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Why I’ve Been Offered Close to a Million Dollars for My Blog (and Why I said No)

“I’ve always treated the first two years of Digital Photography School as its launch phase.”

This was a statement that I made in a session at Blog World Expo that I’ve been asked about many times since – so I thought I’d expand upon it a little here in a post.

2006-2008: The Launch of Digital Photography School

I launched DPS back in April of 2006 (I first spoke about it here on ProBlogger in one of my first video posts). As you’ll see from that initial post – I always saw DPS as something of an experiment and a long term project. Having built numerous blogs before starting that one I new that building a blog to it’s potential takes a lot of time and hard work.

As a result, I gave myself a goal to get that blog two years to get through it’s ‘launch phase’.

That might seem like a long time to get a blog up and running but for me the ‘launch phase’ meant more than simply getting the blog designed and announcing it – for me the ‘launch’ is all about these sorts of things:

  • building a foundation of solid content (the blog now has 713 posts, most of which are ‘how to’ or ‘tutorial’ style content)
  • getting an initial design up (I launched with a free design and quickly upgraded to a purpose built one. It’s now dated and we’ve outgrown it – but it has served us well).
  • building a loyal readership and subscribers (the blog is now read by around a million readers a month and subscribed to by over 100,000. The forum has around 200,000 visitors a month.)
  • building community (this takes time. Initially I did it with a Flickr group and then leveraged that to start a forum – now with 23,000 members).
  • building a ‘list‘ (at the heart of DPS is a newsletter which drives traffic and builds community. It is sent to around 48,000 subscribers per week).
  • establishing a publishing routine (I started off posting 3 times a week and have built it up to posting 7 times a week)
  • building a content creation team (originally I wrote every post – now the blog is written by a team of 5 paid writers (each doing one post per week) and a number of regular guest contributers)
  • building a team of community leaders (the forum is moderated by a wonderful team of voluntary members)
  • building relationships with other bloggers and partners (something I was slow doing, mainly due to being time poor – more recently however I’ve been more intentional building relationships with others in the industry)
  • experimenting with monetization – (making money from the site hasn’t been high on my priority list to this point – rather in this launch phase it has been more about working out what types of monetization works and what the community responds to. The site does make money, but more importantly I’ve been learning about monetization)

Most bloggers probably don’t see a lot of this as a ‘launch phase’ – but for me it has definitely been more about building foundations for what is to come than seeing anything I’ve done so far as an ‘end result’.

While I’m really happy with (and surprised by) what we’ve achieved so far at DPS – seeing it as being in it’s launch phase reminds me to keep lifting my sights and to keep on building and dreaming.

One of the Results of Building Good Foundations

Over the last few months I’ve been approached on 3 occasions by potential buyers of DPS. It has actually been quite strange because they all came very quickly and quite out of the blue. The offers ranged quite considerably in terms of numbers but a couple were tempting.

In each case the potential buyer commented that they wanted to buy DPS because it was ‘solid’. Each one was less interested in what the site was making in terms of income or how much raw traffic it had than other factors. They were looking more at things like brand, community, reader loyalty, influence, reader morale and user participation.

In fact what surprised me is that the valuations that they put on the site (very high six figure sums) were not based upon what it was currently earning at all. They made offers based upon these other factors – factors that made their offers much higher than a valuation based upon traffic or monthly income alone.

What Will Phase 2 Look Like?

While a couple of the offers were very tempting I realized as i deliberated that the potential for DPS was far greater than what it had yet achieved. I’ve only just begun. To sell now tempted me (and I probably would have sold at the right price) but I realized that for me to take it beyond where it has grown to will see it rise exponentially in value.

It has been 2.5 years now since officially launching the site – so it’s now time to move into the next ‘phase’.

I’m not ready to fully announce all of the details of the next phase of DPS – however it will involve a redesign (hopefully to go live around the end of the year) and a fairly significant ‘expansion’. In essence the way I’m viewing the last 2.5 years is that I’ve been building foundations and that now it is time to expand and leverage what has already been built.

To do so means significant investment back into the site financially but with the solid base of readership, community and relationships that I’ve been working hard to build I’m pretty confident that Phase 2 will be successful. I’m also really excited about what’s coming!

Build Solid Foundations

When I speak with many bloggers I get the feeling that all they’re really thinking about is growing traffic and subscriber numbers as fast as possible. While these are definitely things to work hard on I attempt to convey to them that there are other ‘foundations’ that need to be built into a blog than just traffic.

Most bloggers put a lot of energy into building blogs with high readership – but how about setting goals and strategies in place for some of the other areas mentioned above?

  • Take a long term view of your blogging
  • Take your time to build strong foundations that go beyond traffic and income

As you do these two things you’ll put yourself in a position to build a site of significance.

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. Roy Scribner says:

    That ties-in nicely with some posts I’ve been reading this week on intellectual property. It is difficult to value IP and it is not an exact science, but the fact that these investors were placing a higher value on DPS than you expected tends to support the fact that it is cheaper and quicker to buy IP than to build it. Interesting post!

  2. Darren,

    I’ve followed your experiences with DPS from day 1 (I can still remember you discussing its conception way back when) and I’ve watched it grow to be a valuable resource in the world of digital photography.

    I’m in no way surprised that you have had substantial offers for it – the solid (as you put it) user base is incredibly valuable, as is the loyalty you’ve built up with the peope who use DPS on a daily basis. I’m also incredibly glad that at this stage you’ve decided to launch into phase 2 rather than selling – its at this point where it all gets really exciting.

    The design of DPS has always been one of my (minor) issues with DPS – its always felt like that initial blogging experiment that never got the final spit and polish – I’m looking forward to seeing a relaunched / redesigned DPS taking us into 2009 and beyond.

  3. Tyler Ingram says:

    I like DPS and even though I wanted to start a site which would be similar (this was prior to knowing about DPS) I stopped once I found it.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Hussein says:

    OMG! Don’t sell it Darren. Don’t sell it if you can still manage it if it still give you money.

  5. Ryan McLean says:

    This is an awesome way to look at it. I am going to look at the first two years of my entrepreneur’s blog as “The Starting Phase” also…which means I am in it for the long term and I am going to build a strong foundation like you said. 100,000 subscribers is a massive effort in just 2.5 years….congratulations

  6. Ryan McLean says:

    How much woud someone have to offer you for you to sell DFS tomorrow?

  7. Hamdani Amin says:

    well thought. When we so much focus on monetization of a website, we forget how to strategize.

    I am experiencing your kind of experience when you first started DPS. So far what you have said in this blog, it’s true to the heart.

  8. Potato Chef says:

    Nothing good comes easy or fast.
    It takes self-confidence and discipline to look out 2 years.
    Good luck

  9. Saurabh says:

    Great thoughts! Now I think I should wait for my blog’s growth (like you waited for DPS for around 2 years).

    Main Word – PATIENCE in blogging RESULTS good.

  10. Wow, and I though that the launch phase should end after a few months, but two years!

  11. Sarah H. says:

    As a long-time reader and forum-member at DPS, I am excited to read your analysis and future plans. Well done, Darren! I look forward to what’s coming next and I appreciate that you outlined some points here about good foundations.

  12. Inspirational post!

    I really like the way you planned this “launch phase.” So many people seem to think they must get up and running now…they want to be rich within months! Building a slow and solid foundation is critical for long term branding and success. Great job.

  13. Great post! Congrats on such lucrative offers. Way to show some restraint! I’m sure, as the site grows, the offers will only get better!

    I’m taking a similar slow-growth approach to my blog. It’s my first blog, and I’m in no rush to make it boom in popularity any time soon. I do have big plans for it in the future, but right now, and over the next couple years, I’m just going to work on learning the ropes and creating solid content. It’s good to see that this strategy has worked for you too.

  14. Gooch says:

    Darren THANK YOU.

    There are so many lessons in this post for all of us. In a world of instant gratification, it takes tremendous vision, and focused execution to achieve the results of DPS, and even more so to turn down these offers.

    Here’s to bigger and better things and thank you for sharing these broader fundamentals on approaching a launch.

  15. CoolProducts says:

    If a million dollars is a price where the price does not rival the value that your blog has to you, I’m wondering, at what price would you accept for your blog?

  16. Preston says:

    I’m glad you wrote this article for some reason but not for any reason in particular other than the insight.

  17. Tressa says:

    Hi Darren,
    As always I love your posts and am a loyal blog reader. I must say you must make a pretty penny, because if anyone offered me that kind of money for my blogs, I would jump at the chance. Of course unlike you, I haven’t strategized or come up with a plan. I have a goal and am working towards it, but I doubt I would have refused such a great offer.

    You are right most people do rush into building a blog for traffic and money, and not really content, or value. It’s a hard thing, but you have to remember for people to come, you have to offer them something. Thanks as always for reminding us why we should blog, and how.

    Tressa
    http://traffic-101.blogspot.com
    http://www.traffic101.org

  18. Bad Credit says:

    Bankaholic a one man blog sold for 15 million USD.. DPS could do better or not? Why not?

  19. IDoBlogs says:

    Man I’m all for you – more power to you. You’ve got a great thing going, but I’d retire.

  20. CoolProducts says:

    “Bankaholic a one man blog sold for 15 million USD.. DPS could do better or not? Why not?”

    - Maybe that’s part of the reason he’s waiting off!

    Darren

    - I know you feel you’re still in the launch phase, but are you sure you really aren’t in the the “growth” phase? Launch -> Growth -> Maturity -> Decline

  21. RobH says:

    Congratulations! Well done. Counter for $2M, take the money then set up another equally valuable 2.5 year “experiment”.

  22. Writer Dad says:

    Really inspiring, Darren. No matter how much I need it, and even though it’s only three months old, it would take a HANDSOME sum for me to part with Writer Dad right now. I see too much potential. Good for you.

  23. Like any business, you need to first build your foundation and grow from there. Growing too fast and not being prepared is not the way to go.

  24. Surender says:

    Hi dareen,
    I think you should carry on your business instead of sale.If you will sale then your goal will stop their.So don’t sale.May i right?

  25. PlasticPilot says:

    Hi Darren,

    as always, your words are encouraging. My blog is slightly more than one year old, and I see some results now that I would never expect. The niche is much smaller (general aviation), but I received interesting feed-backs, and it opened some opportunities. I recently started a series of interviews with some outstanding pilots, which would probably not have answered my requests if I did not had a “serious” blog (500+ posts).

  26. Klodian says:

    Hi Darren,
    Don’t sell it, its like your baby, you are into it right now, also not all thinks can compare with money.
    I love Problogger as well.

    http://klodian.net

  27. Wayne Tully says:

    That’s great to know you won’t sell out your site just yet, because the points you talk about here in this post do make a lot of sense, to grow your blog onto phase 2 and pass the price of your offers to set your own high price on your digital photo school blog.

  28. se7en says:

    Lovely – as a complete blog novice, it is so good to hear from a blog pro, like yourself, that it is not all about the money and the bazillion readers per day… in any other job a common question is “Where would you like to be in five years time…” but it seems in blogging it is all about “How many readers you have?” or “Gosh you are working so hard, I hope it pays well.” Hello, content!!!! I am doing it because I love it and hope the rest will follow…

  29. Shanel Yang says:

    Thanks for sharing all those steps and details for how you grew DPS into the successful blog it is today. Very inspiring, Darren! Congrats to your wonderful success so far, and I hope much more to come to you in the near future! : )

  30. joe gelb says:

    how much would dps be saleable if its design was like this site?

  31. MLRebecca says:

    Launching a blog is so much more than just getting a layout and hosting. I quickly glanced over your list, and I thought to myself that I’ve accomplished many of these things. When I read the details of your blog launching list, I realized that I have my work cut out for me for sure! Thanks so much for giving bloggers a goal to aspire to!

  32. This magnifies the importance of having a good plan for your blog. How long term are you willing to make your blog? And what will I do if it starts to really take of? Are questions you can ask yourself as a blogger when planning.

  33. I’m just curious, what would you consider a fair asking price?

  34. Darren Rowse says:

    in terms of what I would sell it for – I’m yet to decide that to be honest. I guess there would come a point that I’d sell – but what that point is would take some serious consideration and soul searching :-)

  35. Shaun says:

    To be honest, after looking over the blog, a million bucks would be a freakishly cheap bargain. A new redesign that focuses on marketing a product (like an actual course for $97 or something) mixed with an affiliate program would pay for the domain in a year.

    Then, adding the course along with a few extra staff writers for a “magazine” style blog/site would pay for it again.

    I can certainly see why you say it’s still in the launch stage. You know how much potential you still have — congrats. It honestly makes me smile to see you do that well while helping others. Hehe.

    Godspeed,
    Shaun

  36. Shaun says:

    Note: I hope that didn’t sound like I was telling you what to do. Those are my own plans with my “learn” blog — I was kind of thinking out loud. ;-)

  37. Dilip says:

    Darren,

    A million dollar – that’s enough money. What about taking this money – keeping a good percentage in your bank account and launching 4 more blogs – sell them each for a million dollars 2 years down the line and launching 8 more blogs ….

    Does this sound poetry to you?

  38. Dylan Jones says:

    Hi Darren, Just woke up to this really inspiring blog post, thank you so much.

    My sites have only been going a few months and those first points you raised have given me so much clarity and focus on what we need to do to take things to the next level.

    Thank you.

  39. Daniel Bates says:

    Wow, What a relieving post to read. My first blog is a 1 1/2 years old and I finally fee like it is “ready” due to many of the factors you have pointed out. So many people expect to find every website in their complete stage when in truth a good website is never “finished”, there will always be tweeking to be done and new technology to experiment with. My second blog is a few months old now and getting good traffic, but I still have lots more content to add before I can advertise it. Like many of your followers this is all a hobby for me, I work one job 40 hours a week and then another 20-30 hour a week job so finding time is always rare.

  40. William says:

    Darren, wow, 2 1/2 years. I have only been blogging for a few months and sometimes feel like throwing in the towel. I guess I will stick with it a little longer. Thanks for the great tips.

  41. It’s very interesting to read that you’re considering the first two years as a launch phase — yet you’ve still built up what most people would consider a hugely successful and mature blog.

    When I started The Office Diet, I decided I’d stick to it for at least 6 months, regardless of whether I made any progress or not! Ten months on, I’ve now launched Alpha Student as well, and I’m already seeing much faster growth than with The Office Diet: there’s definitely a steep learning curve with blogging.

    I’ve decided I’m sticking with Alpha Student for a year, “whatever happens”. Now I’ve made that commitment, I might as well make the most of the year…

  42. Rahul says:

    Oh wow, just close to 2 and a half years of starting and being offered nearly a million dollars. But, I would believe that you can make more than that if you owned that site yourself. If that was me, I would definitely have second thoughts.

    Cheers mate.

  43. Byron says:

    Hi PB mates,
    This is one of those posts that sucks me in and forces me to read every word and all the comments.

    I notice that some folks found Darren’s post on DPS’s 2 year launch phase to be espousing a “slow growth” approach. I read the post with a slightly different emphasis. I found the emphasis to be on building a “solid basis” for DPS. It seemed to me that the growth rate was sort of irrelevant to what was being done. But by any calculation, I wouldn’t consider reaching 1.2M page views per month in just 2.5 years slow growth.

    If you want to see a slow growth approach, my blog could be the poster child. I post 2 or 3 posts per month…maybe 4 if I’m really hot. I try to make my posts solid and helpful, but there is a lot to be said for volume. After 1.5 years, that nets me about 300 page views per day. I don’t think I’m going to match Darren’s slow growth pace with DPS ;-)

    At any rate, Darren, thanks for the inspiration on building a solid basis. Can’t wait to see what phase 2 of DPS will bring.
    Cheers!

  44. Paul says:

    It’s hard to sell your “baby” The fifth or sixth one will be mucheasier to sell

  45. Brian says:

    I’m not surprised at all, especially since you are already a high-level blogger and probably make close to 1 million a year.

    Your priority is no longer money, it’s being even better, building an even bigger fan base, and being more successful and influential now.

    Good decision by the way. I hope you write more articles about how DPS got so popular

  46. gout says:

    your posting always give something different…more benefits and useful information for visitor….yes, you are success blogger……thanks for many advice and learning

  47. Steve says:

    If anyone wants to offer a million dollars for my blog then you can be 100% sure that I WILL NOT TURN YOU DOWN!

    :-)

  48. Bob says:

    Steve, you seem like a semi-illiterate hack. Since it’s hard to believe that someone who can’t write a simple English sentence would be so widely-read, one is left with the assumption that you’re a scam artist who is using junk blogs made entirely of links to other peoples’ content to push your own pathertic lineup of books and audiotapes. How I wish there was a separate internet devoted entirely to crap like this!

  49. Dimitri says:

    Wow, that just shows the difference between just blogging, and really blogging. Thank you for inspiration, Darren…

  50. Goldie says:

    Wow a million dollars! I would have passed out if someone offered me that amount of money, but congrats on resisting and sticking to it