Attention and audiences

So Gruber noted my previous piece responding to Merlin Mann.

I’ve had a few people ask if I was going to “respond to Gruber,” and I told them I wasn’t, because I don’t necessarily disagree with anything John wrote.

All I would say — and Gruber notes this himself in the piece — is that the economics of a one-man blog are vastly different from the economics of a publishing company with multiple products, a staff of editors, an ad sales force, and a development team.

Now, we can argue about whether the future of the media is guys like John, or organizations like mine. (My thought: there’s probably room for both, though organizations like mine are not going to be common.) But what is safe to say is that what works for John Gruber and Merlin Mann might not work for most other people. This isn’t to say that they’re not right about their own situation — I am aware of how much Gruber makes on RSS sponsorships, and it’s a fantastic model. There’s a reason my counterpart at PC World, Harry McCracken, quit his job and started his own blog instead. (I have two small children and am my family’s sole source of income, which explains why I probably won’t be quitting to start my own Apple blog any time soon.)

But what works for that kind of site doesn’t necessarily work for our kind. A full income for one man is a drop in the bucket for a company with dozens of employees and an owner that expects a solid profit margin every year. (I also doubt that Gruber’s RSS sponsors hold him to the return-on-investment terms that our advertisers hold us to. Which is great for him, because he’s got enough prestige that it’s probably not required yet. Nobody wants to see John Gruber make a healthy living doing what he does more than me.)

So I guess this is my response to Gruber, but it’s not really a response. I don’t think he’s right, or I’m right. I think we’ve got different perspectives because our businesses are different. I agree with him completely about how important an audience is. Without an audience, you’re nothing. But of course, I can have all the audience in the world, but if I can’t convert that somehow into cash, I can’t feed my family. How that conversion happens is the question. And I don’t think there’s a single right answer.