Archives For Inquisitr

Quest to 100

July 3, 2009 — 5 Comments

June 22 was a blip, but Technorati has sorted it out ever since, at least we’ve been steady for over a week. Quest to 100.

The Inquisitr: Blog Reactions on Technorati

The good news before we start is that hopefully the worst of the US recession is over for us ad wise on the site. We’re still not doing anywhere near the fill or CPM rates we were getting in the last quarter of last year, but through a combination of improved traffic, improvements from our main ad provider, and a strong secondary set of ad providers we’ve leveled out a bit. Still no Caribbean holiday for me, but likewise I’m not having a heart attack at the end of each month (no, that comes when I try to pull money out and find the AUD has gone from 60c to 80c USD πŸ™‚ )

We’ve floated in the 2-3m page view range now since earlier in the year, and although we were down slightly in June (2.55m from 2.7 May) we’re comfortable now…which means it’s time to push to the next level.

New writer

We’ve expanded our writing team to 4 (5 if you include me) with the addition of Paul Montgomery as our first dedicated sports writer.

Australian readers will know Monty through his previous startup Tinfinger and his leading Australian Rules Football site FanFooty. Paul is a journalist by trade, but I ignored that when I offered him the spot πŸ™‚

Paul will be covering the full gauntlet of international sport with a touch of Australian sport (cricket specifically.)

Sport feed/ category

With Paul on board we’ve broken out sport into its own stand alone category + feed. If you’re subscribed to the News + Sport feed you’ll no longer see sport stories. The Media feed is still available if you’re subscribed, but media has been rolled into news.

Sport page here.
Sport feed here.

Celebrity Syndication

We’ve signed a deal with London based celebrity content provider BANG showbiz. Under the deal, we’ll be running up to 10 of their items a day (usually less, but that’s our cap). This will primarily come on top of our existing coverage. The initial deal is for three months with a review at the end. Sort of AP for celeb stories if you like. We’ve never tried syndicated content before, but you never know if you don’t try…or something like that. Because the content comes out of London, you’ll see most of it late night/ early morning US time, or occasionally late afternoon (ie, my morning.)

Picture provider

We’ve also signed up with GumGum, an ad support licensed celebrity picture service. GumGum provides images to b5media and a range of leading celebrity sites so we thought we’d give them a go. I can’t see us using them on every post, but certainly the next time we cover a big opening or similar we’ll have a ready supply of pictures to include in each post, where as today we are mostly limited to single pictures due to copyright law.

Ben Grubb called us out tonight on Twitter for using Short URL’s for links within posts. I’m surprised it took so long to some degree, but likewise I should explain.

We’ve been trialling on and off short url’s on links in posts for the better part of the last 6 weeks. The primary purpose was to track outgoing clicks, and in that regard the trial has gone very well.

But likewise the intent has never been to steal link juice to those we are linking to, and I’d be the last person to do that. I only need to note at this point the evidence: our own internal links in posts get the same treatment. We input the actual URL in the post, and it gets a short URL on publication, we don’t manually do it.

My experience so far is that Google has zero problem in following the short URL to the end page. I obviously don’t know for external sites, but I know following internal linking that those links react as they always have, that is, as if there was no short URL on the page.

We’ll continue on, with a note that we mean no harm to external sites and that we hope, and believe, that when we link out that although you may not see the raw link, the link is there, and counted, in Google and others.

Oddly we also have the option of framing links. I won’t say that we never will, but I’ll need a far stearner set of balls to do so πŸ™‚

Technorati Top 100

June 22, 2009 — 8 Comments

I’m betting it’s probably a bug, although we’ve jumped around before a few hundred spots at a time. Last time I checked we were in the top 300, out from about 170.

The Inquisitr: Blog Reactions on Technorati

This post is the last-semi regular report of The Inquisitr numbers, and not just because the post before this was the 1500th in this incarnation of duncanriley.com (there was one before.)

I’m all for transparency, but likewise the figures wont be that exciting now. We roughly got to where we wanted to be (and it’s competitive with a range of sites), and now I’m guessing stats will be a bit roller coster-ish like. We’re bound to have some downs and ups. As always, the aim of the game is to go up, and I’m confident we well….although probably not this month, because of May:

Inquisitr page views May: 2,711,245

Record month, by a margin of about 300-400k.

We’ve had some big changes in terms of writing staff over the last rough 2 months, and as always a change is as good as a holiday. Forward we go to bigger numbers. For those who enjoyed the stats before; you know more about us than many do. I’ll endevour to be as transparent as can be, but likewise, I have no wish to send you all to sleep.

We’ve got an ad up this week (see here) and so far have received around 300 applications. This isn’t the first time we’ve advertised, but having learned from past positions, I was a little more specific in this ad.

This is the relevant part.

Your application should include links to your work online (in the email please) and why you think you?Β’β€šΓ‡Β¨β€šΓ‘Β’re up to the job. You should also include any relevant experience in the body of the email.

My mistake perhaps was that I didn’t write in caps “DO NOT SEND AN ATTACHMENT” because half of the applications have had attachments. The reason I don’t want attachments is simple: It’s not that I don’t want to read them, it’s simply that I don’t have the time to read them all when I’ve got to read 300 applications. The short list call is made on what’s in the body of the email, and where applicable, by clicking through to writing samples to check for style. Maybe on a short list I might then read an attachment, but likewise the info could still be contained in the body of the email.

Of those that have attachment, maybe half again don’t include links to work in the email (!!!), or include relevant experience in the body of the email (and by experience, I don’t mean a full resume, but any previous writing/ blogging gigs).

I also perhaps should have been more clear on “why you think you’re up to a job” and said “SELL YOURSELF TO ME” because a good number of the applications sound like applications for a job at the local bank.

But I did include this in the ad

You must have the ability to write tech (web) and general news posts, and some ability to contribute to our other streams (particularly odd+ funny news). You should also have a reasonable sense of humor, be occasionally snarky, and be fairly broad minded when it comes to content. The ability to write a straight news piece, and then throw in the occasional opinion piece is a big plus.

Maybe that part wasn’t clear enough as well.

I know I’m sounding a bit harsh, but when you’ve got to go through so many applications, and there’s only one position (given a few I’ve got on my shortlist, I wish I had more positions to offer), your application HAS to stand out at first glance. I also know this isn’t the highest paying job in the land either, but during a recession when so many people are looking for any work at all, you’d expect that people would know how to, or try to sell themselves better.

Tips

Here’s some general tips you should consider when applying for a blogging job.

1. Read the instructions carefully, follow them
2. A blogging job isn’t a bank job: personality helps. You need to sell yourself within the context of what the site you’re applying for does
3. You must consider that your application will be one of hundreds, sometimes thousands. How will your application stand out from the crowd?

Update: a small after thought: researching the site your applying for is a must, although that links in to how you sell yourself.

Also it’s not by any stretch an application breaker, but if you manage to address the person reviewing the application by name in your application (even though the name wasn’t in the ad), it shows you’re either a reader, or have done your homework. It also personalizes the message and helps break through the noise πŸ™‚

Down 2

April 24, 2009 — 3 Comments

The Inquisitr dropped 2 places to 8th on the April Australian Startups list from TechNation.

This may have been available in previous months, but I’ve paid more attention this month: a Hitwise rating. According to Hitwise, The Inquisitr comes in at 7028 of the most popular web sites. Compared to some of the others in the top 10, that isn’t great, but it’s a figure I didn’t have.

They recorded Alexa at 12543, where we’re 11,678 today, maybe a delay. Compete 3907 and Quantcast 2206 I’ll happily own πŸ™‚

One good thing about the list is the ability to sort by stat service. We come in at 4th on Compete and Quantcast.

The queen of Australian blogging lists Meg updated her Top 100/ 250 Australian blog list over Easter, the first time since Australia Day. The Inquisitr came second for the 2nd time running. My old business partner Darren Rowse beat me out with Problogger. He wasn’t there last time: in Jan it was Gizmodo Australia, the Allure Media title.

Meg for the first time is asking for donations, and I’ve sent over a small amount. Even if I’d rather be first, and we can argue about the way she calculates it, I value that list none the less, and I’d encourage others on it to donate.

The Inquisitr came in 6th on the Technation list of top Australian startups here which is flatering given the competition.

Onward and above….

Pageviews: 2-2.1 million estimated

We had an issue with code we tried to place to track authors in Google Analytics. It worked for about the first hour (basically when I checked it) then we lost data for half a day, then two days in full following that (and possibly slightly into the next day). Google Analytics reports 1,899,286 for the month. We estimate conservatively at around 50-75,000 page views in total for each missing day. See the circled days in the chart. It may have been higher given the days either side were just over 100,000 each.

Dashboard - Google Analytics

Either way, this is down on last months high, but we tend to go in cycles with traffic: every high tends to be followed by a month which is less. Notably though this (presuming the 2-2.1m) is our second highest month on record.

Traffic profile: highest post did 6.99% vs 15.2% for last month. The smaller the figure, the more distributed our traffic is.

Finances: the worm may have turned.

For the first month since October 2008 we saw an increase in our advertising on a CPM basis (every other month has seen a decrease in net CPM, even when we’ve earned more in total due to increased traffic). This was primarily led by our front line provider who landed some decent campaigns this month. I’m not about to start sending out bottles of Moet & Chandon as bonuses to writers (it’s a lot more expensive in Australia than the US), but hopefully things are on the up. The test will be if the upturn continues into April: a couple of more months like this, combined with some solid traffic growth, and we’ll be able to expand some more in terms of fixed writers and what we’re offering. I simply don’t want to jinx myself by getting excited, but it’s a pleasant change.

Technorati Rank: 178
Our first solid time in the top 200 (we were there for one day previously, and I think it might have been a blip). We’ve been there for nearly two weeks. Technorati works on a 6 mth rotation, and that means October comes off the total this month, and October last year was our first real boom month. The key as always is to drive more incoming links now than the ones you’re losing from 6 months ago.

We’re looking for 2-3 bloggers. Details on Problogger Jobs here.

We put off a writer back in January, and it wasn’t something I wanted to do. Our traffic hasn’t suffered badly (it actually went up in Feb, but will be down from that high in March), but the volume of posts has dropped. Couple with the fact that the volume I was pumping out over Dec-Jan wasn’t sustainable and I’ve stopped blogging at night mostly. Volume isn’t the be all and end all, but having large slabs of the day without fresh content doesn’t help things.

Pay

The new positions are an experiment of sorts. After 4 months of declining ad revenues, we simply don’t have the margins to hire 2-3 writers on a set rate basis, at least at the same rate our current writers are on. Instead the positions are being offered at $1.50 per thousand page views.

Hybrid

We looked last year at doing some side content on a revenue share model, but rev share doesn’t work well on single blogs vs a blog network, particularly from an administrative viewpoint. We can’t track ad returns per page under rev share, and swapping out ads on a share basis would mean we’d be in breach of our ad supplier contract (not to mention it being messy).

I started looking for models a couple of weeks ago, and noticed sites using the CPM model. It’s sort of like rev share, but isn’t. Bloggers are guaranteed a set rate for their work, and administratively it’s reasonably easy to manage, well it is after I found a way to use Google Analytics to track posts by author.

The other hybrid aspect is the job specs. Many sites that pay like this have dozens of writers who often don’t earn much at all. They’re post volume plays vs quality. I don’t want to diminish the quality of the site with volume for the sake of volume, hence lower number of bloggers with min spec writing rates of 5-10 posts a week. The smaller number also means that each blogger can get individual attention and support, where as larger numbers make that difficult to impossible. Basically I can work with each blogger to get them pumping out great content so they get paid more, and we win with the extra page views.

High/ Low pay?

$1.50 CPM will seem low to some people, and I don’t think badly of anyone thinking that. I looked at a range of sites, from your info/ how-to sites (Hubpages for example), through to citizen journalists sites, a number of which compete on some fronts with The Inquisitr. I also looked higher up the chain at sites like the Huffington Post.

Here’s what I found roughly

  • Some sites pay nothing at all, instead promoting the benefits of exposure. It is staggering how many people will work for nothing, particularly if the idea is pitched right. It’s a nice game to get into, but it’s not one I’m comfortable in: I’d rather pay people something
  • Some sites pay, but only when the amount gets to something substantial (say $50-$100). These tend to be various rev share or CPM models. Many of these sites promote writers earning $200, or the occasional person hitting the $1000 mark. Most writers are lucky to earn $20 a month. Actually I’d love to get into this space, but not with The Inquisitr. Next project maybe πŸ™‚ Again though: people will work for little, and in this market $50 or $100 a month is money people want
  • Some sites pay a set CPM monthly in the 50c-$1.50 CPM range. Hard to pin these rates down, because most don’t advertise the rates, but you can dig up the info on forums. I saw one site offering $1.50, and none higher, although this is not to say that some individual sites may pay more.
  • The remainng models are the givens: set rate per post, or monthly set rate with or without traffic bonus

Notably also is the $1.50 CPM in context with the ad market: that’s roughly 5-7x our current CPM with Adsense per unit. Thankfully Adsense is only 5-10% of our ads, otherwise we’d be cutting jobs at the moment; but I digress. While content on an individual site changes the CPM on ads, plenty of bloggers out there would be struggling to get $1 CPM all up with multiple ads on each page; $1.50 is actually a step up. The Inquisitr also gets a reasonable run on Google, Google News, and a range of other sites that many bloggers don’t get; the same post on The Inquisitr vs a smaller blog would have a stronger chance of getting page views, so the difference is potential traffic as well. Higher rates, higher volume.

I simply don’t know how much the new bloggers will be paid month to month in total, but at the lower end I’d be surprised if it was anything lower than say $200 a month; 200,000 page views with 40 posts a month (10 a week) shouldn’t be a huge challenge (and consider we have 3 writers and did 2.3m in Feb) and this improves over time as the CPM rate is paid on all posts by the blogger for the month, so will include posts from the previous month(s) that are still getting traffic.

Next

Applications close end of next week. We’ll see how we go to start with, and if it looks like its working, I may increase the number in the following months. Ultimately I’d like to see us get to 10-12 writers, a mixture under this model, and hopefully more set pay writers as well.

If it fails, so be it, you can only try.

I should have also added: I’d think writing for us vs an info site would be more fun as well. I know I’d rather be trolling for that next weird Japanese video than writing a page full of links explaining why the Palm Pre is better than Blackberry, or a long how to guide that takes hours to get right.

PS: why write this post and expose the pay rate at all, after all many sites never do? Because I’d rather be upfront and transparent then potentially mislead people and sell false hope, which some sites do. People who work with me know what they’re getting into before they start, good, bad or otherwise πŸ™‚