August 3, 2005

A harsh blow for Pajamas.

John Hawkins of Right Wing News slams Pajamas Media:
I mean I understand that some people may love the idea of getting a "guaranteed salary," but is it really guaranteed? Keep in mind, they haven't even gotten started yet, so who's to say they'll even be in business in a year? Take it from me, people, I was running a humor zine on the net back when the tech bubble burst and all the advertising money dried up. There were a lot of people making "guaranteed" money then, too. Guess what? The advertising agencies paying them had to default because there simply were no ad dollars rolling in. Don't think the exact same thing can't happen with Pajamas Media, because it can.

Furthermore, even though Charles & Roger are both talented and successful bloggers, in the world of internet advertising, they're totally unproven rookies starting a brand spanking new company. And start-ups are tough business under the best circumstances. The reality is that most of them don't make it. That's not a slam at Charles and Roger, because they're both sharp guys and I certainly hope they do succeed because the more competition there is for blogger advertising space, the more all of us stand to make in the future.

But right now, Pajamas Media has a very short and unimpressive track record, they're being very secretive (What's going on with syndication and Marc Danziger?), and they're looking for some very long commitments. Until that changes, Blogads is probably the better deal for Bloggers.
Well, you know this is pretty much what I've been saying. If you don't know, my earlier posts are here, here, here, and here. My main post is the second one, which has a LOT of comments. There are excellent comments in the third one too. It's quite striking that so many people keep telling me to decide on my own whether to take it or leave it and not blog about it. People keep saying they don't understand why I'm blogging about it. Here's one of my (many) responses to this doggedly repeated point ("It's not like PM is with a gun to a blogger's head saying join with us or else. Isn't that what a free market is all about?"):
The reason we're talking about it is that offers are going out which, if you accept, bind you for a year. We're thinking out loud about whether to accept the offer. This thinking out loud is part of the marketplace. You, like many others, are saying: each individual blogger should just decide whether to take it or leave it and not share our analysis with others who are weighing offers. To that, I say: no, no, no, no, no! Let's share analysis. Let's do it in public. This is a market too! The marketplace of ideas. I'm saying: talk about it!


EddieP said...

Ann, I still don't understand the fuss. You'll be hooked up with people like Roger Simon and Glenn Harland Reynolds for a year. They are the same class bloggers that you are. It isn't as if you are joining the KosKids. What if PM has a terrific outcome? So you made a good decision. If it turns out you might have made a little more money with BlogAds, so what? Switch back after a year, they might even offer you a sweetner to get you back. You have an opportunity to shape Pajamas Media, just as you've had a chance to shape Althouse.

I can't believe a few uncertainties about compensation would sway you. It's not as if a year is very long. Go for it girl!

Ann Althouse said...

Eddie: They weren't inviting me to join them at the managment level. Telling me I'm at their level just reminds me why I found the offer insulting! They wanted to put me at a low level, not on a par with them. Really, your comment makes no sense to me. Why would signing on at a low level put me in some special position to take advantage. There's no bargaining position to be gained by locking in for a year!

Too Many Jims said...


Don't you know you have to get in on the ground floor? Or is that just what they say when hawking ponzi schemes.

BoneUSA said...

I think some of the negative reactions to your reaction to the Pajamas offer stems from a vibe running through your posts on this topic which reached its purest form with this:
"Telling me I'm at their level just reminds me why I found the offer insulting! They wanted to put me at a low level, not on a par with them."
Your objections to many of the offer's terms were rational and well-founded; the manner in which you conveyed them was anything but. The ivory tower appears to have imbued you with a sense of entitlement that is all too common among the tenured. PJM makes an offer you don't like, and you demand to know the details of its business model. PJM acts like any normal business and declines to disclose those details, and you unveil the conspiracy theories. Not only that, but you are "insulted" by PJM's offer. I don't recall much morality coming up in contracts class, unless we are talking about the electronics store in the ghetto cases, and please don't take up that mantle.

PJM seeks to lock in affiliates for a certain period of time, and you react as if it's a demand for indentured servitude. You must be aware, notwithstanding the teaching gig, that actual businesses often attempt to achieve some kind of cost and revenue certainty, and long(er) term agreements make this possible. And now you're on a mission to protect all those who lack the ability to understand the terms of the PJM offer themselves. Please.
I've enjoyed your blog from its inception, but a smug and self-congratulatory tone has been emerging over the past few months and it's reached a new level with this tempest.

PatCA said...

I won't delve into anyone's personal psychology on the issue, but it's safe to say that bloggers are independent people. So I think a discussion is a good idea, regardless if PM or another blogger starts it, because PM's model, if I understand it, would fundamentally change the nature of personal blogging.

I had assumed PM would have a big general meeting in LA sometime to explain what the business is and what they hope to do, meet everybody, share ideas, schmooze...but I guess not.

Kathy Herrmann said...

Wow! I'm surprised (shocked actually) at the number of folks with a laisse faire (sp) attitude, or hostility, to Ann's exploration of the PJM offers.

Folks, PJM isn't making an offer to form a club of cool kids. Nor is PJM doing anyone a "favor" by having them in their blogger stable.

They are seeking to make money, and given the way they've talked about this venture, they want to make big money. And what they make will be as much or more off the labor of their bloggers as their own. Given that, I'm really surprised that all the potential PJM bloggers aren't asking penetrating questions about their offers and the company.

And yes, Charles, Glenn and Roger may be great guys and bloggers. But as John Hawkins profiled, they're newbies in running an ad network and managing a channel -- and it's showing.

As someone who's had to build a sales channel, I can tell you that prospective channel members, at least the ones that will make valuable contributions to your bottom line (ie, earn income for you), will grill you with questions. The reason is because they take their business seriously and want to be sure you are too. Ann's questions are reasonable...and well...should be straightforward for PJM to answer if they have a well-thought out business model.

As for "what is there to lose?" 1) Money, through lost opportunity. 2) Other strategic relationships, because of your pre-existing one with PJM.

And as for uncertainties? In the business world I've traveled through, uncertainty equals risk and risk translates into an expectation for a higher payout.

And oh yeah, effectively managing the personalities of your channel members, is a biiiiiiig part of channel management.

Ron said...

The vibe of this discussion mirrors discussions people have about their salaries vis-a-vis their employer. People are clearly uncomfortable about this, and I frankly employers take advantage of peoples discomfort. It's not as there weren't metrics that grade people's performance!

I feel the same thing here; I care about a companies busness model precisely where it intrudes on my business model, where it makes demands on me, where it makes assumptions about me and my behavior and what I want to do, and leaves a lot of things in the dark!

I still stick by Ann's objections.

John McCrarey said...

I really don't care one way or the other about anyone's decision on whether to sign on with PM. But it has seemed to me you are on a crusade to undermine PM, and I couldn't understand why. While I hope it is not the case, your comment about being "insulted" struck me exactly as it did boneusa.

To each his own I suppose. It's a big pool and you can swim wherever you want. I just don't see the point in pissing in the water, bruised ego notwithstanding.

AJ Lynch said...

This topic is too "inside money ball" for me. With all due respect, I am not interested in the financial perils of Ann Althouse and her tough choice.. though I enjoy her website. Just like I love baseball but abhor the unavoidable talk and chatter regarding player salaries and other of its economics issues.

bill said...

Why not talk about it? A group of people are trying to form a business interest to make money off blogs. I’m surprised more blogs aren’t talking about it. And despite some pointed and fair questions, the principals involved have said little other than “then don’t join.”

I also find it interesting that many of the negative responses to Ann also have a whiff of “cult of personality” to them. Ann, don’t be so harsh, they’re nice guys and you’ll just have to trust them and go with the flow. Damn hippies, get off my lawn.

Here’s a couple public statements they’ve made.

Interview with Danzigner

Simon’s open letter; reading the comments he claimed to have an Ann Althouse onboard.

What do they want to do? Sell advertising and create news and editorial content (and then sell that?). Each will have different requirements. Looking at the founders and the editorial board, most people would expect the news to track center/right-of-center. And many people looking forward to PJM are expecting a conservative answer to the liberal mainstream press. [insert scare quotes wherever appropriate] Take this comment comparing PJM to Slate. Slate is left-of-center, but PJM will be more diverse because it will be right-of-center. Since when does trading one set of biases for another equal more diversity?

I could care less if PJM is successful or not. But to get all whiny when you’re trying to market a product to people who have a very public hobby of talking about stuff and then they talk about it is just unseemly.

You want people to stop talking about it, or at least change the tone of the conversation? Give us more information. Or we’ll start making up conspiracy theories; which is the second reason for the existence of the internet - after porn and before gambling.

ploopusgirl said...

Well, I still can't believe bloggers make money off their blogs at all. All I have to do to form a new stream of income is get in the habit of linking to newspaper articles and call it a blog? It seems absurd to me.. does not seem a damn thing like art, as Ann has repeatedly maintained, and makes this whining about disrespect and being put in "lower levels" seem all the more vulgar. I'm offended that you make money off this is at all, Althouse. It seems many of your other readers feel the same way. I'd let go of your crusade against Pajamas before you lose all your readers, along with your unnecessary, ridiculous extraneous income. Mm..

Kathy Herrmann said...

Bill -- I've been wondering where the PJ Media blog is. Heh heh.

Kathy Herrmann said...


I can't tell. Are you joking or serious about being offended Ann makes money off her blog? If the latter, then how come?

Given Ann's readership numbers, and given the socio-economic make-up of the folks that seem to show up at Althouse (read that as their spending potential and I'm making some assumptions here) , I think Ann is making peanuts relative to traditional online pubs. That's true of a wide swath of blogs. For example, I think Instapundit is dramatically under-valued and Glenn should be making ad revenues hand over fist all on his own.

As for the linking comment. Well, I agree some folks do go overboard with doing massive copy/pastes and there are psuedo blogs that are nothing more than glorified screen scrapes. However, lots of bloggers build original content (analytical, quirky, etc). Some may link as a springboard into discussion. Ann does some of both (analytical and quirky that is). Another couple of examples in the poli world are Chrenkoff and Belmont Club. There are lots of other bloggers out there creating their own original content too. Just doing a quick review on bloggers commenting in this article, EddieP, Jim, PatCA, and I all seem to have original content too.

vbspurs said...

As Roaring Tiger said, Ploopusgirl (Ploopusgirl? sounds like Barney's girlfriend),...

...I can't tell if your indigant attitude to Ann making money off of her blog is genuine outrage, or a winkie-smiley half-troll (as calling her a butch-sounding "Althouse" may indicate).

What's up, what's the deal?

Are you really that irate such a thing as profit is to be had from readership of a blog?

Do you rip apart newspapers and MSM doing the same, when they sell ad space based on reader/viewer eyeballs?

What's the difference between them, and Ann Althouse et. al., other than the fact that the Highest Beings-to-Large Mammal crowd tend to be more accurate, more topical, and more willing to listen to viewpoints.

Which in fact, is precisely what Ann is doing.

Now, I have no concrete opinions on the case of "PJM v. BlogAds", because I am simply not in the Reynolds or Althouse league (and I don't like to clutter my blog with the more accessible Google ones), but I do feel that she has a right to voice her opinions about this topic, since it has helped more than one major blogger think about the switch, and all its ramifications.

What would you suggest these Big Bloggers do instead? Talk about it at the Big Secret The Truth Laid Bear Meeting? Conduct an email-a-thon privately, so that no one learns the ins-and-outs of such business, and makes mistakes which could've been avoided if not for frank open discussion?

Further, I don't see anything wrong with a blog owner finding any business offer insulting.

Some people have a sense of worth, and yes, it could be their sense of worth is inflated, or even wrong, but that never stopped people from asking their boss for a raise, now has it?

This just in -- America is a Capitalist country.

Don't you get spiteful just because some people have built a better mousetrap.


MisterPundit said...

I've been following this saga with a bit of a yawn but it seems to me that the whole thing has taken on a personal tone. This is no longer a discussion, it's just a series of accusations and counter-accusations. I hope I'm wrong. I'm all for blogging about it, but have anyone actually picked up a phone to talk to each other about it, or are you communicating through blog posts?

Ann Althouse said...

Mr. Pundit: Read the comments in the second post in my series of posts. After I wrote my first post, Roger Simon called me, but he didn't provide any helpful information and in fact, when I talked about my concerns, he hung up on me. I've exchanged emails with him about it too, even after he hung up on me. There is a distinct withholding of information.