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Building One Of The World’s Biggest Tech Blogs From New Zealand: ReadWriteWeb Founder Richard MacManus (Part 6)

Posted on Monday, May 3rd 2010

SM: Are you hoping to sell the company in the end?

RM: We are hoping to. That would be the goal. Either that or grow it into a much more profitable business, but I think acquisition is probably the likely scenario at some point.

SM: I write a lot on bootstrapped businesses and the structures around bootstrapped businesses. I’m constantly putting bootstrapped companies on my Deal Radar series. Some of them don’t want to sell.

RM: If we did try to build a big company, we would have to take funding at some point.

SM: Not necessarily. Craig Newman of craigslist is a classic bootstrapper. I think he would tell you that he regrets taking what little money he took from eBay. I don’t think Michael Arrington is planning to take money.

RM: No. He would like to maintain control of the business.

SM: You have a very influential position in the technology media industry. When you look five years out, what do you see yourself doing with that platform?

RM: There are several directions we could go. At the moment we do premium reports, and we started doing events last year. Even with our advance we tried to do something different from the others. We did a different format so that the audience was participating much more. The first event was in Mountain View, California, in October of last year and was on the real-time Web. We had about 300 people there, and it was a very influential audience. We are going to do another conference in May in Mountain View, and the topic will be mobile. We felt the events were very good fit with our brand, particularly in terms of thought leadership.

We have also started focusing on channels. We are looking at specific audiences and niche areas. ReadWriteStart has been our most successful one; it is focused on entrepreneurs, in particular first-time entrepreneurs. We could expand in many different directions. The focus for us is to continue to grow our audience. It will always be focused on the Web. In some aspects we compare ourselves to Economist magazine.

SM: Do you expect the content business model online to change? The Economist is a classic example of an online/offline blended model that succeeds in charging for online content.

RM: It will definitely change. There has always been something new over the past five years, and there is no reason to expact that to change. I am watching carefully what the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal do as they experiment with subscription models for paid content. Different delivery mechanisms such as the iPad will also make things interesting. A lot more people accessed our content on their mobile over the past year, and it’s a lot more difficult to advertise and monetize on mobiles than through our website.

SM: There is no room for advertisements. If it’s not a subscription model, how can you monetize it?

RM: A subscription model may be something that we explore in the near future because of the type of audience we attract.

SM: Do you think your audience will be willing to pay?

RM: That’s a very hard question, because we are blogging and people expect [blogs] to be free.

SM: These days people expect all content be free, which is a ridiculous expectation.

RM: We will always be a blog, but we may move into more of a magazine feel. That could be one way to tackle the problem.

SM: The New York Times’s model is also interesting. A portion of their content is free, but heavy-duty users pay for full access.

RM: Right now we are experimenting with premium reports, but we may change our attack and make premium content a paid subscription on the side.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Building One Of The World’s Biggest Tech Blogs From New Zealand: ReadWriteWeb Founder Richard MacManus
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