Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
Why I can't be bought

Everytime I get excited about a game and write about it, someone asks how much money I've been receiving for that positive review. And as I'm getting tired to have to explain every time that I never receive any money for a review, and I always publicly declare any goodies I might receive from game companies, I'll explain once and for all why I can't be bought. And at the same time I'll explain why I'm not interested in running any advertising on this blog.

The simple truth is that the amounts of money on offer for fake positive game reviews and banner ads on a blog are far too low to ever tempt me.

I am not a rich person, by any reasonable definition of "rich". But I don't have to be rich to not be tempted by the money on offer on the internet, because frankly, that money is just peanuts for any average middle-aged, middle-class guy. Bloggers even of well-frequented MMO blogs who experimented with various forms of advertising quickly discovered that the amount of money you can earn with a blog is just a few cents per day. Highest offer I ever received was $40 per month for a big banner ad. I never even got an offer of money for a fake good review, but even if I did, the amount of money I could possibly make with that probably wouldn't be higher than with advertising.

You might have read reports of people making hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month with advertising. Most of these reports are scams from people trying to sell you the "how to" guide. Commercial sites certainly make a good income from advertising, but for a typical blogger that is much harder. And for a MMO blogger things get even harder, because 99% of the companies that *want* to put an ad on your blog are tiny companies with little money themselves, or operating in some grey area of selling "guides" and other dubious services, or outright gold sellers. Just check out all the World of Warcraft blogs that have ads: Seen any official Blizzard banner ads on them? When Mythic ran WAR banner ads everywhere, that was so unusual that they ended up all over various WoW sites. :)

I'm not saying I can't be bought. There are very, very, very few people who can't be bought at all, it nearly always is a question of how much money is on offer. Pay me a hundred thousand dollars, and I'll write you a glowing review of any game you want on my blog, or put up a huge banner ad for you on top of it. Seriously. But until somebody is offering me that, the blog will remain free of advertising, and any glowing reviews of games you read here are from games I honestly had fun trying.

Of course that means I'm offering "free publicity" to many games, and always have. How many posts have I written about World of Warcraft? That probably was worth a fortune of advertising I handed out for free. And curiously very few people mind me doing free advertising as long as I do it for their favorite game. It is only as soon as I start the games the trolls don't like that suddenly they accuse me of having been bought. Bought for small change? Pleeeeeeeease, don't drag me down to their level! I don't know what they would be willing to do for $40, but in my case it isn't much. The value (or "utility" in economists speak) the integrity of my blog has for me is a lot higher. So come back when you have that $100,000.
Comments:
Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill... Well, I suppose... we would have to discuss terms, of course...
Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
Churchill: Madam, we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.
 
Why I actually try games that you do write glowing reviews about, was explained perfectly in this post...

Giving Luminary a shot tonight, if all goes well.
 
That's why I love blogs. It is refreshingly honest (and therefore politically incorrect). Glad you didn't write that no sum could tempt you :)
 
It is a proven fact that for $100,000 I am willing to work a year, 40 hours a week. Quite a lot of people would be willing to do so, actually, or are already doing so. Pretending one wouldn't be willing to put up a banner ad or write a glowing review, which is less than a day of work, wouldn't be credible. A lot of people do *that* for a lot less money.
 
Great post, and the fact you write about lots of games and not just warcraft is why I keep coming back.
 
Wait so if you got 100k to 'review', you would play the game less than a day? I thought we already learned that lesson...

My fiancé always asks why I don't put up banner ads on my blog, thinking the traffic has to be worth something. Perhaps if this was 2001 it might be, but yea, now a few bucks a month is not even worth the hassle.
 
Wait so if you got 100k to 'review', you would play the game less than a day?

Of course, if the review is fake positive anyway, I do need a lot less research than if I do a real review. :) For the Luminary review I played the game for over 40 hours, because when I actually want to write something informative and true, I need to know my stuff.

The question of how long exactly you need to play a game to review it has never been really resolved, although we all agree that 2 hours isn't enough. But imagine somebody now posts his first blog post on Warhammer Online, explaining that he had to play the game for 1,000 hours before doing a review. That would be equally absurd.
 
It is possible to make a decent amount of cash from blog sites (or similar) but it requires an obsene amount of visits and effort. Check out Shoe Money and Danny Choo for instance. However, I think the MMO topic is too small to see huge returns.

Personally, I have no problems with adverts and I'm quite curious about it all. I'm even considering it for weflyspitfires.com even if it gave me only $1 a month to go towards my hosting.
 
I say we all pony up some loot and pay Tobold to write a glowing review of Darkfall.

I just want to see the nervous twitch that would be caused by having to write it. :-)
 
If you pay my set price of $100,000, that wouldn't cause me any twitch at all. I already posted a Darkfall review, and it was a LOT more positive than the Eurogamer review. The game is actually quite okay given its budget, it is only the fanbase that is sometimes hard to bear.
 
Actually your review of DF is the reason I got it, which is rather hilarious on a number of levels.

But knowing you (from this blog), I did not take your criticism of the community or the negative of PvP into consideration, while I did place a very heavy value on you saying the game was technically playable (no crashing, no Vanguard-like hardware reqs, etc)

So long as a review is not a bunch of lies, it has value, even if the reviewer's gaming preference is the opposite of your own. Some see negative-sum PvP is an issue, I see it as a feature.
 
Middle aged, middle class, wife (who works, cooks, cleans, works out like a fiend AND pays the bills), no kids. Decent disposable income for a nice computer with a 23 inch screen AND a $20 bottle of merlot, decent free time to waste...life doesn't get much better in this blogosphere.

Just a little carrot to all you young'uns. Do yer book lernin' and someday you'll be just like Tobold and me.

In college we played "would you sleep with her/him/it for $X". I still remember a friend making a face trying to come up with a figure and asking, "does he have back zits?"

Thanks for that memory.
 
You're way off base when it comes to how much money you can make online. Sure random offers you get in email for banner ads are going to be lowballs, but you can't use that as the basis for disqualifying all online earning.

However, most blogs will bring in about $10 eCPM. Just eyeballing your traffic I'd assume you get ~50,000 pv/m (that's assuming fairly high SE traffic). So if you were to really monetize this blog you'd probably be making ~$500/mo - probably $1k/mo tops.

But then again, your traffic is pretty low. It's not too hard for a website to hit the 250k/mo page view mark which is where your eCPM starts to skyrocket (companies will spend more per impression advertising on large sites) and you can really start making full time income.
 
I'll see if I can help shift the comments away from "what will Tobold do for $100K? (or roughly 72K Euros)" to something a little more in the spirit of the post.

I recall that Dan Lyons, who wrote the very popular (here in Silicon Valley anyway) Fake Steve Jobs blog, opined at the end of things that the pay for blogging was not worth his time as a money making venture. With Google AdSense he said he capped out around $1,000 for a month. He worked out other sponsorship deals that paid more, but not a lot more.

Granted, he is a writer, so he was giving away his primary earning power at a bargain rate. He could, theoretically, have been applying that writing time to other more lucrative projects. But the fact that he made so little for all the effort he put in, especially given how popular the blog was at its height, seems to substantially support the premise that if you think people can be bought for the rates that blog advertising is paying, then you have a pretty low opinion of people.
 
Fantastic post, Tobold! Informative and, as Nils commented, refreshingly honest (saying you can be bought and setting a price was a bold, but awesome, move).

As a finance professional first, and gamer/blogger second, this is a question I've examined from many angles myself. For some of the WoWenomics team members, the opportunity cost of their contributions to our meetings (several of them make above or near seven-figures and most of us convene several times weekly) is rather significant, so it is a subject that warrents serious examination.

Ultimately, I've come to the conclusion (rationalization?) that this is an experiment, and a means of publishing WoW finance data that I am collecting either way, and the contributions of my team members is both a chance to chat amongst like-minded folks and an opportunity for them to learn more about an up-and-coming aspect of finance (virtual that is).
 
>However, most blogs will bring in about $10 eCPM.

Heh. No.

As an experiment I put up a Google Ads banner on my blog (brokentoys.org). It gets about 75k page views per month. I'm currently getting 0.02 to 0.04 eCPM. That means, yes, having ad banners for sleazy Chinese gold farmers through Google will earn you maybe 10 cents a day. AWESOME.

I get about another 50k - 75k RSS views, but Google's ad solution for those is... fairly hideous.

My intent was to put up something low-impact that defrayed the $50 or so I pay monthly in site hosting. It obviously isn't even going to come close to that, and isn't worth the aggravation or the perceived reputation cheapening.

Now, if our blogs were in the 250k ~ page view/month range, sure, maybe we'd get more reliable sponsors. But very, very few bloggers (or any mainstream websites) get anywhere close to that.
 
I think the main problem is that our subject isn't good for expensive advertising. If you had lets say a travel blog and got lots of Google ads from hotels, the payout would be much better than that from WoW gold seller ads.
 
@Lum - Contextual advertising, although reliable across any website or niche, yields the lowest eCPM compared to any other form of monetization.

Even then your eCPM was drastically low. No doubt you didn't experiment much with proper ad placement.

But let me ask you this...

How many affiliate offers did you promote?

How many MMO-related products did you sell?

How many magazine subscriptions did you sell?

How many hardware products did you endorse (and thus collect commission from resulting sales)?

Did you sell text links?

Did you sell static banner advertising?

Did you offer rotating banner advertising?

Did you create a press kit and market your advertising options to large companies in the field (sounds silly, but doing the work for some overworked Joe Schmoe Advertising Director at Giant Company X usually yields great results)?

Aside from Google Adsense, how many other contextual advertising companies did you try? They all yield different results depending on the niche.

Did you try inlink advertising (Kontera etc)?

Did you offer RSS advertising?

Did you try in-post advertising (a blurb or image at top/bottom of each post)?

Did you create specific pages targeted at buy-ready traffic for certain products or services?

No? You didn't do any of that? Oh you probably setup a skyscraper Google Adsense block at the bottom of your sidebar and called it a day.

Making money online is effective and fairly easy. You just have to do a bit more work than slapping up Google Adsense and expecting to make millions.

And one last thing to add to this rambling post ... $10 eCPM is an average for a blog. For a normal website you should be aiming for $20-25 eCPM. But if you know what you're doing you can get up to $50 eCPM.

Just for reference CPM advertising is the lowest-paying form of advertising on the web. It's proven. Yet the average a company will pay you per impression is $5 - regardless of niche. That means you could have brainlessly signed up for Adbrite CPM advertising and made a TON more money than you did slapping up Google Adsense. Just food for thought.
 
If I tried *any* of those suggestions, my readers would quite rightly be pissed. All of those range extremely user-hostile (text-link advertising) to things I literally can't do for conflict of interest reasons even if it wasn't horribly skeevy (endorsements).

I'll look into Adbrite, though, but I'm not turning my blog into one large advertisement that forces my readers to install ad blocking software, and I'm fairly certain Tobold wouldn't, either.
 
Well I guess that's the difference between famous bloggers and rich bloggers :)

In my experience readers are fine with most forms of advertising (excluding intrusive inline ads and popups of course) as long as you disclose it. It's amazing what sort of response you get if you just say "hey, I put a lot of time into this and want to make some coin off it". People don't mind. In fact about 1/4 of my income from my sites comes from donations, despite the fact that I blatantly advertise on them also.

Also, you obviously don't know much about Adbrite. Yes Adbrite does serve questionable ads, but only if you enable it. You have complete control over the ads you serve. Don't want shady ads? Don't enable them.
 
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