In February of 2009, Fark - an aggregator of strange and humorous stories, and the granddaddy of news aggregators – turns 10 years old. That means that Drew Curtis, Fark’s founder, who runs the popular site out of his home in Lexington, Kentucky, with essentially 16 virtual part-time moderators, has survived the last downturn. With 70-plus million monthly pageviews today, he's done more than OK.
To that end, he's a good person to ask how an entrepreneur can survive the current one.
"One thing you have to do is to be prepared for revenue to shift away from advertising," he said, suggesting that if your site relies on ad networks, such as Google's AdSense, expect those rates to "plummet."
Having faced a crumbling ad market back during 2000-2002, Curtis came up with a subscription plan.
"There was no way to make revenue at all," said Drew. "What we really had to do was come up with a way to entice people to pay $5 a month," he said, recalling the time prior to launching Total Fark, which is a subscription to see all of the feeds submitted to Fark. At Fark, feeds are submitted, but only a select number are actually posted to its pages.
"The upshot is that it augments our revenue to the point that even if advertising went away, it would be extremely painful, but not a disaster," he said.
As for how to know what your community would pay for? Just ask them, said Curtis. But keep in mind that even if they say they'll pay, they most likely will not. One percent of the Fark community (who were asked) said they'd pay for Total Fark, said Drew. About 1/10 of 1% actually signed up.
No matter. Subscription isn't the company's model. As Curtis puts it: "Subscription is life support."
That said, subscription may be a significant portion of revenue in the coming months, given the downturn.
"Ask me six months from, it'll be more than 50%."