Mercenary Media vs. Missionary Media

Mercenary mediaRobert Scoble profiles Federated Media, a community of 150 “passion driven” blogs. FM’s Founder and Chairman, John Battelle categorizes media in two ways:

  • Mercenary media
    A company identifies a market opportunity, creates content around it, and then sells advertising against it.

  • Missionary media
    Writing for the passion of the topic. A community builds around this because people really want to engage with what this person has to say.

Its a fascinating distinction. In many ways, it summarizes all that I love about how the web has leveled the playing field for content creation and distribution, as well as creating community. On the other hand… it is not really an accurate picture of how blogs are evolving, and how media companies operate.

But Federated Media does have an interesting model. John points out the differences in how he pays bloggers:

  • Traditional media company: 15% of revenue goes to author.
  • Federated Media: 60% of revenue goes to the author.

Other interesting facts about Federated Media:

  • They have 35 authors who get $10,000 per month.
  • A few get $100,000 per month.
  • 27 sales people; it takes time for them to learn about a new site, it could take 2-3 quarters for serious revenue. They sell advertising on a site-specific basis.
  • Some niches can be profitable with a smaller amount of traffic. Others are so competitive, they need massive amounts of traffic to be worth their while.
  • It is hard to get 140+ people onto one platform.
  • They are learning how to measure “conversation” metrics that is an inherent part of social media.
  • Like the music industry, Federated Media’s model isn’t to start sites around hot topics. They simply look for existing communities that they want to bring on board.

The three things they look for in bloggers:

  • Quality.
  • Whether there is an engaged communty around the site.
  • Page views – it has to be worth a marketers time to get to know the site.

Federated Media’s authors are a who’s who of the hottest web sites out there. As FM becomes a larger media entity, and traditional media companies evolve their online business, it will be interesting to see how one becomes more like the other.

Update: The San Francisco Chronicle just posted a profile of John Battelle.
Thanks to Munir Umrani for the link!

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