The Linkblog Economy

From Guy English’s “Fireballed” article from the first issue of Marco Arment’s new project, The Magazine:

So, here we are. Marco’s New Thing. It’s something old and something new.

It’s old in that it follows a very traditional incentive model for authors: they get paid. It’s new in that it offers writers a way of making money off their work without the pressures of either the Page View model or the Fireball Format.

How Did You Hear About The Magazine?

Guy is right, The Magazine offers a new way for writers to make money off their work and it provides an alternative to the types of posts that usually come out of the current page view model, but is it a viable concept without the Fireball Format? While some likely found out about The Magazine through Marco’s official announcement, most of us heard about it through a link of one kind or another.

And For The Two Of You Who Haven’t Heard About It…

The Magazine is an impressive project, a simplification of what a magazine can be on a tablet. It surprised us all by giving a reason to dust off our Newsstand folders (most of the publication’s audience hid it in a folder on some distant page on our iPhone or iPad over a year ago), it builds on the work Aaron Mahnke has done with Read & Trust to encourage long-form articles from geeky writers and it has the potential to help shape the way traditional magazines approach their mobile strategy.

But Here Are The Questions I Can’t Stop Thinking About…

Would this project have been able to get the traction it did without a combination of linked list posts, traditional posts with little more than a call-to-action to check out The Magazine, as well as tweets directing people right to it? While this certainly isn’t something new, just how important have linkblogs and sites like them become to new product launches, both within and beyond the geek community?

There’s been a lot of talk about the format, about the model, the content, the technology and about Marco, but I keep finding myself thinking about the launch and the speed at which short posts drove customers to a long-form project. There’s no doubt Marco’s cachet and the reputation of Instapaper alone make The Magazine something worth checking out, it’s also clear that Marco was in a unique position to bring this project to life but the impact of being Fireballed by the entirety of the geek web was staggering (or at least it felt that way).

Is It Really Old or New?

Guy suggests that The Magazine alleviates some of the pressures of the Fireball Format, but it mostly does so by building on top of it. When you really look at how the product launched, isn’t one just an extension of the other?

So I guess what I’m really asking is this: is The Magazine the only success story here or is it also the latest example of the growing importance of the linkblog economy?

This post includes affiliate links, because I’m shameless and because I think you’ll like the things I’m linking to.

this back and forth with Marcelo Somers.Update: This post has been updated to reflect the unique position that Marco was in to make The Magazine a reality. The change is based on a

6 Responses to The Linkblog Economy

  1. I wasn’t really impressed by the magazine. The articles were good, but not necessarily something that I would want pay in order to read. I liked the format, but I get the same format when I use Instapaper.

    I am canceling my free trial, and subscribing to Instapaper pro again. It gives me exactly what I want.

    • I see it as two fold. 1) I liked the articles and 2) I get to support the guy who gave me instapaper, something I get a tremendous amount of value out of. And at $0.25 an article, the value is most certainly there for me.

    • Bojan – there was nothing there to entice me to sign up for a free account. The in-group is doing a lot of back-slapping (as friends and family are known to do), but I’d be surprised if this catches on. The fact is… there’s more than enough information out there already.

      • I don’t know… on merit alone, the quality was there. Alex Payne’s post alone was worth the cost of admission for me. I agree about the reaction, but it’s worth at least taking a look at.

  2. As you pointed out, their are a variety of factors to consider so answering the core question is tricky. Possibly a better case to analyze would be a launch of a worthy product like The Magazine but by someone or group or company less known… less tech celebrity. Clearly, someone like Marco Arment has a built in hyper press wire when considering his audience on various networks and A-listers who are friends, admirers and supporters. SO not only does Marco get to freely announce his project to thousands of his followers on Twitter and app.net etc but he also gets the additional reach that guys like Gruber and 5by5 podcasts offer… not to mention the ripple effect through the tech blogosphere that inevitably pick up on the news. Marco deserves this of course. I’m just pointing out the obvious.

    I think the power of the linkblog economy and the fireball format would be more accurately assessed if we look to non-obvious case studies… if they exist. The scale (of relevance, success or popularity/adoption) could be dialed down and still provide valuable insight.

    The truth is, and this is also obvious, their are thousands of blogs, writers, developers, apps and publications that rarely if at all bubble up to the point that even resembles mass attention. The linkblog economy may be reliant on the top tier voices (properties) in each related “community”. This is how the world works. A pertinent example is to look right now at the Presidential election and how small 3rd party candidates are just irrelevant to the so-called conversation. With that said, the fireball format in theory is very important as it churns out links and snippets of info and commentary at a somewhat rapid pace. Without this, we would have even less distribution of “stuff” to consider spending our valuable time reviewing and thinking about and socially engaging with.

    • I think it cuts both ways, you have to have access to the network. I just think the network has become equally important to the person. Who matters. I don’t think anyone could do what Marco did. I just don’t think Marco could have done it on the strength of his platform alone. And he has a damn strong platform.

      I’ll also say this, while I kill myself on every piece that I write, who shares it and how tends to contribute greatly to how many read it. While it’s nowhere near the scale of Marco, that network can impact smaller sites like this.

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