Daring Fireball recently celebrated its tenth birthday. During this time, the column has grown from a part-time hobby into a full-time job for John Gruber. As someone who would love to write a technology column full-time, the economics of the business are intriguing to me.
As far as I can tell, Daring Fireball generates revenue in four ways: a weekly sponsorship, a single ad for The Deck, periodic t-shirt sales, and a membership program. Information is not publicly available on The Deck, t-shirt sales, and the membership program. However, there is data available on weekly sponsorships. John hasn’t changed much about Daring Fireball over the years, and he has kept the same format for his Sponsorship page since at least July 2007. He lists three key statistics on the site: weekly sponsorship price, feed subscribers, and estimated monthly page views.
Using the handy Wayback Machine, I was able to compile data from July 2007 until January 2013 when John last updated the Sponsorship page. As you can see from the chart below, the weekly sponsorship price has steadily increased from $900 in July 2007 to the current price of $8,500.
At first blush, this seems like a crazy, almost unsustainable, increase in price. A Daring Fireball bubble, if you will. But upon further analysis of the data, the weekly sponsorship price has actually remained quite stable over time. First, consider the weekly sponsorship price per Daring Fireball subscriber. It steadily hovers around $0.02 per subscriber.
The same price stability holds true when we consider estimated monthly page views. As shown below, a monthly sponsorship (four weeks) per page view has fluctuated between $0.005 and $0.008.
Thus, when compared to the growing audience of the site, the weekly sponsorship price has remained quite stable over the years. So, how do the economics of Daring Fireball translate to Virtual Pants? I better not quit my day job. Using monthly page views as the metric, Virtual Pants would demand a $127.50 weekly sponsorship price. It looks like I’ve got some work to do.