It’s Hip to be Profitable

cover large Its Hip to be ProfitableToday, a bicoastal examination of the future of media.

Dave Eggers spoke recently at Berkeley’s J-School about print journalism. He and fellow McSweeney’s leaders took the opportunity to explain the economics of the quarterly’s recent newspaper experiment, the Panorama. Reports SF Weekly:

Many people assumed Dave Eggers’ business model for the next-generation newspaper was something like, “I’m so cool, people will write for my paper for free!” Not so–it wasn’t for free….

[Panorama publisher Oscar Villalon] said writers typically made between $500 and $1,000 for their stories. Some writers made less, in the $200 to $250 range. Villalon, former book editor at the Chronicle, said this compared favorably with the Chronicle’s freelancer rate, which he said could be as low as $50 or $100 per article.

And, yes, the cachet of taking part in a super-duper cool happening definitely helped. Stephen King, for instance, wrote an entire eight-page section on the 2009 World Series. What did they pay him? “Believe me, it was not over $1,000,” Villalon said.

Eggers remains steadfast in his support of print, and said that almost none of Panorama‘s content would go online. He also declared it “impossible” that Gourmet magazine was not profitable, an idea that no one in the audience challenged. (Choire Sicha, however, has some thoughts on that.)

By way of a counterpoint to Eggers’ vehemently old-school approach, there’s the story of Vice-grows-up, which David Carr examines in this week’s Media Equation column:

Last Tuesday night, there was a semiannual meeting for the Vice tribe. The company has grown to 560 employees in 30 countries, with 2,500 freelancers who are mostly paid in hipster cred. This success has created some dissonance for a crew of raconteurs who have spent much of their lives laughing at the stiffs who live pointless lives in dumb jobs defined by their next PowerPoint presentations.

Yet there they were, Shane Smith, one of the company’s founders, and the creative director Eddy Moretti clicking on the next slide at their corporate event in a bar on 6th Street in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, the hippest street in the hottest neighborhood in the coolest borough … well, you get the idea.

This much is certain: the media of the future will need to be extremely cool.