must also be an impediment to getting wider support.
Slater has to be credited with trying a new media venture that no one else in New Zealand has come close to emulating. Whale Oil has in many ways been a bleeding edge innovator.
Whale Oil has been both the best and the worst of blogging in New Zealand.
And credit has to be given to Belt as well. He’s tried a number of innovative fund raisers.
Time will tell how this new attempt pans out.
It must be a challenge trying to attract additional financial support while continuing to act as the bad boys of the blogosphere.
Another factor is that blogging is still just a narrow niche in online media in New Zealand. Most of the population has little or no idea they exist. Most of the social interaction is done via more general forums like Facebook.
So blogs don’t have widespread appeal and will find it a challenge to compete fort attention let alone revunue.
How much of a future do blogs have in general?
Can Whale Oil recover, or has it peaked and is now a waning whale?