It’s just important to remember that the personal franchise phenomenon is not necessarily a harbinger for journalists or journalism generally. The opposite is probably true.
And what of the prospects of AllThingsD? The high-stakes standoff with News Corp. led to some information leaking out that puts the site’s finances in perspective.
As Bloomberg reported:
Tickets to AllThingsD’s most recent conference, at the end of May, cost $5,500 each, for a total of $2.75 million. The event also takes sponsors — such as Oracle Corp. (ORCL) and Sony Corp. — which pay as much as $400,000 each, adding up to more revenue than ticket sales generate, according to two people with direct knowledge of the business.
The website only brings in about $3 million to $4 million in annual ad revenue, most of it tied to deals that also run across Dow Jones’s other sites, such as wsj.com, one of the people said. As a stand-alone entity, AllThingsD.com would generate about $1 million a year, the person said.
Bloomberg is asking us to trust it that these are not News Corp. sources out to bag AllThingsD (if they are, shame on Bloomberg).
Now, roughly $6.5 million in (minimum, including sponsorships) annual revenue is nothing to sneeze at—at all.
But remember, when thinking about wider applicability of this case, this is the tech sector, where money is practically flowing in the streets. Few other niches are this rich.
And the negotiations of the last few months turned into what might be thought of as the site’s first market test. That market was Rupert Murdoch, and he passed on the deal. Now, Murdoch is not always right. And he has an almost irrational belief that journalists are effete snobs who must be kept in their place.
But on the other hand, whatever else he is, Murdoch is one of the great value-creators among media titans of his generation. His valuation of media properties should be given some weight. And, as Sharon Waxman puts it so delicately, Mossberg and Swisher got “kicked to the curb.” (Waxman makes them out to be some kind of victims, but I don’t think anyone really believes that.)
For now, Dow Jones is promising to ramp up its technology coverage as well as its technology conferencing business.
Meanwhile, Swisher and Mossberg are left to issue plucky blog posts while they finalize a deal to bring in new backers and a new structure.
At this point, they are in the position of Jerry Maguire dialing technology leaders to stay with them, while Dow Jones plays Bob Sugar doing the same, perhaps murmuring, “It’s not ‘show friends’, it’s ‘show business.’ “
We’ll know more about how all this turns out in January when Swisher and Mossberg launch their new business, under a new name. Personally, I hope they make it and leave Murdoch and Dow Jones in the dust. Their success would add more proof that not only can (the most successful) individual journalists build sustainable franchises, they can go it alone
And something tells me they’ll do just fine.
But even if they do, and that’s still in doubt, the AllThingsD case isn’t really a model for anything.