Will There EVER Be Any Money in Blogging?

Mel has an interesting post today about how bloggers should value their clout (not Klout 🙂 ) as writers and refuse to accept non-paying assignments. On the heels of that, Uppercase Woman published her take on why women bloggers matter, urging people not to quit writing. Her point was if you even have a small following of readers, you can change people’s lives. But she acknowledges that the monetary rewards are not great for the vast majority of bloggers.

My father, it appears, lived in a golden age of the writing profession. He worked for a big city newspaper for 28 years, and supported his family on that income. He got to pursue his great talent and passion for writing, won awards, rubbed elbows with the biggest newsmakers of the day and from his position was able to publish four fiction books with big publishing houses. He had many, many colleagues who pursued the same path.

This path is drying up. I’ve done a bunch of research on the blogging industry and ad networks and the depressing truth seems to be this:

Very, very few bloggers (maybe 50 in the world) are able to earn a good living from their projects. The way most ad networks are run now and the traffic numbers brands demand to pay bloggers are not in favor of actually funding writers. (For example, in order to get paid $25,000 a year in ad sales, I’d have to get at least 25,000 page views a day. I don’t have anywhere near that kind of traffic.) Print media is declining, firing writers, the publishing industry is imploding. So I wonder if the profession of writing is a endangered profession to all but a few, huge, popular bloggers? And the surviving old media guard?

I’d love to be wrong on this. And if I’m right, how can we change it? Or is this the paradigm of the future?

Darcy always tells me that my blogging should just be a hobby, an advocacy project to help others, a support group to help me and my ALI friends. If I have gained nothing but the friends I have encountered through blogging, my life is very rich indeed.

What do you think? Do you have a blog which provides you with a comfortable living? Do you think this is a reasonable goal? Or should we just be happy to be here?

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Will There EVER Be Any Money in Blogging?

  1. Mel

    Well, I’m a millionaire from my blog 🙂

    Do I make a comfortable living from writing… no. But I make enough that I don’t have to get a different job. That said, Josh pulls the heavy weight in earning arena of our family. I earn about half of what I made by teaching, BUT I also don’t work as many hours as I did with teaching. So I think the whole thing is a trade off.

    That said, I don’t make my money by writing my blog. I make my money by the additional work that writing my blog brings. I get freelance articles, I get asked to lecture, I got two book deals, I got work published in compilations. But I probably wouldn’t have gotten any of those things without my blog.

    Back when I was getting my MFA, I realized that it was bloody unlikely that I’d support myself entirely on my books. I knew I would have to teach in order to make ends meet (or edit or freelance or… something else). So I never went into writing thinking that I’d be able to solely write. And I was okay with that.

    • This is really interesting: thanks for being so honest 🙂 It makes me a bit sad that you don’t make $$ from your blog (you do so much good work on there!) but I’m happy that it has lead to other revenue streams.

      My brother is currently getting his MFA, and he’s planning on teaching, too.

  2. There’s supply and demand at work here, too. As long as there are thousands of us who write because of non-monetary factors — like not being able to NOT write, for connections, for the sheer pleasure of writing — there will be an abundance of people with cheap platforms who will work for little or no money, or even just for toothpaste or antiperspirant.

    Part of the reason for this supply, besides the reasons people write, is that the Internet and blogging platforms such as Blogger and WordPress have eased the barriers to entry that your dad had to get through. Everyone and their dog/cat/baby is able to hang out a writing shingle, provided they have a keyboard and Internet access.

    Not sure it can be changed because we’re dealing with human nature and economics, but I’ll be tuning in to this discussion…

    • Rachel @ Eggs In A Row

      It’s true, the people who write for free cereal/toothpaste/etc make it harder to earn money. And blogs are the best way to get clients, I think! I don’t do a lot of things without checking with you guys. LOL.

    • Great point: technology has changed the game. And made the choices exponentially greater. It’s amazing that millions of people read my dad’s words, because there were so few options. Now there are millions of bloggers to read, based on topics and interests.

  3. I never in a million years imagined making money off my blog when I started it. I don’t know what exactly I was hoping to accomplish but making money was far from it.

    I have wished that my writing could make me money, mostly when I’m wondering how my family is going to survive on our meager earnings. I mean, if I’m already spending all this time writing, it would be great to get some monetary compensation for it to ease our family’s financial burden.

    I realize now that I probably wouldn’t want to do what is required to make money writing. Maybe some day I’ll want to but right now I don’t. Of course I don’t want to do what is required to teach anymore either so it looks like I’m up shit creek without a paddle! 😉

    I really like what Lori said about supply and demand. All of us who write to write, and do it for free, are actually hurting those who want to do it for money. We create content that is available for free, if fact we want people to read it for free. By doing that we make it less necessary for others to pay for what we do.

    I think the most blogging can ever be is a stepping stone to something else. Blogging can help you hone your craft and get your words out there. You can build an audience that might follow you to a paying gig, or buy your book, or support you in other endeavors that may provide you monetary gain. But I don’t think blogging in and of itself can make anyone money.

    Thanks for the great food for thought. A very interesting post indeed.

    • Yep: blogging is definitely mostly just a stepping stone, as Mel confirmed. And Darcy has always said that, too. Unless you are Pioneer Woman or Cupcakes and Cashmere. I guess I just had blinders on 😦

  4. I’m actually less sure that those who are doing it for free are hurting those who want to do it for money … because in most cases, there’s a quality issue involved. If you really want to make money as a writer, chances are you’re not doing free reviews of, say, bacon Lube. (I am STILL laughing over that post at Mel’s blog from a while back.) And I don’t think that there are many people who *ever* made money directly though blogging, because the only way to do that is through advertising, far as I can tell, and it’s simply too diffuse.

    BUT, blogging is a way to practice your craft, to gain a following, to get feedback, and to become a better, more thoughtful writer. And I suspect that if you’re good at it, and you want to write OTHER things (like articles or books), it will be helpful in the long run. (Sort of along the lines of Esperanza’s comment about as stepping stone.)

    I’d love to make money writing. It’s a dream that I’ve had, and deferred, and stomped all over, many times in my life. My blog was a way to process things, but also to let me entertain that dream as a distant possibility, and make connections to others in the meantime who would cheer me on.

    • Heh. “Stomped all over”. Totally.

      I think your vertical (baking) is one of the few vertical blogging markets with potential for big exposure, and ultimately revenue. So many people want to pursue baking and cooking. I guess it’s an eyeballs game?

  5. I agree with everyone. Blogging, by itself is not likely to support too many people and the hordes of people who blog outside of the marketplace don’t make it any easier for those who want to get in on the action. Those who benefit economically from their blogs tend to do so through another outlet, whether writing in other formats or maintaining a successful shop or business that is connected to the blog.

    It is my understanding, however, that many people hope to bring in revenue through blogging, hence all the conferences and workshops about building readership and formulating a successful brand. Considering how strong a force blogging has become, I’m sure that there are also some very interesting discussions taking place in corporate meeting rooms about how to best take advantage of blogging.

    “Corporate blogging” brings with it some important issues related to freedom of content and integrity. If you are being paid to blog by X, it is clear that you are expected to blog in X’s interest. That’s great as long as your interests and X’s coincide. Given the forces at work, I suspect that there probably will be more economic opportunities for some bloggers in the future but I also suspect that the quality of those blogs may be sadly compromised.

    It’s kind of a shame. Blogging might just be the perfect career choice for parents. It provides freedom and flexibility as well as a form of intellectual validation. But as Mel points out, it’s not easy for anyone to make a great living as a writer these days.

    • Yes: conferences are huge! I wish I could afford to go to one. And why are they all in NYC or SoCal? It’s utterly bizarre that there are not more in Silicon Valley!!

      Yes also: selling out and being inauthentic are the kiss of death for bloggers. Dooce may have gone too far with all her corporate sponsorships, whereas The Bloggess is seen as above all that, I imagine her book will make a load of cash, though.

  6. Port of Indecision

    So, I see it this way. There are kind of levels of bloggers. There are the blogs like mine, and we’re like Christmas carolers. Wandering around, for free, hoping maybe someone somewhere will like what we’re doing and also aware that lots of people are just going to roll their eyes. Whatever, we do it because it’s fun. Then there are the blogs that are like street performers, and every now and then someone throws a few bucks (ads) into their sax case. And then there are the people who’ve actually been chosen to be in the symphony orchestra, and get paid for truly producing quality work. So, to echo Justine’s comments, I’m not so sure the tamborine player out Christmas caroling is really competing with the classical cellist.

    I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid. Doubting my ability to actually make that a career, instead I just write a blog and silly parody poems for friends. I stuck with the language field and studied interpretation and translation, which is not unlike being a writer, except that I have to write or say what someone else wrote or said in another language. Which is actually harder. And more marketable 🙂

  7. Interesting post and comments. I had to think about it for a few days before commenting. I’d argue that it has always been difficult for more than a small group of people to make a living writing even in the heyday of traditional publishing outlets.

    I agree that blogging per se is more likely to be a springboard for other opportunities, but I also think that the medium is so new and the paradigms are shifting so quickly that it is hard to know what may happen and what opportunities for revenue blogging may create. Right now, we’re applying traditional rules to a new platform – who knows how things will change.

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