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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  • http://www.robhyndman.com Rob Hyndman

    Until your post I’d never even heard of Fark. Oy.

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  • http://Blogcritics.org Eric Berlin

    I read the biz 2.0 piece and have been following the subsequent buzz throughout the day. Prognostications for investing in blogs and user-gen content driven-properties seem to vary from the rosy (I’d throw the Business 2.0 piece into that category) to the very cautious.

    What’s your prognosis, Mathew? Will this investment fuel a “blogging bubble”?

  • http://Blogcritics.org Eric Berlin

    By the way, Fark seems to be the MySpace of the blogging world, doesn’t it? People make fun of how sophomoric it is, how the design sucks, but meanwhile it gets over one million visitors a day, rules supreme on The Truth Laid Bear, etc.

  • Mathew Ingram

    Rob, you are definitely behind the times, my friend :-)

    And Eric, thanks for the comment. You are right that Fark is a great example of the “less is more” design school — as is Plentyoffish.com. As for my prognosis, I think we are kind of seeing some little bubbles already, but some of those will turn into actual businesses, while others will pop and disappear. I just wish I knew which ones would do which. :-)

  • Drew Curtis

    Great blog post — I enjoyed it, thanks man.

    I posted a bit about the money thing on a later thread on the article:

    That per-month revenue projection is basically Fark selling 100% of
    inventory at $8-$10 CPMs at its current traffic level. Thats where the
    estimate comes from. Im not holding my breath. But we do have the traffic

  • http://www.plentyoffish.com Markus

    Drew its hard to get those kind of CPM’s, but if you get that much revenue hook me up :)

    At $8.00 CPM i’d be earning 18,000 * 8 = $144,000/day

  • http://www.robhyndman.com Rob Hyndman

    After hours of intensive research, I’ve concluded that Fark’s secret sauce is the hilarious editorial contribution made to the stories posted – the Fark headlines are full of attitude and quite simply the best thing going. Great entertainment. I laughed, I cried.

  • Mathew Ingram

    I totally agree, Rob. For me, sometimes the headlines are the best part — as good as The Onion and sometimes even better.

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  • mmacneil007

    Long live digg!!

    Mark

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