Making money from blogs: “Is there a way to make money from Weblogs?” is the title of a piece I wrote that appears in the current issue of the magazine B-to-B Business Media. The Crain-published magazine is read by publishers, editors and senior executives of business-to-business media companies (thus, the name). The article is now available as a PDF download (page 14) on their website. As it is not available via HTML, I’ve reproduced it below. (However, I strongly encourage you to download it and look at all the ads.)
A couple of background and amplification notes on this topic and the piece I wrote: I’m looking forward to attending Jeff Jarvis’ session on “Blogging as a Business” later this month at Bloggercon so I can learn where I’m wrong with my point-of-view (Jeff saw an early version and made some great suggestions.) Also, I wrote about twice as much as there was room to print (and frankly, twice as much as needed to be printed) but I left out several weblogs that should be on anyone’s shortlist of great first-generation B-to-B weblogs covering the marketing and media arenas. Patrick Phillips, who maintains the weblog I view first and throughout each day, I Want Media, has already sent me a friendly reminder of my oversight of his blog (a million apologies) and several ways he has developed revenue-generating relationships with traditional media companies. And I notice that I also left out the weblog I will always know as MarketingWonk, but is now called MarketingVOX News. I’m sure there are many others and I would love to discover a meaningful directory of such role-model business-to-business weblogs in other industries.
(Later: And a public apology to Rafat Ali for a typo on his name…a doozie on my part.)
Here’s the piece:
Is there a way to make money from Weblogs?
I confess: I have maintained a Weblog for several years. Employees of Hammock Publishing know about it, but few outside a narrow niche of the “blogosphere” have been aware of it. Whenever a business media friend of mine discovers —- usually quite accidentally —- that I actively and regularly blog, it doesn’t take long for him (or her) to ask, “Is there a way to make money from Weblogs?” (That, and “Why the heck do you do that?”)
Like an expensive wine, the answer to this question is both simple and complex. First the simple answer: Yes, there are lots of ways to make money from Weblogs. Indeed, I can confidently predict that all the standard b-to-b revenue models (advertising, subscriptions, sponsorships, events) will be applied to Weblogs with varying degrees of success depending upon the necessity and compelling nature of the content and the audience targeted.
Now comes the complex part: While you are picking the low-hanging grapes from the Weblog vine, you’ll be missing the true opportunity. Weblogs are an online reincarnation of an age-old form of folk media which can trace its roots through personal diaries (the type Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt maintained) and political pamphleteering all the way back to Sanskrit and hieroglyphics. You’ll miss out on one of the most powerful means you’ll ever have to fulfill those hollow claims you make that your readers and attendees are a “community.”
Here are some observations that this self-professed magazine guy has pondered during several years of blogging:
Weblogs by individuals in the industries you serve are not a business threat to your existing brands, your franchise or your existing media properties. Weblogs are not threats. Weblogs are opportunities. They link to your content. You can link to their analysis. And, in a Google Adsense-type model, you could possibly generate additional advertising revenue for you and your industry-oriented bloggers if you view their pages as a potential extension of your advertising inventory rather than as competition to it. The design and editorial conventions of Weblogs provide a more compelling interface and user experience than typical news-oriented Web sites that usually adhere to print-era conventions of design and editorial. And, because they provide a greater number of pages to click through, Weblogs generate revenue for you if page-views are part of your model. (Clarification: I meant to say “more revenue.”) Weblogs are quickly proving to be a Triple A playing field on which potential major league editorial talent can prove they have what it takes to develop a voice, attract an audience and consistently deliver insight, wit and a compelling experience that keeps readers coming back. Weblogs are a perfect environment to test sub-market or brand-extending niche categories or concepts that could spawn new publications, conferences and data products. Weblogs will revolutionize the experience of attending one of your trade shows, seminars, conferences or other events. Unless you have been in a conference with a room full of bloggers, you’re going to have to trust me on this one. Attending a meeting that is being blogged in real time is an extrasensory experience in which relationships are created at warp-speed. I can assure you that most of the people reading this will hate the experience of trying to listen to the speakers while monitoring on a laptop the real-time comments and fact-checking of others in the room (and from those monitoring the session from around the world). But you’ll never forget it. And neither will those who line up to pay for the opportunity of participating the next year.
While you’re trying to figure out how your company can make money from Weblogs, I suggest you visit a few that cover aspects of our industry including Buzz Machine (www.buzzmachine.com), a personal Weblog of magazine veteran Jeff Jarvis; any of the numerous industry Weblogs (especially Romenesko’s MediaNews) by the folks at the Poynter Institute (www.poynter.org); and Paid Content (www.paidcontent.org), a media venture in the form of a b-to-b Weblog created and maintained by Rafi (don’t know where that came from) Rafat Ali. And wait, I almost forgot, there are links to dozens more like these on my Weblog, www.rexblog.com.
Rex Hammock is president of Hammock Publishing.