I saw this coming years ago and thankfully I made adjustments back then too.
If you watched my video on Conversion Blogging and the blog posts leading up to the release of the video, you know I was advocating a move away from the Page View Slave (PVS) model of blogging for money.
The PVS model relies on the raw number of page views you can deliver to advertisers in order to increase or maintain a level of income from blogging. Following the PVS model you set yourself up for hard work literally forever, plus you tend to put all your eggs in one basket, relying on traffic from Google to keep the page views up and in some cases, trading that traffic right back to Google in the form of AdSense click income.
Today I had a chance, after supporting the new Blog Mastermind students and taking some time off, to catch up on the activities in the blogosphere.
One particular thread caught my attention, starting at Problogger with Darren’s short post on Talking Blog Networks, linking through to a post by Jeremy Wright, CEO of blog network b5media, on his feedback about the challenges of running a blog network and ending with Wendy Piersall’s thoughts on what the closure of a high profile blog network means to people in this industry.
I’ve never been a blog network owner per se, but I’ve owned multiple blogs and at one stage considered launching my own network after successfully branching into a second blog. Needless to say, I know the challenges you face coordinating bloggers, hiring good ones and monetizing the sites by selling the page views. It’s not easy for one person to do and I was stretching myself at times when trying to do it for just two blogs, so I can only imagine what Jeremy goes through at b5 with hundreds of blogs even with the support of a company team around him.
This is why years ago I decided to focus on long term asset creation and look for a means to get leveraged outcomes from what I do with blogs without wholly relying on the creative talents of other bloggers. I’ve never had intentions of trapping myself to a desk running a huge company as a busy CEO either, so I look for ways to keep things small, yet exponentially profitable, without giving up time and lifestyle freedoms.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made good money being in charge of blogs that I didn’t personally write to (leveraging other people’s talents, but always in a win-win relationship), but the job is taxing – people managing is always taxing. If that’s a role you are prepared to fulfill, perhaps for a short term period, you can make it work, just be aware of what you are signing yourself up to if you decide the blog network model is something you will pursue.
The blog networks I know of presently use a challenging business model. You have the aforementioned issues of building great blogs based on other people’s talents, monetizing their work using a model that depends on delivering page views and finding enough advertisers to keep your head above water.
Selling advertising from a website is a great way to generate income, it just can’t be the only way you do it. Advertisers come and go and what you earn fluctuates greatly depending on economic conditions. What you earn from advertising alone is not usually enough to live off, you need to throw other income sources into the mix.
You should never plan your future based on earning a certain amount of money from one source of income. Like Wendy lamented in her article, the money could be gone much sooner than you think. Wendy also described the situation faced by the Know More Media blog network, the one that closed down and thus triggered the discussion of blog network viability we are having now.
Know More Media was, as Wendy stated – “caught between a rock and a hard place” – forced to shut down because their income was driven by page views coming from Google search traffic and turned into income by selling text links and paid reviews. Then Google slapped penalties on sites that sold text links and paid reviews, dropping their traffic, hence deterring advertisers from spending any money.
Unless you can make money in other ways or source traffic from somewhere else, you are screwed – and let’s not forget it’s challenging enough just to keep the network active.
The best media can attract premium sponsorship and make good profits, but for all but a few very elite blog networks or top blogs, you simply won’t pull in huge CPM (or other sponsorship) rates to run a company off or live off as an individual. As Jeremy states – you won’t get much more than AdSense rates – and heck, who wants to live and die based on CPM income in the first place?
Just like in the offline world – large premier magazines can become million dollar companies, but they are few and sit at the very top of the food chain. Small ezines run by individual fans are certainly not likely to become full time income sources for their owners.
Alborz Fallah, you may remember from the million dollar blogger interview, has a blog in a position to earn good money for each unique visitor he delivers on his blog, but it’s not as if his case is typical. He enjoys premium payouts because of the position of his blog in his industry and what topic he covers.
Most bloggers – and I believe most blog networks – are going to need to learn how to monetize what they do using better business models. Relying solely on how much traffic Google gives you or the money coming from a handful of advertisers, is not a comfortable way to build a business.
The answer, simply put, is not to rely only on page views for your income. Follow the model that other businesses have used offline for years – put your energy into acquiring leads and customers, not just readers and how many pages they read.
Put in simple terms – decide on a business model and the industry you will tap into, build real assets you have 100% control over and then look for the highest leverage outcome you can acquire, or at least high enough that you are happy with your returns.
Put even simpler – build a blog in a niche you love that is profitable, create an email list from the traffic you attract and then monetize that traffic with advertising AND affiliate products AND your own product funnel.
In other words – everything I talk about in Conversion Blogging
Why does this system work better?
Wendy has started to make the changes to her business by creating product offerings at SparkplugU, a series of online courses she teaches, along with her team, to help people build home bases businesses.
I’ll admit the Conversion Blogging system won’t fit every type of blog out there and some will always rely on advertising income. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if some blogs in blog networks begin to offer products and publish email newsletters to begin the process. There is huge untapped value in blog readerships, if publishers realize how to leverage them for profit in more ways than just throwing advertisements in their face.
This change does require a shift in the type of business model a blog network follows, which can be a daunting challenge. No longer are you in just the “publishing” industry, where your job is simply to entertain and educate with content. Now you must learn how to create and manage customers – a completely different kettle of fish. For this reason alone, it might be too much for most blog networks to change – it’s just too different from their current core skill-set. A writer is not the same as a marketer, but they are certainly not mutually exclusive occupations.
If direct marketing firms like Agora Publishing can sell information products in many different verticals, using sales funnel business models based heavily on email marketing – and make millions of dollars doing it – I can’t see why blog networks can’t do something similar.
It might require divesting certain niches to focus on the more profitable and applicable areas, but it can be done and represents a huge potential for much better profits than the current advertising model. Best of all, it can be applied in-addition to the advertising model, so it’s a method for making more money by further leveraging the efforts already put in to build the blog network in the first place.
PS. Follow me on my Twitter feed for the latest shenanigans – http://www.twitter.com/YaroStarak –