October 5, 2002
9:45 AM   Subscribe

"By removing both costs and the barriers, weblogs have drained publishing of its financial value, making a coin of the realm unnecessary. A lot of people in the weblog world are asking "How can we make money doing this?" The answer is that most of us can't." Though he finally admits: "Right now, the people who have profited most from weblogs are the people who've written books about weblogging."
posted by zenpop (27 comments total)
I am not able to say whether or not there is money to be made in blogs and blogging but in my case, at least, I run no ads, have no age checks, nor any popups...I do it to fill other personal needs. And that is sufficient for my payoff. It is indeed wonderful to be an American with lots of money!
posted by Postroad at 9:52 AM on October 5, 2002

A lot of people in the weblog world are asking "How can we make money doing this?"

I'm missing a step. Who are these people asking this question?
posted by delapohl at 10:00 AM on October 5, 2002

Weblogs are an interesting phenomena. There are so many that are unconcerned with anything besides making the author happy publishing for a few friends that it's almost silly to paint them all by a singular "weblogs" name. I would argue the majority have no idea there are people wondering about how they can make money with their blogs.

Like any mass market thing, there will be a minority that take it very seriously and may or may not find adequate ways of supporting themselves by doing it. I would argue that several people at the top of the heap (the ones that have gained employment doing what they do, the ones garnering thousands in donations each month) are making more each month than anyone will make from a book deal.
posted by mathowie at 10:04 AM on October 5, 2002

Who are these people asking this question?

I can count the number of them on one hand.

Ok, maybe two, tops.
posted by mathowie at 10:05 AM on October 5, 2002

It seems to me that "weblogging" could be considered a new art form made accessible through technology. Not everybody does it, some do it better than others, but it is rapidly becoming so prevalent that some people are making judgements about which weblogs are good, what makes a good weblog, etc. If you extrapolate that idea and compare it to other forms of artistic expression, it might make sense that someday, someone will get paid to do that. Someday, perhaps, there will be a Picasso of weblogs. (If not already?)
posted by jaronson at 10:20 AM on October 5, 2002

Yeah. About a year ago, and earlier, a bunch of people I know thought, hmm! How COULD I make money at this? And then we thought: Oh, by becoming corporate and doing something to suit a group of consumers and ad-buyers.

And then we thought... hey, that sounds really fucking dull.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:20 AM on October 5, 2002

Just knowing that a few people find my weblog to be interesting enough to visit every day is enough for me. If you try to make money from writing the weblog you may feel forced to write every day or often every day, without having much to say. I think it's easier to be under no obligations and just write when you feel like you have something to say.
posted by einarorn at 10:28 AM on October 5, 2002

Amen to einarorn's comments. I don't think I could blog for money. Even if I could, it would kill the value of what I am doing, which is providing a way for my family and friends to keep up with what is going on with me. I wouldn't want to make them pay for that. Would be the same to me as making collect calls to them every week to tell them the latest.
posted by illusionaire at 10:31 AM on October 5, 2002

Trying to make money on a web log is futile, and really missing the point. Do what you love, that way even if you don't make money, you're still happy.

I love my web log. I'm even up for an award. But I don't expect to ever turn a profit on it.
posted by hipnerd at 10:58 AM on October 5, 2002

Same problem with blogging as there is with web content in general. You've got to offer enough free to get people hooked on the value of your site (whether it's pointing to the right place or actually producing content of your own). Then you have to either rely on their goodwill or you have to offer something else... like text ads, or sponsorship of a piece (or day of blogging), or something else interesting (a slashdot subscription would be much more interesting if it included access to the rejected stories queue, perhaps).

Since most of us already recieve some other form of compensation, and don't add quite enough value to our individual blogs to invite compensation or sheer gratitude, we don't do those things. But there are a few blogish things out there I'd happily send $5-$10 to, if I wasn't unemployed...
posted by namespan at 11:47 AM on October 5, 2002

The thing hat mystifies me about this is, it's not as though many writers at all, in any medium, are 'in it for the money.' Novelists and poets and even journalists who are traditionally published, even the most successful of them, put in years of hard work with little or no pay, trying only to write well and be read. The notion of bloggers vs. print writers having a kind of 'indie publishing vs. The Man" rivalry is silly. Most writers everywhere long ago were forced to realize they can't make any money off of what they do, and they either continue or give up depending on how much they love to write.

All this new-economy hoo-ha aside, blogging has just made a lot more people into writers, which is a Good Thing. And whether you do it on a computer or a legal pad, writing is as it's always been. This whole micro-payments-for-reading-my-blog thing is so 1997.
posted by josh at 11:48 AM on October 5, 2002

i do it for the chicks, man. they're all like, 'wow, yer that bloggin' d00d!' and into the sack we go.
posted by quonsar at 12:36 PM on October 5, 2002

How do you make money? Well, if you're female, you get a web-cam, take your clothes off, and whine about how bad your life is, and get strangers to send you things.
posted by mrbill at 1:10 PM on October 5, 2002

Amen to einarorn's comments. I don't think I could blog for money.

In general, I agree completely -- but I make an exception for the Blogathon.
posted by picopebbles at 1:32 PM on October 5, 2002

Someone let me know when they figure out how I can make money sending personal emails, walking down the street, going out with friends and showing my coworkers my vacation photos.
posted by jonah at 1:59 PM on October 5, 2002

Wait a minute, Blogging could be The Next Big Thing! sarcasm off

Realistically, blogging may evolve into something of a 'minor league' for professional writers. It's a living portfolio of what someone is capable of, and a good indicator of their written voice.

It's simplistic and completely expected to be looking for direct income from blogging. Blogs can build and reinforce a public persona or expert-status, and those can make money in the future, but ultimately blogging is about doing something creative because it's rewarding in and of itself. I fully expect to see some of the current big-name bloggers go on to become columnists for big media, then they'll get paid. I'm glad people aren't making money, it culls the field leaving us with a group of people who really enjoy what they're doing and lets us watch them hone their craft.

Judging by what I've been paid to write for the computer book world, the blog-book authors aren't going to be buying diamond studded helicopters anytime soon.
posted by joemaller at 2:48 PM on October 5, 2002

I'm with Quonsor, I do it for the chicks. Who needs money if you're getting the chicks anyway?
posted by swerdloff at 2:58 PM on October 5, 2002

I don't see how blogging as a job can be fun. Or rewarding. What the hell would you put on your resume, anyway? *shrug*
posted by mrplab at 3:14 PM on October 5, 2002

i've made very little money off my "blog". however, the non-monetary things people have sent me have been very rewarding. so far, i've been given gifts of books, music, magazines (self published), photos, paintings, concert tickets, more sexy photos than you can shake a... stick at, lots and lots of mail (e and snail), a movie ticket (for something i was desperate to see that was sold out and only had one screening), and, from one enterprising reader, mashed potatoes. every trip to the po box is an adventure.
posted by dobbs at 3:29 PM on October 5, 2002

Years ago I was under the impression that blogging (actually we called it other things back then) had the potential to become 'the next big thing' but only if enough people banded together and worked together to make it something that could break the mainstream both in an artistic and potentially financially lucrative way. Unfortunately, there were more people out there who wanted to keep personal narrative from becoming trendy than there were people who wanted to take personal narrative into the mainstream.

I was full of crap back then. This idea is still full of crap now. Weblogging is no more financially lucrative or artistically fascinating than walking and chewing gum at the same time. If that ever changes, it will cease being fun.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:01 PM on October 5, 2002

I've made a little money on my photoblog. Certainly not enough to really rub together, but enough to keep me in batteries to keep taking pictures.

I think you need to be a camgirl to really savor the lucre.
posted by crunchland at 4:08 PM on October 5, 2002

I blogged (when I did) because I wanted the attention. When I didn't get it I stopped. It would have been nice for money to arrive at some point but that wasn't the main aim.
posted by davidgentle at 5:22 PM on October 5, 2002

Though he finally admits: "Right now, the people who have profited most from weblogs are the people who've written books about weblogging."

On the contrary -- I'm fairly certain any single one of the commercial tool vendors has already made more money than all the book authors put together.
posted by jjg at 5:49 PM on October 5, 2002

Anyway, Shirky's kind of missing the point here. Weblogs haven't lowered the barrier to entry; the advent of lightweight, freely available content management systems has. The fact that such systems have been used primarily to maintain weblogs is largely an accident of history.
posted by jjg at 5:56 PM on October 5, 2002

Whether the things that has bugged me in the last few years has been the decline of amateurism. It used to be that practically every family had someone who played in the town band, wrote poetry, or tried their hand at painting. Somehow with the development of the mass media the attitude became less "do you enjoy doing it" and more "don't quit your day job."

To be quite honest, the author completely misses historical context. The problem has not been printed publishing (which is rarely very profitable, and there is a long tradition of author-funded publishing) but with the professionalization and consolidation of all forms of media. A chunk of this happened due to the red scare of the 1910s in which Congress passed a law requiring that copies of periodicals must be registered with the Postal Service in English language, prior to distribution for examination for seditious language. The end result of this was that the number of non-English periodicals declined in ten years from over 200 to less than two dozen. The second major problem occurred during the wave of consolidation in the '70s and '80s. Most cities that had multiple competing newspapers ended up with only one newspaper, frequently managed by corporate interests.

Basically over last century, the print periodical industry was transformed from a market in which most people who wanted to be published, could get published in a neighborhood or community periodical, to a market dominated by a few key players that are considerably less interested in printing amateur work for the sake of building community. (The development of car culture, with the resulting decline in neighborhoods also played a critical role in this.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:52 PM on October 5, 2002

The kind of people who are asking "How can we make money doing this?" are the kind of people who think value always means money.
posted by kindall at 9:56 PM on October 5, 2002

I have a blog that actually makes a profit. This, in combination with my other online business, is how I make a living. Here it is, Sxxxy.org

Please be aware that the links in this post are to my own sites or affiliate programs. Normally, I wouldn't do that, but I do feel they provide valuble examples.

How to make money from blogs.

1. Amazon links. Sign up for an amazon associates account. Everytime you mention a book, movie or cd, put the Amazon link to it up. That way you make a few bucks every time someone clicks through and buys it. May not make all that much money, but I get 10 or 20 bucks every quarter.

2. Porn ads. Although my site is about sex, I've noticed that even on sites that aren't you get a lot of pervs. Everytime you mention..say, Drew Barrymore, you're going to get a few hits from people looking for nude pictures. You will be amazed at what people are searching for. I get a lot of hits from people looking for Fred Flintstone porn. I had no idea anyone would want something like that. So, sign up with some porn affiliate ads. Go to that link, find something suitable for your site, and make a few bucks. Maybe that's not much, but 50 to 100 dollars a month pays for some hosting bills.

3. Sell stuff on your site. I sell Hello Kitty Vibrators and Superman Zippos. Find something you're interested in and sell it on the site. Jim Romenesko sells magazines and things.

4. Ebay. Sell things on ebay and use your site to link to the items.

5. Take donations. Metafilter does it, so do a lot of other people. I do but I feel weird about it since I don't like to beg . I'd rather people buy something.

It's really not very different from what magazines, tv, and radio do. Advertise a product. Sell your book, cd, or video. Sell someone elses books, cd or videos.

Right now with all of these different strategies I make enough to live on without having a real job. You have no idea how satisfying it is to make money doing what you would be doing anyway. I look around on the internet for weird products at low prices. I applied for a sales tax id and now I can buy things wholesale.
posted by nyxxxx at 2:32 AM on October 6, 2002

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