The Business of Blogging

Earlier in the week Dave Stephens commented that he hopes to prove Debbie Wilson wrong that most bloggers are a transient bunch through his own work at Procurement Central. Personally, Dave has already convinced me that his blog will live on, despite his new venture. But in her post on the subject, I think Debbie raises some insightful points. By contrasting "corporate blogs" from vendors like Iasta and Procuri with "personal blogs" published by individuals, she sets up the argument that the latter "will end up going the way of most newly minted independent business consultants." Why? Because she argues blogs are "more of a means to keep up some visibility and network when in between jobs than a career move. And once that new job is landed, well those individuals may have much better things to do."

Unfortunately, I think Debbie is probably right here to some degree for those individual bloggers which do not aspire to profit from their activity or to continually build their own brand in the market through their blog. I will say, though, that bloggers which have been at it long enough are much more efficient that those getting started (so the time commitment should go down over time if posting levels stay constant). I've learned that one can do far more with his time after 12 months of blogging than is possible when starting out. Still, Debbie's departure from the blogosphere to the analyst world reinforces her own thought that a great many blogs will be transient by nature. She's a poster-child for her own argument!

Still, blogs don't have to be transient places if their owners treat them like a business. Treating a blog as a business is important on many levels. First, it forces you to write early and often. I feel an obligation to both my readers and sponsors to produce useful content everyday. Without that gun to my head, I'd probably wake up a little later in the morning, having drunk an extra pint at the bar the previous night that would force me to rise at a more reasonable hour. Second, it makes you think about how to measure success and growth, and to set goals for yourself which you can articulate to others. And third, it provides financial incentive to do good work -- a goal that motivates me and most others.

Earlier in her blog entry, Debbie asks, "what are bloggers getting out of this? Most blog sites don’t require registration, so the writers have no idea who is really reading their work. RSS feeds, an XML format for extracting and formatting news feeds and a popular means for delivering new blog entries, aren’t very ad friendly. By themselves, blogs hardly seem like much of a revenue-generating venue." This last statement is clearly the savvy business person in Debbie talking. But I believe that blogs still have the potential to generate at least moderate amounts of revenue for their authors if they can get their readership up. Spend Matters is certainly not a million dollar business yet, but it's nearly to the point of offsetting the opportunity cost of my consulting time. And that's not even factoring in the indirect benefits that it brings me or the equity that I'm building in this thing.

Why is Spend Matters growing? Simply put, because of my commitment and obligation I feel to always thinking about it. Our sponsors are banking on the fact that our readership and metrics will continue to rise, and that by being closely associated with Spend Matters, they'll benefit in numerous ways. And because they're paying me money, I take this to heart, and it's why I wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 on most mornings to work on it. My competitive, anti-establishment streak also plays a role in my commitment as well. Personally, my stretch goal is to pass the online metrics of all of the major trade publications in the sector in the next year (perhaps sooner). When this happens, I'll sleep well -- at least for a night or two -- knowing that one blogger can single handily build an online readership that's larger than those of the old trade media empires.

Jason Busch

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