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How Not Throwing the Baby Out With the Bath Water Earned me Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

Today I want to tell you a story – a story of how not throwing the baby out with the bath water has earned me hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Just under two years ago a controversy erupted in the the ‘make money online’ segment of the blogosphere that involved a lot of hype, anger and attack.

Chitika-1It involved the launch of a new advertising network product called – Chitika eMiniMalls.

I had been beta testing this new ad unit for a few weeks and was one of a small group of bloggers who blogged about my experience of it and how it had significantly increased my earnings. I wrote my first review of Chitika here.

A couple of weeks later after continuing to experiment with the ad unit my earnings with Chitika continued to grow and I revealed that I was earning over $700 per day with them – they’d become my biggest earner.

The result of me (and others) reporting my success with Chitika caused a real stir around the blogosphere and when Chitika announced an affiliate program which paid 10% commission the ‘stir’ quickly became ‘hype’ as many bloggers pumped Chitika up as being an AdSense killer and the answer to all problems of bloggers struggling to make money online.

I attempted to communicate a more balanced review of the ad unit (they work well on some blogs but not others) but the frenzy and buzz that surrounded Chitika for a few weeks was like nothing I’d ever seen around a product launch before.

Of course the positive buzz around Chitika didn’t last for too long. Chitika made a few mistakes in their launch (I suspect overwhelmed by the numbers of those signing up) and in getting the mix between serving publishers and advertisers they had to make some tough decisions which saw some publishers see decreases in earnings. This of course didn’t go over terribly well with many.

At the same time some publishers found that Chitika didn’t work on every blog (as they’d read some promoting the affiliate program promising) and became disillusioned by Chitika and anyone who had promoted them.

The resulting backlash against Chitika was as strong and vicious as the previous weeks of positive buzz had been – the pendulum has swung to the opposite end of it’s trajectory. Many bloggers expressed real anger, quite a few vowed never to use Chitika again, accusations of fraud and scrupulous behavior flew left right and centre. I took a lot of flak for my positive (yet in my opinion balanced) reviews of Chitika (in fact the attacks on me in those months were the most vicious I’ve ever experienced and escalated to a point where my property was physically assaulted).

While many many bloggers jumped off the Chitika ship as the popularity pendulum swung away from them – I felt that while Chitika had issues and had made some mistakes that they were a company with potential. They needed to improve their service – but the basics that they had put in place were good and in time I felt that they’d improve.

Rather than jumping ship (or throwing the baby out with the bath water) as many were doing I decided to do two things:

  1. give constructive and encouraging feedback to Chitika - While much of the blogosphere descended into snark and attack I decided to attempt to help Chitika improve. I did this in part because I felt it was the right thing to do and that they didn’t deserve all of the hits that they were taking – but also because I knew that if they improved what they offered – that it’d enhance my own business. I told them what I liked about their product, what I didn’t like, what I wished they’d change and what I wished that they’d add.
  2. experiment with the use of their service to see how it worked best - I spent significant time in those early months really tweaking and tracking the use of Chitika’s ad units. I saw from my own experience and the reports of others that it didn’t work on some blogs yet did on others – so I decided to work out where it did work best and how to improve it’s performance. This resulted in a series of tips posts including Chitika eMiniMalls Tips.

A few other bloggers quietly took a similar approach in the midst of the Chitika bashing that went on around us. The results were quite amazing.

Firstly – Chitika improved. Since that time the company as grown and offered a variety of new ad units. They have had their ups and downs but what they offer now benefits many bloggers. While these ads still don’t work on every blog – many bloggers have found ways to make them work for them. I know a few who make more than I do from Chitika each day.

Secondly – My own experience of Chitika and what they contribute to my business has confirmed to me my hunch that it wasn’t something to jump ship on. I revealed in a post 4 months ago that I’d earned just under a quarter of a million dollars using Chitika – of that figure is now well in excess of the quarter of a million dollar mark and continues to confirm to me the value of taking a different approach than being swayed by popular opinion and doing something positive instead of being caught up in the pendulum swings that the blogosphere can become distracted by.

Is the Pendulum Swinging Again?

In the last week we’ve seen a pendulum swing over the launch of BlogRush service that reminds me a little of the Chitika fiasco. The service launched in a frenzy of praise and hype as bloggers jostled to benefit from referring others. While many posted about it advising caution and trying to paint realistic expectations – some posts that I read painted this new and untested service as though it was the Messiah!

Yes – BlogRush needs to take some responsibility for the way they presented themselves (they talked themselves up as you’d expect – and gave bloggers an incentive to talk them up) but many bloggers took it to another level and promised the world from the service.

In the last 24 hours – since the release of BlogRush stats – the pendulum has swung and I’ve seen quite a few bloggers painting the service as ‘evil’. Once again bloggers are jumping ship left right and center and accusations are beginning to fly.

While I don’t know if BlogRush will ultimately be as successful for bloggers as Chitika has been for those who remained on board – I found myself wondering how many bloggers are in danger of prematurely throwing a potentially good thing away simply because it didn’t work for them in the in the first day or two.

  • What would happen if rather than dismissing or attacking BlogRush bloggers looked the service over and compiled some constructive feedback for it’s creators?
  • What would happen if bloggers took the time to analyze how it works and to experiment with different ways of using it?
  • What if bloggers pressed pause on their judgement and allowed the creators of this product to improve it?

I’m not saying bloggers should blindly accept every new service that comes along as ‘the answer’ – there may come a time to ‘jump ship’ from BlogRush if it doesn’t work (either for anyone or in individual circumstances) – however I wonder if we all need to take a chill pill and let things run their course a little.

Yes – it may be a big flop – but perhaps if we give it (and other services that emerge) a chance we might just see things grow into something worthwhile that enhances our blogging.

Just my two cents worth.

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. Dan Krueger says:

    Usually I don’t spend much time reading or writing blogs, because there is just not enough time in the day for that, when I try to concentrate on my busines. But I stumbled upon this here and had to read it all, because it’s real good information and opinions. After some clicking here and there and reading other sites, I spent more than 2 hours and know much more now. These 2 hours I’m short now with what I was actually planning to do for my business. I wonder, how you guys handle all this information overload. Shall I go to work now or look for a blog about managing information overload??

  2. It’s a funny thing isn’t it? Chitika didn’t work for me but Adsense does, sort of. The key is Traffic. As Markus Frind of Plentyoffish dating site says (paraphrased) “if you have the traffic you can sell dogfood (from a dating site) and still make money”. He gets 30 million pageviews a day.

  3. DJ says:

    Before BlogRush launched I thought “hype, hype, this isn’t going to be worth it” nevertheless I put it on my to do list to sign up as soon as they opened it. I’m trying it on a few of my network sites, not all of them just to put my foot in the water. So far I am thinking my initial assessment was correct, but I’m going to wait for awhile just to be sure.

  4. Genesis says:

    I have exactly one referral for BlogRush. It seems like a tool that has potential, even if the designers did jump the gun on the release.

    So far, my one little referral has grabbed me five times as many page views as I have on my own. To me, that is valuable. If just one person clicks through from those extra views, it was worth it. The widget isn´t an eyesore, like some, and I think it provides some extra value by showing relevant blog posts.

  5. Marc says:

    Good article, patients pays off opposed to getting caught up in the hype. It seems holding on to, or maintaining one’s objectivity can be a challenge at times. I know that of all the stuff I see on the internet, a lot of it is hype. Unfettered belief would not be good. Cynicism would be the opposite response.

  6. Kashif says:

    I was one of the earliest publishers at Chitika. Unfortunately they closed my account without proper communication and I have lost good amount due to that.

  7. Kieran says:

    One of the underlying lessons in this article, to me, is that it makes an insightful observation on the dynamics of the blogosphere as a whole. The customs of the blogosphere ( linking to competition, guest blogging on other blogs, advertising on competitors blogs) fosters symbiotic relationships between blogs that compete each other. This system is similar to the Japanese system of Keiretsu where businesses form tight relationships with each other for the purpose of mutual benefit. An example of how this dynamic works in the blogsophere is when bloggers try to sign up other bloggers as referrals for monetization programs. This condition of co-dependence creates an environment where there is a high degree of uniformity of business strategies. Although beneficial, this is also somewhat paradoxal because the homogenization of business strategies minimizes the degree of differentiation – which is the key success factor in any business.

  8. thank you for your work, all works deserves a thank you

  9. Dimitri says:

    Thank you Darren, your wisdom is a blessing…