Josh Quittner: "Everybody wants to be a blogger"
The editor of Business 2.0 is asking every journalist at his magazine to create a blog. And in a possible first for a major publisher, the participating bloggers at the Time Inc. title will be paid based on their traffic.During his address at the M-Squared marketing conference in San Francisco last week, Josh Quittner, editor of Business 2.0 magazine, spoke candidly about the soul searching that came when staffer Om Malik decided to leave the Time Inc. publication to focus on his popular tech blog GigaOM.
Quittner, a former technology editor for Time magazine and editor of Time.com, revealed in his talk that the success of Malik's blog inspired him to experiment with a new model at Business 2.0 that embraces blogs as a part of the magazine's identity, according to one blog account.
I Want Media: Is a blog boom coming to Business 2.0?
Josh Quittner: I've asked all of my journalists to create a blog. It's an experiment in response to a lot of thinking I've been doing about Om Malik and the great success we had with him while he was on staff full time. I loved the daily interactions he was having with his community of readers. It made him sharper and more valuable to me at the magazine. And so I thought, how can we encourage our people to do a similar thing? I went to my people and said, I want you all to start blogs. The only requirement is that the blog has some kind of a connection to business. Erick Schonfeld will continue to run our current blog, called B2Day, as his personal blog. We're going to launch a "super blog" that will serve as an umbrella for the 18 to 20 people who will blog for us.
IWM: When will your "super blog" launch?
Quittner: I hope to soft launch by the end of this week. We're having some problems with the widget that creates the pickup from the other blogs, so it might not be until next week. We'll announce it on the B2Day blog when we're good to go.
IWM: What are some of the subjects of the individual blogs?
Quittner: Since they're blogs, they ought to reflect personal interests. For example, Michael Copeland covers venture capital for us, but he's also a surfer. So his blog will be equal parts surfing and VC news. What surprised me was that not only did all of my writers and editors want to do this, but so did people in other departments. My creative director wants to blog, the tech guy wants to blog, photographers want to blog ...
IWM: Everyone wants to be a blogger?
Quittner: Yes, everybody wants to be a blogger. Part of this enthusiasm comes from a cover story we did [in September] called "Blogging for Dollars." We showed how a lot of smart people are actually figuring out how to create these one- and two-man bands that are quite lucrative.
IWM: Are you offering staffers any incentives to blog?
Quittner: We're doing something that is novel for Time Inc. Our bloggers will be directly remunerated on the basis of their traffic. They'll be paid a modest CPM. Time Inc. will sell advertising on the individual blogs. So the bloggers will get to participate in the revenue they generate. Also, CNNMoney is considering pointing directly to the permalink on their blogs. Not to the "super blog," but directly to the authors' blogs. This is a fairly radical step because all of the content on CNNMoney is vetted by their people. These blogs will be a little bit raw. But that's the nature of the blogosphere. That part will bear some watching.
IWM: Why is it necessary to make this move into blogging?
Quittner: It's really important to me that my guys learn this stuff and live there because that's where the world is headed. It's totally consistent with their jobs as print journalists. I think the last magazine standing will be a monthly magazine. I'm not so worried about Business 2.0 as a print product ever going away. That said, my people need to participate at a deeper level than just producing once a month. I used to joke that monthly magazines are the gentleman farming of the journalism world. There's no reason why monthly magazine reporters can't live in the daily world.
IWM: Aren't you essentially asking your people to do more work?
Quittner: Yep! They'll get to think a little bit more -- and they'll get to be more entrepreneurial. They'll be running their own little private businesses, in some respects. And that's really great for a magazine like Business 2.0, which is all about entrepreneurialism.
IWM: Would this blogging model make sense for other magazines like, say, Sports Illustrated?
Quittner: I can't really speak to that. But if this kind of a model works, you could see a day when all the brilliant writers and editors at Time magazine keep daily blogs and interact with their communities on a daily basis. I think [Time managing editor] Rick Stengel calls it "instant analysis." Time magazine was really the first blog. If you go back and look at the format and the structure of the stories back [when Time launched] in 1923, it was very bloggy. Time was written by a bunch of Ivy League smart-asses in New York who were telling the rest of the world what to think.
IWM: Rick Stengel has told I Want Media that if the co-founders of Time magazine were creating a newsmagazine today it would probably be electronic only.
Quittner: Yes, they would probably be bloggers.
IWM: Do you believe that Time co-founder Henry Luce would have been a blogger?
Quittner: Not Henry Luce. But I could see the people who worked for him at Time as bloggers. I mean, that was the whole idea.
IWM: Could having all of your journalists blogging without oversight create the potential for them to jeopardize the brand?
Quittner: I think they are the brand. Business 2.0 magazine is the totality of our collaboration. It's me picking people to come work here who I think better enable us to fulfill our mission. There's no reason why my people can't do that digitally as well as in print. I trust each one of them to represent us. These blogs could strengthen our brand and allow everyone at the magazine to live the very ideas that we preach in print.
IWM: If your staffers' blogs become successful, won't the people behind them end up leaving the magazine?
Quittner: We might end up creating some more Om Maliks, and that in itself would make this project worthwhile.
IWM: Can you give me an idea of the remuneration for the traffic?
Quittner: Well, to start, if your blog gets a 100,000 page views in a day, that would probably give you a couple of hundred bucks. No, you're not going to retire on it. The Business 2.0 blog has been around for two years, and it gets about 40,000 visits a week. But if the arrangement with CNNMoney goes through, one good link from CNNMoney could give one of our bloggers something like 200,000 page views in a single day.
IWM: Was your staff blogging project OK'd by higher-ups at Time Inc.?
Quittner: Yes, but this is not a Time Inc.-wide thing. If it works, higher paygrades than mine will decide whether it makes sense elsewhere at Time Inc. But all the magazines here are trying to find their way in the new media world.
IWM: Time Inc. in the past year has laid off nearly 500 employees and put 18 magazines up for sale. Do magazines face a cloudy future?
Quittner: Not at all. I think we'll see a time when magazines will become the "class" play and digital media will become the "mass" play. On CNNMoney, my stories are seen by about 11 million people a month, which is way bigger than my magazine's 600,000 circulation. Over time, magazines will need to reinvest in the magazine-ness of the magazine. Magazines will have to be high-touch, high-impact units. And they'll probably enjoy much smaller rate bases. But I think we're going to be able to charge more in the way of subscriptions for the print product because it attracts the people who are the die-hard readers.
IWM: Any final words on blogging?
Quittner: I have really smart, aggressive people here. These blogs should be able to capitalize on their enthusiasm. Still, the amount of money we're putting into this experiment is negligible. At the very least, my people will learn how to do a blog at a fairly intensive level. The worst that happens is it's a failure. No big deal. I've lived through gazillions of failures, and I hope to live through gazillions more.