I’ve spent the last seventeen years blogging, and for some of that time I ran PVRblog and for 15 years I ran MetaFilter, both of which are ad-supported sites. I’ve had lots of ups and downs with both, and at some point in the mid-2000s I built a whole Amazon product recommendation subsite for MetaFilter that never launched. Readers of PVRblog back in its heyday used to ask me to write a “buyers guide” every holiday season and though I recognized the utility of such a thing, I never made one, fearing it would constantly need updating to stay current with the latest news.
I don’t think I’ve ever met Brian Lam face to face, but we’ve talked online a handful of times but I’m immensely impressed with what he’s built. I don’t think any news I read today about this deal gave him enough credit for what he did, so I want to break it down.
I used the word “atypical” in the title of this post very deliberately. The Wirecutter and the Sweethome didn’t utilize a brand new business model, but they managed to become one of the most effective implementations of affiliate linking — something which has been around for ages. But it is a model that’s atypical amongst today’s VC-and-PPC-ad-funded media companies. Lam deserves a lot of credit.