Dianne Jacob - Will Write For Food
Food blogging is a growing superniche (is that a word?) with a wide variety of niches in which a lot of people seem to be using blogging either as the focus of their business or as a tool to build a bigger business. Even if you don't blog about food, there's a lot to be learned from succesful bloggers in this space.
Will Write For Food
Dianne Jacob is a writing and publishing coach who has also done quite a bit of writing related to food, including a book about food writing titled Will Write For Food. Her site includes a blog that is clearly a powerful marketing tool. It allows her to demonstrate her expertise, connect with the fans of other writers and present fresh content to search engines that helps her standing among searchbots!
I found Ms. Jacob via a recent post about Jenny McGruther of Nourished Kitchen, a multifaceted business that began as a food blog and related newsletter. She interviews Ms. McGruther about her business and, in addition to some fascinating details that are shared quite generously, McGruther gives some advice that's relevant to all bloggers trying to build businesses:
"They need to build a devoted audience based on their specialized knowledge. Once they have a way to convey that knowledge to their readers, they need to make it very clear about what the product will do for their readers. If they outline it directly and hit a price point that provides substantial value, they’ll be in a good position."
The Amateur Gourmet
"For starters, you have to decide if you’re food blogging for business or pleasure. If it’s for pleasure, that’s fine, but that most likely means you’re blogging when you want to, about subjects that you want to, in a format that may or may not appeal to readers. You can do that (many do) but that’s not going to allow you to quit your day job. If you’re food blogging for business—meaning, you’re doing it to support yourself—you have to approach things more strategically."
Mr. Roberts has also used food blogging to build his brand as well as an impressive career as a food writer.
Federated Media was an early player in the blog advertising space, focused not just on ads but on sponsored posts and conversational media. They've just made two big deals that now give them access to a lot of web properties.
The first was the acquisition of Lijit, a company offering web tools and advertising for many smaller web publishers. This move extends Federated Media's reach to 77,000 additional web publishers beyond their current partners.
Now they've made a deal with Wordpress owners Automattic to provide advertising to Wordpress.com hosted blogs.
Federated Media says their "advertising programs will now be available as an opt-in program open to all WordPress.com publishers in the United States."
The "Federated Media Publishing, Lijit Networks and WordPress.com combination will reach nearly 247 million unique visitors in the U.S." so this is definitely big news for Federated Media and for bloggers and web publishers using Lijit or hosted on Wordpress.com.
The Sartorialist - From Blog to Book
Scott Schuman's highly regarded fashion blog, The Sartorialist, recently celebrated its 6th year.
The Business of Fashion's Imran Amed took the opportunity to examine the business of The Sartorialist which is apparently pretty good:
"The Sartorialist had around 13 million page views last month, a 44 percent increase over the same month last year...If current traffic levels are sustained and significant portion of the advertising inventory on The Sartorialist is sold, it could theoretically make Scott Schuman fashion's first million dollar a year blogger."
Schuman started out building his reputation at Style.com and GQ while continuing to build his blog:
"Once The Sartorialist began to attract serious global attention, Schuman left these high-profile gigs behind to focus on building his own business. With his newfound independence, Schuman knew he would have to build out his own revenue streams. 'You have to constantly spread out your streams, so if one stream starts to dry up you can go on.'"
Additional revenue streams have included gallery shows with prints of his photos going for between $1500 and $4000 each, special projects with fashion brands and a book also called The Sartorialist but ads are taking the lead:
"Like other photo bloggers, Schuman also sells his images to magazines, through his agent, Jedroot. But by far his biggest (and most stable) source of revenue now comes from ad sales on The Sartorialist website. Initially, Schuman worked with Style.com to sell his advertising inventory, but has taken this function back in-house, explaining that he is in a much better position to sell the ads himself because he understands the website better than anyone else could."
Scott Shuman has taken a path that few bloggers can follow but that doesn't mean one can't learn from his example of blogging about something he loves to do and finding multiple revenue streams in order to build a livelihood:
"'You can really make a living out of this,' said Schuman emphatically. 'It's tough, but if you work really hard you can create a business, if you're smart about it and have something real to say.'"
Australian reality TV blogger Emma Ashton is launching a consultancy, Reality Ravings Consultancy, that will "offer expert advisory services to both potential reality show contestants, and to the shows themselves."
The consultancy is built on Ashton's achievements with Reality Ravings, an Australian reality TV blog, she launched in 2007. Her blogging status led to her identification as a reality TV expert by the media, leading to numerous media appearances in Australia. She also launched a Reality TV Insights Survey that has given her more media attention and helped establish her as an industry researcher.
For $275, wannabe reality TV performers will receive:
A consultation over Skype or phone to find out about you, including your background, skills and personality and why you want to go on the show;
A tailored application is drafted and sent to you to upload online or send in; and
Ongoing advice when you get to the interview rounds.
Ashton also offers:
Speaking engagements including panels, conferences, lectures, workshops and seminars about blogging and reality TV;
Freelance writing for articles, reviews, submissions, speeches and reports;
Pre-production and concept testing advice for new reality shows;
Research related to reality TV shows; and
Expert commentary on reality TV.
I don't have any idea how well the various aspects of Ashton's offerings are being received but this is certainly a nice look at how one can build a brand and related services around a topically-focused blog. The survey is particularly smart for building authority.
Back when I blogged about hip hop business, I tried to find partners to create a hip hop demographic survey. My research training is in qualitative methods so I needed a quantitative partner but I was unable to pay for the needed support.
I understood why researchers outside of hip hop were only interested in participating if paid but I could never understand the short-sightedness of hip hop marketers who could have been involved. It would have given any of them national visibility that would relate to their business interests and yet none of the people I discussed it with could see that. Then again, that lack of vision helps explain why none of them have achieved national recognition in marketing since.
Mashable, Once a One-Man Blog, Gains Clout in Social Media
Jennifer Preston - NY Times
"[Pete] Cashmore...start[ed] Mashable at age 19. Bored by schoolwork, he skipped college and began writing about how people were using technology and the new world of social networking. Because he was fascinated by the way some sites were mashing together maps and data — in particular a combination of Google maps and data from the Chicago Police Department — he named his new blog Mashable."
"Soon the blog was generating $3,000 a month in advertising revenue, allowing him to hire another writer..."
"Mashable, which is privately held, now generates enough revenue from display advertising, custom programs with marketers, event sponsorships and conferences to support an operation of about 40 employees, most of them working from new offices on Park Avenue South...The company has financed its expansion...by steadily increasing revenue and carefully managing expenses. Mr. Cashmore said there were 17 million unique visitors last month, according to Google Analytics."
Of Related Interest:
Mashable Expanding Its Coverage
The recent announcement that Simon & Schuster would be offering eBooks for sale via Scribd reminded me that I've been meaning to do this post about monetizing documents. It's also a reminder that bookmarking a good idea rather than going ahead and blogging about it is almost always a mistake. If you put off the post, the situation will change and become more complicated and instead of having something on which to build, you have a more complicated post that's even easier to put off!
Selling Documents and eBooks
Last month, Scribd, a social site for posting documents, announced that they were adding an e-commerce aspect in the form of the Scribd Store from which people could offer documents for sale. This wasn't a new concept though it was a new move in the social document site game and got a lot of coverage on tech and business blogs.
paidContent.org quickly did an interview with Scribd’s VP of Content and Marketing, who revealed that the terms were generous with 80% going to the sellers. Scribd, which has created a "copyright database", has integrated that service with the Store to ease blocking copyright violators from using Scribd to pirate their work.
The copyright database is a particularly smart move for Scribd, which allows people to upload documents for free without any real screening process regarding copyright, because a lot of the animosity towards YouTube, in my opinion, came because they made the process for copyright owners to get material removed extremely difficult. Of course, a database for text is a lot easier to create than a similar tool for video.
As noted at Book Business, numerous publishers were already using Scribd for marketing purposes and companies like Lonely Planet got involved with this new initiative from the beginning. The announcement of Simon & Schuster's use of the Scribd Store was important due to their size and is quite validating news for Scribd as well as for independents who benefit from the platform's validation.
If you have documents that you might want to try selling, from eBooks to research papers to recipe collections, other outlets to consider include Lulu, which offers free setup and just takes a commission on eBook sales, and the Amazon Kindle, which is a little more complicated and is accessible to a smaller audience but has the sexy quality of being new and trendy.
Advertising Revenue for Posted Documents
Docstoc, a Scribd competitor, also made news last month when they announced the launch of DocCash, which basically offers folks who upload documents via their free service the opportunity to get a 50/50 split of revenue from Google ads placed on the pages in which one's document is embedded.
This announcement actually preceded Scribd's by a day or two, if I recall correctly (which I would if I had created this post in a timely manner!), and got blown out of the water by Scribd's move. I think this is partly because there were already a lot of options for posting content online and getting a rev share and also partly because getting a cut of Google ads is just not a big money maker except in increasingly rare circumstances.*
That said, if you're simply trying to get documents distributed more widely, why not go ahead and make a little money out of the process if possible. The reality is that a large number of people who write do it for the attention and the income is quite secondary. However, if they're able to get a little income, they seem to really appreciate it even though it doesn't work out to a reasonable hourly wage if they're doing anything at all time consuming.
The desire of writers to distribute their work, as well as the need of marketers and propagandists to distribute various documents, has opened up the possiblity for web publishers to create platforms that monetize the long tail. However, there are many such platforms emerging from social document sites, like Scribd and Docstoc, to sites such as Associated Content, which pay upfront on some assignments as well as paying per page view, to sites like the newly emergent Examiner.com, in which writers have particular topics and also get paid for page views.
If one expands to other forms of content creation with payment related to pageviews, such as Squidoo, one has to consider the fact that there are an awful lot of people making content for a rev share based on traffic that's mostly fueled by search engines.
That means not only that monetizing one's documents and related writing via the sites that allow document posting is becoming difficult but getting mindshare for one's documents is becoming ever more of a challenge.
Paid Document Distribution
Obviously there are a lot of options for monetizing documents and, as was the case before the web, making real money off one's content remains difficult although it seems easier to make small amounts of money than was the case before the web. One can also profit from paid services for folks creating documents who need support, from editing to distribution.
I actually started investigating document posting sites not to make money off the documents but off the distribution of those documents. I was working on a project inspired by Hip Hop Press, my free hip hop, r&b and other urban stuff press release posting site, that was intended to move away from ad supported press release distribution to paid services because monetizing documents via ads is tough and you can't sell press releases!
One aspect of that service was to be paid distribution of press releases to free press release and document posting websites. So I'd get paid for distributing the documents and saving other folks the trouble. That in itself isn't a road to riches but it was one service that would be bundled into other services that would have been offered through the site and eventually would have been taken over by other workers, since it's a pretty simple thing to do once you've figured out the appropriate sites on which to post.
I mention this because it offers a third path to monetizing documents, in this case the documents of others, and is a reminder that, if one thinks flexibly, one can leverage a service created for one purpose and find other uses for that service, just as app makers are building profitable ecosystems around such platforms as Facebook and the iPhone.
More directly relevant examples can be found on Lulu's Services page which includes their paid offerings, free marketing tools and the Community Services Marketplace which links Lulu publishers to third party providers.
Ecommerce, Advertising, Paid Services
The above examples of monetizing documents point to three major paths for making money in web publishing. Selling goods, selling ads or selling services. Another and somewhat different game involves brand building via web publishing, though I would recommend blogging over most of the above routes for that approach, and then profiting from one's brand through other means than monetizing that stream of writing.
Whatever route you choose, the world of document and related content posting is a microcosm of the web publishing universe, as is blogging, that can allow one to consider the issues of the business of web publishing without having to consider web publishing as a whole. But, if you dig into such a microcosm and deeply engage the wide range of issues that you will encounter, you'll eventually find that the lessons learned there will carry over into other spheres.
Related Resource at Squidoo:
Get Paid to Write - Make Money Writing Articles Online
*[Note: I'm currently running a small Google ad to this blog for two reasons. One, to let people know that this blog is carrying ads in case I pursue related options. It saves certain kinds of readers from feeling 'betrayed" if I go that route. Two, I want to see what happens though I'm not loving the ads I've seen to date.]
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