Financial analysis and earnings transcription site Seeking Alpha expects to pay its “premium bloggers” a collective $1.2 million by the end of this year, says CEO David Jackson. While most of the site’s 4,000 contributors write their posts for free — in exchange for the promotional value to an audience of investors and analysts — it is looking to add to its current 550 “premium contributors” over the next few months.
The idea behind paying bloggers was intended to encourage original posts that were not available for free anywhere else, Jackson told paidCcontent. In essence, while no financial services professional would likely to be able to quit their day job by blogging for Seeking Alpha, it does provide a nice little bonus for articles that might otherwise just be published in an investment newsletter. In any case, the paid bloggers certainly managed to produce a lot since the start of the program, as Jackson provided a rundown of stats:
— Seeking Alpha has over 4,000 contributors, of whom roughly 1,000 contribute articles each month.
— In the past six months, there have been 8,985 articles from the nearly 550 contributors that have participated in the revenue-sharing program.
— Seeking Alpha’s revenue sharing program pays bloggers $10 per thousand page views.
— Average payment per article in Q1 and Q2 was $58.(Jackson points out that that articles keep earning income “forever,” as long the posts keep getting traffic, so the average rises over time.
— For the first half of this year, Seeking Alpha paid out $517,585.
— Seeking Alpha claims about 5 million monthly uniques, according to Quantcast figures. It has 760,000 registered users on the site.
“We’ve done almost nothing to publicize the program; most people don’t know about it,” Jackson said in an e-mail conversation. “But we’re noticing that word is getting out that a growing number of people are making serious money from the program, so the number of contributors is rising.”
He added that partnering on revenue is one part of the package of benefits that Seeking Alpha provides. “For many contributors, the exposure they get and the resulting customer leads to their businesses (e.g., money management and research) are far more valuable; others most appreciate the prestige of being highly ranked or the discussion about their ideas by our community (55,000 comments were written on Seeking Alpha last month),” Jackson said. “The Premium Program has therefore worked particularly well for contributors who know a lot about stocks and companies but don’t have money management or research businesses. For example, retired professionals and individual traders and investors.”
Looking at the offer that Seeking Alpha makes to its contributors, it’s natural to think of the criticism that Huffington Post has increasingly been hit with since being acquired by AOL (NYSE: AOL) several months ago. As founder Arianna Huffington has generally argued, HuffPo provides the promotional value that it provides by offering contributors a chance to be seen by the more than 20 million unique monthly visitors. Seeking Alpha is much more niche than the widely generalist HuffPo is. But it does have a certain value for a tight audience of financial service firms, investors and public companies.
Unlike HuffPo, Seeking Alpha’s program is aimed at those who are already making money from their posts or from businesses related to their articles. Secondly, HuffPo has no plans to offer a subscription- or premium content model in the way that Seeking Alpha has. As sites that have tried paywalls have found, unless its a major site with original content like the NYTimes.com (NYSE: NYT), success for premium models is typically the province of financial sites, where companies will often cover the cost of subscribing or individuals feel that paying for financial information is directly attributable to their ability to make money from the market. And that’s a big reason that Seeking Alpha can feel confident about expanding its revenue sharing for blog post initiative.
— Updated: Reuters (NYSE: TRI) finance Felix Salmon has contributed to Seeking Alpha in the past and he is not too impressed with the revenue share program. Whether as a financial incentive, he finds little evidence of anyone making serious money, nor does he feel that Seeking Alpha’s traffic has benefited as a result.
“From Seeking Alpha’s perspective, the premium-post program has delivered 8.6 million pageviews per month on average,” Salmon writes. “That compares to total monthly pageviews of 51 million per month, down from 63 million in April. An important part of the whole, to be sure, but still pretty marginal, considering that without the program, most of those posts and pageviews would have appeared in any case. And in terms of marginal extra unique visitors, the numbers are surely minuscule: very few people will have visited SA as a result of the premium program who would not have visited otherwise.”
As Seeking Alpha CEO Jackson said above, the company hasn’t done too much marketing of its premium post program, though he said he is looking to expand the number of paid bloggers. And it bears repeating that the company isn’t making any vast claims or suggesting contributors quit their day jobs. Even though the program is small, paying out $1.2 million is noteworthy, and certainly more than a lot of other sites offer to their contributors.