Blogging Can Make You Money, Even if Your Blog Doesn’t

By Josh Catone
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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.

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  • Sebish

    I think this article is important for every want-to-be blogger to read and understand. I visit far too many blogs that are just completely covered with ads and it just makes it impossible to read, distracting and I looking back I very rarely re-visit.

    I think promoting your “product” and “skills” is a much better use for a blog.

  • I’m willing to give it a shot. Every little bit counts.

  • Excellent point. Just because one’s blog doesn’t directly put money in one’s pockets doesn’t mean it’s not as valuable as something that does. Having just started out, I’m just trying to make sure that I gain exposure as someone who knows the field well enough to write about it. That’s priceless.

    Pavel Lutskovsky

  • Glen

    I never thought of running ads on my blog as the return would no doubt be measured in pennies. However, blogging has gotten me free tickets to several conferences (to blog them) and helped me get into grad school, by giving me something to show for my publications. So far the payout for me has been extremely valuable.

  • Great article Josh.

    When I read that initial article my first thought was “Idiots don’t understand the real value”.

    It’s not just about the cash – it can be about branding and demonstrating your expertise and engage your audience to move them to a sale to search engine rankings etc etc etc.

  • sunrisesrs
  • Mike Masnick

    Just to be clear, I did not write that post on Techdirt. It was written by Kevin Donovan…

  • hairybob

    Dan Lyon’s is right on the money!!! Most bloggers would be lucky to scrape out minimum wage from their – largely irrelevant – efforts.

    Blogging for adsense and affiliate schemes is a con!!!

    As for creating wonderful opportunities, I suspect there are far better ways of spending the time required to get noticed through a personal blog….

  • And here’s me thinking that blogging was about having conversations, not making money. Naive, I guess…

  • Interesting, while I don’t really look to blog for more money, I’d really prefer to have a blog, and website where people interact with each other.. at least on my blog. Then again I’m sure I need more interesting topics to go with it. But I do agree with this post I just don’t like how people like to spam their own blogs with ads and make it harder to tell what is really content and what isn’t.

  • betterorworse

    This is an article with good points.

    But the bigger picture is so much different.

    I personally know bloggers, nobody knows. But they make six figure incomes. Not from one blog but 10, 20+, I’ve seen proof of earnings from advertising on single blogs earning $10,000 a month thats without adsense or adbrite.

    The truth is that there is money in advertising and if you know how to get traffic to your blog, people will want a share.

    Wizhard says Blogging is alive and kicking.

  • @Mike Masnick: Thanks, I’ve updated the post. I think I had two TechDirt posts open (love your site, by the way) while I wrote this — another that you wrote as a potential source for a separate post. I must have mixed them up.

  • Jorge Escobar

    I do believe people (audience and advertisers) will discern when the content posted is “fake” and when it’s unique. You started this blog humorously and thus nobody took it seriously. For all it’s worth, you had a lot of attention for a while. I’ve put some comments on my blog:

  • I meant the above comment refer to Fake Steve jobs, BTW, not Sitepoint or Josh…

  • Twinkletoes

    I do agree with the sentiments in this article. However, even if I didn’t, I don’t see why it has to be an either/or proposition. I do consulting, web design and programming gigs for my customers. That’s my main income source. If I can spend an hour now and then writing a blog post and make that average of $5060 extra per blog per year, it’ll be a welcome addition to my income – even if it won’t buy me a Ferrari (which is a useless car, anyway).

  • I have never seen proof of anyone making any money online. So I cannot say whether others do or do not.
    How much others make is their business, though I would like to know concretely what their incomes are. However, without solid proof I cannot take anyone’s word in this context.
    Everyone has the potential of deceiving everyone else, whether by design or coincidence. This is the direction of the new world culture, is it not? Ok, that is starting to sound dangerously close to the tone of voice of a conspiracy theorist. ;-) HA!
    The only way you can find out for sure is to try, right? That at least is my take on it, for what it is worth.
    If you want to see tips on Building a Business Blog, check out my tips. If you do not believe you can earn money off blogging then go back to work at the office or the factory and leave the blogging to us believers. ;-)

  • ricky

    Your are Great. And so is your site! Awesome content. Good job guys!


  • Zack

    If we want to get money from blog, first of all is to build credibility in certain topic for our blog. We must give something to people to attract them. It can generate high traffic then can get the profit. No shortcut for bussines.

    I like

  • Interesting article that ought to be a mandatory read for beginning bloggers. It would do an excellent job of injecting some reality into the belief that bloggers make a fortune off a successful blog. I fully agree that content based blogging is far more effective than advertising based blogging. Blogs that are filled with banners and scrolling boxes tend to be hard to read and are generally thin on original content. I much prefer reading a blog that utilizes a clean, ad-free design with high quality content over a really nice looking blog with below average content. Just my .02 worth.

  • RIMBBInfo

    I have started my own blog at

    Please have a look and share it with people you know

  • Seems like it’s a bit of a minefield of a learning experience on this. So many get rich quick plans and rubbish that wastes time.I guess the best thing is to blog on something you enjoy doing anyhow and if the money doesn’t come in it’s a fun hobby!