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|
|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!)|
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.