November 30, 2005

Blog Monetization Makeover

Andy Hagans writes a slick article abou how to improve the monetization of one of Weblogs Inc’s blogs.

They would probably increase their revenue at least 50% if they listened to it.

November 29, 2005

All Your Favorite Sponsored Links…

Why would anyone want to pay someone for creating a directory full of nothing but paid ads?
Sorry I can’t live link because linking is a sort of payment…

There is nothing original or useful in or around the idea.

The hidden gem in that story is that people will promote garbage so long as you stroke their ego with it. The story has already been picked up by a number of bloggers.

At least the million dollar homepage guy sorta had an original angle.

November 24, 2005

Learning to Blog Guides

A few years back I read a few books about blogging. I have read a large number of books since then, but here are a few mini reviews:

The Why of Blogging:
The Weblog Handbook – Rebecca Blood’s guide to blogging. Talks about the ideas associated with what is important in blogging. Things like using an authentic voice, why people would want to blog, etc. It is a book more about ideas than a how to guide. Hard to define or describe exactly, but somewhere around the same timeframe I also read David Weinberger’s Small Pieces Loosely Joined and Rebecca’s book reminded me of being a bit like that.

If you read a ton of blogs for a long time you will probably already get much of what Rebecca is talking about, but if you are new to blogs it is a great book to read.

The How of Blogging:
Blogging: Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content is Biz Stone’s book about blogging. Short reviews of the various platforms and a few tips on using HTML. A few years dated, but still decent info. Geared more toward beginners.

While he reviews a number of platforms if you want to use a blog to make profit from it is important to keep control of your own data. I would probably recommend buying a domain and using WordPress on it. Free, fast, and easy to use.

The ? of Blogging:
AdSense and other contextual programs like Chitika have made it easy for anyone who writes original content to make a few dollars off their blogs. Recently I noticed that there are starting to be more how to blog products advertised across various websites on how to make fat cash with blogs. Some of them are a bit questionable though.

Yesterday I saw an ad for a guide to blogging from a site that looked like it copied it’s design from Blogger and had a comming soon page for the blog on their site. Why advertise a site before it is even put together? I mean it only takes a few minutes to make an intro post…especially for a site selling something about blogging.

I think I am going to read and review a few more books. I always learning from the perspectives of a wide number of other people.

Linkbait, Marketshare, and Monetization

Gary Stein noticed some anti blog advertising logo linkbait.

It is a bit of a bitch to monetize certain audiences. That is why you see some successful entrepreneurs running a number of for profit sites away from their main blog channels. The blog channels give you credibility that can be leveraged elsewhere, but when you combine the business model right into the blog sometimes that can cost you links, especially if people think you make large profits from it and / or if you have a web savvy group of site visitors.

As you get more successful your time has more value, and some of the best websites outright suck on the profit per unit time. Some jackasses send bogus lawsuits that can cost 10’s of thousands of dollars. With society the way it is you have to look out on the financial front or you may end up getting crushed by some greedy arbitrary assholes who should rot in hell (although I am not naming names there hehehe).

When you have no boss and a broad array of interests and are more interested in learning than making money it is exceptionally easy getting pulled a bit thin running too many channels. Hard to know when it is time to consolidate, take time off, kill a channel, or what to do. Especially when you consider the effects current and future search algorithms and monetization methods may offer.

The blog space is ripe to be tapped for large profits, and I think if I put the same effort into it as I did my website I could probably make 7 figures a year within 2 years. Not that I am all about money, but it is nice to know that if anyone ever tries to screw you over that you could make it hurt them far more than they could ever hurt you. My lawyers and this whole recent lawsuit deal taught me some valuable lesson about honesty and how that sometimes does not play an active role in the business space.

As the algorithms advance my SEO site’s time requirements increase logarithmically and people may not see that just by reading some of the day to day posts.

After you get mildly successful it is too easy to hold on thinking it will stay that way, but it never does. I need to be more effectively leveraging the stuff I have learned.

Hard to know when to let go, switch trains, or ante up all in. It’s not time for drastic changes yet, but I may look at some other stuff too.

November 23, 2005

Why Kill a Dead Blog? Archives = Free Audience

Nick Denton announced he is killing OddJack:

So we’re closing down Oddjack by the end of the month. We’d rather concentrate our energies on sites such as Deadspin, which have buzz and a growing audience, and new launches, which have equal potential. The moral of the story: it’s easy to launch sites; much harder to make them popular.

Being the smart ass that he is, Nick asked Jason when they would be closing their dead blogs. Jason responded:

Why close them? They can sit there and get traffic, make Adsense revenue, and serve as a resource for folks. I think the model is to leave these sites up… I don’t see the point in taking them down.

The two big tips there:

  • Archives have zero incremental cost. When blogs get past the break even point each additional day is more logarithmic profit growth (due to more content, more linkage data, and search engines trusting the sites more).
  • New channels are cheap. A new blog can be launched for $20. If you already have a solid well known blog you can use that market position to market the new site at virtually no cost (other than time).
  • Quality channels are a bunch of work. In spite of a ton of market research data you can’t be certain how successful a blog will be. In some markets it may make sense to make the least spammy channel, but if you are in a competitive field where there are other authors passionate about the topic it is much harder to build an audience large enough to monetize unless you put a ton of work into the blog.

Want to be a blog network mogul? A while ago I teased Andy Hagans calling him a blog overlord. He recently wrote on the subject.

November 22, 2005

Press Release Gets Blogger Media Coverage

Some stories are easy to sell and easy to print. This press release got this blogger the top Google News result for Bloggers and 3 interviews with local media stations.

Solid $30 investment. Great job Eric!

Do Blog Comments Matter?

Engadget to have comments no more. 37Signals just did the same.

If you are fairly well established in a niche with little competition there is no need to deal with or prune comments, but if you are in a fairly competitive field like tech reviews, removing the user feedback means that readers just go elsewhere.

I think the idea of only selectively turning comments on may make people more inclined to give feedback when you really want it, but with all the various niche electronics review blogs I am fairly certain most of the posts are not done by people who review all the goods, and throwing away user feedback throws away much of the value.

If you view reader feedback as a cost then maybe you need to look at your longterm goals and think of how quickly more open competitors will jump into the market.

[found on TW]

November 21, 2005

Product Packaging Matters…

In Price as Signal Joel states how intermediaries want to control pricing to leverage their market positions.

now when a musician gets uppity, all the recording industry has to do is threaten to release their next single straight into the $0.99 category, which will kill it dead no matter how good it is.

Seth thinks much media is sold one price fits all because of industry tradition.

13 Tips on Asking other Bloggers for Links and Link Baiting for Fun and Profit are both link building tip posts.

Rand offers the following advice in his post:

Don’t ask for a link – bloggers hate that (even I hate it). Ask for their advice, tell them you respect their opinion and like their blog (if you don’t, find someone whose opinions you do respect) and are hoping their feedback can help you improve. 99.99% of the time, if you implement some small changes they ask for and email them back saying you’ve made them, they’ll write about it in public.

That is really the key to actually getting good links. Make people think you care about the subject and you value their opinions. Make it seem like the link is unnecessary or an afterthought. If you do that quality links flow naturally.

In the same way that price sends a signal the method or reasoning behind contacting another person helps guide how they will react to it.

November 19, 2005

The Least Spammy Channel: Marginal Improvements and Incremental Income

Diversification Maximizes Flowage:
It’s expensive and time consuming to keep learning, reading, going to conferences, creating software, updating my ebook, and blogging a bunch. Many of my friends make far more income than I do by diversifying their revenue streams and running a number of lower profit channels in parallel.

The Top Channels Will Win…Maybe
I tend to think that inevitably the audience mind share / link popularity / rankings will all converge to where the interesting channels win big. As people become more starved for time the best channels will reap huge rewards. But there is a huge problem with that line of thinking though. We are not there yet.

Between now and then many people who are not focused on trying to be #1 are making shit tons of money setting up tons of competing channels. Some are more or less automated than others.

Competing With Automation and Semi Automated Content:
It takes a ton of time, effort, and / or money to run a useful dominant channel in a competitive field. It takes minimal effort to quick quote and write me too type posts that search bots are not smart enough to detect or care about (as there are bigger fish to fry).

If a category has great interest and few blogs then it is fairly easy to run the best blog on that topic. One of my friends told me that they had the least spammy blog in a category. He told me that multiple times about different sites. It is possible to do that, even with outsourced writers, because most people are so focused on the short term.

Lacking Competition:
Within many competitive SEO channels most sites are garbage lead generation or non content sites, so although the category appears competitive most of them are a bit top heavy (focused on generic queries) and automated. There is little original legit information in many competitive categories.

Having some original content and unique text makes it easy to pop on many 3 4 and 5 word queries.

Sure you can try to launch the best site on a high profile category, but content that is not linked is not quality content (or at least it will not be getting much free traffic love from the search engines). As important as it is to build linkage data, few people trust new websites unless you are absolutely excellent at viral or hype marketing. Perhaps it is best to start content channels that are decent and then build more quality into the site as time passes and linkage data and the post archive size grow.

Competition Scales Faster Than Profits:
I also have made the error of being interested in some of the most high profile fields. A good buddy at the WMW conference told me “we all have our own niches, yours just tends to be a bit more high profile than most of ours”. Higher profile does not mean more profit, just a ton more competitive. As you move into more competitive fields the subject specific competition tends to increase logarithmically far quicker than profit does.

Remarkability vs Profitability:
If you look at many of the people who are considered remarkable on the web you will notice that what makes them remarkable and what makes them profit are often not the exact same thing. Many high profile channels don’t make shit (other than link popularity to feed into the profitable network), and many of the high profit channels are not that exciting. Some of those boring channels just happen to be in categories that have nill competition outside of useless spam.

Feeling Stuck:
If I were starting from scratch today there would be about a zero percent chance I would create an SEO Book as a business model. And yet strangely at the same time I feel like I am stuck on it, when I am certain I could make 10 times as much working half as hard.

Cheers to those smart enough to make fat wads of cash by running the least spammy channels on topics that are full of spam and have few competing channels.

November 14, 2005

Profitable Channels and Blog Networks

Another day passes, and Knight Ridder, a major newspaper company explores being sold.

I think there are five large problems newspapers are facing:

  • inefficient ad sales (and online is only getting more efficient, with eBay offering up past transaction information and Google’s free web analytics product)
  • increasing number of channels (TV, magazines, web, blogs, etc) and shifting of attention online, and new ways to consume information (TiVo, deals to rent shows on demand, and Google may even go into renting books). Online you can even get a rough estimate of channel demand before you create a channel.
  • having to cover boring channels – online one can chose to only cover channels that are highly profitable directly via ad sales or indirectly via linkage data and attention
  • lower publishing costs, easier profitability, and larger distribution for individuals – now anyone can compete with you, without there being a significant barrier to entry (other than possibly the time needed to grab the market’s attention and have leading information systems trust it). With online ad sales getting more efficient quality micro niche sites become more profitable. The lack of borders makes some poor niche topics profitable when combined with the ease of search. It is also easy to publish a number of channels in parallel.
  • lack of topical interest or bias – sure media formats and publishing methods have some biases built in, but by being an individual you can get away with putting a lot more bias into what you do and focus your efforts on only what interests you. People are attracted to a bias they can trust.

I am not sure that I am smart enough to know the answer to the problems the newspapers are facing, other than strong online integration and reader becomes the editor or writer, but there can only be a few major players in any marketplace.

What other values can papers add that make them worth paying more for (either as a consumer or advertiser)?

The biggest reason I ask these questions is that a friend of mine has been giving me shit about not creating a network of sorts. My four fundamental problems with creating a network of sorts are:

  • The value I can add to the topic.
  • What I am doing now works well enough to get me by, and there is at least a small fear of change.
  • I have some issues with authority, and it might be weird for me to be a boss.
  • Ultimately demand and popularity follows attention.
  • Long term profitability and permanence.

Breaking them down one by one…
Value I can add to a topic:

  • I can get a channel decent exposure rather quickly and how to help stories spread.
  • I have a good idea on how to chose channels that will be profitable.
  • I know people in many markets. For example, so far I have partnered on one content site, and had a friend who buys ads on the site.
  • I can provide a good bit of capital off the start, and could pay people above average rates to write.
  • Although I have not done much in the lines of ad optimization, from chatting with friends and viewing sites I know a great deal about the topic.

One of my biggest problems with this concept is that I typically view the work of others as a big amazing combination of things, while minimizing my own work into the bits and pieces that it is.

Fear of Change:
To be honest I think I sorta was hella lucky with my market timing, and still have only created one hyper successful website. I also like that I am not stuck worrying about margins and money and business this or that everyday.

In spite of my work being profitable and decently linked, I still do not get much feedback on most of my posts. I am uncertain if that is due to my writing style, site format, or just me being me.

Authority Issues:
Not sure how to deal with that… 😉

Ultimately demand and popularity follows attention:
As information systems evolve this will only become more and more true. I struggle daily with debating what is useful information to put in my ebook and when teaching more is giving too much and overwhelming people.

The point being with that last statement is that as information systems evolve that ranking number 1 may end up meaning you need to be number 1 from end to end.

Sure there is room for a variety of voices on any topic, but as topics get more competitive will hired writers who are writing about a topic because they are getting paid to write be able to outperform those who love their topics. If not, will I be able to add enough value to the equation to where my network is still profitable. If you knowingly put inferior content at the top of the search results is it wrong? I have done it in the past when I needed to to get by, but I find it a bit harder now. And then at that point where does one draw the line with what they are willing to do for a dollar.

And even with that there are some issues because some less than honest business models are far more profitable than their honest counterparts. Just look at the AdSense ads for SEO. Most of the site submission ones are open fraud. Although Google knows they support all sorts of fraud they don’t want to be forced to define where the limits are.

I have yet to get much feedback on this site, but if you run a network of sites what made you decide to start it, how did you know it was the right time, is this post out to lunch, etc etc etc.

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