We keep hearing chatter about idle Hollywood writers who are thinking about quitting TV altogether and starting their own websites.
Hey, Will Ferrell did it, right?
Yes, he did. But it’s not his day job. And while we’re not trying to discourage any competition — the more the merrier! — we thought we ought to explain Web economics to any potential new colleagues. The upshot: If you’re making a living writing for TV, it’s going to be almost impossible to duplicate it on the Internet.
Entry-level jobs for unionized TV writers start at $70,000 for a 6-month TV season. What does that translate to in the blog world?
Let’s make some assumptions:
• You work by yourself, and you’re just writing compelling stuff — no audio, no video, and no other labour costs (we’re going to assume you keep your WGA health insurance for the near future).
• You use a network like Federated Media to sell your banner ads. FM generally takes a 40% cut of each ad sold.
• You have a successful, good-looking site that advertisers want to be on, so they’re willing to pay you an average of $6 for each 1,000 page views you generate – this is roughly what Nick Denton’s Gawker network can command.
• You sell two ads per page at that $6 cpm.
That’s $12 for each 1,000 page views, less a 40% comission. At that rate, you’d need to generate 9.75 million page views to match your TV salary.
Could you do it? Yes — if you’re one of the world’s most successful bloggers. Real Dan Lyons/Fake Steve Jobs, for instance, was running at 1 million pvs per month last spring, prior to being unmasked. But take it from us: There are more working sitcom writers out there than there are FSJs.