I know many of my blogging friends have trouble explaining what they do, and have even greater difficulty relaying how they make money from it. My own mother struggles explaining what I do to her friends. She says “blogger” in a hushed tone as if it is a bad word and really can’t say anything further, because she’s not actually sure.
First of all, “blogger” is not a dirty word. It is a profession I proudly embrace.
Bloggers are writers, photographers, movie-makers, marketing experts, trend-setters, social media athletes, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and much, much more. Maybe it is because we can be so many different things that outsiders have a hard time putting a finger on what it is bloggers actually do.
You see, people like things to be simple. They like to boil ideas down to a basic level. In fact, recently I had a friend tell me that food bloggers are the biggest scammers because they just do it for the free meals, plain and simple.
First of all, where are all the free meals? (I’m definitely in the wrong blogging genre!) Second of all, I sat my friend down and explained just why a blogger may be worth a restaurant giving a free meal to, or *gasp* even paying them to write a blog post.
The Newsletter Model
Let’s say you have started up a neighborhood newsletter that goes out to the 100 homes in your community. You do this because you are passionate about your neighborhood, the people that live there, community events, and even the crime rate. You feel this newsletter is important enough for you to cough up the $40 a month it takes to print the newsletter, and then you spend time driving around and dropping it on each home’s doorstep.
Well, it turns out your neighbors really like your newsletter and word grows and suddenly other communities are asking you to create a newsletter for them, too. After a few months, instead of reaching just 100 homes, you are now reaching 1,000 households.
The time it takes you to create the newsletter, print it, and then deliver, plus the cost of the printing, is taking a toll, so you decide you need to monetize it. You approach your favorite eatery, Sammy’s Pizzeria, and ask if they’d like to place a small ad in the newsletter. You can give them great exposure. If you have 1,000 homes you can figure at least 2 people in that household will read it, so Sammy’s Pizzeria can count on at least 2,000 people seeing their ad. So, how much do you think Sammy would be willing to pay you in exchange for that ad? What if your newsletter grew to 10,000 readers? 100,000 readers? Over a million readers a month?
The Blog Model
A blog works essentially the same way. You write about things you are interested in or passionate about and it gets delivered electronically to households. Instead of dropping it on their doorstep, it is going to get delivered via a Facebook post, a tweet, or even a direct link. The pass along readership works much the same, if not even more effectively because readers will share your blog post on their Facebook, Twitter, and email accounts. They might even pin some of your photos to Pinterest for even more readers to see.
So, if your blog has a readership of 10,000 a month (a modest readership but would still be sizable for a traditional print newsletter), how much would an advertiser be willing to pay? Would you then be worth being treated to a free meal at Sammy’s Pizzeria in hopes you might write a positive review on your blog post? (And, just to set the record straight, bloggers are not just giving *free* meals unless it is part of an actual formal blogger event, which are rarely more than once a month, if that.)
So, as blogger if you have cultivated a dedicated following, a group of people who look forward to reading and sharing your new posts, you may decide to monetize your blog to help offset the monthly maintenance expenses as well as the time you put into blogging. There are a few ways to do this.
Go to just about any website and you will see ads on there – those are what we call banner ads. As a blogger, you can sell your own ad to Sammy’s Pizzeria for a set amount, or you can choose to utilize an ad network, a company that will sell the ads for you. Generally, an ad network will pay you a set amount for every 1,000 views of that ad, generally ranging between $2 and $12. So, if you had 10,000 views, then you would make 10 x $12 = $120 for that ad for the month. (Of course, that is if you were receiving the high end of the payment. Most bloggers receive more like the lower end of $2 per 1,000 views.) You can have as many banner ads as you would like, but sometimes they junk up a website and decrease readership.
Let’s say you found some cute Halloween decorations at JoAnne’s, Etc. and you wanted to pass along this info in your newsletter. You might ask your readers to mention to JoAnne’s they heard about the decorations in your newsletter to hopefully get some type of referral bonus, right? Well, with a blog you can use what’s called an affiliate link, where your readers click to buy the Halloween decorations using a special link so JoAnne’s knows for sure they came from you and will give you a percentage of the sales. You can do this on just about anything you can buy online from clothes and electronics to apps and furniture.
I have a food blogger who has been paid nearly a thousand dollars per post, and she is worth every penny! Why? Well, she has a huge readership, but what she does for the posts is amazing. Since she’s a food blogger, she will actually take time to create an original recipe, test it several times to be sure it is perfect, and then show step-by-step instructions for the reader to recreate the recipe at home. She makes sure the photography is perfect and even creates a short video to accompany the post. Next she will send it across her social networks, which she has spent years growing to sizable amount, all the while she is showcasing and promoting the blender from the company paying her.
This really isn’t so different from what traditional media does. For example when I was participating in some social media campaigns for Chevy, we had to go to the local TV news station to create some promos and do some interviews. It was not because what we were doing was newsworthy, but rather the station was paying its bills by being paid by Chevy to create the video content and to be the media sponsor for the campaign. In fact, bloggers are often paid by brands to help create entire social media campaigns, including blog posts, Facebook postings, tweets, Instagrams, Pinterest boards, contests, and more.
Memberships and Subscriptions
Just like a magazine or newspaper charges a subscription fee, some bloggers do the same thing with their blogs. They create memberships where the members pay to read the content and often it is coupled with special bonuses, like coupons, gift certificates, or additional special content.
On and Offline Events
Another way bloggers make money is by holding special events. It might be a gathering at a restaurant, a grand opening, or even the launch of a new product. By leveraging one blogger’s friends and social reach, brands can create a buzz they wouldn’t normally see. Twitter parties, tweet chats, tweet ups, and meet ups are all part of a bloggers’ set of skills.
But let’s face it, sometimes we need to be paid for our efforts and sometimes we don’t. For example, if you asked us to cover the grand opening of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, then we’d probably jump at the chance to go. But if you ask us to cover the new summer menu items at a chain restaurant, we probably will want to be compensated for our time.
So, the next time you think somebody is blogging just for the free stuff, or you scoff at the idea of paying a blogger, just ask yourself, how much would you pay to advertise in the newsletter that reaches 10,000 homes, 50,000, or even half a million homes? And that newsletter is only around for the life of that piece of paper, where the internet is ever-fresh. Old blog posts live on forever, get rediscovered, reposted, re-read over and over. Plus you can post that raving blog post to your company’s Facebook page, Twitter account, and even email it to your customers.
And did you know that 81% of consumers say they take the word of their friends’ social media posting over that of a print or commercial ad? Bloggers spend years developing personal relationships and becoming friends with their readers. And, even better yet, that blog post linking to your company website is boosting your SEO… so the love just keeps on coming!
So *that’s* what a blogger is worth… believe it!