From blog to brand: David Farrar (Kiwiblog)

Recently listed as the second most-well-read blog in New Zealand, David Farrar’s Kiwiblog has been keeping New Zealanders informed and entertained for over a decade with stories focused on politics. But Kiwiblog isn’t the first time that Farrar’s writing has served as a foil to mainstream media. While at the University of Otago, he served as a correspondent to Campus News, a nationally distributed alternative student newspaper that was published between 1984 to 1988.

In effect, Kiwiblog unites Farrar’s two greatest interests: politics and the internet. His fascination with each of these areas has seen him become involved in National Party election campaigns and serve as the vice-president of the Internet Society of New Zealand.

Despite having done well in both disciplines, Farrar has been most successful, and arguably most comfortable, in a peripheral role, from which he can look in and comment on what he sees.   

How did you start your website?

I started Kiwiblog in July 2003, after I got addicted to reading other blogs that had emerged in the last year such as NZ Pundit and Kiwipundit. I had been debating issues online since 1996 on the Usenet Newsgroups but enjoyed how a blog owner could set the topics, and deal with disruptive trolls, resulting in a higher signal to noise ratio.

How has it changed since the early days?

In the early days I might only do a post or two a day and have just a few hundred people read it. Now I tend to do 10 posts a day, and readership is in the high tens of thousands with 600,000 page views a month.

How do you go about financing your site? Do you make enough to live off it?

The site is essentially non-commercial. For a few years the advertising revenue was significant, but today it is very modest. On an hourly basis, the income after costs would be well under the minimum wage. My day job is running a market research company. If I didn’t blog and spent more time on my day job, I could probably double my income, so the blog is more a labour of love.

But the blog has increased your credibility as a commentator on current affairs. Has this proved profitable for you?

The blog has led to me doing regular commentary on radio, television and online for media sites. Some appearances are unpaid and some have a modest payment, so the income from it is relatively minor, but still useful. I think what is important is that you have credibility in not thinking one side of politics is always right and the other side always wrong.

How do you attract ad revenue to your site?

We do have some advertising, and I have never dealt with that directly. We have specialist online advertising agencies that market the site, find advertisers and place the ads. Our current agency is Digital Ads.

What type of advertising works best for a website?

The advertising that works best is advertising relevant to the sort of stories I blog about, and that give people a reason to click on the ad.

Has anyone ever offered to buy your site? Would you mind sharing some stories. What is the most you’ve ever been offered?

Yes a few years ago there was an offer by a media outlet to buy Kiwiblog for a large five-figure sum. I declined as I didn’t want to lose total editorial control, which would be inevitable with an owner that was a media company.

What advice would you give to newbies wanting to make it in the online industry?

My advice for people wanting to blog is to write for yourself, not for your audience. I write on what I find interesting and amusing, and if there are people out there who find it interesting also, then all the better.  

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