July 31, 2005

Pajamas Media vs. BlogAds -- the blogger's perspective.

Let's assume you're a reasonably successful blogger who would like to make money from the writing you put into your blog. You currently have BlogAds, which advertisers buy by the week, month, or quarter. So you must continually attract new advertisers, but you are also always free to adjust your prices. Thus, if you're getting a lot of advertisers and the number of visitors to your blog is increasing, you can raise your prices. If traffic flags or advertisers lose interest, you can lower your prices. You also have the power to accept or reject each ad, so no ad that you don't like ever appears on your blog.

Now, you're presented with an offer from Pajamas Media, and to accept the offer, you will need to give up the top four slots in your sidebar, displacing BlogAds. You are offered a set price to sign on for a year (or 18 months). You will no longer have to worry about attracting new advertisers: the company has taken on the risk. They will find the advertisers and place the ads on your blog for you. You will no longer be able to reject ads, and the ads are likely to come from advertisers of bigger commercial products rather than the kind of products that have been using BlogAds.

Should you switch to Pajamas Media? I can't answer that question for you, and not just because I'm not your lawyer. I don't know enough about you. I can't look into your heart. With Pajamas Media, they've promised to pay a set amount money, so you won't have to worry about continually attracting advertisers. BlogAds will put pressure on you to continue to write the kind of blog that people will want to visit, but it lets you increase your income if your traffic increases and allows you to continue to control how your blog looks. With BlogAds, you're an independent entrepreneur, with Pajamas, you're more like an employee (with a one-year contract).

Who would do best with the Pajamas deal? A blogger with peak traffic now, who is going into a period of decline, who sees himself tailing off, is looking for a mellow way to extract cash from the value he's already created, and who doesn't care so much about what the blog actually looks like or what products he's displaying. Perhaps Pajamas offered this blogger an amount equal to what he made on BlogAds over the past year, but his BlogAds income had already started to decline: he might want to lock in at that level and relax.

Who would do best with BlogAds? A blogger who predicts increased traffic in the future, who doesn't mind or enjoys the ongoing incentive to keep up or improve the quality of his writing, who wants to be in a position to benefit if the blog becomes more attractive to advertisers, and who wants to control which ads appear on the blog. If this blogger received a Pajamas offer equal to the amount he'd made on BlogAds over the past year, but his BlogAds income had been on the increase, so that the offer was only one third of his current BlogAds rate of income, he'd probably puzzle over how Pajamas could possibly believe they'd made a decent offer.

Which company, Pajamas or BlogAds, has the better business model? Pajamas is positioning itself to pitch to big advertisers of the sort that now advertise in mainstream media. They will aggregate the visitors of many blogs and present that attractive, large number to advertisers. But they are trusting that the bloggers, once signed on and entitled to set payments, will keep up the good work and continue to draw visitors, even though the bloggers who took the deal will be the kind of people who saw advantage to themselves in a deal like that. BlogAds might be overshadowed by Pajamas if enough bloggers take that deal, but it will still have the kind of advertisers it's had all along, who are working on a style of advertising designed for the blog environment. And it will have the advantage of keeping the bloggers who cared the most about the content of their blogs and who chose to retain the risk of their own future success.

UPDATE: Charles Johnson counts "three inaccuracies" in this post: "1) bloggers who sign up with us do have veto power over ads we place on their sites, 2) we have two plans so that people who want to continue using Blogads can do so, and 3) bloggers do not give up visual control over their sites, any more than with Blogads." Okay, I made a scrupulous effort to get the facts straight based on reading the email Pajamas Media sent me, so if I've gotten anything wrong we need to consider whether their email conveyed the information properly. If I'm going to yoke myself to an operation for a year, I need to believe they are competent, and the first evidence of their competence is the quality of the email they sent me!

Let's look at it, and you see if you can find any reference to the veto power the blogger has over the ads, Johnson's point #1. And see if you can figure out what point #3 is supposed to mean that doesn't repeat point #1. As to point #2, I didn't state anything inaccurately about that. The fact is: even the basic plan requires you to give the top four slots to Pajamas. Your BlogAds will be underneath all of their stuff, unless you clutter your blog with a second sidebar. In either case, your BlogAds are displaced and clearly will have to sell for less.[IMPORTANT UPDATE: Free Will emails and correctly points out that both a second sidebar and putting BlogAds lower in the single sidebar violates the BlogAds terms of agreement. See Rules 4.4 and 4.6.]

Here's the email:
Dear Pajamas Media Blogger Colleague:
Don't bother addressing me by name.
As we said in previous email to you, the most important goal of Pajamas Media is to extend the power and influence of weblogs. We intend to do this by formalizing the voice of bloggers as Senior and Affiliated Contributors to a Pajamas Media-led electronic media. (The name is currently being researched.)
Are you going to pitch to the advertisers in language this exciting?
We wanted to thank you for your interest in joining Pajamas Media and invite you to work with our new initiative as an “Affiliated Contributor.” We have structured two different levels or options – a Standard and a more Basic Affiliated Contributor. Under each model you would be paid an amount of money for us to link and leverage your content as well as to utilize your advertising space.
First, let’s take a look at the affiliation side of the relationship:

If you elect to be a Standard Affiliated Contributor:
  • We will work together to do a profile of you and your blog
  • We are able to provide a directory link to your blog
  • We are able to use occasional content on the “common” areas of our site.
  • You limit your content on RSS feeds to title and or summary – but not whole story
So you "are able" to do some things. You're phrasing what I'm giving you as if you are offering to do something, but you're not actually promising to do it.
If you elect to be a Basic Affiliated Contributor:

  • We are able to provide a directory link to your blog

In other words, I'll get to be on your blogroll?

Of course we also want to ensure there is an economic aspect to the relationship that works for you – so now let’s take a look at the advertising side of the two options:

As an Affiliated Contributor, you will be offered guaranteed payments!

Don’t blink twice. You are going to be paid to blog!

I'm supposed to somehow be amazed that I could make money blogging? But I have BlogAds already, and the amount you are about to offer me is far less than I'm currently making with BlogAds. What is amazing me is that you're writing to me as if I'm a babe-in-the-woods.

Earning Levels for Standard or Basic Affiliations

Your blog name is: Ann Althouse

The following is a personalized offer, based on your estimated traffic.

Standard -- [amount deleted, mostly out of embarrassment!] per year. [amount deleted] per quarter starting 4th quarter 2005 for six quarters. Plus a signing bonus of [amount deleted] payable as quickly as possible after your site is “ad ready” for a total of [amount deleted]. You will receive this if you reserve all available ad space for Pajamas for a period of 18 months.

Basic -- [amount deleted] per year. [amount deleted] per quarter starting 4th quarter 2005 for a period of 12 months. This will be paid if you reserve your Top Four ad spaces on the right or left hand column for Pajamas Media, and do not wish to display the more extensive ads referred to above.

So the Standard plan, the one that has them making some kind of attempt to promote my blog through their portal, requires me to oust BlogAds altogether, and the Basic plan forces me to give them the top four slots in the sidebar. My post is absolutely accurate with respect to the displacement of BlogAds. Yes, I realize I can still have them, if I take the Basic plan and put them under all this new material. But who's going to buy them down there -- especially with all the new commercial ads that are going to change the tone of the blog? [IMPORTANT UPDATE: As noted above, displaying BlogAds this way would actually violate the BlogAds terms of agreement.]

So there you have the plan – two options involving different degrees of content affiliation, different terms, different ad spaces, and different payment levels and mechanisms. In short – you can choose how closely you would like to be affiliated with our new journey!

Journey? Is there anything less hip than calling something a "journey"? Where exactly are we going? I'm picturing a primrose path.
The following chart sets forth the primary differences between the levels:
I'm not preserving the chart form, but all the content is here:

Profile of you on the Portal
Standard--YES Basic--No

Directory link from the Pajamas Portal to your Weblog
Standard--YES Basic--YES

The use of content from your Blog on the Portal “Common Areas”
Standard-- YES Basic--No


Pajamas has exclusive ad space on all pages (home, comment, etc) including IAB Ad Units
Standard--YES Basic--No

Pajamas has top FOUR spaces on right or left column
Standard--YES Basic--YES

All ads will comply with BAS Standard developed by Advisors. (see below)
Standard--YES Basic--YES

Pajamas gets full use of RSS feeds.
Standard--YES Basic--YES


Term of Agreement
Standard--18 months Basic--12 months

Did you see anything there about a power to veto ads? How about in this next part?
Because we are concerned about the quality of the advertising we place on your blog, all ads will be required to comply with our Blog Ad Standards (BAS), which will be determined by our advisory board, made up of fellow bloggers. Because technology and the marketplace keep changing, we will keep changing the BAS to ensure that all ads placed through this plan are blog-appropriate.
So some board of advisors is making judgments about the ads, with whatever standards they come up with. Where's the part about me deciding? Did I miss something?
Our rough schedule is to start some preliminary advertisements in mid-August, with late September as our grand opening. However, you will receive your full payment for the 4th quarter of 2005 (Oct 1 – Dec 31) regardless of whether we are placing ads by then or not.

How do I Sign Up?

You simply click on this link which will take you to our website:

[URL deleted.]

There you may select either the Standard or Basic plan, and you may be asked to input some additional information. You will receive your contract, with instructions for signing on, by email within 5 business days of sending in your information. You are not obligated to anything until you send back the agreement.
I clicked on the link and got to a page with the choice between Standard and Basic. There was no more information there -- certainly nothing about an ad veto power. I didn't proceed any futher, so I didn't get a copy of the contract to peruse. Perhaps the elusive veto power is in there. Any inaccuracies for failure to guess what's in that part of the Pajamas Media reading material are regrettable, but scarcely my fault. The offer I received was far too terrible to accept with or without that veto power, but a competent business ought to forefront the positive aspects of a deal. It's normally the negatives that you'd squirrel away in the fine print. And you want to be my advertising agent?

So that’s it for now. If you have any questions, please contact


Best wishes,
The Pajamas Media Team

I only have one question: how could you possibly think you've made me an offer I could accept?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lots of hot discussion in the comments. Check it out. But the main thing I'm updating to say is that Ace of Spades -- whose traffic level is very similar to mine -- has the same complaint about the offer I have.

FURTHER UPDATE: Charles Johnson is in fact wrong that the blogger can continue using BlogAds, and I was also wrong to think that putting BlogAds lower or in a second column was acceptable: these ways this way of displaying BlogAds are is not merely undesirable, they it violates the terms of the BlogAds agreement: Rules 4.4 and 4.6.

MORE: Sorry, I was wrong to think the second column approach was forbidden.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I just noticed the line "Your blog name is: Ann Althouse." My blog name isn't Ann Althouse! So they don't even get the name of my blog right. I'm guessing they made the email weirdly impersonal because they were worried about not giving off a sufficiently professional aura. But that writing quirk is, in fact, amateurish.


Ron said...

Ann: Thanks for the best written, most lucid description of the differences between the two business models that I've seen! If I had not read any other Althouse post, just based on this one, I'd say you should stick to BlogAds.

I'm Full of Soup said...

For nine year, I have been doing M&A work in industries that have a large component of owner personal service so they equate somewhat to a blog.

I have found that unless the acquired business is very large, its future success (post merger) is highly dependent on the ongoing effort and energy of the former owner.

So, to answer your question, a properly sturctured deal always leaves a big enough carrot (earnout/contingent pnt) to incent the former to keep working hard (maintaining his entrepreneurial spirit). From what you have shared, it is likely Pajama Media will find that a good number of blogs will fall off in terms of "blogger quality output" owner. Not that this is a merger or acquisition but that "guaranteed" payment will certainly dis-incent a few of the bloggers. So, it will be interesting to be a fly on the wall when Pajama Media has "performance review" meetings with its bloggers in 12-18 months.
In summary, no matter how it turns out, I think it is an exciting development for the blogosphere! In fact, my company is testing the waters to see if it makes sense to get involved in valuing and consulting with this industry.

Red A said...

This is true if the only incentive to blog is monetary gain.

Is that why people blog?

I notice Ann had a goal of hitting 1 million hits...was that a goal to achieve "market share" and was this blog set up as a money spinner from the very beginning?

Not to mention once your numbers fall, next year your contact will suffer.

But yes, the incentive to let it slip might happen - so they might want to tinker with the numbers later.

Ann Althouse said...

red a: If money wasn't an issue at all, one would probably not even have BlogAds. If money was something of an issue, but not the main thing, there would be MUCH MORE reason to pick BlogAds over Pajamas!

You are right that the Pajamas blogger has the incentive with respect to the next year's offer.

As to why I blog, read the blog and see if you can tell.

tarpon said...


I parse it this way.

Pajamas media -- It's no different than hiring an employee. Either the employee performs out of some personal self satisfaction, the job well done, kudos from the boss, or they don't. You have to hire a lot of employees to get any job done, some will be slackers, some will be stars, you aggregate and sell their output.

The fixed salary is usually less than ...

Blog-Ads, you are an independent contractor, if you don't make money you are solely to blame. Blog-ads has the higher upside, and the greater downside. But like any small business you make your own way and reap your own rewards.

The bottom line, these two concepts mirror the economy as we know it. You choose what you want to do and how you want to do it.

Martin Lindeskog said...

Ann: I am pleased with Blogads, but I am planning to add the Pajamas Media's basic program to my blog. For more on this topic, read my post, Blogging and Advertising.

All the Best,

Martin Lindeskog
EGO blog

P.S. I promise that I will not become a "nekkid blogger"... I will be dressed in a sharp pyjamas! ;)

Ann Althouse said...

Martin: Where are you going to put your BlogAds after Pajamas takes over the top four spots? How much did they offer you in proportion to your current Blogads income? Do you see your traffic as being on the upswing? And what is your feeling about having someone else control what appears on your blog?

Martin Lindeskog said...

Ann: I will put the Blogads right under the Pajamas Media ads. I think this spot will be good too. PM gave me a good offer, so I want to try it out, but I decided to keep Blogads for several reasons. I am not a "big fish" in the blogosphere, so I don't have any real "income" from my ads. I am a "poor" capitalist! For information about my traffic and my blogging, please read my third annual report. I think I have a pretty stable amount of visitors / readers at the moment, and I don't think it will increase or decrease in a big way in the near future. Maybe the affiliation with the PJ Media will generate some extra traffic. I am of the opinion that I am in total control of what's on my blog! ;) But you could say that I am already under "influence" by other sources, e.g., CrispAds and Google AdSense ads, BlogPulse, Findory, and Command-Post feeds, and incoming list of referrers links, etc! ;)

Ann Althouse said...

Martin: Is it fair to say you don't care what your blog looks like? That sounds like an awful lot of clutter. How much would anyone pay for a BlogAd buried under all that?

Martin Lindeskog said...

Ann: No, it is not fair to say that I "don't care what my blog looks like." I don't want to have a "cluttered" layout, but at the same time I want to have plenty of interesting things and features on my blog. So far, I have received positive feedback on the design. (I will ask for help with an update of the layout in the future, taking care of some script and HTML issues.) The Blogads will continue to have a prominent place on the blog in future, and it will not be "buried". You find the ads in the right column, high up on the page. The ads have had a pretty good click-thru-rate so far. I have been running Blogads since February 2004. Due to my small traffic - compared with you and other A-list bloggers - the ad fee is according to the listed default price.

Ann Althouse said...

Lisa: Point to something in the email I'm describing that is inaccurate. There is nothing I'm talking about that isn't right here for you to read. It is therefore your comment that comes across as intemperate. What are you talking about?

Ann Althouse said...

Martin: It's a matter of taste, I suppose. You're describing a lot of clutter.

Solomon said...


I guess what I don't understand is where this seeming ire is coming from. Aren't these really just miscommunications that are solved by further communication and exacerbated by seeming snark? I guess I could understand some kind of counterattack from the BlogAds people (although I think in the long-term, someone out there beating more bushes for blog advertising will raise all boats), but why should I as an individual blogger be upset? I find it hard to believe there's any intentional malfeasance or under-handedness here that would call for this.

The PJ's people are clearly feeling their way here, wouldn't it be better just to return an email asking for some clarifications and advising them on some potential misunderstandings caused by bad pitch language?

I mean, there's Charles' clarification: You can veto ads. Now, if there's a difference between what he's saying there in writing on his site, and what the language in the agreement seems to indicate (or leave open to question), isn't it more or less solved or at least down to a quibble over language, which hopefully, due to your post, they will now make more clear?

Ann Althouse said...

Solomon: There are many things that could be said in answer to your comment. I will briefly sketch out some of them:

1. I'm concerned not just for myself, but for others who will sign on to this deal without thinking through what it means.

2. If PM is just "feeling its way," how dare it demand a one-year commitment from the bloggers!

3. I did email them and I even had a phone conversation with Roger L. Simon and never once did anyone raise this point about my having a veto or say much else in answer to my questions except essentially: take it or leave it.

4. PM has gotten so much support and publicity from bloggers, and the proposal they have come up with is BAD and someone needs to say something to express the disappointment and to counter all the puffery they've already benefitted from.

5. As I've already said, the veto power, which I assume actually exists (ie, I'm not calling Johnson a "liar") is nothing close to enough to make the deal good.

6. There is an ethic and a set of values emerging in blogging, and these things mean A LOT to me. There is a culture that bloggers HAVE CREATED. It means something. It's important. I don't want to see a group of people with dollars signs in their eyes coming along and sucking out this value. That's what I'm afraid of. When I expressed this concern to Roger L. Simon -- who telephoned me -- he said "Nice to talk to you" and hung up on me!

Does it make any more sense to you now?

Solomon said...

Heh. Yeah, I guess I see where some of the ire is coming from now, and I understand a bit more about your motivations. Thanks for the clarifications. I also guess I'm still sorry to see this happening in this way all amongst bloggers I like.


Ron said...

Speaking somewhat broadly here, it looks to me like what we're seeing is the mutation of independent thinkers into corporate employees, yes? Oh, at first, it looks like a good deal, but over time people will be subtly (and perhaps not subtly) coerced into better "performance." This would be the death knell for what we like so much now...

Bill Hobbs said...

Umm. I've solved the dilemma. I have a three-column blog. I'll keep Blogads on the left column, and sell Pajamas the space atop the right column. That way I get to "lock in" and extract cash now from Pajamas while also protecting my ability to increase ad rates (for the BlogAds slots) if my traffic rises significantly.

Syd And Vaughn said...

Ms. Althouse,

The purpose of my fiancee and I to blog has zero to do with money. We do it because we want to. We want to be a part of the new alternative media, and have our views heard. They are mainstream, nothing extreme or profane, and they deal solely with the day-to-day current events going on in America and around the world.

I've got no clue how to manipulate the HTML code on our site, so we don't have any links up in any columns. We link through the stories we report on. For us, it was never about money. We, too, received the e-mail urging us to join. We talked about this and decided ultimately to turn down the offer.

We prefer to work independently, and build up our readership as we move along. If we reach ten people each day, we're happy. If we change the opinion of ONE reader, that's enough for us. We're not out to save the world here. We're just here to keep the public informed. And we toss in our commentary for free. But as bloggers, our first duty is to our readers and the facts they read.

This was never a money venture. I could care less about the money. I liked the idea of an alliance of bloggers, but it seems to be surrounded by the idea of making money. I've only ever clicked on a couple of blog-ads on other sites. I am there to read what the author has to say, not products or services that they're advertising.


Am I Conservative or Lil' Libertarian? said...

Perhaps I am the one out of left field. Seems to me PM is more about dealing with MSM than $. It appears they are trying to not only deal with $$ but influence as an aggregate. I have no bone to pick, I'm not currently blogging and when I did, I wouldn't have been issued an invite, I'm sure.

For the record, I think each blogger should make their own decision, though it has become increasingly clear that the 'big ones' are not going to link to those outside of PM.

Hog on Ice has written extensively on this.

Ann Althouse said...

Bill: No need to say "umm" -- which is considered pretty disrespectful on the internet -- since I mentioned this option at least twice in my post/comments! As I've said already, that is clutter and is going to impair the value of BlogAds for several reasons I've already discussed.

Ann Althouse said...

Thomas: Thanks for your comment. I too started blogging entirely for the intrinsic rewards of blogging. That is why I blog now too. I want "to live freely in writing." That's my motto. I added BlogAds to make some money for doing something I already loved. I resist Pajamas (in part) because it feels like a sacrifice of freedom.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Shouldn't people "selling" advertising space on "their" blogs not have a blog server owned by Google?

Ann Althouse said...

Mr. Beamish: Blogger is totally accepting of BlogAds: read about it here.

Ann Althouse said...

Daryl: Yes, it would be interesting to know more about this organization we're asked to sell a year's work to. It's weird to sign on with such a nontransparent operation. And, yes, one wonders who among these commenters has a financial stake in the business. Someone put up a lot of money for this, but who knows who? I don't. And I did ask.

Bill Hobbs said...

Uhh. My blog is already cluttered with Blogads slots. So, I convert one to Pajamas, get cash now, and have less Blogads space inventory to sell, which means if demand rises, I can jack my prices through the roof or accept more Blogads.

Plus, Blogads allow me to sell space to small advertisers, while Pajamas is going after national advertisers, enlarging the potential number of advertisers whose money may be going into my bank account.

What's not to like about that?

Ann Althouse said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

Dean: "Blogads' horrible user interface" -- I believe they are currently doing a big redesign. And of course you haven't seen Pajamas interface. You assume it will be flawless? But you're right that you'll be less involved, and you do generally sound more like my hypothetical ideal Pajamas blogger than my hypothetical ideal BlogAds blogger.

Christopher: "I don't think all of the conclusions are sound--for example, that a PJMedia blogger signing this kind of agreement "doesn't care" what his blog looks like." All I said was that the ideal candidate for the Pajamas deal would be someone who doesn't care. The more you care, the less you are the ideal candidate. My statement as written in the original post is, I believe, sound.

Ann Althouse said...

Bill: Pajamas doesn't let you convert one slot, it requires you to commit the top four slots. And you'll have to have two ad columns because both services require their ads to be at the top of a column.

Tim Worstall said...

Charles has contacted me about the comment I left on your previous post Anne and I’ll obviously be responding to him in more detail.

I’ve though about this a little more over the weekend and read the various comments here (many from people I know online and admire) and I think I know what it is now that slightly upsets me.

I run a business as well as doing various writing and blogging bits and my disappointment is, I think, based on a feeling that PM have missed a few tricks here, haven’t made the most of the opportunity and goodwill available. As I say, I’ll be writing to Charles with the things that I think could make the offer better.

My own situation is a little odd in that I’m appealing to a 50% UK and 50% US audience and am in the process of trying to set up a mini BlogAds network for the UK, appealing to UK advertisers. So financially I am very different from most US glogs.

But what always appealed to me about the PM idea was the portal and subsequent syndication, even the mooted idea of getting syndication into the MSM for certain pieces. If PM isn’t going to be doing that (or if that is the part that Marc Danziger is going to be doing now they’ve split) then the idea loses much of its appeal.

Off to write to Charles now.

vanderleun said...

As of today, I've not received any offer from PM and am feeling quite lonely.

Not as lonely as I feel when it comes to Blog Ads. I've sent them email to be considered at least 3 times in the last year and have NEVER had a smidgen of a response from them. I assume it is because they are underfunded and understaffed.

At around 3,000 visits a day I'd like to have an offer from someone but I don't really care if I get an offer from no one.

In all of this back and forth, however, I saw one thing (above others) that just doesn't square with my own experience. Ann writes: "When I expressed this concern to Roger L. Simon -- who telephoned me -- he said "Nice to talk to you" and hung up on me!

Does it make any more sense to you now?"

Very strange. I've met Simon a couple of times and spoken with him on the phone at least half a dozen times over the last couple of years and he never has been anything other than a complete gentleman.

This reported "hang-up" strikes me -- as a reader and editor -- as one of those comments where we don't quite have the whole story -- such as the content and tone coming down the line.

At any rate, this whole lawyeresque rant strikes me as one to file under the quote from Henry Kissinger: "Why are academic politics so petty? Because the stakes are so small."

Smilin' Jack said...

I think all this sturm und drang about ads is hilarious.

After a couple of days' experience with the internet, the normal human brain completely ceases to see ads. They became invisible...unless they're the blinky kind...for those it takes maybe a week for the mouse hand to learn the reflex of moving the margin to blot them out without even looking.

So anyway, don't worry about how your ads look to your readers...we don't even see them. (I know some of them must get clicked on...but that's just a finger spasm or someone's cat playing with the mouse....)

vanderleun said...

Yes, I agree and note especially that the BLINK tag was invented by Satan between Cyclon-B and Neutron Bombs.

Ann Althouse said...

Smilin' Jack: You didn't even notice the cool Camille Paglia ad that I had a while back? I loved that one! It even quoted me.

But, generally, I'm not happy to have gotten so involved in this issue. It's become my new Plaidgate -- Pajamagate! -- an issue that I opined on and then got sucked farther into that I wanted.

vanderleun said...

Yup, online flaming is like smoking crack. Me, I can quit anytime.

Ann Althouse said...

Gerard: I am genuinely trying to critique a BAD business proposal that affects bloggers. Sorry if you don't see the value of that. Accusing me of flaming or having an ax to grind or being too mean to beloved alpha bloggers is not going to stop me from having my say on this issue. I will stand my ground on the things I believe about what is an important juncture in the culture of blogging. Your efforts to get me to stop are reminding me why I won't stop. I really think this matters and what we do now will affect what blogging becomes in the future.

vanderleun said...

Efforts to get you to stop? Please cease the exercise in telepathy because it just isn't working.

I've been to enough rodeos, Ann, to have a fairly clear understanding that I have no power to stop any blogger from writing whatever they want on their blog walls. No power whatsoever.

The sheer fact that you would assume, out of whole cloth, that such was my motive or hope or dream underscores my suspicion that there's more here than meets the eye. Not in the shilling for blog ads sense, but just in the general mood and attitude which I truly don't get.

To take something of real substance rather than just attitude, you carp on the fact of what a bad deal PM may be -- though of course you do not act as my attorney in this as a matter of record, so stipulated -- but, as a good attorney will, you look at it from one rigid side only AS IF you were acting as my attorney reviewing the documents.

But lets look at the other side of the as yet unseen and unsigned binding email agreement which you mention will be along in several weeks.

I don't know the terms of these offers in cash money but I assume they are in increments of several thousand dollars for each offer. This would mean that if PM signs 100 blogs at an average of 3-4 grand each plus this signing bonus that they are going and are willing to put 300-500 thousand at risk up front *before* even getting into operating expenses. Add those on and what we're seeing is several million being risked to take blogging to the next ad level over the next 18 months.

What the individual blogger risks is, well, chump change.

In addition, the advent of brand name advertisers on blogs nationwide would not only signal to readers a jump up in importance in the blogs displaying them, but would also attract other big name advertisers to the blogs for the next go around. As someone who worked in magazines for more than 30 years I can assure you this is so.

I don't know what the "look and feel" of the PJ ads would be at this point but they have to be as good as the tacky stuff coming in from blogads or the risible content of googleads content matching system.

Blogging is going to grow and evolve and transmogrify itself in many ways over the coming years. It seems to me that PM is just one of those ways.

To think that any individual or group working now today will shape the way blogging will really grow in the future is, to my mind, much too simple a concept. It is simply growing too fast and in too many directions and in too many countries to predict.

Getting all paranoid and legalistic, going lawyer, over an effort to make this whole thing just a tad, just a smidgen, just a jot more professional is not -- in my humble opinion counselor -- very realistic.

Ann Althouse said...

Gerard: Re "chump change" -- for the blogger, a whole culture is at stake. It's not just money. For PM, sure they've got tons of money at risk. That's why it looks like a BAD business model. They only have to put up all that money because they are demanding a one-year commitment -- which is part of what I'm objecting to. To be competent in designing this thing, they should have come up with something appealing! To say, well, that's just the best we could afford, take it or leave it, is pathetic! After all the promotion and good will they had -- that's what they came up with. And we're asked to commit for a year to people who came up with a thing like a that? It's just weird. Sorry to be so "legalistic."

Ann Althouse said...

And, you know, if I'm wrong in thinking the business model is bad, why doesn't Pajamas Media make a more detailed disclosure of what they are doing and try to convince me that it's well thought-out and fair? Every time I ask for any information, all I'm told is that I don't have to accept the offer. That makes me very suspicious. They seem to be saying, oh well, so just don't take it, and let that be the end of it -- so why are you TALKING about it? Presumably, they hope others will take it and not ask the questions I'm asking. It's not "paranoid" to ask questions about something like this. The organization is not at all transparent, and it is trying to extract major commitments from hardworking, creative people who deserve to be treated well.

Again, I don't know which of the commenters here are actually connected with Pajamas. I don't know who may have a financial interest in the operation.

vanderleun said...

It's not legalistic, it just doesn't strike me as realistic.

To say that " a whole culture is at stake" is just too monotheistic. It reminds me of what lawyers say everytime they want to alter a period to a semicolon at 300 bucks an hour billed in halfhour increments. They believe a deal could always be made better. Well, guess what, it can always be made better. It can be made better to the point of it not happening.

It seems to me that in this wide wild world of blogging anybody can go off and raise money and start flinging offers around at will. Nothing stops anybody from doing anything. At the same time, to sit around and carp about what makes sense for one group just out of some belief that things shoulda, woulda, coulda be made better just moves you into the lawyer universe where nothing ever really happens for a very, very long time.

And while clinical paranoia may not enter into this, it is all too common and cliched to see ye olde transparency flag run up the pole at this stage.

"Why don't they disclose?"
"Why won't they dispose?"
"What are you hiding in your pajamas or are you just glad to see me?"
"Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Blogger Exploitation Party?"

Pish-posh. This is a reputation and attention based economy and Simon and Johnson have very large and verifiable and transparent online reputations. You can see it in their archives and every day.

To advance the notion that they are some sort of hulking beast waiting to trick poor little bloggers out of their lunch money just doesn't fly. There is simply no basis in reality for it. Anyone with a year of law school can fisk-parse any business offer into a 'rotten one.'

It takes vision, work and risk to make a business offer.

Ann Althouse said...

Gerard: I've said it before but I'll say it again, the reputation that Johnson and Simon have as bloggers does not just translate into the business context. Other people are involved, there is a big financial backer, and there are great unknowns here. The attitude Simon took with me on the telephone and the silence I've gotten for my questions makes me think they may perhaps not be in control right now. We bloggers were once signed to a confidentiality agreement and we don't know what confidentiality agreement binds them. My sense is there is a reason we're not hearing more. Don't forget that one of the main people, Marc Danziger, broke away from the group. So there are things going on that we don't know about, and it's just not enough to say that you respect Johnson and Simon as bloggers. They aren't in the blogger role here and they may well not be in charge, even though they are serving as the public face of the operation.

vanderleun said...

Frankly, to make so many suppositions based on what you acknowledge is an utter lack of information one way or another carries, well, just a whisp of paranoia.

Why would any business want to run along and discuss its internal affairs in a wholly public and transparent manner based on demands from those who have no association with that business? No business of any sense that I know of.

It all revolves around the ancient and honorable concept that another's business, except to the extent it concerns you when you conduct business with it, is indeed none of your business.

I'm sure this stuff about shadowy millionaires hiding in the bushes and secretly pulling the strings behind the scenes appeals to the conspiracy buffs among us, but it doesn't butter none of my parsnips.

Danziger gone. Okay. For reasons unknown that he and they do not choose to discuss. Happens all the time in startups. Happens all the time in mature businesses. Could be relevant, could be irrelevant. But whatever it may be it is most assuredly none of our business.

Why? Because it is *their* business. Taking umbrage because you are not allowed to know the details of someone else's business just doesn't seem to me to be a defensible position.

As for: "I've said it before but I'll say it again, the reputation that Johnson and Simon have as bloggers does not just translate into the business context." Well, you can say it until the last ding-dong of doom and you'll still be, with all due respect, dead wrong.
Reputation really is what moves most business arrangements and deals. Contrary to received wisdom a lot of stuff gets done on a handshake out of reputation and respect. In fact, most of the stuff that gets started and finally is handed over to lawyers comes about precisely because of reputation and respect.

That's the way the world actually works outside of legalistic agreements. Always has. Always will.

In fact, I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that if somebody you'd never heard of came to you and offered you whatever your dream version of this agreement might me, if it mapped in every detail what you wanted it to be and upped whatever money you'd get to something beyond the dreams of avarice, the first question you'd ask would be, "Hey, who are those guys?"

Ann Althouse said...

Oh, and by the way, whining about how I'm "legalistic" or a "lawyer" or have gone to law school are incredibly lame. Resorting to that really makes you look like you don't have substantive arguments. Stick to the substance. It's more convincing.

Ann Althouse said...

Gerard: I clicked on your name and there's no profile available. How do I know you're not an insider close to the project? You seem awfully hot about it.

vanderleun said...

Just pointing out that we become what we behold. Lawyers are trained to have a certain mindset. You'll recall that you've often in this thread and others touted your training and ability and insight as a lawyer and "Constitutional scholar." To move away from that stance as an "expert" when it doesn't suit your argument seems to me to be a bit specious. Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

As for my dark and shadowy roots and obscure affiliations, you can click on my web page and take it in.


Of some interest might be:
The Koinonia of Blogdom

Fear of Instalinking

How do you know I'm not a "secret insider?" Well, how do you know I'm not a member of The Illuminati? You don't. The assumption that I owe anymore disclosure than I made in my first entry is one only a lawyer could make.

vanderleun said...

And as for my "heat" about the issue, I think that any impartial observer would note I'm many degrees down the the thermocline from your statements in the original post and in these comments.

I just happen to think you're dead wrong in your assumptions about this whole thing and are going forward, regardless, fueled by less and less real information.

I freely admit I have no real inside information. My position is that, in absence of that, I tend to take good people at their good word. You seem to feel that something deep, dark and damaging is at foot here and I see no signs of that whatsoever.

vanderleun said...

"Blogger Profile?" The system probably thinks I still use it as I think I did once late in the 20th century.

It's part of the Blogger/Google shadow conspiracy to never let a user slip off their stats list. Makes it seem like they are far bigger than they are. I demand to be removed and demand that Google be more transparent about this shoddy attempt to inflate their numbers.

Ann Althouse said...

You have to be registered with Blogger to be able to comment on this blog. I don't accept anonynmous posts. It's nice to be able to click on the links and see who people are. It can cause a reader to go to your blog. Your profile was a dead end.

vanderleun said...

As I think I said but was, I see, not clear enough about, I am registered with Blogger from nearly five years back. I probably have a blog or two there that I have forgotten all about. There's a kind of deep inertia in the bowels of Blogger about this. It's been noted before by many others. Blogger is indeed a kind of roach motel of "registrations." You check in but you don't check out.

However, I have given you my url which contains a link to my gmail address and in addition you'll find with a simple google search under "van der leun" and "vanderleun" that I'm hardly anonymous.

This does not mean, however, that I'm going to divulge the ancient and arcane secret rituals of Pajamas insiders. I have taken a blood oath. If I do they will surely kill myself and my little dog too.

Bill Hobbs said...

Ann Althouse said: Bill: Pajamas doesn't let you convert one slot, it requires you to commit the top four slots. And you'll have to have two ad columns because both services require their ads to be at the top of a column.

Well, yeah. I know. As I said in the comment that I started with "Umm," (apparently in violation of some Internetiquette that exists only in the minds of the offended,) my blog is a three-column blog - I already have two ad columns.

So, Pajamas can have the four slots down the right column, and I'll keep Blogads down the left column.

Really, is this so difficult? Most people's blog designs leave a ton of white space on the browser. So, add a third column - or a fourth! - and run both Pajamas' ads and BlogAds.

Pajamas aims to bring in national advertisers. BlogsAds enables local advertisers. Best of both worlds.

What's not to like about that?

Ann Althouse said...

Bill: I have a hard time picturing my blog with a second sidebar. And I want to see what their ads look like, especially alongside BlogAds, before I open myself up to a year of them. What if they detract from the BlogAds? It's too much of a risk for me. The amount they offered was less than a third of what I make on BlogAds, and if I lose BlogAds as a result, I've lost money overall, with no way out for a year. And th blog looks worse, to boot. Just not worth it to me. And I don't like the second rate status they stick you with if you want to keep your BlogAds. All that promotion through their portal will not be available.

Mark K. Sprengel said...

Great post and anlysis. I signed up for Pajamas Media, but I have an extremely small regular readership and traffic stats. I only started in April and had not signed up with blogads. It will be interesting to see what they offer, if anything. But then, I wasn't making anything before. Such is life.

amba said...

I was wondering about Google AdSense. Tiger, can you elaborate?

amba said...

Plus, it's mystifying why these guys have contacted some small blogs (traffic wise) and passed over some with much more traffic. (I'm not speaking from either perspective: I'm a small blog, about the size of Tiger or a little smaller, nobody contacted me, I've thought of myself as still too small to have enough eyes to offer any advertiser. But I suppose a system that can pay "by click" would take whatever you could offer and pay accordingly.)

Charlie Martin said...

Folks, maybe I'm not getting something, but I don't see the issue. Ann doesn't like PJM's offer and isn't gonna take it.

Other people think it has advantages, and are going to take the offer.

What's the problem?

We are in said...

but...but....Ann, Roger says PJM already has you! C'mon...admit it. They had you at "Dear Pajamas Media Blogger Colleague:"


Ann Althouse said...

Management: Interesting how my name was one of only two raised when Simon wanted to show that women were being included. I haven't played the "woman card" here, but the lack of women in the mix is conspicuous. Yet I wasn't offered the "senior afflilate" status. Are any women at the senior level?

Ann Althouse said...

Uranari: They reached out to me in the earliest stages. They used my name early on to encourage other people to apply. So, yes, they did lead me to think I was someone of particular significance to them. But my first post after receiving the offer was just a fairly light comment. But it led Simon to telephone me and basically repeat the take-it-or-leave-concept until I tried to talk about how if felt from my side. His response was to hang up on me. This phone call did not make a good impression. The next day I wrote this post, which is actually a fairly mellow comparison of the two systems. Ever since, most pro-Pajama people have gone on to say what Simon already said too many times during that phone call: take it or leave it. Seems to be the only talking point. Does that inspire confidence???

Ann Althouse said...

Powerpundit: There is something defective about a business model that needs to enlist bloggers but structures things in a way that conflicts with the very qualities that make a person a strong blogger.

AST said...

What's your advice to someone with more posts than hits, and prefers it that way?

I can't imagine anybody paying money to advertise on my blog and I'm not sure I want to be prodded.

I blog because it annoys my wife less than listening to me yell at the TV.

If I had advertisers I'd feel obligated to edit my posts and spend even more time on it than I already do.

It's starting to sound like too much like work. Do these advertisers pay based only on your traffic or on the number of hits coming from your blog? And isn't taking ads from other blogs a bit like being paid for links?

It's giving me a headache.

M. Simon said...


I did much better than you with Silk Pajamas Media. They never asked me.


I have not the pleasure of a Roger Simon phone call.

However, Roger has linked to stuff I have written and we carried on a desultory conversation by e-mail. His friend M. Ledeen even commented favorably on something I had written. Roger blogged it. You are correct. He is unfailingly polite.

However, I have sent him an e-mail or three about joining Silk Pajamas and to date have recieved no reply.

I suppose my main topic is too radioactive for the blog syndicate. You see I blog the drug war and how
science is beginning to show that addiction is self medication for undiagnosed cronic conditions. Like PTSD for instance (there are others). Did I mention the drug companies and their http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/2005/10/war-on-unpatented-drugs.html
War On Unpatented Drugs? Rent seeking through the police power of government. Way too radioactive. Roger didn't even do me the courtesy of a polite turn down.

If I was to guess I'd say that as much as Simon claims to hate Hollywood negotiating he has the MO down. i.e. it is a money thing.

M. Simon said...


Dennis the Peasant

has been blogging his interactions with Silk Pajamas and it is possible my position is colored by that.

But I don't think so.

David said...

Damn, Althouse, they have you surrounded and you are still winning!