My friend Paul Lemley & his Digital Authority Group‘s “Legion Media I” portfolio placed a contrarian bet on niche content websites about a year and a half ago, raising hundreds of thousands in investor capital to do so.
I took the opposite bet by following the herd & quietly throwing in the towel on my content website efforts. I still have one site doing 15k/sessions/mo, but I haven’t worked on it in nearly a year. I’ve written about my doubts here already.
The idea that the niche content website model was dying was widely accepted a year ago, at least in my circles.
I now think that he was right to ignore the concerns people have been raising, and that I was wrong. Why? One word: results – both from him, and my own.
This post is about what I’ve learned & what I plan to do with that information.
Looking At Paul’s (Legion Media) Sites
Let’s look at what he’s done since launching a year ago…
Paul’s approximate model looks something like this:
- 30 (originally 50) websites
- 4-person leadership team overseeing the entire portfolio
- One editor & a few writers per site
- 150 posts a site
- Double down on the biggest winners with more content after a year
- Run ads & affiliate offers to monetize after 9 months
12 months after his first batch of sites launched, Paul’s portfolio is at 337k pageviews/month, and he’s just beginning to hit the exciting part of the growth “S-Curve”.
The S-Curve in question is associated with the Google Sandbox, which makes ranking progress slow for the first 12 months – then VERY fast for a year or two – then level off where it’d deserve to be if not for the sandbox.
Seeing how far he’s gotten in that window makes it clear to me that the model he used worked, at least this time.
He’s likely approaching or at $10k a month in revenue, and while that’s nowhere near enough to cover the cost of continuing to create content, I’d expect that number to at least 3-5x in the next 5-6 months, because of the way the sites were originally launched (in staggered cohorts of 10).
Put another way, while I don’t have insider knowledge here, I’d be shocked if the overall portfolio’s annual run rate was south of $1MM by July 2024. There’s lots of gas in that tank, even without future improvements / additions to the sites.
How My Site Has Fared
Even in the context of my own automotive site (longtime followers know the one) that I haven’t touched in a year, revenue is up 2.5x(!) since last July.
Traffic is almost 5x what it was, too! (I’m not surprised by the fall in revenue per click – I shifted the focus of my content from commercial to informative around that time).
This is – in large part – a result of the site getting older & more authoritative “by default”, but in a certain light, it doesn’t really matter.
My thesis of “AI & increased competition will crush my site(s)” hasn’t played out yet. It’s possible that thesis is “right, but early”. I don’t think it is, though. GPT-3 has been out for years now. The robots have not yet stolen my space on the SERPs (search engine result pages).
Paul has the advantage of plentiful experience & substantial $ resources, as well as a history of managing people successfully. I have none of those – yet – but I could if I start.
It’s time I take another crack at this, but instead of an occasional hobby, I’m going to take it seriously as a business, sharing my progress as I go.
I look forward to keeping you in the loop. Subscribe to my newsletter if you’d like to get an occasional email when I post something new!