Making money with Blogs (a three month checkup on Weblogs, Inc).

WSJ recently had a trend story and their number six is spot on: blogs are starting to make money (despitesome peopleproclaiming that they won’t). The story misses the bigger blog money makers like Rafat Ali’s PaidContent.org ($70K a year) and Nick Denton (who say’s he is doing $2K a blog a month without trying $24K a year).

The story got me to thinking (again) about blogs as a business. I thought I would share my thoughts three months into the grand Weblogs, Inc. experiment.

Now, making blogs into a business is why Brian and I started Weblogs, Inc. Will blogs make anyone rich? Not for the next couple of years at least. Will all blogs make money? Absolutely not, most will make little to no money in fact.

Why won’t most blogs make money?
First, most bloggers are not trying to make money (most bloggers blog for the love of it). Second, even if bloggers want to make money it is just too hard to do much more then the occasional sponsorship or token Google AdWords without hiring a sales force. That is the rub, of course: a sales force can’t be hired for one blog. Heck, Nick Denton has four amazing blogs and he doesn’t haveone salesperson yet!

However, what we’re doing at Weblogs, Inc. that is different is that we are pulling together a sales team. Now, we can’t have a sales team selling 20 blogs with 10,000 page views each a month (that’s only 200,000 page views). Now, 50 or 100 blogs getting 50,000 page views a month, that’s a different story and that is where we will be in a couple of months!

A couple of million page views a month and sponsors start taking blogs more seriously, especially b2b blogs that are the leaders in their niche. How many spam, social software, grid computing or telemedicine blogs are there? Perhaps two or three of each, and most are not professional enough to get sponsorship.

Not-So-Great Expectations.
So what are my expectations for the average blogger at Weblogs, Inc. in terms of cold hard cash? Right now I see most blogs in our networking getting $1,000 to $5,000 a month in sponsorship in their third or fourth month (basically when ever they break the 40,000 page view mark). Our deal (right now) is that the blogger gets the first $1,000 and then 50%, so I think on average our bloggers will get $1 to $1.5K a month doing a blog with us (eventually this will just be 50-50).

Now, no one is going to retire on $1 or $2K a month, but considering most bloggers are spending two to four hours on their blog a day and they are doing their blogs anyway an extra $10 to $20K a year is not chump change.

Setting These Not-So-Great Expectations.
Will every blog in our network make $10K a year for the blogger? No way. Some blogs are going to attract more sponsors then others. Grid computing and social software may be hot now, and telemedicine and spam might be hot tomorrow. I’ve been in niche publishing long enough to know that you can ride most tech niches for two to five years max. After that you need to find the next thing. The good part about our system is that most of our bloggers are working on two or three blogs, and they are working with one or two other bloggers.

The amount of work goes down and the “mutual fund” effect comes into play (i.e., we may get sponsors for social software and grid computing, but none for nanopublishing).

Anyway, we’re getting close to hitting our goal of 25 blogs in the 1Q of 2004 and when we do that I think we can start selling sponsorships on a steady basis. When we hit 50 blogs then things should really be cooking.

If you want to join us drop me a line.

From the WSJ: Making Money With Blogs
Web logs, or blogs, have long been derided in some quarters as chatty and sometimes self-absorbed vanity projects. But a handful of Web-based writers have begun to turn their blogs into something resembling actual businesses.

Blogs vary greatly in content and quality, but for the most part they tend to be idiosyncratic, regularly updated collections of links to news stories and other Web sites, short essays or dialogues, and personal trivia. No one knows exactly how many blogs there are. Many are started as hobbies and abandoned after one or two postings. Those that last, however, can build up devoted followings.

Some of these writers are beginning to capitalize on their popularity. Many bloggers, for instance, install links to Amazon’s “Honor System” program. These allow a given blog’s readers to click through and make donations to the blogger using Seattle-based Amazon’s payment technology. It’s also possible for bloggers to recommend books via links to Amazon that kick back a percentage of the purchase price to the blogger.

Some bloggers have made surprisingly effective direct appeals to their readers. Andrew Sullivan, a free-lance writer and former editor of the New Republic who runs a popular conservative-leaning blog at www.andrewsullivan.com, says he raised $79,020 from 3,339 people in 2002 after a weeklong “pledge drive” on his site. The sum was enough to hire an intern, cover Mr. Sullivan’s bandwidth costs and pay himself a salary, and now he is fund-raising again.

In October, free-lance reporter Joshua Micah Marshall asked his readers at talkingpointsmemo.com for contributions to help him report from New Hampshire on last month’s presidential primary. In less than 24 hours, he wrote on his site, he raised almost $5,000 and had to ask readers to stop contributing.

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