SM: Did you go to Silicon Alley Reporter for the magazine or the website?
RA: When I joined the magazine was shut down, so I wrote for the website. I did daily stories. This was in 2002, which is also when I started paidContent.org.
SM: PaidContent was your own venture, right?
RA: It was. After September 11th, blogging started becoming mainstream. I wrote about blogs a lot at Inside.com. A couple of my friends had started writing blogs and got their names around. I felt this was a way to get my name out there, because it seemed to me that Silicon Alley Reporter’s website was going to be following their magazine. I felt that starting a blog would show what I covered as a journalist and what my area of expertise was.
I named it paidContent because at that point the bubble had burst. Internet advertising had fallen down. People felt you would have to pay to access websites, so the trend was away from advertising models to paid models. I registered the .org domain because the .com was already registered. I never expected it to get as big as it did. I had a few journalist friends, and it started growing by word of mouth.
By the end of 2002 I was sick of New York. I decided to move to London. I was a British citizen, even though I had never lived there. That decision was huge for me because when I moved to the US, I had intended to stay there for the rest of my life. I went back to India for a couple of months in December of 2002. PaidContent was still going because that was the only thing I had going in my life. In January of 2003 I moved to London. I did not know anybody in London, although I had a few friends who were close to the city. One of my long-lost aunts from India had a big house in East London. Her family knew this was how people came over from India and Pakistan to London, so they were used to people coming to their house and staying for a few months.
I stayed with them for about four months while I was hunting for a job. I kept updating paidContent while I was job hunting, which is good because I was not making very much headway finding work in London because I had never worked there and did not have a history there. I got a lucky lifeline where somebody from Germany thought I would make a good keynote speaker at a German-language Internet conference in 2003. They were actually willing to pay me €2,500 to go to a conference in German. I had never spoken publicly in my life, and here I was supposed to give a one-hour speech from behind a podium on paid content as a trend. I did that presentation, which probably also helped the site grow more.
SM: Did you have any strategies associated with paidContent?
RA: An interesting thing I had done from the start was to develop an email newsletter. I copied all of the blog posts of the day and sent them out via an email newsletter. At that point RSS had just come into play. The thing about email newsletters, which is still true today, is that you have a viral presence in somebody’s inbox day in and day out. The value of that is huge. I did not think this through then, but the value was definitely there.