News Leadership 3.0

August 06, 2009

Entrepreneurship 101: Making money as a blogger

In a guest post, entrepreneurial journalist Julia Scott of BargainBabe.com, asks seven questions bloggers need to ask themselves when they decide to pursue revenue

Julia Scott is an entrepreneurial journalist, professional speaker, and blogger at BargainBabe.com, which helps people save money on everyday expenses. She just launched a second site, BargainBabeLA.com, which helps Angelenos save money using Google maps. Scott was a fellow in Knight Digital Media Center’s News Entrepreneur Boot Camp in May and I’ve asked her to write an occasional guest post about her adventures in creating BargainBabe.com.

By Julia Scott

The first question I get when I tell people I am a professional blogger is, how to you make money?

More and more journalists are grappling with this question as news gathering professionals leave mainstream news organizations and start their own blogs and websites. But the question we should ask is, are niche sites viable?

Maybe.

In theory, niche news websites make money by cultivating an audience that is the polar opposite of a typical newspaper audience. Newspapers offer advertisers volume, while niche sites offer passion. That means niche sites have fewer potential advertisers, but they deliver access to a highly targeted audience, which advertisers, in theory, will pay more to reach. Advertising is not the only money-maker, but it is one of the easiest ways to produce revenue.

In practice, the viability of a niche site starts with these seven factors.

1. How do you define profitability?
If you have a lavish lifestyle or are used to six-figure, old media salaries, your expectations may not jive with the reality of online sites.

2. How big is your audience? Even niche sites need a critical mass of readers. At the minimum, you need a few thousand eyeballs daily to be taken seriously.

3.  How passionate is your audience?
Comments, bounce rates, forum posts, average time spent on your site, and tips gauge how passionate your readers are about your site. The more involved they are in your site, the better off you are.

4. How commercial is your subject?
A site devoted to knitting will never have the advertising potential of one devoted to shopping. Subject matter is particularly important to journalists who cover weighty subjects that get little traction with the public. Advertising revenue may not be a reliable source of income for some sites, which need to be even more creative about revenue streams.

5. How creative are you with your revenue streams? Diversity is not just good, it’s crucial. In addition to multiple types of ads consider white papers, speaking gigs, sponsors, books, donations, events, freelancing, syndication, email lists, membership drives, and product referrals. Don’t bank on paid subscribers.

6. How much time does the job take?
Are you able to keep your site fresh and your audience happy in 4 hours a day? 16 hours? Is your site popular enough that aspiring writers will share content for free? Are you technically savvy enough to do basic maintenance? Do you have friends or family to help with technical meltdowns and crises?

7. Is the site your main gig or a side gig?
Having time to build up your site while not needing it to pay your bills is ideal. On the other hand, being under the gun to make it work provides motivation.

There are no black and white answers to these questions, but answering them is a good start to figuring out whether your niche site can be viable.

More guest posts by Julia Scott:
Entrepreneurship 101: Use the free stuff
A news entrepreneur lives her obsession and makes it pay

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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