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Action! Can Our Hollywood Experiment Help You Make Money Blogging?

This is a guest post by Joke and Biagio of JokeAndBiagio.com

Setting: a busy production office in Hollywood, California. Joke stares at her husband Biagio in disbelief.

Joke: You bought another book from Darren Rowse?

Biagio: Well, uh, no…this one’s actually by the Web Marketing Ninja…

Her face goes blank.

Joke: Did you just say…Ninja?

Blogging for business: benefits not always obvious

ProBlogger, Joke, and Biagio

ProBlogger, Joke and Biagio

That kind of back-and-forth’s been typical ever since we tip-toed into blogging in 2009.

Sure, it’s always fun to think about monetizing the blog or read about ways to get big traffic.

But realistically, our blog for filmmakers who want to break into Hollywood has been more of a fun distraction than a tool to make us money.

Maybe you’ve felt the same about your own blog? Wondered if banging away on your laptop at 2am would have any (positive) effect on your business? Questioned if the “standard” ways to make money blogging were right for you?

We’ve had those doubts over the past few years.

Then the blogging money muse came along…

An idea struck. A new approach to cashing in on our blog that seemed obvious and frightening all at once.

In fact, just saying it out loud freaked out our friends and colleagues.

But we really believe this idea is a win-win scenario for both our readers and our company. It’s a concept that just might work for you, too.

More on that in a minute. First, some background…

We make film and TV

As working producers and directors in Los Angeles, blogging was not high on our “to do” checklist for Hollywood success. But we had a personal reason for writing: to create the film and TV blog we wished existed when we were starting out.

You know, back when we were banging our heads against Hollywood’s closed doors, trying to get noticed by anyone in “the game.”

Two-hundred posts and 2500 Twitter followers later, we found ourselves with a small but engaged group of readers who wanted to succeed in film and TV.

And no idea how we were going to monetize our blog.

A better way to earn money from readers?

Other than a few affiliate banners and the occasional Adword, we never embraced “selling” to a community largely made up of struggling artists (an accurate description of us just a few years ago.)

And, since blogging will never be our main income stream (we make a decent living in film and TV) the thought of turning our filmmaking blog into a six-figure sensation seemed pretty silly.

While the notion of being “top bloggers” was romantic, were we really going to:

  • create e-books?
  • promote affiliate programs?
  • find joint venture partners?

Or were we gonna’ keep chasing Oscars® and Emmys®?

Then, the crazy idea came along.

Provide readers with what they want most

The number one rule of a blog is to provide value, right?

We asked ourselves, “What’s the ultimate value we can provide to our readers? What do they want more than anything?”

In our hearts, we knew the answer: the same thing we wanted while living in our shoe-box, one-bedroom apartment not so long ago.

Access to Hollywood.

So after spending two years educating our readers on what it takes to make it in this business, we’re now opening the same doors that were closed to us for so long.

We’ve invited them to pitch TV shows to us.

When we do sell a project with an aspiring filmmaker (like we just did with our upcoming documentary series Caged on MTV) that person will be paid to work on the show, receive a producer credit, and take a giant leap forward in their careers.

Plus, selling just one series with a reader will instantly make us “six-figure bloggers.”

But wait, there’s more…

As a bonus for both us and our readers, anyone who submits a show must join our newsletter. We send out tips and tricks on turning ideas into concrete Hollywood pitches, as well as up-to-the-second info about the kinds of shows we think we can sell at any given moment.

When the day comes that we do take a little time off from making film and TV, that list will prove invaluable should we want to write a book or put up speaking events on working in Hollywood.

Make big money blogging by partnering with readers

How about you? Have you spent years educating your readers on a particular topic? Why not tap into the pool of experts you’ve created?

Most bloggers see readers as potential customers. Maybe it’s time to see them as potential partners instead. Are you:

  • An independent software developer kicking out posts on the Objective-C language? How about taking pitches from up-and-coming coders on new iPhone apps?
  • Blogging how-to posts about the furniture you craft by hand? Why not expand your line by accepting product concepts from your most accomplished readers?
  • Writing about designing and selling great widgets? Let your fans bring you valuable ideas for better widgets.

Just think: one great idea from a reader could be worth a lot more than your commission on that “weird old trick” affiliate product you’ve been eyeing.

Always use protection!

Of course, we had to have our lawyer draw up a proper submission agreement, and anyone wishing to pitch TV show ideas to us will have to go through a formal process. Before you open yourself up to pitches, make sure you’re not open to potential lawsuits. Consult your lawyer.

Back at the pffice…

Biagio: Not bad, right?

Joke nods. Her expression…a glimmer of hope?

Joke: Does this mean you’ll stop shopping at ProBlogger now?

Biagio: Well, uh, no…

Joke sighs.

Joke: Better sell some more shows quick!

Joke and Biagio are a married filmmaking team (Joke’s the wife, Biagio’s the hubby.) Their goal is to help aspiring filmmakers and TV producers break in to Hollywood by providing real-world filmmaking advice and taking TV show pitches from talented, hard-working dreamers. Their current film Dying to do Letterman has been invited by the International Documentary Association to qualify for 2012 Academy Award® Consideration, and they have numerous unscripted TV shows to their credit. Keep in touch with them on Facebook and Twitter.

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above. If you'd like to guest post for ProBlogger check out our Write for ProBlogger page for details about how YOU can share your tips with our community.

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Comments

  1. It’s funny how many bloggers have little to no desire to earn money with their blogs. I get the idea of wanting to do it as a hobby but why not turn a hobby into a business since that Is a dream for most people anyway.

    Turning readers into partners instead of customers sounds very profound and I like the idea.

    • Thanks, Justin! It’s exciting for us, because it’s such an organic fit for what we do, and hopefully the folks who read the blog as well. We have nothing against those who blog for fun, and don’t think everyone has to monetize their blog, but in our case this feels like a great way to get extra value out of something that’s essentially been a hobby. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I love what J&B have done with their blog and their new call for pitches. It seems so simple: an idea that provides value to your readers and potential business benefits for them AND you. It’s sheer genius in my opinion. I’ve had the fortune of being on the receiving end of Joke and Biagio’s generosity in the past, and it doesn’t surprise what they’re doing, nor do I doubt they will make it a resounding success. Thanks, J&B, for all you do, and thanks to Problogger for giving them a platform to share their knowledge with bloggers of all kinds. Kudos!

    • Justin,
      You keep quite a blog yourself over at 3am Screenwriter. We’re sure you, like us, have frequented ProBlogger many times over the years. The great thing is the blog is full of out-of-the-box ideas, and we’re happy to have ours added to the long list of great posts. Hopefully this will give bloggers one more avenue to consider. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  3. Judith says:

    Turning followers into partners is the best way to find talent. You’re assured of their dedication since they took took it upon themselves to learn from you. Plus of course since you’ve been providing them valuable information over the years then their skill level should be up to snuff. Genius! :D

    • Judith,
      From your lips to the TV-gods ears! Early on (before we started the blog) we’d get the same questions so often that we decided to answer many of them “on the web” which then became a self-hosted WordPress site. Sending people to posts that explained our thought process was easier than having the same 30 minute conversation over and over again. Now, we feel like those posts give driven filmmakers an easy “peek” into our brains — spending a few hours there can help anyone avoid the newbie mistakes that run rampant in our industry. That’s part of what lead us to the decision to start taking pitches from our readers…they already know what we like.
      Appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment.

  4. Gregory C. says:

    Blog readers: crowdsourcing at its finest?

  5. John Hoff III says:

    Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.
    Henry Ford

    He says it best :)

  6. Crystal says:

    I see people not monetizing their blogs also, always makes me wonder if they didn’t realize they can do it. :)

  7. Paul says:

    This is a great plan and I am still frantically trying to come up with a good idea to take advantage of it.

  8. Kim Garland says:

    Hey J&B!

    So great to meet you both in person when you were in NYC!

    I’ve been following the blog, but just recently signed up for your newsletter – good stuff! I love, love, LOVE how committed you are to sharing everything you’re learning and reaching out to all of us busting our butts to break in. You’re the Good Guys and it’s such a pleasure to follow your journey and join you vicariously on all of your adventures.

    I wish you the best in your newest collaborative venture!

    Lots of love,
    Kim

    • Kim,
      Great meetin you in NYC as well, and can’t wait to see your short film!

      So glad the newsletter is useful — we enjoy putting it together and hope is spares folks some headaches along the way. The advice all comes from the “if only I knew THAT 5 years ago!” place. Hopefully we can jumpstart a few careers one way or the other.

      Hope we get to work together soon!

  9. I found J&B through their recent Kickstarter project and have spent many hours on their site since.

    Great content formatted in an approachable way.

    Check them out.

    - Keith

    • Glad to have you, Keith. Much of the way the information is formatted came from advice right here at ProBlogger…can’t recommend this site enough for anyone interested in putting together a blog…especially fimmakers who want to launch a site for their movie.

      We’re proud to have a post here, and really glad you got to check it out.

  10. The openness and honesty with which Joke and Biagio have made on making it in Hollywood, to say nothing of this latest We’ll Help You Produce A Show concept, is not only refreshing, but also incredibly encouraging. I don’t know much about blogging, but from what I know of Hollywood, they’re right. And, if they’re as right about blogging as they are about Hollywood, it would be wise to follow their advice. I know I do.

    So, thanks, Joke and Biagio. Please, keep the goodness coming.

    • Promise to, Jonathan. Thanks for stopping by ProBlogger — we learn more here every day, and it’s amazing how much the marketing tips here at the blog translate directly to real-world businesses as well.

  11. Chip Street says:

    J&B, you guys are an inspiration. You lead by example, you remain humble and accessible, and you do good work. I wish I had a concept in my back pocket cuz I can’t think of anyone I’d rather do business with… but alas, I’m left to wrack my brain in hopes of having that epiphany that’s worthy of putting across your desk. Hopefully it’ll come. Anyone who gets a green light from you is one lucky human being.

    In the meantime, I’ll keep reading your stuff, and following your advice… and telling everyone else to do the same.

  12. Hi Guys,

    Creative post and idea.

    Why not partner with your readers? Building partnerships is prospering for both parties. In truth, we can learn a great deal from our readers, who are experts in their own right.

    Thanks!

    Ryan

    • True, Ryan. We learn from our readers all the time. Another great reason to be part of any blogging community — staying a life-long learner.

  13. Ann says:

    Blogging works best when you have a websites geared to attract sales

  14. This is a wonderful idea. Now I just have to write a TV show….and start my blog.

  15. Joke, Nice Article. I like your – Provide readers with what they want makes more sense and really will help to do better. Thanks for the post

  16. Ann,
    Thanks for your comment. Feel like that’s a pretty broad statement. Certainly, blogs built to attract sales can be a great way to make money blogging. But to say “blogging works best” when it’s geared to sales seems restrictive. For us, gearing our current blog toward sales would likely make us far less money in the long. Our company will benefit far more from finding just one television series than we would selling anything on the blog as it exists now. Because we’re not looking to start a blog from scratch or change our business model, this approach to making money blogging works best for us. It won’t work for everyone out there, but we do believe some businesses will find this model to work far better than other more standard approaches.
    Thanks for taking the time…we’re enjoying the conversation.

  17. Aidy says:

    Blogging is mostly a hobby for me. To help me to improve my own writing skills. I never imagined that anyone could profit and network just by blogging. Now, Hollywood? Whew, things just keep getting awesome.

    • You know, Aidy, we should probably underscore that blogging as a hobby is great! Not every blog has to make money. Many get great satisfaction from blogging alone.

      Interesting thing about this approach, however: people who find themselves in our position are likely blogging for passion more than cash. That means they’re already creating in a space that inspires them. What’s nice about teaming with your readers is it allows you to do what you love on an even bigger level, without the pressure of driving tons of SEO traffic.

      Those who share your passion are likely the same people who will work a bit harder to find your blog in the first place, and share it with others.

      If thousands and thousands of people starting pitching us shows, we wouldn’t be able to keep up. But given our modest traffic numbers, and the fact that writing up an idea and shooting tape for it is not easy, the number of pitches we receive is manageable. So, this model may be perfect for blogs who are more “hobby” than “moneymaker” and whose traffic numbers are in the hundreds of visits a month instead of the thousands.

  18. James Greg says:

    The choice to monetize or not rests with the author himself. If he wants to keep it just for the sake of a hobby it his choice or wants to become a professional then there’s no stopping. A hobby can turn into passion but a passion cannot turn into a hobby.

  19. Love the post and love what you guys are doing. As someone who has produced on many reality shows, I always love seeing people doing things unique, original and inspiring. Your emails are a fun reminder of my goals. Look forward to working with you guys!

  20. Stephanie says:

    I found your idea really interesting. I have just recently joined and am going to soon be taking a class from ScreenwritingU. I just wanted to share that website with you because it’s a great place to not only get help with your writing/take classes, but also a place where you can find successful writers who have been trained and are ready to make their mark on Hollywood.

    The “buzz” page gives you many examples of people who have been successful in writing screenplays, novels, TV shows, etc. This might also be a great website for you to tap additional customers for your blog and for you to collaborate with on new TV show ideas.

    Thanks so much for offering expertise and help on breaking into the business for wannabe professional writers.

  21. Jorge says:

    This is such a coincidence!

    My wife and I we just discussing Blogging as a source of income. As a filmmaker I don’t feel I have the time to dedicate to it. She feels that it is a perfect fit to discuss something I love, share ideas with peers, and just let off a little steam. Now I’m thinking she may be right.

    Working on {Prep for a Doc right now. Hope to share with you guys soon.

    Thanks again!

  22. This is such a terrific post, and I love that you are giving back to those of us who are just starting out in the industry. Also, as a blogger myself, I love the idea of partnering with your readers in a so-unconventional-it’s-genius kind of way. You’ve given me a lot to think about for my own.

  23. Cam Owen says:

    For a while now I’ve been dreaming about breaking into the entertainment industry but never really knew how to get a jump start. Yalls blog has been very inspiring for me to get off my ass and actually DO something!

    I’ve learned a lot from your blog that they didnt teach me in film school. It is very helpful and informative and y’all also make it fun to read which is a big plus.

    I’ve been thinking about starting my own blog and this post pretty much talked me into it. (yea it actually spoke to me).
    P.S. I’m super excited for Caged. I wish y’all the best of success!

    Cam