Before any real serious discussion about being a rich and (or) famous blogger takes place it has to be made clear that unlike any other media before it there are many different types of bloggers and blogs. For the largest majority of people who write on their blogs fame or fortune doesn’t even come into the equation. They are more than happy if the only people who read their writings are family and friends.
This post isn’t about them and if you are one of those types of bloggers then the best bet is to carry on with your reading elsewhere because this won’t be of any interest.
Now, in between this first level and the next is a curious bunch of bloggers. They aren’t really in it for any money that could be earned from their blog since they don’t carry any advertising. In fact it will be this segment who are most adamant that advertising doesn’t really belong on blogs in the first place.
For them any potential income comes from sources outside of their blogs. It maybe through speaking engagements or consulting jobs because of the knowledge they have gained by writing their blogs. Probably the best known of these types of bloggers would have to be Louis Gray. At one time Robert Scoble would have been the king of the pile but recently, through his hiring at FastCompany he has started running ads on his blog.
The next level of blogger would probably be the person looking to either supplement their day job incomes; with a possible eye to doing the blogging thing full time. For them advertising is an intregal ingredient to their blogs. Some might take on work for the larger blog networks again either as a part time type deal or as a full time job with the eye to build up their recognition factor in the business and promotion of their own personal blogs.
In this segment I would as far as the tech blogs are concerned point to MG Siegler, Cyndy Aleo-Carreria and Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins as prime examples of working bloggers with an eye to future opportunities but still putting food on the table working for larger networks.
Then of course we have the poster child bloggers of success that everyone likes to point to as the pinnacles of blogger fame and fortune. Whether it be TechCrunch, GigaOM, Gawker Media or even Johns Wu we hear about the million dollar deals and all those paid for conferences that add more money to their coffers and some bloggers want it so bad they can taste it. The allure of being able to work when you want and how you want while making all that money is our generation’s dream job.
I was reading a post today by Mark Cuban where he was talking about what it takes to become rich and I started thinking about what he was saying in relation to blogging; and the business of being a blogger. What follows is a few conclusions I have come to over the three years I’ve been doing this and reading Mark’s post. The thing is that some of them go against the current malarkey that a lot of famous and rich bloggers post about how to get there.
Deciding which type of blogger you are
Before doing anything you first have to get straight in your own head which type of blogger you want to be.
If you only want to write for yourself and friends then head off to WordPress.org and set yourself up with a nice template and have at it. This is the simplest form of blogging and in many ways it can be the most rewarding because there are no expectations – you are doing it because you just want to have a way to express your thoughts about stuff.
If you are the type that wants to be looked to as a knowledge source for something and are more concerned with your future income coming from that knowledge rather than the monetization of what you are writing about, then I figure you would fall into the Louis Gray category. In this case I would still recommend that you get yourself your own domain to run your blog on; preferably a domain that has your name in it because after all it is your name you will be selling.
For the last two types having your own domain is a requirement that you can’t get away from but even here you can’t be cheap. Many bloggers who buy their own domain will then need somewhere to host it and this is where they often make their first mistake (I’m still living with this one). They will more than often go with the cheapest hosting package they can which is generally something called Shared Hosting.
Well, when you see that run far far away from it because if you go that route that decision will come back to bite you right on the ass. Don’t go for the most expensive hosting package of course, but make sure that you have a good solid upgrade path that can be done with the flip of a cyber switch.
It is important to remember that if you are looking to a future where blogging is your primary source of income; especially if you are blogging on your own, then you have to make sure that you invest properly in the infrastructure of your business. In this way blogging is no different than starting and running any other type of business. If the foundation of your business is weak in any fashion your business has a much greater chance of failing.
Deciding what you want to blog about
This part won’t apply at all to the first two types of bloggers mentioned in this post but it does directly apply to the last two types. It doesn’t matter where you turn in the blogosphere the one consistent thing you will hear from people trying to tell you how to be a successful blogger is that you must write about the things you are passionate about.
Remember this is a business decision you are making here. You are in the business of making a good living writing about something. As with any business the key is being able to find a market that isn’t being covered; or isn’t being covered very well, and getting in there before anyone else does. Blogging for an income is no different. I’m not suggesting that you can’t; or shouldn’t, be passionate about the area you end up writing about.
After all you may come across that under served segment because of your passion but don’t think that passion isn’t something that can’t grow because of what you end up writing about. Making money can sometimes prove to be a great fertilizer to help grow your passion.
I know given my past three years of blogging that if I was to start all this over again I would seriously consider where and what I blogged about before even buying that first domain name. I also know I would really think twice about blogging in the tech area because it is so saturated with bloggers of all types; which makes it even harder to stand out. That is the key for any successful business – you need to stand out from the rest and it is no different with blogging.
So as with any smart business plan make sure you are going into business in an area that – yes interests you – maybe it is even a passion – but always make sure you have a plan for standing out – for getting those eyeballs looking your way. Passion alone won’t do that. Smart business decisions just might.
Advertising isn’t the gold at the end of the rainbow
Anyone who thinks that they are going to be able to set up a blog and live off of any advertising income is an idiot – plain and simple. It might have been the case at some point in the history of blogging but that train has left the station.
Unless you are one of the big blog networks like Mashable, ReadWriteWeb or TechCrunch the chances of you making enough money from advertising is about the same as winning one of those hundred million dollar lotteries. Hell you probably have a better chance at winning one than paying your rent from ads on a blog.
Of course there are exceptions but again this comes down to a combination of luck and having picked the right area to blog about. While people like John Chow or other make money online type of bloggers like to post their income on a regular basis the fact is they are a very small minority of the blogging world and chances are they already have the top spots taken leaving the breadcrumbs for everyone else to chase. As Mark said in his post
There are no shortcuts. NONE. With all of this craziness in the stock and financial markets, there will be scams popping up left and right. The less money you have, the more likely someone will come at you with some scheme . The schemes will guarantee returns, use multi level marketing, or be something crazy that is now “backed by the US Government”. Please ignore them. Always remember this. If a deal is a great deal, they aren’t going to share it with you.
This same thing applies to things like affiliate marketing and make money online – unless you get in on the ground floor of things like this you will never be the top earners. The fact is that advertising dollars; while they can be a nice bonus or a good foundation for growth at some point, won’t bring in the dollars that 99% of bloggers are expecting – or hoping for.
So where’s all the money?
While advertising; especially if you can hooked into one of the major ad networks like Federated Media, can provide a backbone for your blogging business this isn’t where all the money is. Many bloggers think that blogging is all about sitting behind their computer reading feeds and taking part in all the social media nonsense going on. Well this is only part of the blogging business but it is not where you will make the majority of your money.
Anyone who is looking at blogging as being their primary income source needs to understand that all that reading – all that networking – is done in order to help make you an authority that other people will come to. As you become more well known opportunities to speak at conferences will start to pop up, opportunities to write books might surface or possibly you might have the chance to run your own conferences.
The fact is that much of the serious money in the blogging world isn’t made from behind the keyboard. The knowledge and contacts you make from behind it are where you make your money.
There is one other way that smart bloggers have found to translate their business into big bucks. The buy-out. While this has primarily been in the realm of the bigger blogger networks being bought up by old media companies there has been a growing number of smaller blogs commanding multi-million dollar purchases. The most recent of course was the purchase of the one man blog Bankaholic for an immediate $12.5 million with an additional $2.5 million after a year.
In this case any smart business minded blogger would realize that by concentrating on make their blog an authoritative voice in any space could potentially make them an attractive purchase. Along with that as we saw with Bankaholic it wasn’t all about the page view numbers that everyone thinks it is. As Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins pointed out in his post on the sale
After poking around in the comments at ProBlogger and elsewhere, I think I found the answer. Izea’s Ted Murphy pointed to an interview Robert Scoble did with MoneyAisleâ€™s CEO Mukesh Chatter. From the interview:
“Just in last three years alone, the prices for some of the bids have gone up 200% to 300%” said Chatter. As an example from Google, to be one of the top three advertisers for”high yield savings,” you have to pay $13.20 for a click. With a 1% conversion, it costs you $1,300 to acquire a customer.
Ted Murphy brings the quote around to the context of the Bankaholic acquisition: Those are the numbers behind this sale – essentially, it’s lead generation.
Smart business planning with a clear set of objectives and goals can sometimes lead to a much bigger pot at the end of the rainbow than just relying on the typical idea of advertising.
But I’ll have it made if I get on all these social media sites
Let me know how it works out for you.
The fact is that spending all your time on social media type network sites will get you well known – on social media networking type sites. If you are in this as a business the sooner you learn how much of a time sink these place are the better.
None of the top bloggers became famous; or made a really good living, believing that social media was the end all be all for blogger marketing. Ask Perez Hilton, or the Ars Technica team, or any number of top level bloggers just how much social media has added to their bottom line.
Sure social media can be a handy tool and many of the top bloggers use it just as that – a tool. For them it is an easy way to announce new posts across an ever widening readership base. I would wager than other than using automatic methods to announce new posts the majority aren’t involved beyond a bare minimum of time needed.
This isn’t to say that time spent on things like FriendFeed, Twitter or Facebook aren’t valuable but unless your area of expertise is intended to be the Social Media or Web 2.0 field you have to find your ROI for time spent on them. After all if you are spending all your time on Twitter or chatting with friends on FriendFeed or getting wrapped up in Facebook how much time is being spent on your business of writing.
Wrapping this diatribe up
I know I will never get rich or become famous writing here at WinExtra. As much as I might like to think otherwise the facts speak for themselves. I write about technology and social media which probably has more bloggers rehashing the same limited amount news that any other segment.
I don’t write 10 or 20 cut and paste type posts each and every day. I don’t write in the most positive way about our use of technology and that doesn’t resonate well with other bloggers who you need to help promote yourself.
And don’t ever think that this isn’t a business that doesn’t involve a large amount of promotion. You need to be willing to promote other bloggers via links or post content just as they need to be willing to do the same. so if you are the type of person who likes his or her technology with a splash of reality be prepared to find the road forward a tad on the difficult side.
I do love what I am doing but no matter how passionate I might be about how I feel about technology that won’t translate into a nice retirement fund. However I wouldn’t have it any other way and I just want anyone thinking about this thing called blogging as a paying business to keep just that in mind – it’s a business. This means that every move you make forward has to be the same sort of sound business decisions you would make anywhere else.
But then maybe you just want to do this for fun and if that is the case all the more power to you and you can ignore everything I said.