Is blogging a sustainable way to make a living?
I’m going to preface this by saying that talking about this is actually my job, and I am actually qualified to have opinions about this that are founded in experience and knowledge both client and agency side. I have worked in digital marketing for 11 years, which is longer than most people in Australia have been on the internet (true fact). This post contains thoughts from underneath my digital marketing hat, not my personal bloggery hat.
I see no issue with people monetising their blogs (did you know that “monetise” is really an invented word, by the way? it might be my favourite one). In fact, I have a blog that I am occasionally paid money for, sometimes with two zeroes. So it would be hypocritical of me to think that monetising blogs was the debbil or that people who post sponsored content are in some way lesser humanoids than I, and so I don’t, because I am hypercritical. Is that the opposite? I think so.
No, my concern (it’s more of a concern than an ‘issue’) is with the sustainability of the monetised blog as a business model.
For example – you know how all those major media outlets made all those changes last week that put people out of work? That happened in part because it is really hard to generate an income from putting advertising widgets on websites. They have much bigger audiences than you or I (especially I) and even they can’t make a sustainable future out of monetising a digital asset in this way. So that’s the first problem.
The second problem is that there will always be someone who is willing to be less prudent than you in choosing what type of content an organisation can buy from them. And what happens when this occurs is very simple:
1. People undercut other people – “I will talk about it on my blog for $50 less than the other people.” This is basic (poor) business, and it happens in all industries.
2. Organisations choose cheaper bloggers / tweeters / other communicators because that is also basic business.
3. Bloggers can’t afford to invest heaps of time in the content they produce because they’re doing it so cheaply, so people stop reading it because it’s crap.
4. Companies stop investing in bloggers because the value they can provide is inefficient.
5. No one makes any money from it anymore.
This is all compounded by the fact that blogging of this kind is so new, and therefore a strange unknown to the organisations that want to invest in it. They don’t really understand the culture, and they don’t know the different communities (and you’d be naive to think that “mummy bloggers” are the only community of bloggers) intimately enough to understand where the greatest value is. So they will rely on the bloggers themselves give them the low down on how they should be spending their money, and this will result in – drum roll, dot com land – a bubble. An unsustainable, saturated market that can’t support itself.
I’m saying these things because the bloggers who come out the other side with an income intact are going to be the ones who understand the value of the periphery. Do you know what it’s like? It’s like, Paris Hilton was famous for being famous. But she knew that couldn’t provide her with an income forever, so she capitalised on her fame – she monetised her fame. She – or maybe it was Nicky? – started making bags and selling dogs or whatever and then when they weren’t famous for socialising anymore, they had secondary and tertiary and otherary income streams (and huge trust funds, but for the purposes of this analogy we can ignore them). Being a blogger who is famous for being a blogger is nice, but it won’t pay bills indefinitely. It needs to be supported by complementary external devices through which to earn money.
So about my other blog – it is a “business” blog. A business blog that doesn’t turn anything close to a profit. It is not personal or confessional and it doesn’t have a following of people who wait for me to have a nervous breakdown in ones and zeroes. I am happy to sell out on that blog (in ways that are relevant to my audience, because I believe in the power of consistent branding) because it is a business, and it has always positioned itself as a business, and the people who read it know that it’s a business. I will never post sponsored content on this website because it is the opposite of all of those things, and the idea of throwing in a washing powder advertorial feels like a betrayal of the kinds of things I write here. Like, sometimes I feel like a bad parent and my child is being assessed for autism spectrum disorders but GOD I LOVE OMO*.
That is not to say that I don’t think you should, and I don’t much worry about whether you do or you don’t. All I’m saying is that I doubt very much that this type of income is sustainable, and the period of time in which a decent salary can be earned from blogging alone is, in my opinion, going to be very short lived indeed.
* OMO didn’t sponsor this, it’s just the easiest one to type.