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10 Innovative Blog Business Models

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie wrote this post. For more advanced blogging tips and strategies, visit her blog, Skelliewag.

When people think about making money with a blog, they tend to think about things like AdSense and affiliate links. You write good content, people come to your blog, people click on links, and you make a bit of money. How much money you make depends on how successfully you can multiply this process.

However, for some entrepreneurs this method of monetizing a blog is just one part of a larger business model that is much more lucrative than advertising on its own.

In this post I want to highlight 10 innovative and successful blog business models that do more than sell ad space or clicks. Is there room for one of these business models on your own blog?

(Please note that this particular post does not contain affiliate links.)

1. Teaching Sells / Blog Mastermind (Educational course)

Copyblogger sells TeachingSells.com

EntrepreneursJourney.com sells BlogMastermind.com

This business model involves selling an expert course on the back of a blog. Each blogger is regarded as an expert in their field and their free content demonstrates that they have plenty of useful advice to give.

These courses may only appeal to a small percentage of the host blog’s readership, so they are usually priced at the high-end to compensate. For this reason, courses must focus on sharing skills and methods that the reader values very highly.

Most commonly these are skills and methods that will–hopefully–yield more money for the reader than they spend on the course itself. If the course doesn’t have the potential to earn the reader money then it must impart a skill that has a very high non-monetary value. A Chess course might be worth $99 a month to someone who is passionate about Chess. A course in Mandarin might be worth $150 a month to someone who is relocating to China in three months and is determined to be able to hold conversations with locals as soon as they arrive.

The determining factor in success with this model is an understanding of what your readers value deeply, and providing them with that, either by providing them with great value or the means to achieve it for themselves.

2. IttyBiz (eBook)

IttyBiz sells Ninja SEO School

Naomi Dunford writes IttyBiz for online marketers and entrepreneurs who are ordinary people with a tight budget. She says her consulting clients were always curious about SEO and how to start using it for their benefit. In response to the demand she wrote the ‘Ninja SEO School‘ eBook. If you click the link you’ll notice that it’s no longer for sale, and I hope the ProBlogger mention hasn’t made Naomi regret the decision ;).

By making the choice to say the eBook would only be available for a limited time, readers who would have post-poned the decision of whether to buy the product until later (and then probably forgot about it) were forced to act quickly.

This is a very clever method to overcome one of the eBook’s weaknesses as a medium: its format makes it seem like the product will always be in unlimited supply, which can often provoke lethargy in potential buyers. Books in bookstores go out of stock, but eBooks technically never do.

If your eBook is expensive then it’s highly likely a potential buyer will think about the purchase for several days and talk themselves out of it. By creating scarcity you can motivate potential buyers to action.

Though there are many blogs funneling into an eBook, I chose IttyBiz as an example because of the clever use of artificial scarcity as a marketing tool. (Though if you emailed Naomi, I bet she’d still sell you a copy!)

3. ProBlogger / FSw / Smashing Magazine (Job board)

ProBlogger.net sells Jobs.ProBlogger.net

Freelance Switch sells Jobs.FreelanceSwitch.com

Smashing Magazine sells Jobs.SmashingMagazine.com

Vocation-based blogs like ProBlogger (bloogging), Freelance Switch (freelancing) and Smashing Magazine (design) are a perfect fit with the job board business model. These job boards that stem from blogs are usually monetized in one of two ways: advertiser pays a flat fee to post their job ad, which is the most common method and used at ProBlogger and Smashing Magazine, or job hunters pay a small subscription fee to have access to jobs, which is the least common model and is used at Freelance Switch.

Building a job board is likely to require development costs of at least several hundred dollars and possibly over a thousand, so it may be best to wait until your traffic levels are healthy before adding something like this to your blog.

4. PSDTUTS / SEOmoz (Premium content)

PSDTUTS.com sells PSDTUTS PLUS

SEOmoz sells SEOmoz PRO

These two blogs both offer members-only content for paid subscribers. At PSDTUTS $9 a month gives the user access to a large library of .PSD artworks and tutorials from well-known Photoshop artists. SEOmoz offers its ‘Pro’ membership at $49 a month, for which you receive SEO tools, guides and extra blog content. Both membership models are supplemented by a larger proportion of free content that serves to bring potential members into the blog and also as an advertisement for the content offered in the membership program.

While members-only blog content can be a lucrative business model you should expect to meet with criticism from readers who are struck by the double-wants of experiencing all your content while also not wanting to pay for it. The internet provides such an abundance of value for free that some people perhaps stop thinking about the creator’s need to be rewarded for their hard work. You should remind them of this and then focus on those customers who see ‘free’ as a privilege, not a right.

5. SpoonGraphics (Freelance services)

Blog.Spoongraphics.co.uk sells Spoongraphics.co.uk

Chris Spooner’s blog is a good example of a supported freelance business model. Freelance services are offered on a portfolio which is attached to his blog. The blog content deals with design and presents daily opportunities for Chris to demonstrate his own expertise as a designer to potential clients who might be reading his blog.

While it might seem counter-intuitive to write for other people in the same field instead of ordinary people who might be looking for a designer, many freelancers find good work covering gaps for other freelancers. For example, a freelancer who only knows how to code might hire another freelancer to create designs for him or her. As the web makes it easier to connect with freelancers across the globe this kind of collaboration is becoming increasingly common.

6. Remarkablogger / Muhammad Saleem (Consulting)

Remarkablogger.com sells Michael Martine

MuhammadSaleem.com sells Muhammad Saleem

Michael Martine writes a blog about blogging and offers consulting services as an off-shoot to the blog, targeted towards businesses who want a strong blogging presence. Muhammad Saleem is a social media power-user who also advertises social media consulting services from his blog. The premise of this business model is to build a profile as an expert in a specific area, give readers a taste of the kind of insights you can provide and then offer consultations to those who want to benefit from your knowledge on a deeper level.

The rates you can charge and the amount of uptake you get will depend on your topic as much as it does on your personal brand. People with entrepreneurial aspirations are more likely to need and be willing to invest in a consultant because they fundamentally expect to earn back more than they spend as a result of the knowledge they’ve gained. A life consultant or sports consultant or any other kind of consultant who might not be focused on helping the client earn money needs to provide immense non-monetary value instead.

7. Pearsonified / GoMedia (Digital products)

Pearsonified sells Thesis

GoMedia sells vector graphics and Photoshop brushes

The ‘Thesis’ theme has been everywhere of late. Probably because its creator’s blog has over 5,000 subscribers and he also seems to have made the right kind of friends. If you’re going to sell a product you’ve built then nothing will help your cause more than having a popular blog to back you up.

The GoMedia design firm does more. It uses a popular design blog (almost 10,000 subscribers) to sell both design services and products: the GoMedia Arsenal vector and Photoshop brush packs. Visitors are drawn into the site via the blog content and can then be funneled into either the branded services or products on offer.

8. LifeDev, Zen Habits and Web Warrior Tools

LifeDev and Zen Habits sell Web Warrior Tools

A blog can also be an excellent way to support your entrepreneurial projects and give them a kick-start. Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) and Glen Stansberry (LifeDev) partnered to create Web Warrior Tools to provide a platform for writers to sell their eBooks and have someone else market them. Both blogs link back to Web Warrior Tools and were able to promote it at launch. Instead of having to claw out an audience from nothing, the Web Warrior Tools website was able to launch with pre-existing hype and an immediate user-base.

9. NETTUTS (Magazine model)

NETTUTS.com

Based on the success of the Gawker Media network of blogs it’s becoming increasingly common to see blogs run like print magazines, with a team of paid writers and an editor, and with an entrepreneur or company behind them, using advertising and other methods to break even and, hopefully, making a profit once staff and running costs are subtracted.

This business model can be one of the most ‘hands-off’ as you don’t need to be involved directly in the running of the blog. That being said, paying writers and an editor can be costly, so most successful magazine-style blogs are quite highly-trafficked in addition to having the starting capital to run at a loss for some time, at least initially. NETTUTS is a web development tutorials site that runs under a magazine model, paying tutorial writers and an editor out of advertising proceeds.

10. Sitepoint (Branded products)

Sitepoint sells books and educational kits

Sitepoint is an exceptionally popular website for web developers and designers. Part of that website is a network of blogs featuring web development news, tips and theory. Former and current Sitepoint bloggers have gone on to publish books under the Sitepoint brand, which are then sold from the Sitepoint website or through other channels (such as Amazon). The books are prominently branded with the website and blog logo.

Your branded products don’t have to be books. Some blogs sell merchandiseprint magazines, audio books and courses, and other products.

***

I hope this post will show you some of the creative ways people are making money through their blogs. It can be easy to approach the challenge of making money online from a very narrow angle and blinker yourself to rarer possibilities that may be a better fit with your blog.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to trail-blaze and invent a business model that is perfect for your blog, even if it doesn’t exist yet!

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Comments

  1. Ryan McLean says:

    This is a really great list of different strategies and I think I will use a few on my entrepreneurs blog as it gets bigger and more well known. I have hit over 150 subscribers so it shouldnt be long till im over 1,000

  2. The top 10 innovative blog monetising models are very good. I will also try incorporate in my blog.

    Regards,

    Santosh Puthran
    Management Accountant Blog

  3. Great list there! One thing that I realized is that most of them own proprietary products that they can capitalize on and to monetize them.

    Thanks for sharing Skellie!

    Daniel
    http://thedanielrichard.stumbleupon.com

  4. susan says:

    Great information. I’m currently working on #11, which I believe will truly change how blogs are viewed by marketers. More details to come.

    Susan
    http://www.catapultfitnessblog.com
    NESTA Certified Fitness Nutrition Coach and 20+ year marketing and advertising veteran

  5. fahry says:

    cool…
    brliant idea and inovation

  6. Amir Helzer says:

    I would add plain old affiliate sales as a very viable option. You use the authority you created in a market to sell products in that field.

    Unlike the way most bloggers do that, it should be clear to your visitors that you’re a value added affiliate. It’s not something that should be hidden, but emphasized. Visitors should feel good about buying that product from you, because as a market leader you endorse it.

    Being outright about your affiliate relationship will also help to get more applications from interested vendors.

  7. Grant Hopkins says:

    freaking great post Skellie – keep it up!

  8. Nathan says:

    Nice list…although personally there are a few methods I wouldn’t use, a majority of them would fit my style perfectly.

    I particularly like the ebook ideas because ebooks are easy to write (if you enjoy writing) and are good for list building.

  9. Wow, thanks for the mention, Skellie. I had not really thought of myself as innovative, just trying to find better ways to meet the needs of bloggers. I guess there are many ways in which something that’s normal in another sphere seems innovative when applied to a blog if it hasn’t been done very much before.

    For example, teleseminars are quite common in many industries, but you don’t see too many bloggers selling them. I will be having a teleseminar on Oct. 1 for WordPress SEO. Although I don’t see cross-pollination between industry methods like this to be terribly innovative, I’m pleased as punch to be featured!

    Someone who I think has been truly innovative is Wendy Piersall of the http://sparkplugging.com bog network. She has created “SparkPlugU” as a whole online university of teleseminars and courses. I think she deserves to be number 11 on your list–that is some real innovation.

    PS – I haven’t posted yet about my seminar date, so if you go to Remarkablogger, you’ll want to subscribe so you don’t miss the announcement if you’re interested (yes, I’m totally taking advantage of my 15 seconds of ProBlogger link fame! :) )

  10. J.D. Meier says:

    Great set of reference examples.

    I’ve been surprised by how much some of my friends are making from online reports and forums.

  11. Yes , in big blogs it would be insane not to do something like – those sites have great traffic. It’s goal for every serious blog I think. Thanks for the great list, it’s interesting how people implement those business models in their own blogs.

  12. iqbal says:

    Hi
    Very Impressive. Thanks.

  13. Jami G. says:

    Very complete, but rather far off in the horizon for most bloggers. This is something most bloggers dream that they’ll eventually be able to do. For now, many of us are simply trying to attract a reader base.

  14. Glen Allsopp says:

    Great list Skellie, I definitely think that a job board will take more work than any of the other options but it can generate a nice income. Ebooks are favourite for me :)

  15. Saleel says:

    Excellent blog models!! thanks skellie! want to check each blogs and try to incorporate with mine.

  16. rjani says:

    Nice, it gave a boost to my creativity :)

    But I still think I’m not really comfortable with this kind of thing. The beauty in blogging for me is to give away value totally free, and still earn passive income.

    Although these sites don’t force reader’s to buy their products, just as I don’t force my readers to click on ads, I still have this feeling of discomfort about it, especially when they sell “premium content”, that reminds me of those useless affiliate programs with 3 pages of testimonials and then a crappy product for just 399.99$.

  17. Martin says:

    How funny this is, I always get to your posts kinda early… it’s september 21st here but I already read the all the posts for sep 22nd lol

    Of course another great posts.

  18. There’s no doubt that the key to all of this is to have a high traffic blog. I know there are exceptions, but this is almost always the starting point.

    Once again, you’ve put together a quality content post.

  19. All you commenters complaining that this sort of thing can only happen with a high-traffic blog have it exactly backwards.

    How do you think these blogs became high traffic in the first place? By meeting a need that people have and becoming highly relevant to their audience. Needs are met in many ways, including products and services.

    Think about this for a moment: you have an issue, a problem with your blog, and you search for an answer online. You find all kinds of blog posts about the issue, but they don’t apply to your blog and your situation. Or they’re not well-written and you don’t understand. Or the solution is for an outdated version of software. Whatever.

    So you’re wasting time and growing frustrated. At some point, you realize it totally would have been worth it to spend a few bucks to solve the problem NOW if you knew who to ask.

    A high-traffic blog is NOT the starting point. It’s the ending point.

  20. Great post again Skellie! Nice work keeping ProBlogger up and running while Darren is away!

  21. Almost all the examples given are sites about tech or blogging itself. The industry feeds itself. What about sites that been proven to make money, outside of these categories (and not including life hacking)

  22. Duncan says:

    Skellie
    let me say kudos on a great post, not only is it interesting, you’ve failed to nearly once describe a business plan for a blog in the entire post. Instead, you’ve given a list of examples where blogs are used to sell external products. Most people reading this site neither have the skill nor ability to create an external product to subsidize their blog, and it’s unfortunate that you’ve choosen to spin false hope in a deceptive headline with the post. Lets hope your future guest posting is a little more honest and connects better with the average reader, not an elite few.

  23. Dilip Shaw says:

    Great Post!

    However now its very difficult to get visitors, as there are only a few “popular” niches left. The unpopular ones may get good rank, but may not get good traffic.

    Unless a blog is not getting over 30,000 page views per month, it’s useless to try to monetize it. Even if you use Adsense, it will just pay for hosting.

    Key is to keep trying!

    Dilip Shaw
    http://www.DilipShaw.com/

  24. moneymanager says:

    dot on skellie,
    adding on, i think sellingstuff and adopting any of these business model,may form part-2 of the blogging journey.
    part-1 needs sole attention in first learning about blogging, tips and tricks of the trade, although everything today can be done by hiring someone but a little knowledge never hurts, this being followed by building the ever reclusive readers base, which is the biggest battle for a blogger anywhere at the beginning of the journey,
    again a nice article
    thanks

  25. Hey Duncan, maybe that’s because this post isn’t about business plans.

    I think people here have a case of problogger shell shock or something. “Elites?” That’s just a barrier in your mind.

    Products don’t “subsidize” a blog. Products are the business, and the blog is the marketing vehicle for that business.

    Most people reading this absolutely do have the skill and the ability to accomplish this. How do you think any of these people got started? They all began with one lonely little blog, just like everyone else. If you want to stay that way for the rest of your life, I suppose that’s your business, but keep you gloom to yourself.

  26. @ Michael Martine:

    I was thinking sort of the same thing, that you need some viral content or as Yaro says some “pillar posts” that will get you readers. Something unique. I’m working on an eBook “The Business of Blogging” and it will be unique so stay tuned people! :)

  27. Again I agree….everyone had to start with one post with their blog then another. I have patience and perseverance and intend to have a successful blog that grows every single day. Why else are we doing this? I plan on being with the elite few!

  28. About the question of non-tech blog niches and their profitability… (since my site is one of the ones featured, here, I feel invested in this discussion, so that’s why I keep commenting)

    Non-tech niches are nearly always more profitable because less tech-savvy people are more likely to click on ads. It’s much harder to sell technical information products and services than it is to sell non-technical products and services.

    Because of competition and ad blindness, tech ads have notoriously low earnings. Health-related terms can have very high earnings, on the other hand. Information products related to health totally blow away tech information products in sales.

    You would be better off avoiding tech/marketing and focus on something more consumer-oriented.

  29. This is a good list, although it’s probably a bit of a stretch to call this 10 different business models.

    For simplicity sake I’d say there are basically 3:

    1. ads/affiliates
    2. premium content
    3. marketing tool for some other product/service you have

    #2 is really not that common or successful I don’t think either.

    That being said, the job board thing was a good area I hadn’t really thought about before, so I don’t mean to be too negative. Good post :)
    Brian
    StartBreakingFree.com

  30. Harmony says:

    What a great education! Thank you so much for giving so much information…for free! :-)

  31. @Stephen says:

    Great post Skellie, and kudos to Michael for keeping an eye on the comments. This is a superb list of business models, whether 3 or 10, it shows how “regular folks” can break into the internet entrepreneur field.
    As for traffic and content, Michael is spot-on about creating the content and the value first, after that, the readers will come. Naomi’s IttyBiz is a perfect example, her blog is only a few months old and is packed with immediately useful info, you don’t need to buy her book. But having the book distills the info for you and saves you the time and effort of tracking down the particular pieces that you need.
    That is what the “premium” part of all of these blogs means.

  32. CoolProducts says:

    I never really thought seriously about using blogs to enhance your business, or even be your business for that matter. These are some really cool ideas that could either a. help a person to start their business up, or b. help their business to grow through the medium of blogs. Thanks again Skellie!

  33. Takumi86 says:

    Great post!! but just wondering where is shoemoney and johncow sites? aren’t they have the top business model also??

  34. Braveheart says:

    Wow I was stunned by Naomi’s invention of having their ebook out of stock. It’s a brave decision, you can loose potential buyers, but you can also increase the potential buyer’s action.

  35. Lindsay says:

    Great examples and a potent reminder to see the blog as a means to an end, not the end in and of itself. :)

  36. Alex Wilson says:

    I use my multiple sites to take advantage of inter linking and selling the other model.

    For instance I will link from http://www.savingsguide.com.au to http://www.companyguide.com.au and reversed.

    Doing this provides my readers with useful information and my sites with relevant back links.

  37. alifahru says:

    For a beginner on earning online, We just keep going on adsense and affiliate program. by the experience we will think other site to blow our earning from the other resource.

  38. Chetz Yusof says:

    Thanks for the post. It gives my new ideas on how to make money online. Right now I’m trying to monetize my blog using adsense but only got a few cents.

    I’m really in a stressful situation now because I want to prove to my boss and partner that we can actually make LOTS of money from the Internet. They always teased me on my excitement to make money online, “I don’t believe in making money online, until I see it”. I want to show it to them!

    So, thanks for your tips here.

    Chetz Yusof
    ChetzTV.com – My blog about Love, Money and Fitness

  39. Bad Credit says:

    These case studies are astounding, how the blogger have created a demand for the product, real service along free bees and also get paid for advertising. Some newspaper have the same model.

  40. John says:

    Really interesting post-according to Dilip Shaw a previous post you need 30,000 hits a month on your blog before you have a chance of making a buck-Shit i am like light years away from that happening-just have to keep grinding away at this.

  41. Jay says:
  42. FrankH says:

    People on the internet are always looking for information about a certain topic. A topic focussed website done the correct way will bring you tons of free targeted traffic.
    Small business website development, in this way, becomes a piece of cacke.