Hollywood Writer: Screw SAI, The Web Looks Great!

On Tuesday we offered some advice for striking TV writers who wanted to bail on the backward Hollywood studio world and launch their own web startup. Our conclusion: don’t quit your day jobs.

Not everyone is convinced. The WSJ today talks up the likelihood of venture-backed web video sites recruiting idle writers. And a writer named “Hoffa” at the Writer’s Strike blog, accused us of peddling “fuzzy maths,” a spelling error, and trying to keep the Web’s bounty to ourselves.

Excerpts from Hoffa’s post — and our response — after the jump…

TV writers, even great ones, often have to go long stretches without a gig as shows and seasons don’t go on forever. Blogs don’t have seasons.

A blogger with 1.63 million pageviews per month as [SAI’s example — we estimated that a writer making $70,000 a season would have to generate 9.75 million page views to replicate his salary] would be worth a sizable amount of money to an acquirer, especially if its on a hot topic. At a miserable 3x revenue (what MediaBistro got), you’d be sitting on a $420,000 asset. You can sell a blog, but you can’t sell a TV writing gig.

Many bloggers with that audience size have discovered other types of revenue streams such as books, conferences and licensing their brand.

If someone’s a talented TV writer and has a network of talented creative folks, why wouldn’t they leverage their success into video which commands much higher CPMs?

Bottom line is it would take a very successful blog to equal the value of a nice TV writing gig, but no where near as high as Michael’s estimate.

Our response: Hoffa calls our maths “fuzzy” but then seems to accept it. More important: Our example assumes that a talented but unknown writer (as most TV writers are) starts their own blog. But Hoffa is talking about much more ambitious plans.

Create a network of other writers, and your audience may increase — and so will your costs. Add in video, and it gets much, much tougher to break even (for details, see Henry Blodget’s “Economics of Video” posts on our site, this one in particular.) Ancillary businesses? Sounds great. You’ll need to hire people to run those for you as well. What you’re talking about, in short, is creating a small publishing company. That’s not unheard of these days. But it’s a lot different than running your own blog — and at least as risky, and difficult.

Related: Er, “Go Writers!”: The Role of Unions in a Competitive World
A Writer’s Strike Benefit: Cancelled Upfronts
Hollywood Writers Web-Bound? Don’t Quit Your Day Jobs

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