Some time ago I read a fascinating post by David Risley entitled “You’re not a newspaper – stop acting like one” in which he talks about how the newspaper model is dying and how bloggers should concentrate on giving people solutions.
In a way I actually agree with him, because it would be impossible for a one-person blog to re-create the reporting strengths of a newspaper. But I also disagree, because I think it is possible to report on something and still stay faithful to the concept of earning an income with a blog.
Let me explain.
Over the last few years I have learnt a lot about blogging. I have refined both my methods and my writing style, and at the same time I have able to observe which posts work well for the different blogs that I write for. Not all of my blogs are in English, and most are targeted at the European market.
One of my observations has been how people search for things on the internet and find posts that I wrote a year or more ago. Often they are asking questions, and I hope that I provided the solution to them in the post. If I did, then that’s fine. If not, then it is a good reason to re-visit the post and write a follow-up. After all, if I am already indexed in the search engines for the question anyway, I might as well provide a decent answer.
On my IT blog this can actually lead to new consultancy work coming in, as I often get called by readers to ask for me to implement a solution using a remote support tool. Since I charge my usual hourly rate to do that, a good post there can create income for my business without ever needing a banner ad – just a link to a contact form!
And yet in a way, I am often reporting on that blog about new features or bugs in a program or service. That report leads to describing a solution which in turn leads to the consultancy work.
A similar situation has arisen just recently on my blog about Germany. We have a big event in our town in a few days, and one of the concerts has free entry but an unusual dress code. It also has a couple of people billed to take part who were only announced at the last minute.
I wrote a quick post about it and mentioned who was going to be performing. Suddenly I was getting traffic from people looking for those names in connection with the event or our town – even before the official website was covering it.
This alone was sufficient to get traffic to the website and get new subscribers, but we started getting questions about the dress code. I managed to get hold of a more exact description from the press office responsible for the concert, and wrote a longer post explaining what would be expected.
The result was not just more visitors asking that very question, but people tweeting about it as well.
Other were looking for information about how to get home after the concert (eg. when is the last train?) so we answered that one as well.
Again, I was reporting on an event but at the same time I was solving a problem for a lot of people. And whilst they may not be paying me for doing that (unless they click on my Flattr button), I was creating interest in the site and increasing my subscriber base.
But I am also able to monetize these post in a different way, because it is not the only concert in town that weekend. I have tied some posts to a dynamic eBay banner for tickets to other events in our town, which at the moment obviously shows the ones taking place in the coming weeks. I am “cross-selling”, ie. directly targeting people coming to our town for a concert with tickets for other concerts.
Other posts connected to the event have been tied to Amazon Associate banners, showing the latest albums from the performers concerned. So people landing on my site by looking for their names, but not actually coming to see them are offered a physical product or an MP3 download that is directly connected to their search term.
At the same time, the increase in traffic allows me to approach my advertisers with the data and give them an added incentive to put their banners on the site, and if the number of readers reaches a certain threshold, then I will also receive royalties from our local Copyright Collective.
Of course I hope that some of those new subscribers will in the end buy one of my own products, thus increasing the site’s income even further.
To re-cap: I wrote about a local event before it took place, I watched the incoming search traffic for questions about it, and then I answered those questions by using them as a reason to contact the organiser. For me, that starts off being like a newspaper, but develops into much more by reacting to the readers and solving their problems.
Which just leaves me with the problem of being accepted on the same terms as people reporting for “real” newspapers. Local organisations and businesses – even our town – are usually happy to provide me with information and even put me on their press mailing list. Just every now and then you come across someone who wants an official German press card which I do not have.
Have you had similar experiences with your blog posts? Should I go into more depth about the tools I use to do this? Leave a comment and let me know!