The problem with Ars is that it kidna threw spaghetti at the wall to see what stuck (space, climate science, evolutionary history, smart home tech, PCs, phones, cars, every single new original show on any streaming service, movie reviews, and the list goes on), and a lot of it isn't interesting to me. Also, the site posts a lot of political content. I guess it's hard to talk about what a government agency does without getting into politics, but it seems written in a way as to generate a lot of outrage (which, I'm sure, fuels clicks). There are fewer and fewer of their links I click on, but the ones I do read tend to be well-written. Not sure if that's a sleight or a compliment.
I've never really read Wired, because all of that site's articles I've seen tend to be fluff pieces with little substance, but maybe that's what jbi means, if it covers that same wide net of "sometimes not at all tech-related articles".
I think I probably read as large a percentage of Ars articles today as I used to. My own interests have expanded and changed somewhat. I read fewer reviews, but more policy/industry/legal/security stuff, in addition to their expanded hard science coverage (and rockets).
Ars is a good example of the changes that need to happen in order to make a site more broadly appealing. Their road is certainly not the only road, but the fundamental transition that has occurred over the years is obvious. And such a transition is needed. Back in the day when Ars and TR started (last millennium), you could get hundreds of dollars per thousand ad impressions. Today, it's a full two orders of magnitude less and although there are a lot more people "online", it doesn't come close to filling the gap -- nearly 75% of US 18-29 year-olds and over 50% of all adults were online by 2000 (source
), so the room for growth is limited. Among the more technically-inclined part of the population that a site like TR caters to, those numbers would likely be much higher, leaving even less room for growth.
The only option if you want to run a professional site is to expand the coverage area to bring in more readers. Subscriptions are often used as well, but (as TR itself has found) cannot stand on its own.
For TR, I really don't see a way for the site to continue to exist in a non-hobby form without expanding the coverage area to consistently draw in new readers. SEO spam might help a little in the short term, but I really doubt that will be a tenable long-term solution. As such, I hope the TR brain trust has taken the time to carefully consider the ways and directions in which the site can grow. There is no magic SEO wand that you can wave and suddenly get the site profitable, and I hope everyone realizes that.