13. The Blaze
> Value: $24 million
Glenn Beck, of Fox and Mercury Radio fame, has quickly built The Blaze as the conservatives’ answer to The Huffington Post. Leveraging his incredible success as a TV-personality and radio show host, the site has grown to 3.6 million readers in just over a year. The site also appears to be benefiting from an impressive lineup of media talent. Betsy Morgan, former CEO of The Huffington Post, who helped grow the site from 4 million to over 20 million readers during her tenure, was hired as president of The Blaze in January. Scott Baker, co-founder of conservative blog Breitbart.tv, is The Blaze’s editor-in-chief. The site’s pedigree, along with Beck’s star appeal, appear to be drawing fans. However, despite incredible early numbers, the site may be suffering from the same problem Fox claims it had with Beck’s show. While advertising seems relatively strong for a such a young brand, premium advertising is still sporadic. The site’s greatest asset may also be its greatest weakness – its identity is inextricably linked to that of its founder.
14. Zero Hedge
> Value: $16 million
Zero Hedge may be the most extraordinary site on the 24/7 Wall St. list because it does not observe any of the characteristics of highly successful blogs. The design lacks color, which can make the site’s layout hard to navigate. Many posts seem anonymous because all the bylines are the same, which could make readers question the objectivity and reliability of the site’s content. Most of the posts are about arcane economic subjects that range from the complex finances of EU sovereign debt to mortgage-backed securities. Zero Hedge does share two things in common with many of the most successful blogs. Stories are posted very regularly – often several times per day – and the attitude of the writers toward their subjects is highly irreverent and often insulting. It is also considered to be among the best sources for real time news on the markets. The site has very few writers, so its highest single cost is commissions on ad sales.
> Value: $13.2 million
ReadWriteWeb is one of the most well-read technology blogs for tech and IT-insiders. Unlike other technology blogs that reach a larger audience, ReadWriteWeb’s articles are read by IT decision makers. This highly specialized audience has come to expect probing and forward thinking tech commentary from ReadWriteWeb’s founder and large editorial team. What it may lack in broad appeal, it makes up for in high-end advertisers that know a good demographic when they see one. Its audience numbers are trending down, but sophisticated and engaged readers and particularly high use of LinkedIn social media suggests this is still a destination site for tech readers in the know.
> Value: $13 million
VentureBeat is yet another technology blog that serves an audience with a voracious appetite. The blog, which includes sections on mobile, gaming, deal making, and cloud computing, looks at technology through a business lens. Though the site covers many of the same stories other tech sites do, like TechCrunch, it focuses on what the implications are to the venture capitalists, deal makers and new developers to the scene. Its audience commands fairly healthy advertising revenue, and its conferences make VentureBeat a powerhouse. A high headcount keeps margins tight.
> Value: $12.9 million
Started in 1995, Pitchfork is the most widely read news source on independent music. Featuring criticism, commentary and interviews, it covers the industry ably. Readership is flat year over year, but 2 million indie readers is still an impressive audience. The blog’s detractors may object to its narrow definition of what’s considered alternative, but music labels and show promoters don’t seem to care. Advertising is strong as a result. The annual Pitchfork Music Festival hosted 45 acts over three days, and was one of the most popular acts of the summer.
> Value: $12 million
Mediaite is one of the Internet’s major media blogs and gossip sites. It has a proprietary system that determines what the site calls the “relevance” of dozens of members of the media. The secret process tracks them based on their primary medium — print, TV, or online. The Power Grid, as the system is called, almost certainly keeps many readers returning to the site to watch the contest for relevance among media personalities. Mediaite is part of the Abrams Media Network, which includes SportsGrid, Mogulite, Geek System, Gossip Cop, Styleite, and The Mary Sue. The founder, Dan Abrams, is well-known, but does not contribute enough to the content of the sites to represent much founder risk. The Abrams Media sites carry only a modest amount of premium advertising, which makes high margins difficult to achieve.
> Value: $8 million
Newser selects what its editors believe are the most important news items of the day and summarizes them into short and frequently witty posts, generally no longer than 150 words. Unlike most blogs, including those on this list, Newser is a general interest news site and its 50 or more daily posts appeal to a broad audience. While the editors cover most of the important and media news of the day, they have a knack for picking amusing and even salacious angles. Consistent ad placement and apparently good advertising means they do a lot with a relatively small audience.