Born in Pasadena, California, Battelle studied at Chandler School, Polytechnic School and the University of California, Berkeley, earning both a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology in 1987 and a master’s degree in journalism in 1992. He went on to become chairman and CEO of Standard Media International, which launched The Industry Standard and its website,, and was a co-founding editor of Wired magazine and its entrepreneurial arm, Wired Ventures.

Battelle was a visiting professor of journalism 2001-2004 at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism where he chaired the Bloomberg Chair on Business Reporting and co-chaired the Magazine Publishing program. His projects included The Big Story, an online magazine examining how the media covers major events and China Digital Times, a bilingual news website aggregating news about China.

In 2003, Battelle and publisher Tim O’Reilly founded the Web 2.0 Conference, which was later renamed the Web 2.0 Summit. Battelle called “this grandfather of Internet conferences” among his “proudest editorial works”. During its lifetime, he was the conference’s executive producer and program chair, and, with O’Reilly, its co-moderator. He shut down the event after 2011.

In 2005, Battelle began focusing on how popular blogs could earn steady advertising revenue for their work. After testing his ideas with the BoingBoing technology blog, Battelle founded Federated Media Publishing, which sells advertising space in a network of online properties, keeping a percentage and giving the rest to the site owners. Battelle likened the company to a music label, “except we don’t control their intellectual property and tell them what to sing”. The following year, an Ad Age reporter wrote that some 85 high-profile blogs, including BoingBoing and Digg, had become affiliated with the company, “giving up a slice of their ad dollars for the exposure to the bigger advertisers and better rates that a bit of scale gets them”. In 2011, comScore ranked the company among the top 20 United States Web properties and the Wall Street Journal named Federated one of the top 50 venture-funded companies.

Battelle is on the board of the International Advertising Bureau and has become a spokesman for what he calls “the Independent Web”: blogs and other semi-professional websites beyond Facebook, Twitter, and Google. He has argued that that marketers are themselves content creators, and their marketing campaigns should be rooted in “their own domain, independent from any platform other than the Internet itself”.