The hypothesis of this post is not radical — that publishing sponsored posts would lead to a loss in blog readership — still, I wanted to gather some data over time before I published anything. So, after a year of looking at subscriber numbers, growth patterns, and total pageview numbers on blogs that have shown a dramatic increase in sponsored posts, I have the following to say:
I entered into this with the theory that highly successful blogs that dramatically increased their use of sponsored posts might reduce their traffic by as much as 25%. Let’s see if I was right.
Now, it’s impossible for me to show that sponsored posts are the only reason for a loss in readership/total pageviews per month because, as we know, there are a ton of factors that go into increasing or decreasing blog traffic. And not all sponsored posts are created equal, and not all niches deal with sponsored posts in equal ways.
However, I have been watching blogs that had heretofore maintained relatively stable traffic levels for months, if not years, at a time. The size of the blogs and the traffic of the blogs vary, but what they share in common is their niche (parenting) and the fact that they have gone from a very low level of sponsored posts (or, in some cases, zero sponsored posts) to clusters of sponsored posts, particularly at busy times of the year (the beginning of fiscal quarters, the holiday season).
Traffic over one million pageviews per month.
For example, take the case of a successful blog that averaged approximately 3.5 million pageviews per month as of this time last year. Over the course of the past year, this blog has gone from hosting no sponsored posts to presenting several clusters of them spread out throughout the year, beginning with the last holiday season, picking up again in the summer of 2010, and continuing on through the present. As of the time of the publication of this post, the blog had dropped to between 2.4 and 2.6 million pageviews per month — still a considerable traffic level to be sure, but nevertheless suggesting a 31% drop in traffic from this time last year. If we look at this loss in traffic in terms of reported gross display advertising dollars lost, this could represent as much as $12,000 less per month, or $148,000 less per year.
The next post in this series will look at the effect of sponsored posts on blogs with traffic of less than 500,000 pageviews per month.