It’s true that most blogs don’t make money directly. It’s also true, however, that a large number of bloggers make a lot of money as a result of their blogs. That’s why the assertion by Newsweek’s Dan Lyon’s that blogging is “yet another high-tech fairy tale” struck me as particularly absurd.
According to Lyons, whose blog “The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs” gained mass popularity over the last year or two, blogging is not a good way to make money. Lyons’ blogging experience led him to the conclusion that “while blogs can do many wonderful things, generating huge amounts of money isn’t one of them.”
Lyons concedes that a lucky few blogs, and those that are part of larger media properties, are making good money for their writers — writing for those types of blogs are how I’ve managed to make a fairly comfortable living as a blogger for the past few years. But those success stories are few and far between, says Lyons. “Technorati, a blog researcher, estimates that bloggers who run ads earn an average of $5,060 per year,” he writes. “Don’t call the Ferrari dealer just yet.”
What Lyons fails to mention, is how much money blogging can make for people by opening doors. Some of the most successful blogs, in terms of how many opportunities they generate for their authors, are blogs that don’t even have any ads on them. Blogging pioneer Dave Winer wrote today that blogging has made him more than $2 million over the past 12 years by allowing him to publicize his businesses and land consulting gigs.
Another popular blogger, Robert Scoble, has only just recently started to run ads as on his blog. I’d be willing to bet they don’t make him a lot of money. But his blog has most certainly landed him plenty of paying consulting and speaking gigs, and likely played a role in how he got his current job as a columnist for FastCompany.
Blogging can help you build your personal brand and help to establish you as an expert in your field. Your blog can make you money indirectly by capturing mindshare for you and attracting paying gigs in your field, whatever that might be. This is actually something I’ve been saying on the SitePoint Blogging forums since they opened. “If you’re not in the top tier of bloggers, making money on advertising will be hard. But using your blog to promote your brand [...] is a great idea. I can’t tell you how many friends I have who use their blogs to get consulting clients, or land jobs, etc.,” I wrote in a forum post 13 months ago. Then, this is what I wrote a couple of months ago in the same forum:
Some personal blogs earn income, but most don’t. Or they do, but it’s such a paltry sum it isn’t enough to live off of (and maybe not even be enough to cover the hosting bill).
However, personal blogs can pay dividends in other ways. Blogging is a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your field. While you may not make a direct income from ads, a well received blog can help land you a job, consulting gigs, speaking engagements, can help you sell books, services, or whatever you do, etc.
For many people, their personal blog is a great marketing tool for building their personal brand. It doesn’t make them money directly, but it does make them money.
So what about Lyons? Turns out, his blog made him a lot more than than the $1,000 per month he says he pulled in from AdSense. As Kevin Donovan at TechDirt points out, Lyons has parlayed his blog’s success into a number of paid writing and speaking gigs. “What’s missing from Lyons’ piece, of course, is the great success he experienced as a direct result of blogging,” writes Donovan. “Not only did he receive a big book deal using the same Fake Steve Jobs character he created for the blog, Lyons has been invited to speak and write widely on the topic. Further, it’s doubtful that his high-profile switch from Forbes to Newsweek was anything but augmented by his blogging success.”
Bottom line: Your blog itself might not make any money, but blogging itself certainly can pay out big.