What’s Next In Online Publications: 4 Questions For The Faster Times’ Sam Apple

faster times.pngNewspapers are dying, magazines are closing and more journalists are finding themselves without paying gigs every day. Everyone is wondering: what does the future hold for the media? We brought the questions to the front lines, asking leaders in the field to tell us: what’s next?

Print newspapers have been hit particularly hard during the recession, thanks to dwindling ad sales, bloated staffs and high printing costs. The scene is set for online newspapers and magazines to take over where these print publications can no longer serve their audiences. Enter Sam Apple, the founder of the recently launched Faster Times, which is taking a new approach to online newspapers. The Web site has a unique model for paying its writers, which operate as a kind of collective, Apple said. “Our goal to produce an online newspaper that is very fast, very smart, and very funny,” he added.

Apple, who is also the author of the recently published parenting tome/memoir “American Parent,” spoke to FishbowlNY about what makes his venture unique and how he’s going to make it successful.

FishbowlNY: What do you consider The Faster Times’ competitors? How is your site different from them?

Sam Apple: Well, we’re certainly not yet in the same league with respect to traffic, but we hope to compete with sites like The Huffington Post and Daily Beast. We’re probably more similar to Huff Post than Daily Beast, but we have a fairly different structure and also I think a somewhat different sensibility. While we have both original articles
and aggregated links, we’ve divided the site into over 100 subsections, or topics, and have only one correspondent on each specific topic. So, for example, in our World section, we have one writer in over 20 countries around the world. In our Food section, we have Melissa Clark on “snacking” and David Wondrich on “drinking”…

With respect to sensibility, I think we have a somewhat more zany approach. Our Travel section is about to add a “Time Travel,” correspondent, for example. We also have a Nonsense section which includes a bathrooms correspondent and another writer covering feet.

FBNY: Can you explain a little about the pay structure you are using for your content? How is it working so far?

SA: We’re paying our writers 75 percent of the ad revenue generated by their respective pages on the site. We’ve only been up and running for two weeks now, so there is still very little money to go around. The good news is that we’re seeing some pretty good traffic for this stage of the game. But I don’t think we can do it overnight. It’s going to take quite a while for us to build the type of traffic we need to make the site financially viable.

FBNY: Where did you get the money to fund The Faster Times? Do you think it will be profitable?

SA: For the time being, at least, I am funding it myself. While, again, there is little money to go around at this point, our top editors all have ownership shares, and I’m proud of the fact that we’re a newspaper that is owned and managed by the writers who are producing it. That said, it’s very possible that we will seek funding at some point. I do think it will be profitable in the long run. We just need some time to grow our traffic.

FBNY: What do you envision as the future for The Faster Times?

SA: My hope is that we’ll continue to expand and to add more reporting to the site. I’ve received a lot of interest from writers around the country since we launched. One of our next steps is to add a regional section that we hope will one day have correspondents in all 50 states.