Found this post about the Boing Boing Blog from FastCompany.com.
Great read about the making of a blogging empire.
3 big takeaways:
- If you have a hobby you love, keep at it. You never know.
- Remote working sounds awesome.
- Who wants a job?
Here are 6 passages that stood out the most to me.
We know what happens next: This hobby morphs into a successful business. But Boing Boing’s version of that tale is a little different. Frauenfelder and his partners didn’t rake in investment capital, recruit a big staff and a hotshot CEO, or otherwise attempt to leverage themselves into a “real” media company. They didn’t even rent an office. They continued to treat their site as a side project, even as it became a business with revenue comfortably in the seven figures. Basically, they declined to professionalize. You could say they refused to grow up.
It’s quite a meeting of the minds — except the minds are pretty spread out. Frauenfelder and Jardin both live in Los Angeles, Pescovitz in San Francisco, and Doctorow in London. The site’s managing editor, Rob Beschizza, who also posts frequently and coordinates many of the guest bloggers and other contributors, is in Pittsburgh. Maggie Koerth-Baker, who writes about science, is in Minneapolis. Technically, nobody is “on staff”; the editors are partners, and the other regulars work on extended contracts. Most communication happens electronically; conference calls are only for dealing with urgent problems or opportunities; in-person gatherings happen, at most, once a year.
Boing Boing’s readership was growing, and blogging in general was beginning to take off. Nick Denton started Gawker.com, the first site in what would quickly become a mini empire, in 2002; that same year, Google bought the company that created Blogger software. By 2004, Boing Boing was a blog powerhouse, and its hosting costs were approaching $1,000 a month. The editors still enjoyed blogging, but it was becoming an expensive hobby. Frauenfelder put in a call to John Battelle.
Battelle asked the editors to come up with a wish list of four potential advertisers. Remember, he says, in those days the very notion of ads on blogs was still controversial, and the Boing Boing crew was “insanely sensitive” to that. They named Google, Apple, O’Reilly Media, and Wired. “I called them and said, ‘The most linked-to blog in the world is going to be open to marketers.’ ” He asked for a three-month minimum commitment, at $3,000 a month, for a rotating spot in a noticeable but nonintrusive ad box. Apple begged off, but the other three agreed. “So all of a sudden, these guys had $27,000 of income for the quarter.” Boing Boing was in business.
It isn’t that Pescovitz doesn’t understand what the blog business has become; he just figures that however it works now is anathema to what’s made Boing Boing popular in the first place. The editorial policy is just what it’s always been: The principals post whatever they want, whenever they feel like it. They don’t bother to copyedit in advance, let alone vet or discuss one another’s contributions.
For the first few years that Boing Boing was a business, blogging was booming and various entities sounded out the founders about investing in an expansion of the Boing Boing brand, or maybe just acquiring it outright. “During the crazy go-go years, maybe 2006, 2007, it seemed like every week there was a new offer,” says Jardin. The internal conversation often came down to a simple question: What would you rather be doing?
“I don’t know what a liquidity event for Boing Boing would look like,” Doctorow continues, “except for a job. If we were acquired by some content giant, if Yahoo or someone bought us out, it’s just a job at Yahoo.” (This is purely hypothetical, he says.) “If I wanted a job at Yahoo, I’d go look for a job there; they post listings pretty regularly. I’m glad not to have a job. I don’t want a job.”