The Big Business of Apple Blogs

Photograph by Adam Berry/Getty Images

Accessory makers and app developers aren't the only ones that have built businesses in Apple's orbit.

Amid a crowded field of websites dedicated to covering every move of Apple, John Gruber’s Daring Fireball blog stands out. With about 5 million visitors a month, the 10-year-old site has grabbed the attention of those inside the $634 billion juggernaut and outside.

One Friday afternoon earlier this year, a group of Apple employees discussed the latest Daring Fireball post over beers at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, located steps from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. At Apple’s annual developer conference in June, Gruber recorded a podcast with a throng of fans crowded around like some sort of geek version of MTV’s “Total Request Live.”

“I know that I’m preaching to the choir,” said Gruber, who also has the ear of the conductor, Phil Schiller. He said he has occasionally exchanged e-mails with Apple’s senior vice president for worldwide marketing since 2004. Schiller, a Red Sox fan, likes to rib Gruber when his Yankees are on a losing streak.

But Gruber, whom we reported on in Bloomberg Businessweek, isn’t the only blogger who’s managed to make a living out of writing about Apple.

Arnold Kim, who started MacRumors in 2000, left his job as a kidney doctor four years ago to focus on his gossip site full time. Ad revenue supports his wife and two kids, as well another full-time writer and freelance contributor.

“There’s a lot of brand recognition and as a result, loyalty to Apple,” Kim said. At some point, “Apple rumors became a mainstream thing.”

News sites have ramped up their coverage of Apple in recent years. Rumors about the latest iPhone can be found in just about any general-interest news publication.

AppleInsider is a sort of newswire service just for Apple news. The site employs about a half-dozen regular writers and editors. Neil Hughes joined the site in 2009 from the Charlotte Sun Herald newspaper. The editor enforces Associated Press writing style and has a reporter assigned to work on in-depth features about Apple’s business.

“When I started doing it, there wasn’t nearly as much news,” Hughes said. Now, “everybody is in a rush to be first, and nobody is really concerned about being accurate. There’s so much noise out there.”

Gruber has become a mentor to other aspiring bloggers. Horace Dediu, who runs the industry-research website, consulted with him about how to make a living with an independent site.

Jim Dalrymple, a former editor at Macworld magazine, started Loop Insight in 2009 to offer a blend of commentary similar to Gruber’s. (The site is named after Apple’s corporate address, 1 Infinite Loop.) Before striking out on his own, Dalrymple called Gruber for advice.

“You can’t help but have respect for what he’s doing,” Dalrymple said.

While Dalrymple’s site is much smaller than Daring Fireball, he has a direct line to Apple spokespeople for tips on news and early looks at products. He sells $1,000-a-week sponsorships and small banners to advertisers, and $3-a-month memberships to readers. With ad revenue from the site, the Nova Scotia-based blogger was able to throw a $30,000 party at the ritzy San Francisco W Hotel that coincided with Apple’s developer conference.

“I have a loyal following,” Dalrymple said. “I’m making a nice living.”

–Mark Milian and Adam Satariano

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