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Speedlinking 31 May 2007

Donations on Blogs – Do They Work?

Picture 2-5One of the most popular new attempts to make money from blogging of the last few weeks has been the Buy Me a Beer – PayPal Donation WordPress Plugin that has been popping up on many of the blogs I read (the first one I saw it on was Chris’s blog (where he’s inviting people to buy him a coffee) – but there have been many others).

This little plugin allows readers to make a paypal donation at the end of each post by letting them buy you something small. The author of the plugin writes:

“Past experience shows me that asking people to donate money by giving them a specific reason increases donations by 200%!”

It’s an interesting concept that seems to be working to some extent for those trying it. If you’re trying it I’d love to hear how well it’s working.

How will it work in the long term?

This is the question that the jury is still out on. I suspect that this type of income stream will work better in the short term than over the long haul of a blog because it has a certain novelty factor and because those who are going to use it are more likely to do it once early on but less likely to make repeat purchases.

Donations on Blogs – When Do they Work Best?

I get asked about donations on blogs on a semi-regular basis. It seems to be an idea that many bloggers think about at one time or another. So do they work?

From my own experience of asking for donations (in my very early days of blogging) and from chatting to others that have done it I’ve found that asking for donations can work for some bloggers if:

  • They have a loyal readership – the more loyal your readers are the bigger the chance that they will be willing to give you a donation (big or small). It makes sense really – if you get a lot of traffic from sites like Digg, Google or other sources that send you readers who have no real loyalty to you I doubt that donations will work that well – but if you have a high reader loyalty it might be worth trying.
  • They provide a Service – bloggers who provide their readers with high value content (something that enhances their lives) will have a higher chance of getting something back from their readers. Offer readers something that will help them every day over a long period of time and there’s every chance they won’t mind throwing you a few dollars every now and again. Offer your readers meaningless ‘jibber’ that they could get anywhere and you’ll have an uphill battle.
  • They have a large readership – there will only ever be a certain percentage of readers that will respond to a call for donations. As a result a larger readership will obviously result in a higher number of those taking you up on your invitation to donate.
  • They Don’t monetize in other ways – readers are more likely to respond to your invitation for donations if they don’t perceive you’re already making big money from your blog. If your sidebar and posts are already plastered with ads and affiliate programs and then you ask for a few dollars you could just push your readers a little too far and come across as greedy. I’ve seen a few bloggers come close to this line of late – it’s interesting to see their readers pushing back.

An Example of a Successful Donation Drive

One of the few bloggers that I’ve seen make significant amounts from asking for donations was Jason Kottke who raised enough to quit his job to blog full time (a couple of years back in 2005). He had a large loyal readership, provided useful content and didn’t run advertising on his blog. You can see a post about this on his site here.

One of the keys that I noticed with Jason was that he didn’t ask for donations every day on his blog. He held once a year fund raising drive that lasted for a week (I’m going from memory here). Then he didn’t bring it up for another year.

A word of Warning

I’ve seen a number of bloggers over the last couple of years become a little obsessed with the idea of making a good living from donations from readers. As a result of their obsession they actually ended up killing their blog as they annoyed their readers so much by their fund raising drives that people became disillusioned with them.

By all means give this type of income stream a go if you feel you have a loyal readership – however don’t push it in every post you write and force it upon readers or you could end up taking your blog backwards.

Blog Profits Blueprint – Free Resource

Blueprint-CoverI’m really excited to be able to announce that a good friend of mine – Yaro Starak – has just launched a new free resource for bloggers called Blog Profits Blueprint.

This 50+ page report contains some great information that will be particularly useful for beginner to intermediate level bloggers wanting to monetize their blogs.

Yaro shares some basics on how bloggers make money, tactics on blog monetization, how to build blog traffic, how to write ‘pillar’ content and much more including a little live video action.

I think it’s a great read and well worth the download.

Yaro’s offering this free blueprint as part of his ‘Blog Mastermind’ Mentoring program which he’s launching next week. I’ve already seen a little of what he’s got planned for that program and it really looks good – I wish there was something like this around when I first started out in making money from blogs.

Whether you’re interested in the Mentoring program or not I do recommend the free report. Get yourself a copy here.

nb: This post contains affiliate links.

YPN Offer Publishers PayPal Payment Option

YPN (Yahoo’s Publisher Network) have just announced something that I think will make many AdSense publishers quite jealous – they’re now going to give YPN publishers the option to be paid with PayPal.

I’ve been hearing AdSense publishers calling for this for years now but think it unlikely that they’ll do it as a result of them having invested so much into their own Google Checkout system.

Are You Contactable?

Idle Profit writes a post with 5 Reasons you need to have a contact page – I think all 5 reasons are valid.

Plus it’s just bad manners not to and can create a spammy/cheap and nasty impression when you don’t.

Plus it’s just good business sense to give customers, potential partners and those that can help promote you a way to get in touch.

I don’t mind if it’s a purpose built contact page, a link in your sidebar or some other form of contact – but I really can’t think of a reason why a blogger wouldn’t have one – even a popular blogger who gets hit with thousands of emails a day or an anonymous blogger (who can have a contact method that retains their anonymity) should or they could be limiting their potential to grow their blog.

Can you tell this is a pet peeve of mine?

ProBlogger New York Readers Meetup – RSVP here

To help us plan for the fast approaching ProBlogger Readers Meetup in New York on 9 June I’ve just set up a page for the even on Upcoming.

If you’re planning on attending it’d be great if you could drop by the page to RSVP. While it’s not compulsory to RSVP it’ll certainly help a little with planning.

Full details:

Date - Saturday 9th June
Time - 7pm – 10pm (we might go on somewhere afterwards)
VenueThe Speakeasy (a party room at 442 Amsterdam Ave between 81st and 82nd St)
Cost – Free – thanks to our generous sponsors Chitika (they are providing some finger food snacks and a free drink to the first 100 people to arrive – don’t be late). All we ask is that you tip the bar staff and ‘be merry’!

Let us know if you’re coming.

By the Way – I just heard that Liz Strauss from Successful Blog is coming. Liz is something of a blogging legend and someone worth meeting – yet another reason to get along!

WordPress Plugins to Make Your Blog Sticky

Do you want to make your blog Sticky (or keep people coming back for more)?

There are lots of ways to get first time readers to become loyal to your blog but today Aaron compiled a nice little list of four WordPress plugins that can definitely help.

I’m sure there are more out there though and would love to hear your suggestions on sticky plugins.

Social Bookmarking and Networking – How Involved Are You?

Belle from Working Blogger wrote me an interesting question last week on social networking and bookmarking communities that I thought might make an interesting topic for discussion for the wider community. She writes:

“What on earth is a blogger to do about all the various social networking communities. I do love StumbleUpon because it’s just so easy to use, but things like MyBlogLog and FaceBook and MySpace and the gazillion and one new social networking communities that seem to spring up all over the place – how do you know which one to spend your energy on? And then there’s Netscape vs. Digg – sometimes it seems to me that keeping track of what’s going on among all the various communities is a full-time endeavour in and of itself.”

I would love to get the ProBlogger readerships perspective on this one – please leave your thoughts in comments below.

  • Do you use social bookmarking and networking sites?
  • If so, which ones?
  • Do you find that they actually help your blogging? If so – how?
  • How much time do you spend on these sorts of activities each week?
  • What does being involved in them effectively involve for you?

A few reflections from me:
My own feelings on social bookmarking and networking sites is mixed. I do get involved to some extent. Some of those that I have accounts with include (I’ve linked to my profile pages for each if you’re interested in connecting):

[Read more...]

Blogging Overheads – How Much Does it Cost?

Sometimes when I get together with my business owning friends I feel terribly guilty.

The reason – I have no substantial overheads or expenses.

When we get together my friends bemoan the costs of renting properties, paying staff, the cost of advertising and having to find the money to pay suppliers. I tend to be pretty quiet at these times in the conversations but there comes a time when someone will turn to me and ask what my biggest expense is….

I never know quite what to say.

Blogging is a very low overhead business in comparison to the huge setup costs of other businesses.

Some of my actual personal expenses include:

  • ISP (internet acess) – not much more than a fairly normal household internet plan
  • Blog Hosting and Domains- most of mine is through b5media so in actual fact I don’t pay for this but previously it wasn’t more than a few hundred dollars a year. There is also a small yearly fee for domain names.
  • Computer Running Costs – I update every year or two
  • Accountant fees - probably my largest expense but not astronomical
  • Design/Techical Support - once again I’m lucky in that I now have a network covering a lot of this but there are a few expenses here
  • Travel – over the last year or so this has increased, however the majority of this is paid for by those behind the conferences that I speak at. There are a few incidentals though
  • Periodicals and Subscriptions – I do subscribe to a few periodicals in the different industries that I write about
  • Blog Tools – there are a couple of online services that I pay a yearly fee for (for example MyBlogLog’s stats which I think are $20 or so per year).
  • Office Costs - there are a few miscellaneous costs in running an office. Phone, fax, printing paper etc – although having an online business means a lot of this is minimized.

This list refers to my own expenses as a blogger. Of course these days some of them are picked up by the network I belong to (and co-own) however I think most would be pretty similar to what other bloggers face in their expenses. All in all these costs would total a few thousand dollars a year (and I could cut this back probably by sticking with computers a little longer).

The only other real cost in blogging is the time it takes. Really this is the main ‘expense’. In a sense it’s an opportunity cost in that I could be using that time in some other way (family, friends, relaxation or…. a ‘real job’).

Have I forgotten anything? What other expenses do bloggers have? How much do your yearly blog expenses add up to?

update: I probably should have mentioned that in my earlier days my expenses were considerably less than ‘a few thousand a year’.

For example there are options for blogging like wordpress.com which cut out the hosting and domain expenses – I used my old 10 year old computer on dialup – I didn’t travel – I read the magazines that I now subscribe to in the library, I had a friend design my blogs (and even did a little of it myself), another friend helped with the tech/back end etc