May 20, 2010

The Rules of Blogging- How To Make Money Part 1

If you are an "I don't like authority" kind of person like me than blogging is a wonderful place to be. Enjoy your freedom and revel in it. Engage it with the sort of passion you devote to whatever or whomever you love and watch your life change. Soon you'll be rolling in millions. People will flock to your blog and advertisers will beg you to promote their products.

Really, it is true. If you roll with the mommy bloggers they'll tell you the same thing. They'll share posts about not selling yourself short and how you deserve to be paid for your efforts. That makes a lot of sense, doesn't it- the idea of being paid for your services.

The rub is that many of you don't deserve a dime. You don't offer anything of significant value to an advertiser. I know, that is really harsh and not at all charitable. But from a business perspective it is reality. Perhaps a cold and unpleasant reality but reality nonetheless.

The good news is that you don't need an M.B.A. or a J.D. to understand why a business does or doesn't need you. You don't really need to read posts by social media experts to figure out that businesses want to reach as many eyeballs of their target demographic for as little money as possible.

They want to position themselves alongside thought leaders who can influence their target demographic to purchase their products and services. So while it is nice to know that you have a loyal readership of 12 and can provide them with access to this highly influential group it is unlikely to be of interest.

No one cares that you predict that within six months the Matilda Hornsucker blog will quadruple in size. You simply aren't big enough to get their attention. You could be 100 times bigger and still fall short of what they are looking for.

I suppose that I should mention that the ubiquitous they I am referring to are the companies that are spending millions of dollars on their online ad campaign because there are quite a few who do so. Is it just me or do you get a tingly sensation in your hands just thinking about that. It is easy to imagine that a company that has a multimillion dollar ad budget would have no problem kicking over a few shekels to you.

Really, why couldn't they spend a measly $5,000 a month on your blog. It is such a small percentage of their budget they wouldn't notice. Ah, but they do notice more often than you realize.

The smart companies track their ad dollars far more closely than you might realize. They have people on their marketing team and their ad agencies that are paid monitor these things. They want to know what their ROI is. They want data that they can use to show to their bosses and or shareholders. Data that demonstrates that advertising drives leads that convert into sales. They want data that demonstrates that their advertising provides their brand with a positive public perception.

What that means is that there is work tied into that measly $5k we just discussed. Someone has to follow those dollars. Someone has a spreadsheet that they use to track these expenditures. And the last thing that they want to do is have to account for a poor performance.

So they are careful in where they put those dollars. That means that if you want to get a piece of the pie you are going to have to provide them with data that they can use to support including your blog on the buy. That means that you are likely competing with bigger sites that have constructed media kits that serve as the proof.

Those kits contain demographic information that is likely more detailed than what you have to offer. I have never seen a personal blog that has a serious media kit. I suppose that it is possible, but I have my doubts.

This is part of why blog networks developed. The power of many versus the power of one. Remember this is about reaching eyeballs. If you run a network and can offer access to millions of eyeballs it is easier to overcome some of the difficulties in not having real demographics to present.

I say real demographics because I am a skeptic about them. Much of that information is generated from user surveys and other sources that I question the validity of, but that is a different topic.

This is part of the reason why so many media kits supplement their user data with general stats about users. On the mommy blogger side you can guarantee that they are going to make some sort of claim about what role women play in shopping for various items. Another example of broad claims is saying that 3 out of 5 dentists recommend a particular product. But again, I don't want to get caught up in that.

Some of you might try to overcome some of these objections by offering a free campaign. In concept it seems like a reasonable way to start a relationship. Dear Mr. Advertiser I am so confident that your campaign will do well I am willing to give to you for free.

That is a rough way to go for a host of reasons. Some advertisers won't do it because free doesn't remove their obligation to track the campaign. The work still exists and they'd rather not get involved unless they are comfortable that they'll benefit.

But it is also rough because you severely limit your ability to negotiate future ad buys. It is really hard to get people to pay more the second time around. Most ad buyers will work to get a better deal the second time around.

This brings us back to the bloggers who say that everyone needs to start somewhere. Many of them never think beyond that first sponsor. They don't think about the situation we addressed above, nor do they realize that their actions impact the rest of us in the blogosphere. You could make a crude comparison between this and sex.

If you put out for anyone who asks they don't have a reason to go elsewhere and they probably won't respect you in the morning.

One could argue that two of the biggest problems are the low barrier to entry and the minimal financial investment. People are far less cautious spending throwaway cash than they are with more significant investments.

So let's go back the original discussion about being paid what you are worth. I really do support that. I'd rather see bloggers get paid for their efforts. But I am also a realist and very few deserve a dime, at least from the perspective of the business.

Lest anyone say that I am picking on the mommy bloggers let me say that I feel the same way about the dads. Although the good news for us fathers is that the field is not nearly as cluttered. It is easier to distinguish yourself and stand out from the crowd.

Even so, we are still subject to the same rules as listed above.

Just a couple more comments and then it is on to more exciting ventures.

1) If you spend time reading these types of posts it sounds like a million pitches are being sent out. I don't believe it. Quite a few of these bloggers are inflating numbers and or omitting the part in which they pitched the agency/brand.

2) Very few bloggers make real money from selling ads or any sort of sponsorship on their blogs. If they are doing well it pays for some groceries or gas but not much beyond that.

3) If you don't love to blog and aren't making money or receiving really cool products for your use you are unlikely to last for any length of time. There are probably better uses for your time.

I still dislike the blog with integrity buttons. If you have to use that on your blog than maybe you have an issue that needs to be dealt with. Be transparent in your posts and make sure that your disclosure policy is visible and you'll have fewer problems.

Anyway, that is all I have got for you right now.

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