Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gaffin gets down to business of blogging

Last week, Adam Gaffin, of Universal Hub, visited the Reinventing the News team for a lecture on blogging. The man is a machine -- once dubbed the "Master of Hub Hits," by the Boston Phoenix -- when it comes to the hyper-local blogosphere, offering offbeat musing and hard-hitting news. (Just today Gaffin demonstrated his ability to break news, albeit minor, with this photo of a car crash on his street; and yesterday he spotlighted another local blogger's bitching about an excess of Panera food in her house as the result of her daughter's employment there: "I know, what a terrible thing to complain over. Boo hoo hoo.")

I was interested in the economics of blogging. We all know the apocalyptic rhetoric about newspapers: that they are going down as all the money in media is going to the Internet, which is generally a weak outlook, but whatever.

Gaffin told me that he makes $15,000 a year off of Universal Hub using Google Ads as a source of revenue, with more than 3,500 users visiting his site each day. "Which is pretty good because I do no marketing," he said. (Emphasis added by me because, Gaffin went on to explain, if Universal Hub had a strongly coordinated outreach for local advertising clients he'd make more money than with the Google service.)

"Unfortunately for me I kinda' of suck at advertising," Gaffin said. "When I'm buying a car I bring my wife because she's really good at negotiating things."

For Gaffin, the website buffers the income from his day job. "You're not going to become a millionaire at this unless you work really hard," he said.

That means building up a ton of blogs in your RSS aggregator and being vigilant about combing all resources for news on developments within the community. And it means thinking of clever or provocative headlines, like "Alleged tools charged with stealing tools," "Looking for love in the BPL reading room" and "Flaming manholes of death attack Brookline."

"It's a niche market," he said. "People read Globe stories from all over the world. We're able to sell [advertisements] at a lower price for a niche market. ... One of the things you gotta' think about: 'What's your niche?' You can't compete with the Globe as a general newspaper."

There is a growing market for online publications that offer convenience and links galore that you may adore for their explanatory value. Gaffin takes it to a new level by utilizing a Flickr account to harbor pictures, grasping Twitter to disseminate postings and a custom Google search for users to navigate the UH archives.

Keep it up, brother. Your an excellent model for many community bloggers to come.

Photo featured above is of Adam Gaffin. I took the picture with my lil' Kodak Easyshare, suckas.

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