Jim Romenesko, the proto-media blogger who became a must-read for journos only to get lost in the din of algorithmic aggregators and social media, is back. And independence is treating him well. After a falling out late last year with Poynter, the buyer of his Mediagossip blog back in 1999, he's now publishing his own site. In just a few months, JimRomenesko.com already has more than 300,000 monthly visitors and the posts are as fresh and sharp and funny as ever. Below, we chat about traffic, ads, Fox News and his quest for a new tagline.
Ad Age : How is independence treating you so far? How has your day changed, if at all?
Mr. Romenesko: I'm having a great time on my own, trying some new things and getting readers involved in the site. My body clock doesn't know I'm "semi-retired," so I'm still getting up anywhere between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. I keep posting and tweeting through the day and evening as items come to me.
Ad Age : Judging by the imperfect metric that is Quantcast and then even more imperfectly cross-referencing it with ComScore, it looks like your traffic in just a few months is killing the Poynter audience, which stood at just 56,000 uniques for January, per ComScore (We'll hear more from Poynter in just a minute). True? What can you tell us about audience now and then?
Mr. Romenesko: I haven't checked the Poynter-vs.-Romenesko traffic, but if what you say is true, I'm of course thrilled. I had no advertising/traffic goals when I started this -- I just wanted to have fun and give readers an entertaining site -- but I'm very pleased with the site's growth. The BlogAds people apparently are pleased, too. They told me two weeks ago that they're already raising ad rates.
According to Google Analytics, I had over 240,000 unique visitors and 1.5 million page views in January. For February, through the 22nd, I had over 343,000 uniques and 1.8 million views.
Ad Age : Oops! I got ahead of myself. In an email, Julie Moos, director of Poynter Online and Publications, tells me this, "Our Google Analytics show 475,150 unique visitors to Poynter.org in January 2012. That's an increase of 72.95% over January 2011 when we had 274,738 uniques (including, of course, visitors to Jim's blog on our site at the time)." So it's a dogfight. How responsive are you to traffic when thinking about what posts you're doing?
Mr. Romenesko: Traffic is great, of course, but I'm not obsessed with it. I have gone days without looking at real-time traffic stats. I know that people at other journalism sites -- cough, cough -- stare at Chartbeat all day; I don't. I figure if I post an interesting and entertaining story or graphic, it will probably get good traffic.
Ad Age : What kinds of posts are playing the best?
Mr. Romenesko: My debut post, "How I ended up leaving Poynter," did very well. Amy Harmon's "The story behind the best NYT correction ever" was huge, as was my post on Margalit Fox's "insane" John Fairfax obituary.
The item about Halifax Media prematurely posting the NYT Regional papers on its site before the NYT-Halifax deal was announced brought in incredible traffic for a day after it was linked by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and others.
I was very surprised by the interest in my Howard Stern-David Choe post. Google searches for "HOWARD STERN + DAVID CHOE" were showing up in my referrals for days.
Readers also like screw-ups: the "herniated dick" post was big, as was the post about "Fuck" getting inserted in a Greenville News sports story.
The all-time top post was last weekend's ESPN's "Chink in the Armor" headline item. I happened to wake up at 5:20 a.m. on Saturday and -- as usual -- grabbed my iPhone to check email. I saw that someone had forwarded the "Chink" screenshot. Of course, my first reaction was "Holy shit!" I had the post (with the screenshot) up by 6:30 a.m., then the ESPN apology about an hour later. I had over 300,000 page views on Saturday .
Ad Age : You wrote a considered article on the Fox News PR operation. What was the response from the company?
Mr. Romenesko: They were unhappy that I didn't quote all of the people they had sent my way to say nice things about Irena Briganti and the Fox News PR team. I told them that I didn't quote all of the Irena Briganti critics either. Here's what Fox News PR boss sent me:
"The support toward Irena, both internally and externally since your post, has been overwhelmingly positive. An NBC News person emailed her asking, "Could you come across the street to run our PR DEPT?" And your post will definitely help her get a few more zeros added to her paycheck. So, a happy ending."
Ad Age : One quality you have that most other media bloggers don't is both an appreciation for the craft of journalism and a willingness to slap it for its lazy habits. This week you've had posts on a wonderful obituary and a Greg Packer piece. As newsrooms get smaller and journalism feels like it's becoming more about traffic arbitrage, is any of that stuff less fun or harder to do?
Mr. Romenesko: Not at all -- thanks to readers. I'm getting a lot of tips these days, and getting a lot of cooperation from journalists who are willing to tell their how-I-got-that -story/photo stories. Not everyone wants to play along, though. Just before [The New York Times'] Bill Keller's five-month anniversary of stepping away from the editor's chair, I asked if he'd write about his "new life." He never responded. Maybe I'll get him at 6 months or one year.
Ad Age : Your tagline is "a blog about media and other things I'm interested in." Yet all I see is media. Not complaining, but what are these other things and when will we see them?
Mr. Romenesko: When I started planning the site last summer, my plan was to make it more of a general-interest site. Then in November, when I left Poynter, I pretty much abandoned that plan to compete against my former employer. Finding a new tagline is on my to-do list.
Ad Age : You have a right-rail feature called "Three Quick Questions," which I've answered numerous times, sharing my feelings on various elected officials, political candidates, even my gender. To what corporate leviathan am I surrendering my data and to what end?
Mr. Romenesko: I have no idea! That's a BlogAds feature, and I assume they're putting together a reader profile for advertisers. I don't know much about the ad side -- other than that they deposit money into my PayPal account once a month -- and was as surprised as readers to see the Koch Brothers ad on my site. (To my surprise, I didn't get a single complaint about the ad.)
Ad Age : It appears you're using BlogAds to monetize your site. As someone who copped to making six figures in his last job, how's that stacking up?
Mr. Romenesko: I'm frugal -- and a save-for-a-rainy-day kind of guy -- so I'm doing fine. I'm currently Craigslisting a few items in preparation for an iPad 3 purchase next month. Anyone want my iPad 1? It's still available.
Ad Age : This week, you wrote a great gloss (with some original reporting) on a dust-up that involved a blog criticism of a Forbes.com gloss of a New York Times Magazine cover story. In one way of looking at it, it's an aggregation of an aggregation of an aggregation. Where does it all end?
Mr. Romenesko: Good question -- and it's giving me a headache! I loved the reaction on Twitter to that post: people were surprised that three people could be so civil in the "roundtable discussion" on my site.