Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Blog monetization

Gravity from pwnwear reports on the Tankspot blog having been bought by ZAM. I very much liked the quote he has about this:
"Firstly a warning: if you are a blogger, do not think you can automatically make money from WoW blogging. Don’t read this and think “whoa, a pot of gold, all I have to do is repeat what tankspot did”. You need seriously large amounts of traffic before you can monetise beyond a coffee or two a week, and what tankspot has done has taken enormous effort. Remember that died. Write because you enjoy it, not for profit. If you want to make money then you should learn how to trade CFDs, currencies or futures contracts, go to Uni and get a better job, or create a site that’s uniquely valuable (blogs usually do not have a distinctive offer). In short, do something that’s intended to make money and scales up more easily than advertising revenue from pageviews. Anyhow, end of warning."
Hello, I am Tobold the blogger, and I endorse this message. :) From my personal experience, I would say my blog is "successful", not just from traffic numbers, but hey, I even managed to acquire an anti-fan who dedicated his life to write an anti-Tobold hate blog. One needs to be pretty famous to have anti-fans, they are a lot harder to acquire than fans. But after a first initial wave my own monetization experiment pretty much leveled out at the "a coffee or two a week" level of income from donations. And all the data I have suggest that if I changed my monetization scheme to income from advertising, the level would be about the same.

I find blog monetization an interesting subject, not because I dream of becoming rich from blogging, but because I have a general interest in how people behave on the internet. How people behave in relation to blogs is as interesting to me as how they behave in relation to MMORPGs, which is why I frequently post about blogging (to the displeasure of some readers who would like me to post only about games). Monetization of blogs poses a lot of interesting moral and philosophical questions, like how can you make money without compromising your integrity? I'm rather happy with the donation solution, as it means I'm not beholden to any special interests. Advertising or affiliate selling a specific game is impossible without casting a serious doubt over the blogger's ability to write impartially about the game he derives his income from. Getting paid regularly by the same game company is obviously a stronger influence than receiving a freebie once, and even freebies are something which some reader's think can cloud a blogger's neutrality. Advertising with banner ads you don't control the content of is even worse, especially as a MMORPG blogger, as you might easily find yourself advertising products you personally don't approve of, like illicit RMT, gold guides, or powerleveling services.

Monetizing blogs is also interesting from the point of view of the wider question of the value we create when we just do the things we like to do. That can range from selling your MMORPG account to selling your blog. On the one side the fact that people *do* sell these things, and find buyers, suggests that MMORPG characters or blogs have value. On the other side I can't help but feel that a good part of the value comes from something immaterial, call it "soul", which can't be sold. Buyers of MMORPG characters often end up disappointed, and buying a blog also comes with obvious risks that the sale changes the nature of the site, and ends up destroying its value.

I once stated, and that is still valid, that I'm perfectly willing to sell you my blog for $100,000. That would get you my blog, including my archives, all associated domain names, and the Google pagerank that comes with it. What that wouldn't include would be my services as a writer. I'd take the money, wish the new owner good luck, create a new internet persona with a new name, and start a new blog. In other words, the outer trappings of my blog are for sale, but its soul isn't. I'm not even sure that it would be possible to sell that. Even if somebody would be willing to pay me a monthly salary to write blog posts, the fact of being a paid-for writer would change my writing. Unconsciously, or through active influence of the guy with the money. I didn't visit Tankspot very often, but thoughts like these make me wonder how the site will change under new ownership.

What do you, as reader, think of the various forms of blog monetization? Are you for or against bloggers receiving money at all? Are there specific forms of monetization you like or hate? Tell me what you think!
Nothing inherently wrong with the principle of making money with online publishing (or blogging). Plenty of bad ways of going about it though, but also some good and successful ways of going about it.

As an anecdote, I set up a site (customised Wordpress instance) for a sports author about 6 months ago - the intention being to charge a subscription fee to access most of the content, and also to be able to read and write comments (ie participate in the community). There is some free content, but the majority requires a subscription.

So, in the 7 months since launch, the subscriber base is over 1,000 (I'm not revealing exact numbers), paying the equivalent of $5 a month, and it's growing steadily. That's life-changing money to many people.

The really interesting part though, is the quality of the dialogue and the community that has formed around and on the site. Barring drive-by trolls by requiring money (and thus a link back to a real world person), has eliminated most of the vitriol, petty insults and dumb one-upmanship that we take for granted - instead, we have a place where intelligent dialogue is encouraged and actually occurs. The quality of the community is now one of the key reasons that people stay, because honestly, it's like an oasis of sanity when compared to the frothing madness on a lot of other sports sites and blogs.

Happy to give more information (within reason). I'm @anu on twitter.
Funny you should write about this today! I've just started giving Flattr a try, which just started sending out beta invites.

It's supposed to make it a lot easier for folks to support content creators they like, without having to go through the process of donating to them all individually.

I've no idea if it will work out, but it is an interesting experiment. If it actually works, I'd even get rid of the pesky google ads, which aren't particularly rewarding anyway.
If you can make money from your blog more power to you! If you are going to subject me to flashy advertising, auto loading video ads and other internet advertising tactics, you better have the most amazing content known to man.

Otherwise my feed is going to get a little lighter.

It is very hard to get rich via cash for clicks, as was stated, write because you love to write and opportunities will find you.
* posting a comment on the hate blog that's making Gevlon pretty famous...

Anyway, it's all about the authors imo. I read blogs because the authors tend to write decent, interesting articles most of the time. And it's great if they're paid by someone smart enough to pay for their quality stuff (and don't turn it into a 'buy our stuff'-website), because that'll only motivate them to maintain/improve that quality.
So wait.

You are telling me that my 150 pageview/mo blog isn't going to make me rich?

Well, back to the lemonade stand it is...
Work for money produces more focused, but ultimately inferior results.
While ProjectLore did fizzle out, it was a profitable site for awhile. The complications came more in the planning and high editing costs associated with the site's main product, not its inability to draw advertisers and viewers.

That being said, since the blogging crew, and the Juggybox, have reformed at we've been walking the fine line you mention. Do we simply ask for donations to assuage any fears of bias? Do we open up to Google Ads or network like it? A combination? Perhaps an alternative method entirely?

It's a tough nut to crack without annoying your audience and still getting a little back for all your hard work.
Would the $100k include the Tobold persona? Meaning, would the purchaser gain the ability to speak as this avatar? Or has this already happened?!! (Kidding.)
I started my blog for the fun of it and to contribute to the community. At some point I thought I'd get rich quick by adding ads to my blog... all it did is take the enjoyment out of writing. I took most of them down but to date I've only made a few bucks.

Getting paid defiantly changes how a person would write and their views on things.
What do you think of monetizing the way Syncaine does (I know you don't like him, but still). He has affiliate business selling Darkfall, yet I'm sure he praises Darkfall because he honestly loves it.

So if you are ALREADY biased and blindly loving something, why not selling it. The income can't make you more biased.
I think the problem with NOT monetizing a blog is that sooner or later, the blogger will run out of steam. If the blogger begins to make money from the site, there's an incentive to remain active and continue to blog.
Oh and anu, your anecdote is interesting. Would you mind sharing the URL of the sports writer site? I'm curious.
@mark asher

The URL is: The Tomkins Times
This is a topic that usually gets me thinking as well. I never got into blogging or writing to make money, it is what I do for a creative release or to simply vent now and then.

I have kicked around the idea of trying it with Epic Slant in the past simply due to the fact I do get some decent traffic. Nothing that would ever amount more to a few dollars a month of course but hey it is something.

The reason I haven't bothered is that it mostly comes down to the amount being so small I'm not sure I'd even want to put the ads on the site. I also tried it for a day once and the quality of the ads was not that stellar. I'm not a fan of fake dating ads, etc.

If a company wanted to advertise with me specifically instead of some random network I suppose I'd do it because at least I'd know what would be there. A strange distinction I know but that is me!
One person, one thought? I don't know that any single "game" blogger can make a fortune blogging, or doing audio shows etc.

I tried doing things like that oh 10 years ago, and we made a little money, but the more popular you get, the more they demand your attention until your head explodes and you dissapear for a decade like I did.

Over time, you will make some money, and eventually you might burn out like so many of us have done. If you get more people, they will just say what they want and not what you want and that can kill a site too.

This blog is an extension of the person we either like or dislike, and we come here to see what you have to say because we found out about you from some other person we like or dislike etc...

When you go, expire, burn out or move on, there will be another to take your place someday. Just as you have replaced many before you. Take advantage of your time here, and keep it fun for you. If it becomes a "job" or too much work, you won't want to do it anymore.

Keep it real Tobold!

PS, yes the dislike or anti-fans are just as good as the fan-boys. Any publicity is "good" publicity as they say...
So if you are ALREADY biased and blindly loving something, why not selling it. The income can't make you more biased.

No, but it can make you APPEAR more biased. What would you trust more?

A) Buy this game, it's really good.


B) Buy this game, it's really good, and I get 20% of the sale.
Work for money produces more focused, but ultimately inferior results.

I wouldnt say that. If you love what you do for a living (and this usually also means you are -very- good at it) focus and quality results almost come naturally. But maybe i'm just lucky. Compared to my trade software development the problem with writing (=coding with a lot less rules, structures and confines:)) or more specifically opionionated writing is that a large part of the it´s value comes from the writer´s motivations (money, fame, views, writing itself, the subject of the blog) and as a result perceived objectivity.

The best blogs (imho) seem to be maintained by exclusively internally motivated writers who also happen to be able to write in a captivating way.
Tobold, there's no way you could spin even more the crap that often comes for Blizzard if you got payed for it so why not? ;)

(and yes, in case the wink goes unnoticed by anybody, it is a joke)
Interesting. I "donated" to your blog last month, because I wanted to and because your writing is stellar. I'm also interested in the whole social experiment aspect of just about anything.

Now when I click on your site to read your daily post, I have expectations. I find myself thinking, "I wonder if I could get Tobold to write about topic X or Z".

How wierd is that?
I find myself thinking, "I wonder if I could get Tobold to write about topic X or Z".

Yes, you probably could. But that is unrelated to your donation. I write a lot of stuff coming from suggestions by e-mail or in the open Sunday thread.
A good friend of mine asked me to set up a donations button similar to the one you have.

I have had one taker. Can you guess who? lol.

As for the ads, its not worth it. You have no idea what the ads are for (could be online viagra for all you know), and you'll get next to nothing for them, as they are based on click-through generally.

For my site, if I actually had readers, I could "trick them" by refering them to poker sites using affiliate codes within links, for which I would get paid an affiliate fee, but I feel that is just cheesy.

Anyways, I will eventually contribute to your cause. Maybe one day when the coffee pot is dry. (BTW, why'd you blow the money on multi-boxing? I'd have been patient and waited for something good to come on the horizon)
I haven't donated to you yet (can't really), but never have I thought, oh no, without donating he won't listen to me.

I'm all for people monetizing their hobbies. I always look at Penny Arcade, Scott Kurtz, etc for what the best formula is.

In that vein, I'm not sure just blogging is enough. You'd need to do something else, on top of that.
As you know Tobold, this is a subject that I find very interesting and, in fact, the topic is almost so big to cover that I don't even know where to being with a comment :)

I will say this though: to monetize sites requires a huge amount of traffic which requires amazing content, tons of luck and a hell of a lot of hard work. I'd also say that the MMO niche is far too small to ever make any real success out of it.

I'd bet that if you took the money that Tankspot made from selling to Zam and devided by all of the hours of labour the crew spent creating the site and it's content over the years, you'd probably find that it's a very small hourly wage. If they were after just cash, they probably would've been better off doing a minimum wage job instead :)

For instance Tobold, let's say you could actually sell your blog for $100,000. If you added up all of the hours you've spent over all of the years you've been blogging, what would your hourly rate calculate at? Would it be more than your fulltime job?
@anu, key point in your example is sports is a much, much bigger audience than WoW players. It's something people are passionate about. Many people ONLY read the sports section of a newspaper. It is a topic which can be monetised far more readily than WoW.
Every man has his price...mine is pretty much dirt cheap.

I find this subject fascinating. Do I hope to get rich off blogging, no. But I have made some money off it, and believe it or not there are offers I have turned down. I will tell you one thing, It was nice though to earn some money for my efforts.

For 100,000 grand you can have my blog, my name, hell you can have my real name, add another zero before the decimal you can even have my soul.
@gravity - that's a fair point, but I don't know if it necessarily reflects the whole situation.

I don't think there has to be an enormous audience, just *enough* of one - especially one that's interested, loyal and/or obsessive. These niches can be profitable, if you have content that is good enough and can't be got anywhere else.

For example, the blog I referenced discusses a single sports club, in a single sport. So, just like that, we've massively reduced the potential audience, and yet, it's making enough money to be the main source of income for the writer.
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