Disclaimer: I doubt very much that this post will be of any interest to those bloggers out there who blog for the self-professed joy of blogging itself, or to any blogger who feels that advertising has no place on blogs, or to bloggers who think it’s okay for their content to be used elsewhere without askance. If this is the case then you might want to hit the old ‘J’ key and carry on with some other post.
When blogging first started out it was in most cases just a personal experience of posting one’s thoughts about any number of subjects. Then some bloggers realized that by adding advertising to a section of their blogs they could cover the cost of maintaining the blog and make a few extra bucks in the process. Typically this form of advertising was Google AdSense because at that time it was pretty well the only option open to the great unwashed masses.
Then some very bright people released that blogs if properly marketed could be real money makers – especially if you grouped a bunch of them under the same company masthead but covering slightly different subjects. Thus were born the blogging networks and for them the advertising game changed because they were no longer reliant on Google to feed their growing bank accounts. In these cases ad networks came looking for them and deals were struck making everyone but the average blogger able to sit back and count the bucks that were rolling in on the back of ever increasing page views.
As the financial profits grew top heavy the average blogger who wanted to make themselves a living at something they really liked doing found that they were left with Google AdSense as the only reliable source of income. Sure there where other ad networks or affiliate type schemes that came along; and while some smacked more of electronic pyramid schemes others depended on where one’s person ethics stood. The only other real choice that bloggers had was to try and walk the advertising minefield by themselves which meant they had to understand a whole bunch of esoteric terms like page views, PPC, PPA, impressions and eCPM.
In the end Google AdSense has become the mainstay of probably 90% of the average blogs that have advertising and Google has made it more than plain that you play by their rules or you just don’t play at all. This was all fine and even though Google controlled the dominant portion of the blog advertising space we toed the line and collected our pittance each month as long as we met the AdSense requirements.
This of course has nothing to do with those blogs whose whole purpose was to make money via AdSense by telling the gullible masses on how to make small fortunes online using the Google monster. No .. this is all about those bloggers who play by the rules but who have to put up with the AdSense splogs that lived on Google sponsored free blog networks. This is about the bloggers who just want to earn a living in a blogosphere that has become increasingly difficult to earn a living because if you are not a part of the top tier you are just fodder for other’s to make money from.
At first is wasn’t so bad as people had to come to your blog in order to read about your opinions on things that they equally cared about; but in the process you were making a few bucks because those Google Ads were being seen. Then along came RSS feeds which made it easier for your readers to get that content without having to actually go to your blog and at the time much was said about the loss of income because those ads were no longer being seen. Some folks fought back by only publishing partial feeds of each posts so that if you want the whole story you had to go to the particular blog at which point the ads were served and you made your pennies for the day.
But people; and a lot of blog owners disagreed with the whole idea of partial feeds and were willing to forego the ad dollars so that their readers would keep coming back. Then this ad dollar loss was slightly evened out when it became possible for ads to be added to the RSS feeds. This balanced things out for awhile but then along came things like social networks and all types of feed aggregators that once again took the blogger’s content and put it into other peoples hands – so once more our potential for making a living at doing what we loved best was being impacted by forces which we couldn’t control. Then on top of this there was a general attitude developing that so what if your income was being impacted. The fact that you wanted to make a few dollars from your writing wasn’t as important as other people being able to do what they want with your hard work.
While this part is equally important it is a subject for a later post as what I want to talk more about at this point is how those career bloggers who want to have productive advertising on their blogs can best achieve this without having to sell their soul or ethics in order to do so.
Recently I had an interesting email discussion with a Googler involved with AdSense which happened because she believed that I would give my honest appraisal of AdSense and how it works for small time bloggers such as myself. As she noted in her email ….“you as a blogger have no control over the quality of advertisers and many times the relevance is a joke.” She finished of the email with what I consider to be one of the most telling of Google’s attitude towards non top tier bloggers … “Internally, people (I’ve talked to) aren’t seeing blogs as ‘social media’”
A lot of folks would say that why bother with AdSense then just use any of the other ad networks that are out there. Well the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter which ad network you join and spend hours managing they are all based on page views in one manner or another. They all require that people come to your site and either view the ad, click on the ad or perform some action after clicking on the ad.
It is getting the eyes to your blog that is the all important key regardless of the network which is why we have such a proliferation of me-too type blogs that just rehash the news from the top tier boys along with properly placed links to hopefully get readers of the main blogs decide to check out what other people are saying – which in the majority of cases is nothing more than a quote with maybe a snippet of text – yet surrounded by AdSense ads.
As irritating as this might be chances are these types of blogs are making a better living than those blogs that don’t act as bottom feeders of the top tier leftovers. For blogs that try hard to be original thought providers and bring something of value to the table they find themselves increasingly difficult to make a living because they don’t play the link bait game that would otherwise bring the much needed traffic to their blogs.
It goes without saying that the majority of hard working career bloggers need a better way to be able to monetize their efforts but the fact is that no-one out there in the advertising world considers low page view bloggers who continually bring new thoughts and ideas to the blogosphere to be worth the effort. There is too much money to be made from the top tier blogs and the splogs that pollute the blogosphere.
While there are no sure fired answers for the fact that it takes page views in order to make any money for your efforts and validate your choice in a career there are some alternatives that I have found that do in fact try to provide some tools to level the field if only slightly. Primarily among them is a new service that is still in beta called the Rubicon Project which I would equate as being an ad broker who uses the collective power of all the blogs under its roof in order to get better deals from the 64 different ad networks it does business with.
Rubicon Project might not be a complete solution but I know myself that since being lucky enough to get in on the beta I have seen better results from the ads that they serve up on the site. I will be doing a more in depth look at them at a later point.
Along with Rubicon there is also another network called Project Wonderful and they work on an entirely different methodology of serving ads up on your site and while their way of serving up ads will not make you extremely wealthy they do give you the power over what is displayed and how much you think that particular ad spot is worth. It is from this point that advertisers that are a part of the Project Wonderful network start bidding for those available spots.
But really these are just variations on the typical ad network philosophy that you need the eyeballs in continually growing numbers in order to make any decent money. While ad networks rely on the page view count in order to decide whether they want to do business with you there is never any value placed on the fact that you might only have a 1,000 visitors that come by everyday to read what you are writing. Just as they won’t taking into account that you have a few thousand RSS readers who faithfully pull your feed everyday to read what you write.
Unfortunately until advertisers realize that there is potentially more value for their dollars if spread across the broader spectrum of B-List size blogs we will fine ourselves forever locked between the shysters and a Google AdSense program that doesn’t even see us as anything to be interested in because “we aren’t a social media”.
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