Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
With an interface that looks like a chat platform, Quartz wants to text you the news in its new app
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Aug. 10, 2011, noon

MoJo’s digital ad revenue: up 97 percent over last year

Even when you get the Colbert Bump, you’ve got to be ready to take advantage of it.

We wrote earlier this year about some optimism-inspiring traffic gains over at Mother Jones: This February — long before Osama bin Laden’s death spiked traffic stats for many mags in MoJo’s league — the site saw a 420-percent increase in traffic from the previous year. And while the trendlines have settled down a bit from the February record-breaker, MoJo’s traffic is still, steadily, rising: Over the previous period last year, MotherJones.com’s traffic saw a 120-percent increase in unique visitors — to over 2 million a month — as well as a 100-percent increase in overall visits (over 3 million a month). The site also saw an 85-percent increase in pageviews: It now averages 5.5 million a month.

But there’s another bit of news to add: MoJo’s digital ad sales are also up — 97 percent.

Steve Katz, Mother Jones’ publisher, attributes that in large part to plain-old, straight-up good content: content that got traction, content that got attention. During the time of the traffic rise, MoJo sent reporters to the oil-spill destruction in the Gulf; to the protests* in Wisconsin; to Haiti. It produced a series of popular explainers. Infographics from Kevin Drum’s big story on inequality in America got picked up by huge outlets like Yahoo News and — the holy grail — The Colbert Report. “So there was a whole series of reporting efforts that were going on that were generating more traffic for us,” Katz says. And what resulted was “a wonderful virtuous circle.”

And once those stories were out there, getting their Colbert Bump — once, that is to say, they began bringing big numbers of readers to MotherJones.com — “we were in a position, as they say, to monetize the traffic,” Katz says. “We could sell ads against it, we could raise funds against it. And it worked.”

On the face of it, of course, that’s the simplest revenue strategy in the world: Good content brings good audience brings good ad buys. But in most cases, of course, “good content = good business” isn’t a strategy so much as a hope. (As Jeff Jarvis likes to point out, “‘Should’ is not a business model.”) So it’s worth considering why, exactly, the model seems to be working for Mother Jones.

And one reason — which is a reason also given by MoJo’s fellow ad-sales success story, Talking Points Memo — is that Mother Jones has deeply invested in its digital ad sales effort. Advertising, it’s worth noting, isn’t the dominant source of revenue for Mother Jones — it comprises less than 10 percent at last count — and MoJo stands out, in fact, “in its time-tested ability to pull revenue from all kinds of sources,” Jim Barnett has pointed out. Still, though, MoJo has made ad sales a priority. The outfit has two sales reps, one in San Francisco and the other in New York — and, Katz told me, it’s bringing on a third: someone based in Washington, who will focus on ad-sales opportunities within the political/non-profit/advocacy/policy worlds. Which is an idea that takes on extra urgency, and that makes extra sense, as the 2012 election cycle heats up.

“We are very interested, and have been for some time, in having not-for-profit organizations, advocacy groups, policy shops, and party organizations advertise on MotherJones.com,” Katz says. A whopping 75 percent of MoJo readers have voted in federal, state, and local elections, the mag notes in its media kit; and 80 percent of them — based on a reader survey — trust brands that advertise on MotherJones.com. Those facts, combined with MoJo’s traffic and engagement stats, can make for a powerful pitch. Compared with, say, TPM, “we have a more challenging environment that we’re working in,” Katz says. “We’re not focused specifically on D.C. influentials. We have a broader, grass-tops readership.”

But the challenge in that can also bring a kind of freedom. “We have a pretty wide variety of advertising on our site,” Katz points out. “We’ll pretty much go anywhere.”

—–
*Ann, in the comments, makes a good point: “Protests” is a much more accurate term than “riots” for what took place in Wisconsin earlier this year. I changed the post’s wording here accordingly. —Megan

POSTED     Aug. 10, 2011, noon
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
With an interface that looks like a chat platform, Quartz wants to text you the news in its new app
“The content type is always messages, and that’s always true whether you’re getting the message inside the app or as a notification.”
Can the Business Insider diet of irreverent, shareable finance and tech stories take off in Germany?
Business Insider Deutschland, one of eight other BI editions outside the U.S. and a growing part of the BI “international newsroom,” is doubling its staff and expanding original coverage.
Vertical video is becoming more popular, but there’s no consensus on the best way to make it
Some outlets are turning their cameras sideways. Others are cropping horizontally shot video to fit a vertical screen.
What to read next
0
tweets
From Nieman Reports: Startups are revitalizing journalism in Brazil’s challenging environment
Despite a fraught political and economic environment for journalists, new outlets in Brazil are now experimenting with fact-checking, longform narrative writing, and citizen media.
0The Conversation expands across the U.S., freshly funded by universities and foundations
The news site that uses academics as reporters and journalists as editors now boasts 19 paying member universities and is opening up posts in Atlanta (and maybe in the Bay Area).
0A Howard project is debunking myths about African-Americans and teaching students fact-checking
“There are more black men in prison than college.” “A dollar spent in the black community stays there for only six hours.” A project at Howard University aims to dispel oft-repeated myths.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Lens
Press+
Financial Times
NBC News
Patch
McClatchy
Las Vegas Sun
MinnPost
Newsday
Los Angeles Times
Conde Nast