How to make money through blogging – two cases

BlogCamp, Media & Entertainment, Zeitgeist

In an effort to understand how make money through blogging let us look at two blogs which have in their own way been doing so:

Labnol.blogspot.comrun by Amit Agarwal
run by Wendy Cheng
(Pronounced as ‘sha shuay’ – as was told to me by Preetam Rai at the BlogCamp)

I saw Amit Agarwal for the first time at the Chennai Blogcamp last week. He spoke during the ‘professional blogging’ segment. His was perhaps one of the more eagerly awaited presentations – as there was enough buzz about ‘the guy who earned enough money through Google Ad Sense to quit his job and take up blogging fulltime’. Modest, down-to-earth and unassuming were the first impressions formed about a person whose blog visits are in millions (contrast this with guys who start seeing themselves as celebrities when their blog visits touch 100!) Amit went about inviting questions from the audience rather than make a formal monologue presentation. And questions there were aplenty — starting from the million dollar question (literally) – How much money does he actually make through blogging? While he parried that one citing the Google Ad Sense terms of service which forbid him from disclosing his earnings, people were heard discussing that it was to the tune of a few lakh of rupees per month.

What Amit did disclose was that apart from Google Ad Sense he also earned through sponsorships on his blog and consulting.

Some of the been-there-done-that insights were very interesting. Like how he now has a robust relationship with Google because of which Google responds with promptness every time he reports misuse/abuse of his name/blog.

Or how the choice of topics one decides to write on is as important as the quality of the content published.

And none of this is easy (he spends 10-14 hours everyday researching and creating content) or without risks (if the Google services he relies on – Blogger and Ad Sense – were to go down for technical or other reasons).

His blog also highlights the need for intelligent mapping between content and advertising, so that users don’t develop blind-spots towards predictable formats of advertising (e.g. the formerly ubiquitous 468 x 60 pixel banner ads).

However much before I had heard of or seen Amit Agarwal or Labnol, I had very avidly followed Wendy Cheng’s blog since 2004. With oodles of attitude and in-your-face irreverence, she is arguably Singapore’s most popular blogger. If Labnol is a one-man publishing company, Xiaxue is a one-woman entertainment company!

Based of the popularity of her blog a local apparel store signed her up as their brand ambassador – a first of sorts! But which if you think about it, makes eminent sense. For thousands of people who follow her blog – Xiaxue endorsing a brand has a much stronger appeal than any such exhortation by conventional celebrities in TV commercials. The same holds true for the places she visits, clicks pictures of, and writes about – restaurants, clubs, amusement parks etc. I discussed this with some people at Blogcamp and we all joked that the next time we go to a restaurant and say we are bloggers, the restaurant manager could very well ask, “What’s your Technorati ranking?” before deciding what to offer on-the-house!

Apart from Google Ad Sense, currently Xiaxue is running an ad-innovation – pixel marketing on her blog, and that again makes a lot of sense. Apart from that she does a lot of ‘in-post brand/product placements’ too.

The challenge that both face is that the growth of their business (sounds interesting, right?) can be either through (a) multifold increase of visitations (demand) on the existing content being generated (supply) or (b) increase of content – depth or breadth to increase the catchment group to include newer audience segments.

While (a) is the easier option for both, it is a variable both of them do not have much influence over (beyond their current efforts) – (b) can be much easier for Labnol as some of the content could be out-sourced to meet the demand pattern. For Xiaxue it will be tough to generate content other than what she herself experiences.

Overall, I would like to underline the fact that there is no easy resting-on-your-bums way to make money from your blog. Both these cases highlight that either you possess the natural flair of a Xiaxue, or be willing to put in the hard-work that goes into Labnol. This is not to suggest that hard work doesn’t go into Xiaxue!

The best case scenario could perhaps be the final remark that Amit made in jest towards the end of his session — that if he had been a pretty girl his earnings might have been even more!

BlogCamp Chennai 2006: Update

BlogCamp, Media & Entertainment, Zeitgeist

The sole reason it has taken this long for me to post this update is that the BlogCamp in Chennai ate my weekend, and it took me the whole of the following week to recoup.

A lot has been said and written about people’s expectations and the varying levels to which they were met or not met.

Since I did not go to the BlogCamp with any expectations most of what I encountered or experienced had a certain impact on me. And I would want to remember only the positives. (There are enough negatives in rest of the world to satiate the part of me that feeds on them!)

The first and foremost was the free WiFi broadband connectivity courtesy Sify. A second for me in life — the first being Chennai airport, which had free WiFi by BSNL under a promotional scheme last year. [This was commented upon by Shailaja Neelkantan and this seems to have rubbed GreatBong the wrong way!]

Then was Amit Agarwal‘s eagerly awaited talk where India’s most celebrated professional blogger offered some insights into what everyone in the audience wished should be theirs, but somehow isn’t — a serious enough earning from their blogs!

I had a long and interesting chat with Nikhil Kuilkarni who is one bright 21 year-old. Reminded me of my teaching days. Talking of my teaching days — it was a pleasant surprise when Nidhi came up and told me she had attended some of my media management workshops in IP College (Delhi)!

A well-deserved word of appreciation for Kiruba and the team of volunteers from Chennai.
The hype-spike was chief sponsor Yahoo bringing Sunil Gavaskar to the event, and that’s where I found a lot of the unconference attitude coming unstuck. I was bemused by some of the questions put to Sunil Gavaskar:

  • What do you think is the future of podcasting?
  • What do you think is the future of blogging as a medium?
  • Would you like to do cricket coaching through blogging?
  • Would you like to do live ball-by-ball text commentary a la Prem Panicker?
  • Why are you only doing audio podcasts and not video-casts?
  • Which other sportsmen do you think are doing podcasts like you?

All of this to a person who said the following quite clearly…

  • Frankly, I don’t belong here
  • I belong to the transistor generation
  • I am a two-finger typist
  • I once went on typing for quite some time without looking up into the screen only to discover that nothing had actually been typed
  • I began looking at blogs only in the last some days

Perhaps the only sensible questions asked were:

  1. Is there a possibility of another autobiographical book coming from you after Sunny Days?
  2. While in a 2-commentator setup, you feed off the other guy (which Gavaskar himself had enlightened the audience about), would you like to try commenting while feeding off an audience?

There was also an interesting presentation by photographer Sharad Haksar who shared some of his work and how the blogging community mobilized support and helped him out when Coca Cola had filed a case against him.

And not to forget the company and hospitality of my friend and ex-colleague Jamshed Rajan who was quite popular with the Chennai community and seems to have worked well on his positioning as a humour writer through his blog — ouchmytoe.

And my take from the BlogCamp?

That’s in the next post. Please be back.