Blogonomics: Gawker’s Payroll

Jay Rayner has a profile of Nick Denton in the UK Observer, in which we find some interesting numbers:

In January, New York-based Gawker Media racked up nearly a quarter of a billion page views…

The monthly salary is an advance against a payment of $7.50 per 1,000 page views…

Noah Robischon, the managing editor, describes the editorial spend for January, and while it’s keeping to six figures it’s a long way beyond $100,000.

Let’s be generous and say that Denton spent $1 million on editorial advances/salaries in January. At $7.50 per thousand pageviews, that means he’s paying for roughly half of his quarter of a billion pageviews: the other half (such as pageviews of the blogs’ home pages, or pageviews from bloggers who no longer work for Gawker Media) Denton essentially gets for free. Or, to put it another way, his editorial budget is closer to $3.75 per thousand pageviews than it is to $7.50.

There’s a meme going around saying that Gawker Media’s most successful bloggers are pulling down six-figure incomes, which I’m sure is true. Doing the math: at $7.50 per thousand pageviews, you need to get just over a million pageviews per month – excluding visits to your blog’s home page – in order to make that kind of money. Let’s say that half a site’s total pageviews are attributed to individual bloggers, and that there are six bloggers per site. Then for a site to be handing out six-figure incomes to most of its staff, it would need over 12 million pageviews per month. In February, Kotaku got 34 million pageviews – well over double the numbers put up by the Gawker flagship. And Gizmodo got over 60 million pageviews.

Elsewhere in Rayner’s piece he pegs the total size of the Gawker Media payroll at "around 130 people". Using the same six-bloggers-per-site assumption, that puts the editorial side of the Gawker Media operation at 90 people. Pay them $100,000 per year each, and the total editorial budget would be $9 million per year, or $750,000 per month – which sounds quite a lot like Rayner’s characterization.

It’s in Denton’s interest to keep everybody thinking that he pays badly. It makes highly-paid bloggers feel more special, and it keeps expectations low. But if you’re a Gawker Media blogger making five figures, there’s a good chance you’re below average.

(The small print: this is all very back-of-the-envelope stuff, and has a significant margin of error. It’s complicated by the fact that each site has a "site lead" who is not explicitly paid per pageview, and also by the fact that different sites pay different amounts per thousand pageviews. But even if all Gawker’s 130 employees were included in the "editorial spend", and that editorial spend were just $750,000 per month, that still works out at an average salary of $70,000.)

Update: Jay Rayner gives more detail in the comments, saying that "the editorial spend was less than $750,000 in January". If it was $650,000 for 248 million pageviews, that would mean that Denton’s paying $2.62 per thousand pageviews – and implies that bloggers get paid for only one in three pageviews that Denton’s sites receive.

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