Forget Digg, what about Fark?

by Mathew on August 22, 2006 · 16 comments

There’s been lots of talk about blogs as a business — whether they should be or not, whether they can be or not, what a blog network like Jason Calacanis’s Weblogs Inc. or Nick Denton’s Gawker is worth, what the prospects are for new blog ventures such as Om Malik’s, PaidContent and Huffington Post, etc. And of course there has been much chatter about what Digg is (or could be) worth, thanks to the Business Week cover that said founder Kevin Rose had “made” $60-million.

Business 2.0 has a piece in the September issue looking at successful bloggers such as Mike Arrington of TechCrunch — the Great Gatsby of the blogosphere — as well as BoingBoing and PaidContent, and the Federated Media advertising network run by John Battelle, which sells ads on a number of successful sites, including BoingBoing and TechCrunch. It’s too bad the piece has a cheesy promo blurb (“Here’s how to turn your passion into an online empire”), which sounds a little too much like one of the cover-page come-ons from a supermarket checkout magazine (“Lose 300 pounds in six easy steps!”)

Nevertheless, the Business 2.0 piece is worth reading if only for one reason — to realize how staggeringly successful Fark.com is. Plenty of attention gets paid to Kevin Rose and Digg (and rightly so) and to other sites like del.icio.us, and even to political blogs like DailyKos and Instapundit, but not much gets written about the site Drew Curtis put together in 1999 and still more or less runs singlehandedly from Lexington, Kentucky (a location that could explain why he gets so little attention from the Web cognoscenti; ever been to Mike’s house for a party, Drew?).

According to the magazine article, thanks in part to FM and the attention that sites are getting from advertisers, Fark could be looking at $600,000 or so in ad revenue per month pretty soon. According to FM’s site, Fark gets about 5 million uniques a month, which makes it larger than most metropolitan newspapers. And Drew runs it with some help from a couple of tech guys. It reminds me a little of Markus Frind, the little-known web-vertising genius behind the online dating site Plentyoffish.com, which he runs more or less singlehandedly (with some help from his girlfriend) and makes more than $500,000 per month from.

In some ways, Fark was the original Digg. I started cruising it for links to stupid, funny and/or interesting links half a dozen years ago, and it is still as simple as it was then — a series of links submitted by users, with amusing tags, and a comment section for each that is often filled with sophomoric remarks. It’s not all Ajax-y, and its design is sort of garish, but people don’t seem to care. And while Kevin is on the cover of Business Week, Drew is laughing all the way to the bank. (He has some thoughts about Web 2.0 in an interview here).

The only fly in the ointment is that now Farkers (some of whom pay for extra access) know how much he is making, and they are wondering what they get out of the whole deal. Could there be a “user-generated-content” revolt brewing? Maybe Jason Calacanis will start hiring away Farkers too.

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