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Four New Ways to Monetize a Blog

The ad industry is dead.

Target will only buy remnant inventory. Federated Media, the darling of the online ad world, is just about vaporized. And media behemoth IAC is building a state-of-the-art ad sales system that will work like a trading floor where you don’t even know what content you’re buying—you only see the profiles of the people who are viewing the content right this second.

So how are people going to make money blogging? Here are four ways.

whiteboard

Image by Jeff Kubina, licensed under Creative Commons

1. Build a paywall

This was once seen as impossible. But after growing up online, generation Y reads and writes more than any other generation in history and is therefore more willing to than others to pay for online content.

This attitude has opened up lots of fee-based content models. Today The New York Times is successful in its paywall strategy, and it’s paved the way for bloggers to start looking at this as a viable option. Andrew Sullivan, for example, launched a paywall and raised $100K in a few days.

The problem is that a paywall is limiting rather than expanding in terms of the ways you can connect to the world as revenue options grow and change.

2. Turn your brand into a company and take in investors

As a serial entrepreneur, I saw this option coming early in the blogging game. So I named my blog something that was not attached to the domain name. Then I built up the brand name, sold the brand to investors, and spun off a company.

I don’t know why more people don’t do this. It’s a great way to leverage your community-building abilities, if you have them.

In this scenario, you hold onto your blog and your personal brand and you own stock in the spin-off brand. (And look: I recently gave up the CEO position and went back to blogging. But I held onto the founder’s stock. It’s like a big lottery ticket.)

3. Use your blog as an incubator

The best way to test new companies is to launch them. You could throw up a product offering on a web site, then announce it on the incubator blog. If it takes off, fine, if it doesn’t, then announce the next product.

In this scenario, the blogger is like a full-time marketing team for a range of startups within the incubator. Keep writing good content and you can send your audience to any beta site you need to. In this scenario, you’d get stock in each of the companies that you help launch.

4. Go after a talent acquisition

It’s common these days for companies to buy a startup to get the employees who would otherwise not be in the job market. You could create this same scenario with your blog.

Typically, a talent acquisition is for developers. But I can see it happening for someone who is amazing at PR, for example, and is essentially offering up her social media sauce and her high-powered media network in the talent acquisition of her blog.

Another way I can see this going is that someone uses the blog as a way to display thought leadership in the industry, so the acquisition’s purpose is to have the property attached to the larger brand, but also, to get the talented thought leader behind the blog.

What will you do?

Each of these four ideas takes planning, but with ad sales no longer being a viable option for blog revenue, we need to think more creatively.

Blogs are clearly becoming more and more prominent in the social and intellectual fabric of our lives. Those of us who can adjust in the most creative, big-thinking ways will benefit the most from our blogging talents.

Contributing author Penelope Trunk is a serial entrepreneur, and the author of the bestselling book Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success. She has written for a wide range of publications including Time, Business Week, and the Wall St. Journal, but she likes writing for her blog best: http://blog.penelopetrunk.com.

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Comments

  1. Monja says:

    Penelope,
    I agree with you – it seems that people get less shy when it comes to blogging. They see it today as a business instrument. However, there are also a lot of people who do not take this industry serious although there are 1000s who earn a nice income from their websites but I guess they will soon be proofed wrong ;-)

  2. Siegfried says:

    that’s kind of scary perspective, I think most people will go after options 1 and 2. Personally – have no clue, I need more traffic, more comments, more content :/ And it’s not easy ;)

  3. Great post Penelope

    I totally agree, few people are making any worthwhile money from Ads these days. In-fact, I think that sometimes Ads can do more harm than good – they make no money, but they take up valuable real-estate on your blog that could be used to better engage your readers.

  4. Creative ideas Penelope.

    Larger blogs pull in serious revenue through advertising so the opportunity remains, even for smaller scale bloggers. The key? Be creative as heck, network and dream big.

    But all options above are interesting, and viable.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

  5. I think there will always be a place for ad sales as long as they are done creatively and effectively. You can no longer slap irrelevant banners on your site and expect to make a living, but done right, it can certainly support a revenue stream.

    That being said I think the ultimate monetizing strategy is to create a product your readers must have. That way you control everything from production to cost to profit margin.

    Of course – creating a product is not easy and creating a unique product that your readers want to open their wallets for can be damn near impossible for some – of course that’s exactly why it will always be a surefire method for monetizing.

    Cool ideas though way to think outside the box

  6. Shalu Sharma says:

    These are the lesser known ways to monetise your blog. Although they are much more difficult ones compared using ads, selling ads or services but its possible and worth considering. But the ones mentioned are for those who already has good readership on their blogs.

  7. Interesting ways to monetize, sure. Should also be noted that none of the methods you mentioned would work with what we now know as “traditional ad services.” The ad industry isn’t dead, the line between remnant and premium is just getting really, really fuzzy. Remnant prices are going up and premium prices are going down. Moreover, the ad industry is stabilizing.

    I’d be hard pressed to find a blog that I would pay to read. Your other options definitely sound like a full-time investment – which I know most bloggers aren’t ready to make. If you want to be risky and REALLY think your blog is worth it, maybe.

    Otherwise – stick with ads. They might not be “ideal”, but they keep the world of content spinning ’round.

  8. Interesting article Penelope,

    However, I would stay away from investors.

    If you have a real talent you should be able to self fund your enterprise until reaches it’s successful peak just like problogger.

    You shouldn’t need “investors” who will simple try to steal your company if it fails OR succeeds.

    The sad truth is if you can’t turn $1 into $1.50 then investors aren’t interested anyway.
    But, if you can do that then, you don’t need them in the first place.

  9. Good ideas. Not sure they can really be applied to smaller-scale blogs though.

  10. Carl says:

    Well, sounds a bit futuristic to me as general advice to most bloggers. Some of these ideas need at least 2-3 years, good amount of money to invest and some amazing idea.

  11. Lisa Brown says:

    I guess it’s still a bit unclear to me… why are ad sales no longer being a viable option for blog revenue?

    • Hi Lisa,

      I’ve talked with Penelope about this a lot. She says blog advertising rates are peaking right now and will go down from now on.

      In any case most bloggers earn such a piffling amount from advertising it’s barely worth it and furthermore relying on advertising revenue is known to be the worst business model.

      Of course the best way to make money from blogging is still to sell your own services or products but Penelope’s showing us some good new models here.

      My test for how viable the paywall model is if I’d pay to read a blog. And there are some blogs that I would pay to read. But mainly those that I’ve been reading for your years, who I rely on for the best information and who I trust to carry on supplying that. Hello Darren and Penelope :)

      But the catch for bloggers is how do you get new readers to sign up when they haven’t been exposed to your content for long. I guess you could do the free sample thing and offer a month or six months free…

      There are plenty of options and it’s still an exciting game to be in.

  12. Great ideas, but I do agree with some of the other readers in that it may not apply to a vast majority of blogs. Obviously you can do anything you please, but I still think there’s more viable ways to monetize a blog including affiliate marketing and creating your own product.

    The freemium business model seems to be rapidly expanding.

  13. Ikenna says:

    I guess most of these ideas will work best for established blogs. Nonetheless, it can be scaled down for smaller bloggers.
    Thanks tor sharing.

  14. Valerie says:

    The advice to get investors as a way to “monetize” is insane. Investment dollars aren’t monetization, they are a means to an end for scaling a business and implementing an *actual* revenue stream. Any serious investor will ask you what your business model is and how you’ll deliver return.

    Has any startup ever given a blog *equity* in exchange for writing about them? Have any of those startups actually offered a return? This idea is insane as well. First, it’s a conflict of interest. Startups are supposed earn press by being awesome and bloggers are supposed to tell their readers about what’s interesting because it’s interesting, not because they own a stake. Second, any startup dumb enough to do it wouldn’t offer a return anyway. Third, future investors would laugh at you when you tell them you gave a blog equity in exchange for 20 minutes worth of work that so many others are willing to do for free.

  15. Ferb says:

    Penelope, these tips are great and one of the important tips is to build a profitable blog which will help companies wanting from you to work with them just like the more we study in school, then the less we have to worry about in the future like finding a job.

  16. GreenLava says:

    Interesting ideas, a bit too optimistic in my opinion, but interesting nonetheless.

  17. Bob Sharpe says:

    Great points in this post. I think sometimes we get too desperate in our sites and start throwing up pop-up ads and flashy things that either (1) Slow down the page loading or (2) frustrate the visitor which in turn increases bounce rates.

  18. Very informative and mind opening for newbie bloggers. Thank you! :)

  19. Kudos for the informative post. I think talent acquisition is a very effective method of establishing yourself in the industry.

  20. really appreciate with your post mate. I’m properly agree with all method for make new ways to monetize a blog.

  21. Ishan Verma says:

    Advertisements are the main source of the revenue and you have not mentioned it in the post. What are your views on it, sir ?

  22. Kevin Croft says:

    I like the idea of turning my brand into a company to gather investors. This sounds like a good idea, but entails a lot of hard work and planning. This might be limited to some niches, but it can happen.

  23. Interesting term, paywall. Also, your approach to explaining the limitations are very helpful. This is a great how-to to navigate monetizing those blogs.

  24. First of all, the ad industry is far from dead. With increasingly sophisticated tracking systems, publishers big and small are only going to see their effective CPMs increase. The trick is going to be developing a complete connection with your audience…you want them reading your site, following you on Twitter, reading your FB updates, and receiving your email newsletter. If you can get a good percentage of them to do all of these things, than you have what publishers call a “targeted audience,” and there’s no shortage of businesses interested in reaching a targeted audience.

    So let’s stop with the old “the ad industry is dead” and grow up, shall we?

    As for the rest of your ideas, I think the paywall and/or interstitial is going to become more common. People hate both, but the revenue opportunities are too great to overlook, especially as dollars continue to shift from traditional media to the Internet.

  25. Ahmed Sharif says:

    great post!!
    personally I was never dependent on ads for revenue, as I was more into selling my services through the blog… but the ideas are really thoughtful and have the potential to bring in more create ideas….
    thanks for the write-up!

  26. Nice ideas but not necessarily easy for everyone to implement. I find the best way to make money off a blog is to use it to promote a service, such as SEO, web design etc. Sure its not the blog directly earning the money for you, but it definitely works.

  27. Roman says:

    Or use Mersimo… we reconfigure traditional tools to make it more engaing for readers. After all, it’s the audience that drives your work, so why not ask them for support.

    The idea is very simple – ask your readers for support, they can either pay or see an ad. Blogger gets paid either way and readers get to help even if they can’t pay.

  28. Vanessa says:

    I recently started my blog and what I find most difficult is creating unique content to be able to monetize. I love writing and I love the content I am posting but I believe these tips would work for a blog with a strong following, not a start up. Informative nonetheless!

  29. Thought provoking post. It has become clear to me that to make money from blogging via AdSense is a tremendous amount of work and would take years. Sure it is a goal, but so is winning the lottery. I think examining the blog model closely for a way to parlay it into revenue from income streams other than advertising is smart. And as a reader said above, the money from ads is so parltry it is a joke. I think I’ll take mine down after the next $100 from Google. In a month or two. Seriously, that is why focusing on other forms of income generation from a blog other than ads is time well spent. Vs. the ad model which says write every single day for 3 years, and then you’ll get $45,000.

  30. Sonia sharma says:

    well i think that the Advertisements are the main source of the revenue and i want to know your Views on it.