Recently, I've enjoyed reading Dan Frommer's SplatF, a somewhat self proclaimed experiment in self publishing. I enjoy reading Dan more on SplatF than I did at Business Insider (née SAI, which he helped create) because it's more stripped down and not quite as blatant in its page generation schemes such as those "Top 10" articles that force you to step through page by page (and thus generating 10 page views).
Stripped from this SAI framework, Dan's a really good writer and seems really efficient at coming up with thoughtful analysis of what's going on in tech - and recently he published a quarterly report, in which he details some observations of how it's going to far.
Will his experiment succeed? I'm not sure what the parameters are, but for me the question is really "can he succeed without resorting to backpedaling to all the revenue generation techniques of SAI". That is, can he succeed with catchy headlines, quality writing, and perhaps by inventing a new combination of techniques for how to monetize a blog.
I think the thing that grabbed me the most from his month-after and quarterly report is that in this post-RSS reading, social media world, he's still really concerned with building a long lasting audience.
Because a transient audience doesn't pay the bills.
Witness, he ditched Google AdSense after a couple months for Say Media placements because it didn't generate enough revenue. Well of course. AdSense has never been a great fit for the "intermediate blogger" that doesn't do product reviews or otherwise create content that's also good for search ads OR be really really large scale like Techcrunch or SAI. The Google Display tools for buyers are great at selling audience ads for large traffic pubs - not so good for small ones.
His traffic spikes are still coming from link-love from Daring Fireball and a few others, but with each of these spikes comes more Twitter followers. More Twitter followers means more clicks from Twitter and more importantly from repeat users. With 140 characters to work with, users have to click through, and I've already found myself clicking through from Twitter multiple times per day.
Repeat users means a loyal audience to understand and monetize by CPM. If he keeps it up, he will hit an infection point where these numbers all accelerate.
So maybe it's only surprising to me, but it's still about building a loyal audience.