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Can You Make Money Blogging? And, If So, How Much? Pls. Thx.

Can You Make Money Blogging? And, If So, How Much? Pls. Thx.

Photo by dhodge

A recent Wall Street Journal article seems to have gotten everyone buzzing again about how there is a fortune to be made blogging. One of the claims made in Mark Penn’s article is that “In America, there are almost as many people making their living as bloggers as there are lawyers.” Since he doesn’t substantiate this claim with any kind of credible data source, I will just as believably claim that he is full of shit. Do you know how many lawyers there are? And yeah, there are bad lawyers, and there are unemployed lawyers. But most bloggers make less than $500 a month, if they make anything at all. So unless you can live on $500 a month or less, I think what there are are a whole lot of bloggers who want to make money, but very few who actually do. And, what’s more, Penn cites an article that says just that: only 2% of bloggers can make a living doing it.

I think a misconception of people who do not read blogs regularly is that blogging is somehow not work, or not time-consuming: though it is true that everyone approaches blogging differently, and has different amounts of time to devote to it, I think it’s a disservice to look at blogging as being different from any other kind of business start-up. It takes a long time to get a business going, whether that business is blogging or anything else. It takes a while to get an audience, it takes a while to get advertisers, it takes a while to build enough value in a website to leverage it into other types of income like speaking engagements, book deals, or consulting. Most people give up long before this happens. Of the people who don’t, many of them don’t attempt to market their business like any other business would need to be marketed, or to write up a business plan, or to do anything that they would need to do to make an ordinary business run. There is a perception that blogging is somehow not subject to the rules of regular business: that somehow you will be writing something and millions of people will start reading it, even if you’re not that great of a writer and you have a bunch of stupid icons in your sidebar that you don’t know how to change, move, or update.

Still, aren’t you curious about what people make? Me too. Let’s see if we can figure it out.

Let’s Talk Numbers

The most comprehensive study that I’ve found on the income of bloggers was done by Paula Deane Mooney in June of 2007. Since most bloggers won’t talk about what they make, her list is largely based on estimates based on ad prices, as well as any information she could drudge up on other internet sources. She has included some people in her list that I don’t really count as “bloggers” per se, like Kevin Ham, who has amassed a “$300 million empire” built on those annoying parked sites that you land on when you misspell something in your browser’s address bar, and reselling popular domains to people at exorbitant prices. I’m just going to count actual bloggers who own their own sites and (mostly) do their own writing. Based on those limitations, of note from her list are:

Darren Rowse (ProBlogger) $360,000/year
Mario Lavandeira (Perez Hilton) $468,000-$832,000/year
Trent Hamm (The Simple Dollar) $6,000/year

My guess is that Trent Hamm is making more than $500/month now, since he announced in February of 2008 that he was quitting his job in order to work on his blog full time, among other pursuits. Of course, those frugal bloggers do know how to stretch a dollar, but at almost a million page views per month, and new representation by Federated Media, it’s safe to say he’s making a little more these days than he was in June of 2007, when his blog was only about 8 months old. Likewise, I think Darren Rowse has probably increased his income in the intervening year and a half, after starting another blog and considering his share in b5 media. As for Perezhilton, he is currently running $26,000 worth of ads THIS WEEK, so I’m guessing he makes closer to the higher part of the range given, if not above it.

So just for kicks, and in my ongoing attempt to alienate everyone in my niche, I thought I’d do some new math and figure out what some of our favorite mommy bloggers are making. For information on the semi-scientific mode of my estimates (cough), please click the links for each blogger, where I’ve provided a more comprehensive study of the numbers and how I arrived at them.

Mommy Blogger In Question Her Website Estimated Annual Income From Blogging
Ree Drummond thepioneerwoman.com $800,000-$1.3 million
Heather B. Armstrong dooce.com $1-$2 million
Alice Bradley finslippy.com $7,000-$13,000
Anna abdpbt.com $4,800 (but you can help by joining You Data (see the sidebar on this page) and *getting paid* to look at ads that are targeted to you–shameless promotion, but it’s still a cool program!)
Amy Storch amalah.com $65,910-$109,850

Here’s what I’ve learned: there’s a lot of guesswork, hearsay, and black magic voodoo involved in calculating blogger earnings. Also, blogging appears to be a very lucrative business once you get over the 500,000 page views per month mark. Before that, you make less than a fry cook at McDonald’s. Also, it takes about two years for a blog to really take off, except in very exceptional cases, and selling direct ads straight to consumers is far more lucrative, but also a lot more work, than using ad agencies. It’s not totally clear what it takes to break through the glass ceiling of big-name blogging, but it definitely requires a knack for marketing, mass-media exposure, blind luck, or some combination of all of the above.

Happy blogging, and if you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it. Perhaps we can get me into the $5,000 a year range someday.

Comments (6)

  1. May 13, 2009

    Wow. That’s a lot of freakin’ money.

    On the one hand, you have to admire what these woman have done. They’ve taken a completely new medium, and found a way to make a lot of money. That’s shrewd businesswomaning, and more power to ’em. It’s cool that we not only can work in most fields (something we couldn’t do even 50 years ago), but we can invent our own too.

    On the other hand…$1.3M (or even in the ballpark) for a bunch of pictures of cows…sheesh.

    On the flipside, I am sad that Finslippy is not making a fortune. She is an amazing writer.

    I wonder if it’s worth it, being in that $1M range. The hate and scrutiny that those woman have to put up with…I’m not sure I would find that to be worth it. I have no desire to be a celebrity whatsoever.

  2. May 13, 2009

    @Kerry, I do think once you get up into those high incomes people feel OK with criticizing you mercilessly. And it is surprising how little Finslippy makes, but I think only one element of how much a blog makes is the quality of the writing. There are so many other things to consider, and I don’t get the impression that she does a lot of marketing, etc.

  3. May 13, 2009

    I love Pioneer Woman. Of course, I’m also from Oklahoma and am frequently homesick. Apart from being from the great state of Oklahoma, she has TONS of content that changes frequently. She has giveaways, ads, polls, partnerships with other bloggers and so on. I’ve often thought about how much time she must dedicate to getting all that done. She’s working it!

    I blog for my family back home and that’s it. Sometimes I blog for friends when they ask for it. Just doing that takes more time than my husband would like. I don’t think I could do what Pioneer Woman or you do with your blogs, however, I find this post fascinating.

  4. May 13, 2009

    I don’t hate Pioneer Woman or anything; it’s just not my bag. I am a blue state vegetarian with allergies and a hatred of warm weather, so living on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma would be hell for me. But she’s clearly got a niche that people are into, and she rocks it. Plus, I saw those floors everyone was talking about. They looked great. I never got what the big deal was on that. Are bloggers supposed to have dirt floors or something?

    I don’t read a lot of mommyblogs, but the one I find fascinating is Her Bad Mother. She can be a little dramatic for me, but her writing is amazing, and she is clearly good at the promotion stuff as well. In fact, I’ve been thinking about this all morning now, and I wonder what percentage of success in blogging has to do with writing skills versus promotional skills. The ones who are making a bunch of money are the ones who are great at both, and that’s not a common combination of skills.

  5. May 15, 2009

    Reading this made me check my Google AdSense account and I see I have earned a grand total of $2.91 so far. I keep checking back at BlogHer ads and they are still “not taking new applicants.” ‘Til then I am keeping my day job. Mainly I blog because I like to tell people what I think about a bunch of random stuff and it gives me a microphone to do that. Also it can be very cathartic sometimes. But oooohhhh, I admit the idea of making money at it (even a pittance! I’ll take a pittance!) would be terrific too.

  6. Apr 11, 2010

    Wow. I, too make about $2 a month off my blog. Although every person who reads it TELLS me “I love your blog,” I can’t seem to increase my traffic. And maybe the are just saying that to be nice. Regardless, I am really enjoying what I am doing, and it suits my personality. I will write on, whether there is money in it or not!

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