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Free Advice and the Entrepreneurial Blogger

Jason Calacanis writes that by optimizing their Adsense ads Weblogs inc have just raised their daily Adsense earnings to $1400 per day (it was just $1000 per day a week or two back). He asks Adsense experts for advice on how to take it up a notch (he wants to get it to $2000 per day in the next couple of months) and offers a free dinner for those who are willing to help and whose advice works.

Paul takes offense at Jason’s post writing:

‘To me this is just insulting. The guy is making $1400/day (min.), which he equates to $511,000/year and wants free help to get to $730,000/year (min.) along with Amazon help. Does this seem strange to anyone else or am I missing something here? For helping him earn an extra $200k/year I can get a free dinner. Awesome.’

I have to say that I had some similar thoughts as I read Jason’s post – although I probably wouldn’t word it quite as strongly as Paul does.

I guess the question it leaves me wondering is – ‘At what point should someone start paying for the advice or sharing the benefits that they receive from the input from others?’

Whilst the strength of blogging is the free exchange of information, transparency and sharing of lessons learned – some are obviously taking such freely shared information and profiting from it more than others. Whilst on one hand I have no issue with this (I do it myself) – is there some sort of a line where those earning a living from blogs have a responsibility to share the gains they make from advice from others who generously give what they know?

I’m actually not sure of the answer to this question or how one would find such a line but would like to think that there is a place for us all to move a little beyond the free advice approach.

As someone earning a living from blogging I would generally opt for the following approach:

1. Look for the information for myself first in the free options – as Paul writes there is a wealth of free information online when it comes to Adsense. There are numerous forums for Adsense publishers as well as sites like this one with categories full of tested advice. Yes it takes time to sort through the advice and work out what works – but it is where I’d start.

2. Watch what others are doing who are making a go of Adsense. It goes without saying but there is a lot to be said learned from doing a bit of surfing and seeing what others are trying.

3. Ask for Advice with those you have good relationships with. I know of 20 or so publishers that I feel I have a good enough relationship with to ask a question of. I wouldn’t just pick someone randomly for free advice.

4. Search out the services offered by ‘experts’ and pay for advice. I’ve done this on a number of occasions. There are just some things i don’t know enough about and will pay for if it will help me increase my earnings enough or save me a lot of time and energy. I also believe that at times you get what you pay for and that the advice might end up being better by purchasing it.

From time to time I do ask questions on my blogs – but increasingly I’m feeling more and more uncomfortable to do so if it will directly benefit my earning capacity to know the answers. I’ve found myself deleting or modifying posts a number of times recently for this very reason.

I know that my readers know I earn $100,000+ per year from blogging and feel a little hypocritical asking directly for free advice when I am probably in more of a position to pay for it than others. Recently when I’ve asked for advice or help from other bloggers I’ve been willing to pay a little for their time – I think this is fair if it will increase my own earning capacity.

I also think that those of us who have found how to make a few dollars from blogging have something of a responsibility to share even more than others.

So how would I approach wanting to optimize my adsense ads if I were in Jason’s position? If I’d exhausted the above options and still wanted to post something on my blog I’d probably word it a little differently. Rather than ask for free advice for me and my network I’d probably start a post inviting people to share with each other (and me) what they’d been learning. I’d want to be open that I was interested in the answers for my own benefit but suggest we all discuss it openly and publicly so that we could all benefit. I’d also be willing to share pretty explicitly what I’d already done to increase my earnings so far so that it was not just a one way street of knowledge sharing.

This is not too different to what Jason has actually done in this post although I’d probably reveal a little more about what he’d found the ‘better spots’ for their ads to be and be a little more inviting of a public discussion.

This is just my personal conclusion and something I’m currently grappling with. I don’t have ‘the answer’ and suspect there isn’t one. Entrepreneurial blogging is still in its infancy and there are not any blueprints to follow so its really up to each blogger to make their own calls about what their responsibilities to others might be.

I’m interested what others think about this?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Paul Short says:

    No offense to you or Paul, but I think the big picture is being missed here. I for one would love to sit and have dinner with a person who is at or near the top of the industry I’m in. Imagine an up and coming real estate developer having the opportunity to sit and brainstorm with Donald Trump, or a small software entrepreneur spending time with Bill Gates.

    I think there’s a lot we could learn about building a mainstream blogging network from Jason Calacanis. By posting and asking for Adsense tips he’s admitted there’s a lot he can learn from us as well.

    Now, if Jason were to simply toss someone a 2 for 1 cupon for dinner at Wendy’s and say “Thanks for the tip.” THAT would be kinda cheesy ;-)

  2. Darren says:

    Good point Paul,

    I’m with you on that – it’d be an interesting dinner for sure and one that I wouldn’t knock back (especially if I had the choice of venue :-) )

    I guess it just brings up all kinds of questions in my mind – many of which I don’t really have any real answers to.

    thanks for the comment though – good call.

  3. Ian says:

    I’m doing 1 and 2 at the moment. I’ve put forward my basic plan for the next seven months and high on the list of priorities is improving income from AdSense. Can I be cheeky and ask what forums everyone recommends for research?

  4. Well first off lets remember that just because his AdSense is pulling in $1400 doesn’t mean HE is making $1400 a day. We don’t know what his actual profit margin is. We do know that he has a lot of bloggers so its not all going in his pocket.

    Second, what is different between what Jason is doing and what most of us do? Bartering services. I’m trying to get people who will write articles on one of my blogs right now. They won’t be getting paid, I’ll be offering any promotional assistance and linking that I can give them. Is their work less valuable just because I don’t earn a lot of money from the blog?

    Is he trying to get what he needs as cheaply as he can? Yes probably. But thats really what we all do.

  5. Darren – I’m sorry to hear that you’ve felt a need to censor yourself recently. I personally wish you wouldn’t. If by putting question posts into a blog like this, you are able to increase your earnings, then good for you. You deserve to ‘earn’ more with this project than you currently do.

    Those of us who are tuning in and are able to do something with the knowledge that comes out of such posts will benefit as well. I’m a big Open Source advocate, so I believe information should be as free as possible.

    In terms of the Calacanis situation, I think we should all email him and tell him if he wants to ask us for advise then he needs to blog about the answers he gets and how well the advise plays out. That would make for some very valuable information.

  6. Nicole Simon says:

    i don’t know about that sharing – because you can give the exact same advice to two persons and one will just fail and the other one will win. Because of your advice? Not, what they made out of their strengths combined with your advice.

    The advice is a tidbit, but not the major thing. A small line.

    Paying for advice: You do pay for advice with your time also. There are things you can do without any effort, and there are things I can do without effort. With a fingersnip. The great thing about Adsense? One can do barter business on the net and the part of bringing bread to the table is taking care also. ;o)

    If you ask questions, why not? If it helps you make more money more easily, you have more time for doing problogger *g*

    But you hit a weak spot: Blogs are public and this is great, but sometimes you need a smaller circle, more private to feel comfortable enough to do stuff. And please, add me to that ‘people available for questions like that to give feedback’ list. ;)

  7. Since business is based on relationships and markets are relationships, it seems to me like a tactical error to ever say something like “For helping him earn an extra $200k/year I can get a free dinner. Awesome.” That aside, that extra $200k/year would give Jason Calacanis a lot of equity with one of the most influential blog networks. So, I would myself, but I would never say something that negative. And I agree that that $500k-$750k is not net, its revenue. And it is revenue for a business.

  8. I got Jason switched with Paul… Please forgive me, I mixed up the characters involved.

  9. Jason says:

    Well, I’m joking a little about the dinner… I’m all about sharing the advice. As you can see I’ve been telling people a) what we’re making, b) how it is increasing, and c) what we’re doing to make it go up. So, I’m trying to promote an open system where we all share tips… that is why I’m having folks post the advice right to the comments.

    If people get paid to give out Google Adsense advice that’s fine, but I’ll reserve the right to share information about optimization freely on my blog and if those folks who charge for the service don’t like it too bad… they need to find something more valuable to do in order to get people to pay for their service. I’m sure that these Google Adsense consultants do more then just give tips. In fact, I’m sure most of them are sort of outsourced experts… in that case it’s not the tips that matter but the work of putting those tips into action.

    If people send me tips to my email (jason at calacanis dot com) I’ll post them to my blog as I’ve been doing all along.

    If everyone in the blog community learns how to make more money that is good for us… right now it’s not about one blog/blogger vs. another, it’s about all of us getting advertisers to embrace blogs…. that is why I’m sharing all our experience… if we can make advertisers fall in love with blogs–which they are doing–we will all win.

    A rising tide lifts all boats… regardless of the size of the boat or how many boats ya got! :-)

  10. I see all the “tips” and techniques as accelerators or multiplier effects, but the core variable is still your content. If you want higher revenue, focus on getting your content in better shape, then on your marketing, and only then focus on “tweaking” your revenue with tips, techniques, tricks, gimmicks, etc.

    Enhancing your content also helps to boost the “rising tide” effect by expanding the audience that can find interesting value in the blogosphere (or syndisphere or whatever it’s called these days).

    BTW, the term syndisphere seems to be a misnomer since its nominal domain is aggregation rather than syndication. Syndication is the process of making content available for use, or publishing content. Aggegation is the process of filtering, combining, republishing, and otherwise pulling together or aggregating content, culminating in subscription and viewing. We should call it the aggresphere, the world where aggregators and users operate. The term syndisphere should be reserved for the world of bloggers, where content is created and published.

    – Jack Krupansky

  11. Darren says:

    Glad to hear you’re willing to share the advice you get Jason.

    You’ve talked about taking borders off your ads which many of us have found to be a winner – but I’d also love to see a post on your ‘best spots’ – would you be willing to tell us what you’ve found them to be so far? I know we can draw some conclusions about this by looking where the ads are but I’d be interested to hear you share more about this and how you’ve come to your conclusions.

    thanks

Trackbacks

  1. [...] an extra $200K per year in return for dinner out is a bit of a bum deal. Darren Rowse at ProBlogger is discussing it as well. While not as  [...]

  2. Being paid for working on the society of the future
    Paul and Darren made a post about Jason’s Dinner offer (give me advice to make more money and I will throw you a dinner). Both worth reading, of course.

    I don’t know Jason Calacanis very well, but of course, if you are a bit interested into the b…

  3. Neuvo says:

    Free advice in the blogosphere
    Darren Rowse, the ProBlogger, posed an interesting question:

    ‘At what point should someone start paying for the advice or sharing the benefits that they receive from the input from others?’

    The answer is an exchange of energy