TV host. Entrepreneur. Friend of David Zinczenko. Acceptor of Andrew Breitbart. Dan Abrams has packed a few New York media lifetimes into his 45 years. And it seems just yesterday his first site, Mediaite, with its signature power grid ranking the hack hoard and the chattering class, was being written off as an unneeded exercise in media onanism.
That was two and a half years ago. Now Abrams Media Network is seven sites strong -- if you count his team-up with Michael Lewittes on Gossip Cop -- and something of a traffic beast. Right now it's going through the challenge any mature media property will eventually face: the loss of a key editor. This month Colby Hall, the founding editor of Mediaite, decamped for a job at Clear Channel. The keys were handed to existing staff, but the change, along with some recent launches, rebrandings and a pivot or two, made this a good moment to chat up Mr. Abrams on his mini-empire's fast growth, profitability, puns and the gestation of both websites and humans.
Ad Age : Mediaite launched to pretty intense skepticism. Many -- me included -- wondered whether we needed another media news and commentary site. But now, Quantcast tells me, your network is about as big as BusinessInsider. So clearly you've tapped into something, but what? What are you giving readers that they didn't already have?
Dan Abrams: Mediaite is our largest site and I think we recognized early on that examining politics through the prism of the media can often be far more interesting than listening to the politicians themselves. Can you name a senator or member of Congress who could get hundreds of thousands of people to march on Washington? Glenn Beck and Jon Stewart did. Media figures can often say things politicians can't -- often they are more outrageous and sometimes more honest -- but they still stir up the same sort of partisan fever that both fascinates and, sadly, divides the country. Interestingly, Mediaite gets as many links from left-leaning political sites as we do right-leaning ones, and I think being seen as a fair player by both sides has helped us enormously (although some of our commenters on both sides would strongly disagree).
But our network is about far more than Mediaite. Each site has a unique niche and voice. This month Sportsgrid and TheMarySue will likely have record months, and Styleite and Geekosystem are getting almost as much advertiser interest as Mediaite. There are lots of far better-financed players in our market who have more editors, writers and staff, which makes the traffic our dedicated teams have been able to attract that much more impressive.
Ad Age : How's the business side going? Care to tell us if you're profitable or not?
Mr. Abrams: The business is now solidly profitable.
Ad Age : You took some sniping back in 2010 for relying so heavily on clips from TV news shows, with an AOL report alleging you were testing the limits of copyright law. Was that just huffing and puffing or did any of that change the way Mediaite uses video? Did you hear from the networks on it?
Mr. Abrams: It did not change our strategy. We have always remained in close contact with the networks, and take fewer liberties with aggregated video content than some of our competitors who put video pre-roll ads on others' content. We have never done that .
Ad Age : Mogulite, launched in 2011 and focused on the hijinks of the tippy-top of the 1%, seemed like a solid idea, but before long you rebranded it as The Jane Dough, and shifted the focus to female executives. Why?
Mr. Abrams: Honestly, Mogulite did not develop the sort of following all of our other sites had. I had numerous brainstorming session with the editors (both women as it turns out) and eventually we decided to shift the focus to women and business. In its first month, The Jane Dough is already doing better than Mogulite did at any point.
Ad Age : The tagline is "The Business News We Knead." C'mon, really?
Mr. Abrams: I know. I know. We knew we would get mocked for it too but we just, well, liked it. I mean you are talking to a guy who named his first site Mediaite, so maybe names and taglines are not my thing?
Ad Age : At least you didn't go with "Mediaite: Aiiight?" Anyway, your most recent launch, The Mary Sue, is also for females. That's two -- we've almost got a trend. Do you think the internet underserves the fairer sex?
Mr. Abrams: With Styleite it is three. There is no question there is an enormous opportunity to build significant audiences (and one that advertisers seek out) by focusing on women-oriented content. In fact, we were going to launch a female political site but instead, have decided to look for a writer to focus on that beat for The Jane Dough.
After finishing my book, "Man Down," on how women are better than men in so many ways, I became determined to focus more on content with a female bent to it.
Ad Age : Any other launches on tap?
Mr. Abrams: We are going to launch a site in the food space in the next few months. While we haven't yet settled on a name, we will be utilizing one of our in-house editors, and hiring a couple more. I expect to launch two or three new sites in 2012.
Ad Age : Abrams Research launched to some fanfare in 2008 as a network of journalists and bloggers that would act as consultants and corporation. Now it's focused on doling out social-media advice to companies. Why the pivot -- besides the fact that social is swallowing the media world?
Mr. Abrams: Once the websites took off, having a social-media arm of the business just made more sense with everything else we were doing. We now help businesses, particularly in the sports world and hospitality space, utilize the same strategies we implemented to build traffic and better understand the way people share content on the web.
Ad Age : I read you're expecting a baby. Congrats! Lawyer or blogger?
Mr. Abrams: Neither. Both require too much emotional combat. I hope he just becomes a ski bum, so he will be on skis by age three. No, seriously, I am just so excited to be a dad. It has been my most important ambition in life and I am finally close to achieving it -- with the help, of course, of my amazing girlfriend, Florinka.