Blogonomics: Jansen Throws Up the Subscription Firewall

March 25, 2009

Along with the likes of Paul Krugman, I’m a big fan of John Jansen, the man behind the dry-but-very-important Across the Curve blog. In a world where good bond-market information is very hard to find online, Jansen’s blog is invaluable.

Unfortunately, it’s also now disappearing behind a subscriber firewall.

Jansen knows what he’s doing. He wants — needs — to make some money, and reckons he can find 300 people each paying him $25 a month (that’s $90,000 a year) in order for him to be able to continue blogging. If he can find 1,000 subscribers, that works out to a very healthy $300k income.

This is the newsletter business model, just a little faster, with lots of intraday updates. It’s fed largely by Jansen’s own contacts: he has a Rolodex full of bond traders and analysts who are happy to give him the prices and market-insider information that he needs — and he has the bond-trading experience to be able to understand what it all means.

Jansen’s blog has been free until now, going out not only to traders and money managers but to the blogosphere more generally; many of us have been hugely grateful for that. But gratitude doesn’t pay any bills, and so Jansen has decided to concentrate very much on the tiny minority of his readers who actually monetize his blog by using it as a trading and investment tool. "I’m giving up the influence and the recognition," he tells me; "It’s been fun. I’m rolling the dice."

Even if Jansen gives free subscriptions to key influencers like Krugman and Brad Setser, that wouldn’t really help him much, because there’s no point in them linking to something that no one else can see. He’s removing himself from the conversation — although there will still be some free posts every day.

Jansen has been blogging for about a year now, and that has given him enough momentum and readership to be able to consider this move. He has no assurance of success, of course, but if he sweetens the subscription deal by telling his subscribers that they’re free to call him with questions and requests, he might well be able to tap the middle market of investors who are too small to get lots of sell-side fixed-income research or their own data terminals, yet who can easily afford $300 a year for good information.

It’s sad that Jansen is leaving the blogosphere to become a private information provider. But I did tell him that we won’t hold it against him if he ever decides to come back.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be moving over to Reuters on April 1, and they have an astonishing wealth of bond-market information at their fingertips. It’ll probably be a good idea for me to put prices and spreads in my blog entries which most other bloggers don’t have access to — and in general, as ever, I will continue to take requests. So if there’s information you particularly want, do let me know.

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