Gothamist's Jake Dobkin writes a post questioning Jason Calcanis' Weblogs Inc. business model doubting Calcanis' ability to achieve his goal - publish 500 niche specific weblogs within the next two years. Dobkin looks at the Weblogs Inc. model from several points of view including scale, quality, finances and advertising and says things don't ad up. My take is a bit different.
While the Calcanis model is quite different than Nick Denton's Gawker Media, publisher of Gawker, Gizmodo, Defamer, Fleshbot and Wonkette, both have merit but both are portrayed very differently in the media. Nick Denton is the media darling. Calcanis is not. It's just the way it ended up. Denton gets press. Calcanis doesn't get much. It doesn't necessarily make one model better than another but it's natural to pick on the business that is "perceived" to be second tier. It's easy to snarkishly call Calcanis a Denton-wannabe when all he's trying to do is launch a business model. It's equally as easy to call Denton a fame seeker - which he most assuredly is not. Dramatizing matters further, there's the differences in voice and personality of the two publishers. When cat fights arise, Denton mostly stays quiet. Calcanis likes to debate. It's human nature to assume that one who likes to debate/fight/argue might have something to hide or something to prove rather than the majestic publisher who continually appears in the New York Times and hence, must, by nature of that appearance, be successful. Both are mis-perceptions. Both business models have a chance at success.
The Calcanis model will work just like the B to B publishing model will work. If you have trouble believing that, go to the library and look for a copy of the Business to Business SRDS - you'll find thousands of niche publications. Pick up the Consumer (Denton) SRDS and it's less than half the size. There's plenty of room for niche efforts as publishing moves to the web. There's also plenty of room for the Denton (Consumer) model. Just look at the public's salivation for all things Hilton, Spears, J-Lo, metrosexual, Wintour, Grove, etc.
Monetarily, the Gawker and Weblogs Inc. business models differ. Gawker pays a salary to its bloggers. Weblogs Inc. does a 50/50 revenue split with the blogger. Some critics of Calcanis say half of nothing is nothing. Critics of Denton say the market for snark is limited. The good thing about these two models is that there are two. We will be able to sit back and watch how each one succeeds or fails and we will, of course, comment profusely as it unfolds.