Monetizing a Blog: Two Schools of Thought

I spent Sunday afternoon with my good friend Matt (he’s left a comment below), who’s a true internet marketer, and approaches social tools like that too, looking for direct and immediate returns.

He was talking about how to generate direct revenue through a blog, and quoted John Chow, who is generating 40k a month through lead generation, advertising, and other ways to move people through the funnel. He uses auto-responders in email and Twitter (he sent me one after I followed him on Twitter yesterday) to keep people hooked and sells products in the auto responders –this is basically turining social tools into email, which fuels affiliate and direct marketing which fuels ecommerce.

In his video, John says that social media marketers believe that monetizing the social web is wrong, and I’d actually disagree. Making money from social is fine, however there’s two ways to do it:

1) This first way is up front, with ads, direct marketing and ecommerce. I see many bloggers monetizing their blog through direct monetization, Guy, Scoble, and most authors of blogging books have ads, sponsorship or other revenue methods attached to their blogs.

2) The second way is to use it to become a trusted influencer, that is used for the soft sell: build relatioships, trust, and influence over time. These people make money by getting gigs, consulting, or developing leads for their employer. That’s my current approach.

So which way is right? Fast or slow?  Either way works, it depends on your goals and audience. The one theme that works between both is: Having content that attracts your audience (you need to be a good blogger, regardless), have a strategy to move people closer to you, be up front about your intentions.

In the end, like a hammer, these social tools can be used in different ways and for different purposes, it’s fascinating to watch the unique approaches.

  • I think a good example of the right approach would be Robert Scoble – he does a pretty good job selling RackSpace – and I hardly hear him promote it.

    John Chow on the other hand sells crappy ebooks by send auto-dms to people looking for a “get rich quick scheme”.

    I think selling ads up front – fully disclosed is the most profitable option.

  • dont forget the brutal truth of the 3rd way: cause many a-bloggers try to become trusted influencers firstly and secondly sell their visions on best market offers!

  • Anthony. I agree, John’s ads aren’t premium brands, but the color of money is still green. I doubt he cares.

    The interesting thing about John’s audience, is that they are likely many folks who are seeking to generate money from blogging as a side job. I’m all for bloggers making money, but I think it’s safe to say you have to serve your audience.

    To quote John Chow, his sub title is “I Make Money Online by Telling People How I Make Money Online”. He’s clearly serving his audience.

  • siniweler

    That’s the second model I illustrated above. That’s what I do and most business bloggers in corporate.

    A third way would be to merge both of those. I think Guy Kawasaki does that well.

    The question is, bloggers who are the second type, and migrate to the first type, do they lose credibility? I’d say yes, if they don’t line up the offerings with what their community wants.

  • Andy Maslin

    Interesting blog post, good coverage of the two approaches.

  • Monetizing blog via ads is absolutely fine but I personally don’t like soft sell or even sponsored reviews because my followers have certain faith and trust on me, which I don’t even want to loose .0001%.

    I make living off doing my work not by full time blogging so I don’t know how these choices works for people who completely focus on blogging day in & out.

  • This is a really interesting post. I would be interested in seeing which approach works better in the long term. My instinct says the latter…the trusted influencer is the one that builds the relationship that leads to repeat business. I would add to that one (which is my approach as well) that product CAN be sold through this method (not just gigs, consulting and leads), but the seller must first be positioned as an expert that provides value to a prospect. Only then will their product recommendations be taken seriously.

    Anyway, great post, and it gave me something to think about today. I’ve been of the opinion that the first approach you describe is the “wrong way” that alienates prospects. Yet if people like Guy and Scoble are having success with it, I need to think that conclusion through again.

    Thanks!
    Jennifer Fong
    aka (@liajen)

  • Nevertheless, John is fully straight, his results are telling for themselves.I see so many Gurus provide a reference to him and say he is a Guy to follow.I agree about creation a good relationship with your customers, but at some point your achievements can compensate the lack of communication because people are impressed by your achievements and they do not need any feedback from you.People with huge lists of subscribers and followers on Twitter do not care about customers at all.They write what they want to write and people are trying to catch everything they say.You can call these guys “Authority” or “Brand” and if they have the results we like, probably,we can learn something from them?

  • Vijay, but (almost) everyone’s selling something even if it’s your ideas that lead to contacting you for work in some fashion or regard.

    Sponsored blog posts can only work if they are transparent (disclosed) and the editorial lines up for both (Authentic)

  • So it is right to monetize a blog? Even for a personal one? That’s the problem we are facing here in Singapore. Before all the blogad network pops out few years back, all is cool, everyone blogs for our own and we live in a friendly community loving space. But when the advertising comes in, the A-list bloggers start showing off how much they can earn with banners, advertorial posts etc on blogs, everyone who starts a blog (despite bad content or low traffic) wants a pie of the money.

    Then there comes a group who stand by no money for posting, they’re the passionate bloggers who feel that advertising is wrong, no one see banners, and advertorial posts may not be trustful.

    So what is right and wrong? Bloggers here are still struggling to find the balance. At least for the non A-list ones.

  • Jennifer, good points to raise. Which method will stand long term? I’d agree the second form could work, but then again, on the first way (John’s audience who want to make money fast) as long as there’s someone who always seeks this, or he updates his content, this could be a recurring cash generation machine.

    John may have a difficult time getting a corporate job, but I really doubt he would want to do this. I’m sure he’s smiling from some beach in Vancouver right about now.

  • Claudia, it’s not just Singapore, it’s everywhere.

    It comes down to this: The community (audience) chooses.

    If people click on the blogs with heavy ads, they’ve proved it with their clicks. Perhaps the only way that wouldn’t be true, if the blogger was selling ads per CPM (impressions) and was using link bait tactics (native to nearly all bloggers) to draw eyes.

  • Jeremiah, i presume the concern here is that if a credible blogger starts taking up paid mentions, even if the post is written with 101% genuine feedback and review, the credible blogger might face the risk of being deemed as inaccurate source in the long run.

  • Ok got it, the long term debate about sponsored conversations

    Here’s my take

    http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2009/03/02/how-to-make-sponsored-conversations-work/

  • Thanks for the link. I recall reading that.

    That’s what I hope will make things work here. The line is gray. We’ll just have to educate the bloggers on drawing it correctly and truthfully.

    Hope to see you in Singapore one day. =)

    Thanks.

  • @Jeremiah

    I read your earlier post and also Forrester report (IZEA) on sponsored conversations, I think sponsored conversations works well for very few popular and established bloggers [who are known for their unbiased & critic stand] but it becoming a mainstream channel for Blog monetization in near future is doubtful.

  • A thought provoking post, thanks Jeremiah.

    I agree that one cannot call either forms “wrong”, my personal preference surely will be for type2 ! recall that old adage – “slow and steady wins the race” – not sure how sensible John find it 🙂

    In a way I can relate this to the manner in which ‘Amway’ targets its new sales agents – some might like their marketing tactics and they follow. Those who don’t (incl. me) might not have good words for their approach. I think in John’s case he’s being very open and upfront about the audience he wants, so if one goes ahead and reads it – its definitely not John’s fault.

    But is there any financial data to quantify the Type2 bloggers for the sake of comparison ? If John says he makes 40K – is there an equivalent ballpark number for Type2s ?

  • Great post, and I agree. Heck, everyone has to eat. If you are posting great content that both your readers and potential advertisers love, why not be rewarded for it?

    There is nothing wrong with making money from blogging, except when you treat the social web like traditional marketing communications tools.

    Interact with people on Twitter like you would in an email newsletter and you are only missing out on a great opportunity.

  • Thank you for this post Jeremiah, as always you hit on an interesting point for discussion. My personal belief is that we live in extraordinary times where for the first time in the history of the human race (to the best of my knowledge) we can create and disseminate information that is accessible to “the whole world” almost instantly. Should this be monetized? In my opinion, yes of course, we also live in a world where we must put food on the table. As to a best approach? Well again, just my opinion, but I like the idea of a relationship that is built over time and can be trusted. I look forward to your next post!

    We’re at the edge of the future!

    Andy Xhignesse

  • Vijay, that’s right, sponsored conversations are here, see my list (I just updated the Techcrunch portion)

    http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2009/03/03/running-list-of-sponsored-conversations/

    Thanks all, interseting times. On a related note, sponsoredtweets have arrived, mashable has details

    http://mashable.com/2009/08/03/izea-sponsored-tweets/

  • I also agree with monetizing your blog. After all, TV, radio, Magazines and Newspapers do it, well, not much for newspapers anymore. So Blogs are really the same thing only better. TV, radio, magazines, newspapers are all getting information out there in some way. But the problem is that it’s only a one way conversation. But blogs and the other social media outlets are truly conversation starters and can then be much more valuable to the public.

    After all, it’s all about the conversation.

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  • It’s okay to monetize from a blog but I think it is a more respected to do it by building relationships than through auto-responders.

  • FYI, This conversation started by me saying “Jeremiah, I bet you could make $30K a month with your blog”. Furthermore, it was not how to monetize a blog, it was how to monetize YOUR blog.

    A small conversation over bbq chicken and beers turns into a rather large debate. That’s awesome. After you left we continued to talk about this subject for at least another hour. I think I ask Jeremiah this question every time we meet-up, because I want to see if he is turning to the darkside, but each time, he just shakes his head no, and then comes up with an excuse to leave 🙁

    Since I did have a few beers, I’m not sure my main point came across. Jeremiah is extremely loyal to his readers and cares very much to his brand. He wants his readers to know that the information they get from this site is honest and trustworthy. We have talked about this before and he has blogged about it many times. From those blog posts I have seen a few comments from readers saying if Jeremiah started to monetize his site or twitter accounts, they would stop following him… I think that is sooo self serving and selfish. If Jeremiah decided to advertise on his blog, the content would stay the same, the passion would stay the same, the blog would be the same blog.

    John Chow, shoemoney, problogger, Yaro Starak, etc… don’t make money from their blogs. They sell products and services. Their blogs are just another storefront. There was a comment earlier stating that they sell crappy e-books, but seriously, in the age of social media don’t you think that word would get out that the products they sell suck, and eventually stop selling. You still need a good product to sell. These guys are very good at using social media to build large followings and sell a lot of products… This makes me wonder… If you are looking for someone to consult you on starting an e-commerce site, or blog… do you hire a social media consultant, or an affiliate marketer? SM consultants are a dime a dozen now-a-days and it is very hard to find a good one, like Jeremiah. I see the majority of SMC’s focus fully on how to tweet, how to facebook, etc… but know nothing about how to measure results and optimize for faster, more profitable results. Where as an affiliate marketer is usually putting their own money on the line with advertising and marketing so they focus on ROI first and lasting relationships second, but this is a whole other conversation, and I think I hit my 500 word limit.

    Anyhow, another good conversation and another good post, let’s do it again soon!

  • Nice distinction to call out, makes you think.

    Frankly, asking how you should use a blog is like asking how you should use email. Answer: it’s a flexible tool, it depends what you’re trying to do with it.

  • Stephanie, John hasn’t really built a relationship –at least not with me (I’m certainly open to it). I’ve send him a lot of traffic an followers and he hasn’t responded other than auto-responders, nor left a comment.

  • Thanks Matt. I was going to link to you, but didn’t want to call you out –wasn’t sure if our conversation was public, so played it on the safe side. We are after all, going to be long term friends. 🙂

    Initially, I was going to make the post about *my* blog, but didn’t want to sound too chest beating, so I made it more broad –it serves the greater community to have a more broad conversation.

    Man, I wish I was there for the remaining conversation, there’s more to uncover here. Yes, beers again.

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  • I believe there is no right or wrong when approaching social media.

    But if you are going to post blatant ads all around your network, be prepared to be booed…

    I trust in building Trust.

    ~Igor

  • Fast = selling something – short time sales success. Slow = fostering advocates – long term positive branding and building a business. The metaphor I see here, “Feed him a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, he’ll eat for lifetime.”

    Social Steve

  • In my opinion, blogging is a way of social proof. A place to build trust, and relationships with your readers. I don’t believe it is a place to fill full of banners, popups, ads etc.

    On the flip side though, everyone uses a blog for a different reason, so if it is working for them, then who am I to argue 🙂

    Talk soon,

    Paul

  • Agree, there are different ways to monetize your blog so long it puts it’s audience/customers first.

    My most intriguing experience at Nuffnang (Asia Pacific’s leading blog network) is SE Asia’s biggest blogger – KennySia (http://kennysia.com).

    He has an uncanny ability to write entertaining posts and have subtle integration of his advertiser’s message. Readers love his stories, Advertisers love paying him to write it. Case in example for VPost: http://www.kennysia.com/archives/2009/07/adv-purchases-f.php

    It’s almost like Jerry Seinfield meets Sponsored Conversation approach.

  • Very interesting post. I tend to favor your Approach Jeremiah. I prefer to create a relationship with my readers/followers/ etc., because I feel the relationships will pay off in the long run. I think what this post highlights for me is more of a visible awareness where some people are very much focused on making money first and formost, while others are focused on providing a service first and formost. I certainly think bringing in an income is important, but I also think having a solid rep with people is equally important. Thanks for another thought provoking post.

  • Great post. I was thinking about this since longtime and J.Oywang lightens my position.As a blogger i really believe that the second approach is far better because you offer something great and unique.This way is the best one and i try to adopt this position.

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  • This is a great debate.

    My two cents – the monetisation technique is less about who is selling but more about what you are selling and to whom. for e.g. if my blog is generic enough to reach large sections of society then my best bet would be to use adsense, banners etc. On the other hand, if I am in the business of selling management consulting services to senior management at large corporations then I have no choice but to nurture the trusted relationship in the hope of downstream consulting assignments.

    My advice…create a segmentation of your readers – and make that hard choice!

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  • jonhos

    Is there something fundamental which stops someone form doing both together?

    If they are upfront about their intentions, why can't it be done?

  • jonhos

    Is there something fundamental which stops someone form doing both together?

    If they are upfront about their intentions, why can't it be done?

  • mimi

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    Download the FREE Blog Profits Blueprint. A step-by-step, how-to guide to making money from a blog http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/go.php?off

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  • Thank you for the posting its my second time stopping by

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