July 28, 2010 – A Blog is Worth A Thousand Bucks (I Hope)

I had an idea today.  I’ve been thinking about making another blog—one that might actually net income (as opposed to this one, which exists to help me get published and boost sales thereafter).  More than a few people actually make a living blogging.  I doubt I’ll ever get to the point where I do nothing but blog for a living all day, but some extra money certainly doesn’t help (and making money from my blogging—even a small amount—goes a long ways towards making me a “professional writer”).

It seems to me that the blogs that are financially successful and popular are 1) are mostly pictures, 2) appeal to a decent-sized audience, 3) are updated daily, and 4) allow reader contributions.

My thoughts:

1) A picture is worth a thousand words.  Of course, being a writer (and on dial-up internet), I prefer words, but I’m in the minority.  Pictures get people’s attention, and with digital cameras and camera phones, there are more pictures being created than ever before.  Pictures won’t ever replace the written word, but we may very well be heading towards a time when words supplement pictures, not the other way around.

2) If you want to make revenue from ads, and have companies give you samples that you can give away in contests to reward reader loyalty, you have to have a decent-sized audience.  And to get that your blog content has to appeal to quite a few people.  The Cheezburger Network of blogs (LOLCats, FailBlog, PoorlyDressed, etc.) appeals to a very large audience because it’s all humor-based.  They have pictures that will appeal to everyone who likes to laugh.  By contrast, if I had a blog about nothing but medieval history, that would appeal to a very small segment of the internet population and it’s not likely I could get a large enough audience to attract advertisers.

3) Daily updates are what really gathers an audience.  They want to be entertained (or educated or given some form of content free) everyday.  If you don’t have fresh material frequently, and your audience knows this, they won’t come back nearly as often, so you will have lower visitor stats each day.  From a marketing standpoint, it’s better to have a high daily visitor count than to have visitors visit once a week and catch up.  Frequent clicks are what it’s about.

4) Reader contributions are a necessity if you are posting new content every day.  The original creator of LOLCats can’t take picture of his/her cats every single day and upload them and call it an entertaining blog.  The thing about cats is that they frequently sleep and lay around the house; they’re not always entertaining.  And readers don’t want to see the same two cats over and over again anyways.  They want some cat diversity.  So you have to accept outside contributions.  This also has the added benefit of creating a more loyal following, because people enjoying seeing someone else appreciate their work, and they will check back often to 1) see if you used it, and 2) to see what other people think about it.  And when you use reader’s contributions they will be eager to go out and get you some more.  Recognition breeds extra effort. 

So, if I accept those four observations as truth, where does that leave me?  I think Cheezburger Presents pretty well has the market sewn up on funny pictures.  And while I like my comedy (after all, my dad is a professional comedian), I have this hokey idea about making the internet a more educational place. 

While driving back and forth to my new job on a new-to-me highway, I have seen all sorts of interesting graveyards and markers and things.  I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days, and this morning I think the idea finally gelled in my mind: a blog of interesting historical places.  These will include old churches, homes, town squares, battlefields, memorial markers, cemeteries, etc.  There will be at least one picture and a location, but hopefully I will be able to get more information, like why it’s important.  Thankfully, historical markers are pretty common-place in the U.S., so many historical places of note will have some information handy.

I will have to get it started by plotting my section of Middle Tennessee, but I’d like to have other people submit pictures and information on things of historical note where they live or have visited.  I envision eventually having a world map, where you can click on a country (or state) and pull up a roadmap (with interstates and highways), which will be marked with little pins denoting places of interest.  Click any of those pins and it will take you to the blog entry featuring that location’s historical point of interest.  I’ll also have it set up so there are categories, so if you want to just travel to cemeteries or historic homes, you can bring up all of those in a region.  In short, it will allow people with an interest in anything historical to plan trips, or if someone already has a trip planned, they can see what’s of historical interest or note near where they’re going to be.  People needing to do research from a distance (writers, genealogists, etc.) will also be able to use it to learn local history and get a feel for the place.

I’m still thinking about blog names.  One option is “What Happened Here?”

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