A logical trajectory for blogs is that they start out free and prove there’s an audience for the content, then they slowly improve the design, photography and writing so that they can improve their audience numbers and create an environment that’s conductive for advertising. The higher quality the content the higher quality of advertising you can attract and potentially you can charge a subscription as well. This is no different than the origins of Rolling Stone and Outside Magazine (as examples only because I know the history quite well), although I would argue that their content had to start out at a higher level because the cost of printing and distribution meant that you couldn’t easily correct mistakes or quickly roll out new content as the audience reacts.
So, I was not surprised to see Mashable, a blog with 20 million unique vistors per month and 4 million social media followers, advertising for a Photo Editor to “help take its on-site images to the next level.” (here) There are rumors that CNN is interested in buying the property for $200 million (here), so maybe it’s more to do with that than anything else. Regardless, I believe we are headed to a new era online where the quality of content becomes more important (unless you only want t-shirt advertising) and blogs battle it out for advertisers. It only remains to be seen if the quality will reach the heights that Rolling Stone aspired to when they realized they were onto something.