How’s Seeking Alpha’s pay-per-pageview experiment working?

July 6, 2011
David Kaplan some hard numbers on how its pay-per-pageview program is getting along after six months in operation.

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Seeking Alpha’s Peter David Jackson has given David Kaplan some hard numbers on how its pay-per-pageview program is getting along after six months in operation. In total, 550 paid contributors have written 8,985 premium articles, and have been paid $517,585 in total.

That works out to $157 per author per month, or $58 per published article; it also means that the typical paid contributor comes up with 2.7 premium articles per month, on average.

All these numbers are likely to rise modestly over time, but they’re very much in line with the pessimistic projections I made when the program launched. For the kind of investment professionals that Seeking Alpha seeks as contributors, $157 per month or $58 per article simply does not constitute what Jackson calls “significant income.” Nor does an average of 2.7 articles per month come anywhere near the stated aim of Seeking Alpha that premium contributors will “park their financial identity” on the site.

And if my own stats are any indication, there’s a huge amount of sheer luck in terms of which articles end up getting pageviews. Over the past 12 months — that’s the 12 months from July 2010 to date — my most popular article is this one, from March 2008. That’s entirely a function of SEO, I’m sure: my old headline happened to coincide with something that people were searching on over the past year.

Jackson didn’t tell Kaplan how much the top contributors ended up making from the program, but it’s fair to assume that the median numbers are significantly lower than the mean. And even at the top of the league table, I suspect that Seeking Alpha’s best-paid contributor is still making less money than its worst-paid employee.

From Seeking Alpha’s perspective, the premium-post program has delivered 8.6 million pageviews per month on average. That compares to total monthly pageviews of 51 million per month, down from 63 million in April. An important part of the whole, to be sure, but still pretty marginal, considering that without the program, most of those posts and pageviews would have appeared in any case. And in terms of marginal extra unique visitors, the numbers are surely minuscule: very few people will have visited SA as a result of the premium program who would not have visited otherwise.

Jackson told Kaplan that “word is getting out that a growing number of people are making serious money from the program.” I follow this stuff pretty closely, and that word hasn’t reached me; what’s more, there’s nothing in the numbers Jackson provided which gives any evidence of this — or even that anyone at all is making serious money from this program. Here’s a question for Jackson: give me a number you consider to be “serious money,” and then tell me how many people are making that much money. If that’s your metric for success, go ahead and make it public!


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