June 11, 2002 was a sweltering day in NYC. I was barely making ends meet, living in a $400 a month room share in Inwood —Upstate Manhattan as we used to call it — in its early days of gentrification. Sweating in that sixth floor walkup cubby hole (above), I turned on the switch on this MovableType-powered blog I had been working on for a couple of weeks, and thus paidContent.org was born, 10 years ago to the date.
(Early on, it wasn’t called that despite the URL; I had grandly and clumsily named it “PAID: The Economics of Content”, taking that “paid” stamp logo from one of the dingbat fonts I found online. I changed the name & logo to paidContent.org in early 2003.)
Ten years later, June 11, 2012, it still exists, and has changed ownership three times, from indie to Guardian to now Gigaom and likely will change ownership fourth time when Gigaom makes its eventual exit at some point. Along the way, in its own small way, it helped define the digital media industry as it exists now, and also set an early template for blog-media companies to model on and morph in their own ways.
My journey with it has been a very non-traditional one, at least as startup stories go, as has been documented many times elsewhere, the most detailed of which is this ten-parter (!) As I wrote in my farewell note two years ago: “paidContent has given me a lot: it saved my life, literally (subject of a book someday); it gave me an existence, purpose and sustenance, in that order. It gave me way more chances in life than I probably deserved…[it] gave me and a bunch of us outliers a chance to do something magical for a long time.”
And now, ten years later, I am few weeks away from the launch of my next company Skift, and hope to recreate some of that magic in a very different arena with a different set of players, on a much bigger scale. “When I wake up every morning, the two steps I take from my bed to my work table are the best two steps I take — the best two I have taken in all my life,” I naively said in my first big interview, with Wired way back in 2003. Back to those days again, back to that naivete, I hope.