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What They Don’t Tell You About Successful Product Launches

Many times we see successful product launches being talked about and are so dazzled by the huge sales numbers and income generated but fail to see all the hard groundwork that has been done behind the scenes for months and years before the launch.
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Big Content Monetisation Ideas for the Little Guy

Earlier in this series, we talked about treating content as an asset. In reality, content may represent an asset for a number of reasons: because it’s evergreen and can be repurposed into other forms; because it’s time-critical and extremely viral, sparking conversation and attracting new users; because it’s unique and can only be found on your blog … the list goes on.

We all know the standard on-site means of monetising blog content: through advertising programs, affiliate programs, and so on — Darren’s written about them in detail. Here, I’d like to look at some of the other ways you can get more out of your existing — and evolving — content inventory.

Creative Monetisation

When we discussed content strategy earlier in this series, we talked about the importance of having a grip on your content inventory so that you can achieve the best possible return on your investment in content.

How can you achieve that ROI? There are many options. In fact, as we’ll see, being creative about your monetisation strategy really can pay off.

To get you in the mood, take a look at the blog of illustrator and artist James Jean (Warning, artistic nude drawings there). Check his store to see some innovative approaches to the concept of “content monetisation”.

Whitepapers and Ebooks

Whitepapers, reports, and ebooks are established means by which to repackage quality content you’ve published on your blog into new, cost-effective formats. But don’t forget physical products, either — it works for James Jean, and it could work for you, too.

Before you begin, consider existing competition in the space — if leaders in your field release quality research or insight free, you’ll have to do something different, and do it well, if your audience is going to pay for your offering. Simply republishing a selection of your current blog content as an ebook won’t cut it. Augmenting that content, as a basic platform from which you can provide a range of value-adds, tools, and philosophies, might.

If you’re constantly immersed in your area of interest, you’re likely to come across information that, while it makes for good blog posts, also fuels your creative fire. It might start you innovating and exploring, and the resulting insights and experiences may generate new content or new perspectives that can augment and extend your existing content in other formats.

Products like these are usually most successful if you can provide solid practical value, unique insights, and compelling evidence. Don’t neglect to give your customers a means to assess the information for themselves, independently, as well as under your guidance. Interpret the results of your research in a paid report, by all means — but provide the raw data to allow users to conduct their own analysis, too.

Paywalls and Subscriptions

We’ve all heard about the News Corp decision to charge for access to its news sites — a plan that’s now going ahead in the UK and USA. Although opinion is divided over charging for web news, many blogs offer premium subscriptions that provide access to suites of value-added content such as research and interpretation, or deep insight and opinion. The free GigaOm network does this with its GigaOm Pro subscription service. Subscription services may also take in alternative media formats, such as videos or podcasts, that aren’t available through the free area of the blog.

Subscriptions won’t work for all blog types — expert content on business and academic topics seems to be one area in which paywalls have proven successful, but the average hobby blogger may have trouble justifying this tactic to an audience that can obtain parallel content free of charge elsewhere. If you do go ahead with a paywall, you’ll have to think carefully about how you’ll communicate the value of a subscription to your readers: will you offer a free trial? A demo? Will you let users pay on a weekly or monthly basis, or have them purchase a longer period, perhaps at a discount?

Users are already skeptical of paywalls and subscriptions. They can work, but usually they’re best left to the larger players who can afford to take such risks.

Content Syndication that Pays

An interesting alternative to the online news paywall approach has been developed by the UK’s Guardian news organisation. The Guardian is launching a service that allows others to syndicate Guardian stories free of charge — with the caveat that the content must appear as provided, and that includes an advertisement.

Syndicating your blog’s content with automatically-included inline ads may not be an option just yet. But are there other forms of “syndication” you can use? Could you arrange to republish selected posts regularly in another industry publication — perhaps in print — for payment?

Reselling your posts can be tricky, since you don’t want to dilute your brand or readership. By the same token, a well-planned strategy can serve to build your audience and your income. For example, you might syndicate time-critical content to other publications for a payment, but publish timeless, evergreen content, posts that build and engage community, and articles that provide great educational value, exclusively on your own blog.

Finding outlets that will pay to republish your posts may be a challenge, particularly while you’re still establishing your foothold in your chosen space, but as the Problogger income split posts prove, the small steps — and approaches that aggregate a range of income sources — really do add up.

What techniques have you used to monetise your content?

Continue reading this series of articles on questions surrounding blog content.

About the Author: Georgina has more than ten years’ experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. She now blogs for WebWorkerDaily and SitePoint, and consults on content to a range of other clients.

Brainstorming Activity: What Could You Sell from Your Blog?

Today I’d like to suggest an exercise to think about the future of your blog. It’s a brainstorming task to get you thinking about the types of products and services you might one day add to your blog.

I remember doing this for ProBlogger 4 or so years ago and coming up with a long list of potential things I could add to the blog including a job board, membership area, eBooks, ‘real’ book, events and more.

At the time I wasn’t ready to add any of these new products, services or featured – but having that list in the back of my mind enabled me to keep moving my blog forward towards achieving some of them.

The other benefit of identifying these potential income streams that you could one day develop is that others may already be developing them. This might feel a little like you’ve missed the boat but it could also be an opportunity as those with these products might be potential advertisers and/or might have affiliate programs that you could promote.

Once you’ve come up with your list of ideas feel free to share some of them in comments below – it’ll be great to see what everyone is thinking.

PS: stuck for ideas? I don’t blame you – it can be hard to think of how to add a product or service to your blog. Check out the list of products and services that other bloggers have added to their blogs in the results of a poll I ran here on ProBlogger exploring this very topic.

How I Make Money Blogging: Income Split for June 2010

It’s that time of month again where I talk a little about the split of my own income streams in the previous month. We’re looking at June here and I’m excited to share this month’s charts because it illustrates something that I’ve been saying for the last couple of months really well – things DO vary from month to month.

In April and May we’ve seen the charts look much the same from month to month with AdSense being the #1 earner, followed by Affiliate earnings, eBook sales and Continuity programs. This month we’ve seen AdSense toppled as the #1 earner.

blogging-income-june-2010.png

eBook sales dwarfed all other income streams in June – mainly because I released a Travel Photography eBook. I should note that the figures I used to calculate this graph are not total income from eBooks but just my share of them (I do a revenue share with the author of this eBook).

Continuity programs also earned just a few dollars more than AdSense this month so it was pushed down into #3 position.

Interestingly the earnings in all areas except eBook sales, continuity programs and the Job board were down on May figures. I do tend to find this happens most years in the middle of the year – probably due to a bit of a downswing in the number of people in the northern hemisphere who are getting out and enjoying good weather in comparison to the number of people inside during winter months in that part of the world.

I thought it might also be interesting to share the different income streams over the last 3 months so you can see how they each do go up and down a little from month to month.

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Last month a couple of readers pointed out that the charts are a little meaningless without actual dollar figures and people were confused about whether we were talking about the different areas being in the tens, hundreds, thousands or more. I’m not going to get into specifics on this except to say that June was comfortably in the six figure zone for a month after expenses.

July will probably return to a more ‘normal’ looking month – although I do hope to launch another small eBook here on ProBlogger in the coming weeks which could lead to that segment being a little higher than in April/May (although I doubt as high as June).

How I Make Money Blogging: Income Split for May 2010

Last month I produced a video in which I walked readers through the split of my income over the month of April to show what different income streams brought in different percentages of my income.

In the video I shared how the split between income streams can vary a lot from month to month.

The feedback from the video was so positive that I’ve decided to keep producing monthly breakdowns. I’m not interested in getting into totals of income for the different areas but want to share the breakdown as a way of showing the variety of ways that a blogger can make money.

Here’s the breakdown for May 2010:

income-split-May-2010.png

In comparing the previous month (April) with May you’ll notice that there were not that many differences. The two months were remarkably similar in the order of the top 4 earners and then a bit different in the lower ones.

Next month you’ll notice a big difference in the eBook sales. I’m yet to do the calculations but I expect it to hit #1 as a result of the release of the Travel Photography eBook that we launched.

The only other main difference in May was the decrease in Direct Ad Sales as I had a couple of campaigns end and I’m transitioning my sales approach. It’s not a major area of income but I’ll be working to see that segment increase in the month or two ahead.

How to have a ‘Middle Road’ Mentality and Grow Your Online Business

My Dad’s Middle Road Mentality

My Dad always taught me an important lesson in life that still serves me well today…. “Learn from everyone you come across in life – whether they’re on the same path as you or not”.

He called it the ‘middle road’ and told me that in life you’ll come across all kinds of people with different views (in politics, in theology, in business). Many of them would write off everyone else’s experience or views as wrong and believe that their way was the best.

However he’d found that rather than writing those with different perspectives to you off, it was powerful to listen to everyone and to learn from them.

The key was not to just accept everything that they said as truth, but to take what was relevant to you from those on different paths to you and apply it to your own situation – and to leave behind what didn’t fit with your situation, values and approach.

Dad’s advice has continued to come back to me through life in different situations – but recently it’s been applying a lot to my business and approach to building an online presence.

The Middle Road and Online Entrepreneurship

You see in the online entrepreneurship space there are many approaches. Some of them are more extreme than others and often they rub people up the wrong way.

The temptation is to simply write off everyone who rubs you up the wrong way and to ignore their teaching completely – however the problem with this is that you could be throwing out some great teaching that is mixed in with a few bits that you don’t like.

I was a Purist Blogging Snob

I’ve been guilty of throwing out the baby with the bathwater in this space many times. I remember being asked to speak at an internet marketers conference in the USA 4-5 years ago and coming away from the experience feeling sick in my stomach. The hype, trickery and manipulation of some of those presenting turned me off completely.

In hindsight I should have taken my Dads advice to that conference because while there were things in it that I was right to feel sickened by – there was also a lot of good stuff that I should have taken on board.

You see at the time I believed that I simply had to build a great blog and people would come to it and I would make money – I didn’t need to market it, I didn’t need to develop products to sell, I could just build a great site and put some ads on it and I’d do well.

This ‘purist’ approach worked OK…. to a point, but I could (and should) have learned a lot from those internet marketers.

  • I should have listened to them talking about the importance of building an email list/newsletter
  • I should have taken note about what they said having my own product to sell
  • I should have listened to them talk about the process of launching those products

I should have learned a lot that week…. but I didn’t. I allowed the bad stuff that I saw to overshadow the gold that would have taken what I did to the next level.

How I got Back on the Middle Road and Doubled the Size of My Business in a Year

Of course, 3 years later I did learn those lessons. Those of you who read ProBlogger will know that I’ve changed my approach somewhat of late. While I still believe in building great blogs and I still make good money from advertising, I’ve begun to develop email lists along side my blog and have started to release my own products.

I’ve also started to read and learn from some of those ‘internet marketing’ people. I struggle with some of the more extreme ones, but there are a few good people in that camp who are starting to get the social media/blogging space too.

One I’ve mentioned here before is Jeff Walker. He’s known for his Product Launch Formula – something I enrolled in last year when he opened it up and which taught me a lot. In fact he was one of the main people who helped me to get back on the ‘middle road’ and to see that while I was having some success that I still had a lot to learn.

I’ve since launched 4 products which have done really well and this income stream has more than doubled what I was earning previously in just under a year (my accountant emailed me recently to ask me what I’m doing!).

Of course there are a few things in Jeff’s teaching that I’ve left out of my approach – but the stuff I’ve taken on board has been invaluable. The key is to not swallow everything whole but to take what resonates with you and to apply it to your situation and to calmly leave what doesn’t ‘fit’ aside.

Jeff has recently released a video that talks about big product launches and what he’s learned along the way. He reveals some great details (including income figures) on some massive launches. The video is well worth the opt in.

Whether you learn from Jeff or not, I guess the take home lesson that I’m trying to communicate is to have a ‘middle road’ mentality. There is great power in opening yourself up to learn from those on different paths who are trying different approaches to online entrepreneurship.

Learn what is working for others, filter it through your own situation and values and you might just find your business grows as a result.

How to Stop Procrastinating and Get Your eBook Written

Have you written your eBook yet?sticky-ebook-formula.png

One of the most common things I’m hearing back from bloggers who are looking to make money from their blogs is that they’re planning to write and sell an eBook off the back of their blog – the problem is that most bloggers don’t go much beyond planning to do it and never actually get going.

eBooks can be a very profitable way to monetize a blog – I discovered this for myself last year when I made over $72,000 in a week after the launch of one of my first ones.

However the problem that many bloggers face is that it just all seems way to overwhelming to actually get them written. To be honest – I was one of those bloggers myself. I didn’t know how to tackle it, it all seemed too big and so it remained an idea for well over a year before I did anything.

The Sticky eBook Formula (aff) is a fantastic little resource to help you get your eBook beyond the planning stage.

Update: I’ve just been told that this eBook is on sale at 37% off until midnight tonight (EST in the US). Sorry about the late notice but I only found this today.

Written by Kelly Kingman – this concise but comprehensive eBook will walk you through the steps of taking your eBook idea/s and actually getting it out of your head and into a form that will enable you to release it to your blog’s readers.
This eBook won’t tell you how to launch your eBook – it focuses just upon writing it… the main battle that we bloggers face. For the launch stuff there are other great resources that you can get later (like Naomi and Daves classic which is the perfect companion to Sticky eBook Formula) but for now – the key is to get it written!

If you’re planning to write an eBook – grab your copy of Sticky eBook Formula today and set some time aside this week to get it done!

9 Unsexy Truths about Making Money Online

Fast Luxury Cars, Parties with Sexy People, Dream Homes, Lavish Meals, World Travel, Book Deals and Pictures of massive Checks…. making money online is sexy!

Isn’t it?

As I sit here in my PJs alone in the front room of my house this morning – I wonder if perhaps the ‘sexy’ bit of what I do somehow bypassed me.

morning-blogging-routine.jpg

I was at a conference last year listening to one ‘make money online’ guru talking about the possibilities of making money on the internet. The picture he painted was certainly sexy.

He showed some of the things he’d bought with the money he’d made online, shared some of the opportunities that his business had opened up for him and told some of the story of how he achieved it. The first line of this post pretty much summed up a lot of his presentation – it was sexy.

As he shared two things happened inside of me:

  1. I got inspired (and a little jealous) – ‘wow, I gotta have some of what this guy’s got’. I think that was a pretty common reaction in the room (based upon the type of comments I heard after the presentation). I guess that was partly the purpose of the presentation – showing the possibilities of what could be achieved can certainly be inspirational on some levels (and can motivate people to buy all kinds of products and systems – as they did that day).
  2. I realised I was only hearing part of the story – as I sat listening to the story the reaction that grew bigger and bigger (and ended up being the main feeling that I had) was that the guy was only sharing part of the story. At least he was sharing a quite different story to the one I’d had and the one I’d heard in the quiet conversations I’d had with many successful online entrepreneurs.

While I have no doubt that the riches and success that this man shared about were true and I know for a fact that the life that some internet entrepreneurs lead can at times be very ‘sexy’ – the reality is that for the vast majority of those who set out to make money online that the story is anything but sexy.

In fact even for me – as someone who has had a moderate level of success in this game – this guy’s story had only fleeting moments where it seemed even vaguely familiar to me.

Perhaps that’s partly to do with my own personality, style, values and taste (I’d rather put my kids through a good education than buy a Ferrari and would prefer to help set up a feeding program for starving kids than rent a yacht and cruse the Caribbean for 3 months a year) – but I also think that quite often in our game the ‘unsexy’ part of what we do is not talked about enough.

Perhaps common sense to many – here are some of the ‘unsexy’ truths about making money online (with a few tweet reflections form my Twitter followers):

1. It Takes ALOT of WORK

When I mentioned the topic of unsexy truths on Twitter earlier in the week and asked for people’s feedback the overwhelming response was about the amount of work that it takes to build a successful online business. Here’s just a few of the response on this front:

“I would say the #1 “unsexy” truth is that it takes W-O-R-K despite what almost every sales page will lead you to believe!” – @ElysiaBrooker

“Well there’s the whole “work” thing that no one bothers to mention.” – @CindyBidar

“some days I’m too busy to even think about showering. MMO is more work than people realize, esp when starting out.” – @Allison_Boyer

“It still takes a lot of really hard work…and pajamas don’t go over well on skype calls you want people to pay for.” – @JonathanFields

The reality is that there is no escaping having to put in a solid amount of work if you want to make a living online (or offline for that matter).

The amount of times that I’ve seen people start blogs with the expectation of striking it rich and generating a passive income amazes me. I guess people want to believe that there’s a short cut and want to jump straight to the end (and sexy) results before working for it.

2. It Takes Time and Starts Slow

I love what @SamMartino (smart guy) responded to me on Twitter with:

“I’ve discovered it takes longer to get momentum… much longer lead times… but higher margins.”

This type of comment was echoed by quite a few including:

“only the get rich slowly by putting in a lot of effort schemes work” – @KarenMarree

“it takes almost 6-8 months before you see any respectable money” – @SkoolofLife

6-8 months might seem like a long time – but in my experience even that could be an under estimation. There are certainly examples of people who do it quicker – however the reality is that it usually takes longer – and even after a long lead time there are no guarantees.

While there are certainly some upsides (like Sam says there is often some nice margins to be made if you’re selling something online) my own experience was that I was putting in a lot of hours for a couple of years before I made a full time income. That meant working other part time jobs during the day and blogging at night for well over a year – while wondering all along that time whether it was going to amount to anything.

3. The Sexy Moments Happen – but are Often Few and Far Between

I’m a very very fortunate person. I feel incredibly lucky to have had some success in this field and to have some amazing opportunities open up. While some of those things I mentioned in the first sentence of this post have not been my reality – I’ve certainly had a few ‘sexy’ moments.

A book deal, being flown around the world to speak at conferences, some fun parties at these conferences, the opportunity to meet and interact with some amazing people, the chance to buy a nice house and give my family a comfortable life, appearing in mainstream media…. all of these things are beyond what my wildest dreams of blogging ever were.

However the day to day of my life isn’t sexy. The above things are special (and I’m grateful for them) but they’re not what my life is all about. Rather they punctuate the sometimes mundane daily routine of sitting alone in an office, writing content, answering emails, making videos, responding to customer queries….. etc

I enjoy what I do – but I think it’s important to keep some perspective – most of the successful web entrepreneurs spend most of their lives doing normal and ordinary things – just like everyone else.

4. There are No Guarantees

If there’s one thing that disturbs me most about many sales pages for ‘make money online’ systems it is the guarantee element of them. ‘You WILL make money’ – ‘Make $10,000 in 30 days’…. the list of claims that are made at times goes on and on.

  • A + B doesn’t always = C
  • Processes and systems don’t always work.
  • What works for one doesn’t always work for others.

No two blogs that I’ve been involved with are the same in terms of building traffic or monetization. They have all been so unique and so to claim that you can apply a ‘system’ or ‘process’ that is guaranteed to work in every instance is just not realistic.

There is a lot that can be learned from some of the make money online systems and teachers on the web but don’t allow yourself to be sucked into any product that claims that it works for everybody – there are too many other elements at play (including your own dedication, natural ability, niche, levels of competition etc).

“What works for one blog, won’t work for another.” – @JewelrySecrets

5. You’ll Fail More than You Succeed

The other factor that comes into the ‘no guarantees’ point above is that in every successful entrepreneur’s journey there is a string of failures left in their wake.

I’ve started 30+ blogs over the last 8 years – 3 of them remain. I’ve started a long list of ventures, products, companies etc – only a few of them were profitable.

In time I’ve been able to increase the rate of success that I’ve been having and have learned to tell if an idea is failing and whether I should kill it early on – but in order to succeed you may very well need to fail a few times first.

6. Some People Just Won’t Make It

I hate to include this one as part of me does think it’s possible for almost anyone to have at least some amount of success in making money online…. however I have to take note of the stats that I’ve seen every time I survey my readers about this – some people just won’t make money online.

“Some people just aren’t going to make it. They’ll put in a lot of time and spend more than they earn.” – @SHerdegen

For some the reasons for not ‘making it’ are to do with elements I’ve mentioned above (not willing to take a long term approach, work hard etc) – however I guess there are other reasons. Some people just have a certain ‘mojo’, talent, skill level, set of experiences or circumstances that propel them forward faster than others. Conversely – some don’t.

Much of this can be overcome in time however I guess the reality is that for some people they find themselves in circumstances where it’s just too hard.

7. It can be Lonely

It’s funny how lonely ‘social’ media can be sometimes.

I was chatting with one blogger recently who quit what was a growing online business to get a ‘real job’ partly because she needed more face to face interaction. She put it down to her personality type and living in a reasonably remote location where she couldn’t meet those she worked with face to face – but in the end it just got too lonely for her.

For introverts like myself this might not be a massive problem (although I try to do some face to face stuff with a few others most weeks) but I know for quite a few people working alone in the front room of their house all day is enough to make them start to lose it.

8. Increased Success Can Bring Increased Critique

In Australia we’re known for suffering from Tall Poppy Syndrome. Something wikipedia defines as:

“a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.”

By no means is this just an Aussie thing, other cultures around the world share it. One of those ‘cultures’ I suspect is the web. I’ve seen it numerous times – as blogger begins to grow in their influence and reach only to find that closely trailing the rise in their own success comes a rise in ‘critique’.

Critique can be a helpful thing at times – however it can also move into a my sinister and destructive place where those that it is directed at often feel quite damaged.

In time I’ve had my share of negative attention. While I have learned to deal with it a little better than I once did – I do look back on periods in the last 8 years and see times where I think it led me to become quite depressed, stressed and once even to the brink of giving up on blogging.

I guess in time one gets thicker skin – however it’s a constant issue many bloggers have to work with.

9. Scaling it Sucks

If you do stick with things for the long haul, work hard and push through the tough times there is certainly potential for success in the online space. In fact some times get easier the bigger and more successful you become. Momentum grows and you can get to a point where the opportunities that keep coming your way are quite amazing.

However along with the opportunity and success comes the challenge of scaling up what you’re doing.

This can be particularly tricky when you’re basing your business around social media where there is a certain expectation that you be personal and interactive.

Tough choices need to be made around whether to stay smaller and keep being personal, whether to outsource some of what you do and how to manage the growing demands that you face.

These are the issues I’m seeing quite a few people dealing with right now – if you know the answer to it, please let me know. In the mean time, I’ll tell you it can be very unsexy :-)

Your Unsexy Truths

Earlier in the week when I tweeted on this topic quite a few other unsexy truths were suggested. You can read them here and here. Before inviting you to share yours… I’ll finish with this one from @BeyondBeeton:

” the “internet” doesn’t just spew out money. you need a good idea, a plan and an ability to deliver what people want to pay for.”

What would you add to this list of UnSexy Truths of making money online?

I think most people who’ve been at the business of making money online for even a few months know that the ‘sexy’ image of making money online is not a reality for most who attempt it.

How I Make Money Blogging [My Income Split in April 2010]

Today I’m updating the Make Money Blogging page here on ProBlogger – a page where I give a breakdown of how I make money from blogging.

This time I’ve decided to do a snapshot of last month (April 2010). I also thought that I’d put together a bit of a video as well as updating the page – to speak to the different parts of how I make money blogging as well as writing it up.

Here’s the video (created using ScreenFlow – please forgive the slight lag between audio and video).

How I Earn Money Blogging [April 2010 Stats] from Darren Rowse on Vimeo.

For more information you might also want to check up the updated Make Money Blogging page.

PS: Thanks to Tim Jack for the motion graphics intro/outro to the video.