This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.
Since I began blogging earlier this year, I’ve noticed two schools of thought when it comes to the idea of monetizing your blog (i.e. making money with your blog). One school of thought is against the notion. Passion, they say, is the reason you should be blogging. If you’re not passionate about what you’re writing; if you’re doing it primarily for the money, it’s the wrong reason.
They may be subtle or they may be direct in how they present the
argument, but usually the message they communicate suggests it’s a bad
thing when bloggers use various monetization programs, such as Adsense, Yahoo Publisher Network
or affiliate programs to generate revenue from their blogs. It’s a
sell-out. Passion, they say, comes BEFORE profit, and blogs are
primarily a place to share your passion rather than make money.
Here are some recent examples:
Ramit Sethi’s "On greed and speed": "You’ve seen AdSense on other blogs, right? It’s the Google ad solution
that a lot of bloggers put on their blogs to make money when people
click through. It’s an innovative, seemingly win-win solution for
"But to me, this represents a lot of what’s wrong with short-term
thinking and greed on the part of bloggers. You know why I haven’t put
AdSense on my site? Because, first, I didn’t want to ruin the customer
experience." (emphasis mine)
Seth Godin’s "Monetize this": "It’s absurd to imagine someone trying very hard to monetize their
desire to scuba dive once a week or write poetry or hang out with
friends. People like to talk about their favorite sports teams or tech
gadgets, but why do we have to be in such a hurry to turn that into a
profit? And why is ‘just a hobby’ a pejorative remark?" (emphasis mine)
Why, I wonder, is it absurd to try and monetize
something about which you are passionate? Is this not how all great
companies get their start? Patagonia,
for example, was started by outdoor enthusiast Yvon Chouinard.
Patagonia has grown to a 260 million dollar enterprise driven by a
passion to not only create great products for other outdoor
enthusiasts but also to create products that conserve and protect the
environment. Listen to an NPR interview with Yvon here.
And who, I wonder, besides Ramit thinks that Adsense or any
other advertising necessarily ruins the customer experience? I read
plenty of blogs, magazines and other media that contain advertising,
and it hardly ruins my experience. According to Technorati, Engadget and boing boing are two of the top three most highly read blogs on the planet, and they’re filled with advertising.
The creators of Engadget and boing boing represent the second school
of thought; the school of thought that has no qualms whatsoever with
the idea of "blogging as a business venture." To these folks, blogs
have emerged as a new business model. Actually, it’s not a completely
new business model, just a new medium adapted to an old business model.
To these folks, blogs are a premier vehicle for delivering timely,
relevant information (content) that’s easily accessible to anyone with
an internet connection. And not only that, much of that content is
available for free. The only investment on the part of the consumer
(reader) is their attention.
Of course, there’s a cost to produce
really great content. If Weblogs, Inc (Engadget) or Cory Doctrow and Mark Frauenfelder
(boing boing) didn’t have the support of advertisers, they wouldn’t be
in business. Period. They wouldn’t be producing content that educates
and entertains millions of people every day. And do you think for one moment these people aren’t passionate about what they’re doing?
And don’t even make me mention lone blogger, Darren Rowse, who wrote recently:
"When I first started putting ads on my blogs just over 2 years ago it
was with the goal of paying my ISP and perhaps even some hosting costs.
A cheque (check for you North Americans) would come every few months
(if that) and there was very little to account for.
"Iâ€™ve been very fortunate and instead of a bimonthly $100
cheque the way things are going 2007 could well be a 7 figure year now
that Chitikaâ€™s tripled (and some) daily income."
I’m sure you can tell by my tone (and the Adsense ads on my blog) where I stand on the issue. Passion and profit go hand-in-hand. And I’d guess Seth and Ramit would say the same thing if asked directly. It’s what’s being said between the lines, however, that usually comes across. But maybe it’s just me reading too much into it.
Ultimately, I want anyone reading this to see the balance in all of it. Don’t miss out on an emerging business model – a business model previously unavailable to folks like you and me – just because some respected people criticize it. Whatever strategy they used to get where they are, it certainly took a lot of hard work, smarts and yes, passion. But their strategy doesn’t have to be your strategy as long as you too approach it with the same hard work, smarts and passion.