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Blogs and ads

November 28th, 2005

With the general resurgence in Internet-related commercial activity and speculation, it’s not surprising that a fair bit of attention has turned to the commercial and advertising possibilities of blogs. Blogging as a large-scale phenomenon came too late to cash in on the dotcom mania last time around, but plenty of people are keen on a bite at the cherry this time around. The multi-million dollar purchase of Weblogs Inc got lots of people thinking about how much their site might be worth.

But just like last time around, there are plenty of reasons for scepticism. Looking at the prices being charged by leading bloggers on Blogads, it doesn’t seem as if many people are making a lot of money. Nic Duquette did the sums and concluded[1] that a site with 10 000 page views a day ought to be able to gross around $US4500 a year. Putting in 10 hours a week for this kind of return amounts to a wage of $US9 an hour, and that’s before you allow for any costs.

While I’ve been following the debate I noticed an Australian blogger who claims to be making $100 000 a year with a bunch of blogs, getting a total of 10 000 to 15 000 visitors per day. That’s massively better than the rates implied above, and (if correct) suggests the benefits to be had from exploiting the workings of Google.

Darren Rowse operates a site called Problogger and a string of commercial blogs. The most notable seems to be this one, which deals with digital photography. It’s not quite a splog, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read it on a regular basis.

The articles are almost all of the form “Site X has a review of Camera Y and writes …” There’s little or no analysis, and hardly any comments are posted. The other sites seem to be much the same.

From Rowse’s discussion, it looks as if most of his readers come via Google searches, and presumably a fair number of them leave by clicking an ad. Nice work if you can get it, but it’s hard to see what value is being added by the blog content.

Cutting to the chase, I don’t plan to put ads on this blog any time soon. The modest returns that appear to be available for a general blog like this one don’t justify the effort, potential problems and reduction in the quality of the blog for readers.

fn1. It seems likely that this is an overestimate, since his starting point was the assumption that Daily Kos pulls in $600 000 a year, and Kos says this is far too high.

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  1. November 28th, 2005 at 22:05 | #1

    I could be wrong, but reckon the $100,000 a year is an exaggeration. Then again, the comparison between his figures and the Nic Duquette numbers you mention in the previous para is difficult to make, one being page views, the other being visitors.

    BUt $100,000 on -15,000 visitors? God does work in mysterious ways.

  2. November 29th, 2005 at 11:29 | #2

    I dabble in Adsense on my blog. From my experience for personal blogs there certainly is no money in it. The main reason I have them there is to get some money to offset hosting costs. Try to make them as unobtrusive as possible. I’ve found people don’t click on ads on my personal blog, but on my wallpaper site, I’ve just barely made enough to cover hosting costs. But I certainly would hate to work out the $/hour sums.

  3. November 29th, 2005 at 11:47 | #3

    The stats for this blog are publicly viewable and yes it appears that nearly all visitors come via search engines. This site appears to be to be a clearing house for press releases for a highly specific product area. The trick is to get recognised by Google as a primary expert in an area of interest and then stay that way. I noticed that other technology blogs have also linked to its entries as their source for the product announcement. All the better for page ranking.

    Despite the raw quality of the data however I do think that these kind of sites do provide a useful filtering service in the web ecosystem. But despite the similarities in format I think that this should be considered a very different beast from a true blog.

  4. November 29th, 2005 at 11:50 | #4
  5. November 29th, 2005 at 13:21 | #5

    thanks for the links.

    I’ll make a couple of clarifications.

    Firstly the 15,000 visitors figure is for one of my blogs. I personally own 15 active blogs which generate anything from 30,000 to 40,000 visitors on a day.

    With regards to whether the site has regular readers…

    While SE traffic makes up the majority of readershipo the blog has about 25% loyal readers (2,000-3000 per day). It has a newletter subscriber list of around 6500 at present. You’d be surprised how many people loyally follow a brand of digital cameras and want to know as soon as a new camera is released.

    Lastly – with regards to content – yep we have a lot of links to other sites. Most of the sites we link to email us when they do updates to let us know when they update as they want us to link to them with a quote and link as we send them so much traffic. The reason I do this is that I want to provide a space for digital camera enthusiasts to find all the relevant information in the one spot. In a sense it’s a hub of what is going on in the rest of the digital imaging web and sends out people to the relevant sites.

  6. November 30th, 2005 at 10:49 | #6

    Well, I’m for people making a quid out of blogging, so well done. It does strike me again, though, as mentioned in other contexts, that the word ‘blog’ is being asked to do a lot of work these days. It’s not a huge issue, but it would be useful for the title to more easily reflect the difference between Darren’s camera blog and, say, this one.

  7. Mark
    December 11th, 2005 at 14:35 | #7

    I think tip jars/merchandising are the way to go. I will happily sling a cuppla bucks to a blogger who’s work I endorse.

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