I see the two sides of the how-to-make-blogging-profitable coin as follows: Heads is the much-discussed challenge of monetisation (the word we all love to hate). You know – how can you take your passions and turn them into a career that will pay for your first home? Tails, however, is the seemingly forgotten but truly critical complementary quotient: return on investment (aka ROI). No, not ROI on the time and money you put into your own blog (although that effort and expense is to be applauded), but ROI on you as a writer. If you want to earn a living as a blogger, someone’s got to pay you money, right? Which means that someone will want assurances that any cash outlays aren’t just going to your Mai Tai retreat in Papeete.
Of course, the coin I’m contemplating is not one to be flipped. It’s on unwieldy par with the world’s biggest and heaviest lucre, so there would be no value in attempting to get such a numismatic behemoth into the air. In any case, both heads and tails are equally treasured.
What we’re left with is the unfortunately frequent use of the word ‘monetisation,’ especially in contrast to the utterances of ‘ROI.’ Instead of contemplating excessive riches, bloggers are busy flipping little-money pennies, wondering idly when and how to, for example, implement AdWords, start Facebook campaigns or accept sponsored posts. You’re forgetting or disregarding far more critical considerations.
What Marketers Want
In recent weeks, I’ve been reading and writing a lot about better blogging, especially in terms of quality and ethics. Feeding my curiosity has been an active and growing cabal of travel writers and marketers pursuing the (utopian?) idea of an empirical and holistic methodology for assessing the value of a blog or publication as a way of predicting potential ROI from a marketing campaign.
In other words, they’re trying to figure out how both writers and bloggers can provide the same kind of quantifiable metrics that magazines traditionally always have, and not just the unrevealing and increasingly discounted numbers of a blog’s unique visitors per month, subscribers, Facebook fans or Twitter followers. A generic Klout score may be an interesting benchmark, but what the industry really needs is a measure of a writer’s influence with, say, male, married, middle-aged southern Europeans earning more than US$100,000 annually and travelling to a foreign land for pleasure at least once a year.
That level of detail is not likely to be achieved anytime soon (if ever), but its value to the travel-marketing purse-holders is undeniable. It would also go a long way toward levelling the travel bloggers’ opportunity playing field, allowing project funding to find the kind of niche experts and targeted authoritative voices that will really make a difference to any commercial effort, even if the chosen writers aren’t social-media celebrities.
What This Means to Bloggers
As made clear above, key to all of this is travel marketers’ appetite for understanding a writer’s or a blog’s influence and engagement across selected demographics. Marketers want this because it’s what they’ve always been able to get.
Bloggers should therefore do their best to offer something approximating it. After all, you aren’t really doing anything all that different from writing for any other publication.
“They’re simply trying to emulate the long-established model of traditional publishers: producing reliable output that consumers can trust, which is funded by a reliable commercial strategy and successfully marketed to attract new readers,” shared Hit Riddle’s Matthew Barker, who has lots to say on the subject. “Newspapers and magazines are considered influential and authoritative because they had this figured out. Readers trusted their output and therefore bought more of it, so advertisers trusted them to provide ROI. Bloggers are now trying to do the same, albeit in a new landscape.”
Despite the obstacles, though, bloggers who wish to pursue their trade as a business need to research, understand and then make presentable a clear picture of how you are best qualified to take a client’s money and then deliver ROI.
So How Do Bloggers Do That?
* Play by the rules: Develop a marketing strategy that clearly emphasises your strengths. Better yet, develop that strategy as part of a business plan.
* Get a better measure of your audience – desired target, known target, demographics, reach, influence etc. If possible, demonstrate that your audience is not limited to the echo chamber of travel-blogger friends tweeting/sharing/liking/pinning/plussing one another’s work.
* Along the way, read and then decide whether to heed the advice of older-paradigm pro bloggers. They offer incredibly meaningful been-there-done-that observations and are excellent examples of entrepreneurs who completely embraced blogging as a business – the pure pursuit of money, traffic and peer recognition.
* However, do not simply copy established bloggers… or anyone else. By using the same WordPress themes and succumbing to trendy practices, too many blogs end up with the same basic design, content and cliches. Establish a unique identity and exert it.
What else would you suggest? And what do you think about empirical and holistic influence criteria for blogs?
Featured Image: Flickr/JimReeves