Exclusive interview: Fark founder Drew Curtis

TR: So Fark is predominantly ad-funded?

DC: Yes, with a significant portion coming from subscriptions. If all the ads went away we could still operate on an emergency level indefinitely at that rate. We have five employees and I'd have to fire three of them...

TR: Having so many paid subscriptions is pretty amazing...

DC: Yeah, I can't believe anybody signs up for it, to tell you the truth. You don't get anything. The idea that you would be able to read all the links... I only know of only a couple of people that actually have it for that – but other than that I don't know why the hell people sign up for it.

TR: It's a show of loyalty...

DC: Yeah, basically I get this little [Total Fark] button and I like this site, and five bucks is nothing, and if you have enough people do that then eventually you've got an OK amount of money coming in. I'm not driving a Tesla around town or anything like that, but it keeps the lights on.

TR: So you've got your ads and your Total Fark subscriptions, and you've also got paid links...

DC: We use them as a way to direct people to microsites. We did this with Maxim a few times back when we were still doing ads with them. They would set up a microsite where people could go and, say, vote on the best Budweiser Superbowl commercials of all time.

You can do that all day long and advertisers love it because it's something that gets delivered to them but the problem is how do you get people to go to that thing?

Well, we solved that: we basically create a sponsored link, put it up in the middle of the page and say 'hey, check this out' usually with some kind of a teaser that gets people interested, and then say sponsored link at the end of it.

We don't actually sell those per se – it's sold as a package, but I don't really know what the value of that is. So what we do is we say if you make a big ad buy we'll throw this in.

TR: And you introduced Foobies [NSFW]. Are those links paid for?

DC: I never really figured out what the hell to do with that, it was just I like boobs. But dealing with the people who advertise in that market is really sketchy. And at the same time it's in this really weird spot because it isn't pornography, it's just nudity and there aren't that many sites on the internet that do that.

So I ended up renting it to the guys that run Mr Skin... and they've kind of taken it over. We're still posting the stuff to it, but it now lives over on his site and they're running ads around it. We're still trying to figure out how that relationship looks long term. But they like it, and I like it because I don't know what the hell to do with it.

The traffic is not substantial – something like a million uniques and 1.5 million page views – because people are just coming in and taking off again.

And there's other complications of running a site like that because, for example, we have comments on there but only enabled for Total Farkers – the idea being that a spammer's not about to pay $5 to make comments. But if you left it wide open it would all be like 'We've got the hottest chicks on the net!' and hundreds of posts like that. No thanks.

TR: Have you had problems with links on Foobies or the Fark main page where there's some bait and switch going on?

DC: It was mostly the Foobies stuff. I haven't had too much trouble with the mainstream links where there would be something pretty tame and innocuous and they would see the traffic coming in and they would swap in a completely virus loaded site. But we banned those submitters and the URLs that they were sending in and eventually you get most of them. To my knowledge it hasn't happened in a while.

Global Editor-in-Chief

After watching War Games and Tron more times that is healthy, Paul (Twitter, Google+) took his first steps online via a BBC Micro and acoustic coupler back in 1985, and has been finding excuses to spend the day online ever since. This includes roles editing .net magazine, launching the Official Windows Magazine, and now as Global EiC of TechRadar.