June 12, 2006 -- Most people blog for vanity: They like having their "voice" broadcast worldwide over the Internet. Few seem to blog for money, but that is beginning to change.
You hear of people losing their jobs because of their racy, tell-all blogs, but you rarely hear about people quitting their day jobs to turn a blogging obsession into a profession. But some who have made that career switch find they make more money in a week than they had in a year with their regular jobs. So how do you make your blog profitable?
Amanda Congdon, 24, one of the co-founders of Rocketboom.com, a video blog (vlog) that charges advertisers up to $85,000 a week to put their message on the site. Rocketboom launched in 2004 and now gets 300,000 viewers a day.
Rocketboom, a three-minute daily vlog based in New York City, has a feel not unlike Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" -- current events with a humorous edge.
Congdon sits behind the news desk, in front of a world map, as if she's going to report hard-hitting news, but when she starts talking, she is everything but a typical news anchor: Her eyes pop with expression, her content is quirky and her hand gestures animated. It's a site that has figured out not only how to entertain the tech-savvy, Internet audience but also how to make a profit.
Some of the advertising is integrated into the content. In one vlog cast, Congdon wears a black T-shirt with white lettering that reads "Mac Chick" -- a shout-out to Apple Computers.
In February Rocketboom sold advertising space on eBay to the highest bidder, for $40,000. That auction winner, TRM, an ATM and photocopy services firm, received five new commercials, 15 to 60 seconds in length, created by Rocketboom. The spots aired on the site for one week. The five original advertisements linked to the sponsor's Web site, and they live on in Rocketboom's archived Web pages.
After selling a couple of successful ad campaigns, Rocketboom is now selling ad space on a sliding scale, based on a company's annual gross revenue. For instance, if the company has an AGR of $100 million or more, an ad campaign produced by Rocketboom would cost $85,000 for a five-day run.
One of the world's most famous corporate bloggers, Robert Scoble, began blogging about his employer, Microsoft Corp., in 2000, to create greater transparency within the firm.
At Microsoft, Scoble acted as a reporter, exposing the thinking -- good and bad -- of more than 700 employees through video interviews that he made available on a blog called Channel 9.
While most corporate bloggers get a pink slip when an employer discovers their corporate blogs, Microsoft founder Bill Gates liked the idea and let Scoble continue.
Now his blogging expertise has paid off. Scoble, 41, is leaving Microsoft to take the vice president's chair at PodTech.net, a Menlo Park, Calif., media startup. He'll be responsible for creating technology-based podcasts, which allow computer users to watch television-style interviews over the Web.
In addition to a new title, he'll be getting a substantial increase in pay.
How to Make Money as a Blogger
Video is the key to the success of a blog, according to Scoble. "I could explain what Halo 3 [video game] looks like much better through a one-minute video demo than I could a text write-up," he said.
That's what Scoble will be doing at PodTech.net, making content for corporations so consumers can communicate more efficiently with companies. "That's what people want," he said.
Scoble said he can only hope his site is as successful as Rocketboom's. "Amanda [Congdon] built a unique brand that people want to be connected with," said Scoble. "She's cool, interesting and got interesting people around the world who contribute -- that's what advertisers want to be next to."
But Rocketboom won't be going it alone for much longer -- it's joining up with another popular site.
Scoble said the new trend is a group of complementary blogs and vlogs connecting to create a competitive network. "It becomes just like a television station," said Scoble.
But just putting content out and hoping people like it isn't a formula for success.
"[To make money] you have to have either a really big following or an extremely targeted audience, but either way you need a good salesperson," said Kyle Crafton, publisher of Mediabistro.com, which provides tips, job advertisements and other information targeted to people in media, publishing, journalism and advertising.
Mediabistro charges advertisers $30 for targeting each bundle of 1,000 users, which means to target Mediabistro's entire user base of 1 million would cost a company $30,000.
For people hoping to start a profitable blog, Crafton suggests logging on to technorati.com, a site that rates blog traffic, and see what type of blog generates hits.
The key to a successful blog is stirring up interaction, said Internet veterans.
"You want people blogging up a storm on your site," said Brian Stetler, founder of TVNewser.com, a blog focused on what's going on in the media.
Stetler said the key to his success is the amount of blogging he does. "You have to become obsessive about it," he said. "You have to get new postings up every single day and be consistent so people come back every day five times a day, not just once a week."
But it's not just the quantity of text, it's the visual component that draws in people. "Video inspires loyalty. It's got a buzz effect. People call people over to their computer to see it," Stetler said.
Blogs that can demand the highest ad premium are typically political sites, like dailycoast.com and redstate.org. On those sites, advertisers can actually see how much money a particular ad campaign has generated.
Don't Quit Your Day Job
Henry Copeland, president of BlogAds, a service that connects advertisers with bloggers, agrees that adding video, like Rocketboom does, allows a blog to get more money from an advertiser.
If a blogger sticks only to text, an advertiser will pay a top trafficked blog only between $10 and $5,000 an ad for a weeklong campaign, BlogAds reports.
Copeland said the most successful text-based blogs out there can typically generate just enough money for a round-trip ticket and vacation in Hawaii.
Copeland cautions bloggers not to get too excited about the prospect of a windfall.
"Only about 200 bloggers out of the estimated 20 million out there could actually quit their day jobs," he said.
But for would-be professional bloggers, he advised, "be diligent, develop a name brand. You don't just start making money the moment you sit down and start blogging."
But Copeland can pinpoint a common thread that characterizes the top bloggers -- a strong personality.
"Journalism has always boiled the personality out of the writer, except for what's on the op-ed pages. These bloggers have no shame or fear of using 'I'," he said.
It's that uppercase "I" -- the bigger, the bolder -- according to Copeland, that separates those who blog for free from those who blog for money.