A micro model way to make money – Part 1 of 4

August 26th, 2008 by Robert McIntosh · 7 Comments

1. Micro … PUBLISHER

We CAN make money blogging about wine, but as with all business ventures it is very difficult to be successful without having a clear idea of what your business IS, and how you are going to achieve that success.

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Most bloggers have little plan of what they are doing, where they want to take their blog content, who their audience is, and who they want to reach, and therefore have little idea of how to find a way to monetise this effort.

We can spend our entire time discussing points systems, whether bloggers need accreditation, whether the content we produce is valid, accurate or objective, and still never achieve a thing.

I’d like to suggest a simple framework for discussing what ‘kind’ of wine blogs are out there, and how we could use that to define the models for generating some kind of revenue.

To frame the discussions, let’s ask a few questions:

  1. How much money do you expect to make?
  2. Are you planning on being a pop star, or an orchestra musician?
  3. What are you selling, and is it something anyone will pay cash for?
  4. What influence do you have?

Are you simply hoping to cover your web hosting costs, or are you planning on retiring to the Bahamas from your wine blogging effort? There are many ways to make money from sites, but the tactics to adopt, and the effort and time they take will depend on whether you are:

  • earning some pocket money
  • generating a second income
  • making this your primary source of income
  • building a business

There is really no way of avoiding the fact that output – money, is proportional to inputs – writing, marketing, sales, design, creativity and passion, so the more you hope to make and the more you rely on this revenue, the more effort and time you are going to have to commit to it.

…being a good writer might get you a paid job as a journalist, it does not guarantee any returns as a blogger

In my view, no matter what you “publish”; tasting notes, winery histories, wine marketing or industry gossip, the standard internet model of revenue generation, Advertising, requires you to become a “pop star”.

Money follows fame. Fame, CAN be a result of quality content, but could equally be a result of clever marketing, luck, dubious practices, or simply old fashioned networking, but in terms of “fame”, it doesn’t matter once you have it. In other words, whilst being a good writer might get you a paid job as a journalist, it does not guarantee any returns as a blogger.

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For a blogger, “fame” is measured in two main ways: traffic and popularity. More ‘eyeballs’ on your site, and more incoming links, means “this must be good”, which in turn generates more eyeballs and more incoming links. Is Britney Spears famous because she is a good singer, or is she now famous because she is famous?

Advertising revenue models are for the famous. If your site is popular, brands will want to be associated with it and retailers will want a percentage of that traffic. So, to answer the question, if you want to make money with a wine blog, you need to generate lots of traffic and be really popular. Sounds easy.

Unfortunately, as thousands of wannabe Britneys will attest, actually become famous isn’t that easy. Wine may be very interesting to you and me, but we are still a small minority of the population.

The easiest option is to sign up for Google AdSense, who will pay you (a pittance) for adding their advertising system to your site. It might take the entire month’s traffic to generate enough eyeballs and clicks to make $10 but you don’t have to do much to get the money, and if you spend the time driving traffic instead, you could get some revenue. However, it is a generic model, and wine is not in the same traffic league as music, sport or celebrity gossip sites (or pornography for that matter).

You could make some calls yourself and try and get wine related brands and retailers to advertise directly on your blog. This takes a LOT of time, and you have to decide what you are offering. In most cases it is that elusive fame/traffic thing again, but at least you get to explain the quality of the audience rather than its sheer size.

But making money working on your own is very difficult.

What if someone could do this for you?

Advertising & Content networks do exist, and you could sign up for a Wine Industry specific advertising network, such as VinoClic.it who will take the pain out of sourcing advertisers and they find brands targeting wine sites. It means that brands are prepared to pay more per eyeball and click because of the very targeted nature of the network, and you will make more money, but the model still relies on you building traffic and increasing your fame.

The benefit here is that by cooperating with other bloggers, the combined readership and popularity is enough to encourage bigger brands to advertise, and a dedicated sales team to sell that advertising means that you can get your “quality” message over. Instead of relying on becoming a wine industry “pop star” you are now part of something larger and of hopefully greater combined quality, let’s call this an orchestra model – lots of players working towards a similar goal, and still the scope for soloists, specialists and even for some to simply tag along for the ride.

[on a side note, REAL advertising revenue can only come when the network can prove what it is selling. All wine bloggers will need to find a way to put this advertising in place in a consistent manner, AND find out exactly WHO they are reaching. We have some interesting ideas on this matter to discuss during the conference]

Realistically speaking, however, even this model will still only move you from “pocket money” to buying a few more bottles of wine a year unless you radically transform your traffic figures.

So, if advertising alone isn’t going to make enough to live on, what is?

A different take on monetisation in Part 2 (and 3) coming soon

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Tags: Advertise Here? · Conference Discussion

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