Blogging tough way to make money – but here’s how

Blogging tough way to make money – but here’s how

Ilana DeBare  /  SF Chronicle
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Q:I’m thinking of
starting a blog and am curious about selling advertising on it. Do
bloggers make much money from ads? How would I go about selling ads on
my site? I have a full-time job, so I don’t need to make a living off
of this, but it would be great to bring in a few extra bucks.

Brand-new blogger

A: From a business point of view, there are two
reasons to start a blog. One is as a marketing tool to bring exposure,
credibility and clientele to an existing business – for instance, using
a blog about gardening to promote a local plant nursery.

The other reason – the one you’re considering – is to generate money
through the blog itself. Rather than promoting a business, the blog is the business.

There certainly are some examples of blogs as successful businesses.
High-profile blogs like Huffington Post and Daily Kos attract millions
of readers and sell oodles of ads.

Some lesser-known blogs do well also: Steve Pavlina has a blog and
Web site about personal growth called StevePavlina.com that generates
more than $10,000 in ad revenue each month. And Tom Foremski publishes
a blog called Silicon Valley Watcher that garners about $10,000 a month
in corporate sponsorships.

 

But those are the exceptions. There are 103 million blogs in
existence and 175,000 new ones created every day, according to
Technorati, a San Francisco company that tracks blogs and offers a blog
search engine.

Most of those 103 million blogs don’t even try to sell ads. And
those that do accept ads – most commonly through Google’s AdSense
program – typically make only a few dollars a month.

"A good rule of thumb would be that for every 1,000 page views, the
blogger will make 50 cents," said Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of the
popular blog Truemors.

"Someone starting a new blog shouldn’t expect a dime from
advertising," said Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas. "People should
blog because they love to write about their chosen subject matter. That
should be the only motivation because for 99.9999 percent of bloggers,
that personal satisfaction will be all the payment they will ever see."

But you’re right that a few extra bucks never hurts anyone. So let’s look at the various ways to sell ads on a blog:

— Google’s AdSense. You can find these little text ads with the
"Ads by Google" caption on lots of Web pages. Advertisers bid for these
slots on a per-click basis, and Google splits the revenue with the
blogger or Web page owner. Since it’s an auction system, the cost of
ads varies widely – from a few pennies per click up to $15 per click or
more.

Google doesn’t disclose how it splits the revenue with Web page
owners. But Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher estimated that small Web
publishers probably receive about 60 percent of ad revenues while
Google keeps 40 percent.

— Blog ad networks. Some companies have created networks of
independent blogs and sell packages of advertising on those blogs – for
instance, a package of ads on parenting-related blogs.

Federated Media and Pajamas Media are two such companies; BlogHer is
another one that focuses on blogs written by or for women. These
networks typically charge on a per-view rather than a per-click basis,
which may be more lucrative for many bloggers.

"We sell ads for $10 to $20 for 1,000 impressions (page views),"
said Elisa Camahort, co-founder of BlogHer, which is based in Redwood
City. "The average blogger gets 50 percent of that, although large
bloggers get more."

— Sell ads yourself. Some megablogs like Huffington Post have
in-house advertising sales teams. There are also sites like BlogAds.com
that help you sell ads yourself. But do-it-yourself ad sales is not a
great idea for a new, unknown, part-time blogger like you.

What determines whether a blog receives $10 or $10,000 from ads each month?

Partly it’s the number of readers. But it’s also the nature of those
readers. Advertisers will pay more if your blog attracts a particular
audience they want to reach, such as high-tech decision-makers or new
parents with lots of disposable income to spend on children’s products.

"It’s not so much the numbers in themselves as what they represent –
in my case, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, the Silicon Valley
crowd," Foremski said.

So if you’re viewing this blog as a business endeavor, think about
how to develop a readership that is either large or desirable to
advertisers. Attracting those readers will require marketing and
networking within the blogosphere. But mostly it will require a
well-written and interesting blog that is updated frequently.

"Do you blog regularly in a voice that’s individual? Do you
participate in the community of people with similar blogs so they come
to your blog?" said Camahort. "If you write with absolute authenticity
about who you are, you’ll find the people who will be your readers."

"The Average Joe will fail to make a living from blogging," Pavlina
said. "But the Average Joe will fail at every other serious long-term
endeavor anyway. If you want to succeed in blogging, you can’t be
average because people don’t want to visit and read average blogs.
Average is boring."

Keep in mind that ad sales aren’t the only way to make money from a
blog. Other strategies include selling merchandise, setting up
affiliate relationships with online stores such as Amazon.com so you
receive a percentage of sales that come through your site, and even
asking readers for donations.

Pavlina – whose total Web-related revenue from all sources come to
$40,000 per month – has a helpful article about making money from
blogging at links.sfgate.com/ZTJ. For more advanced tips, go to www.problogger.com or www.doshdosh.com, which deal with how to make money from blogging and the Web.

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