If you ignore the hype and concentrate on the fundamentals, online channels such as podcasting, blogging, e-newsletters, e-books, and downloadable tools and templates have the potential to provide you with a decent income.
Australian blogging guru Darren Rowse says that he knows of around 50 bloggers who have turned their hobby into their full-time job and are earning over six figures a year from advertising revenue.
Rowse, who started a personal blog in 2002 and now runs a number of other blogs including the hugely successful ProBlogger, a digital photography blog, and a blogging network, works from his Melbourne home.
“One of the big challenges you face when trying to generate an income online is that there is so much out there for free,” he says.
“My strategy has been to produce free content for people that talks about the general principles of what I can help them with, and then when people want to apply that to their own situation, they might take that on board with some consulting or other products.”
Rowse runs a popular annual survey on his ProBlogger site asking readers how much they earn from their blogs and says that he has found reasonably consistent results over the last few years.
Over half of the survey respondents made less than $100 a month, with most of those earning less than $10 a month. Rowse says that the survey results confirm to him that the majority of bloggers who aim to generate money from their blogs won’t do much more than cover their hosting costs.
“Although it is possible to make at least a part-time income from blogging, it is not a shortcut to riches.”
A niche audience can work
For IT journalist Patrick Gray, podcasting is already delivering the goods. While he won’t disclose how much he is making, Gray (who holds an honors degree in electronics engineering) does concede that it’s more money than he’s made in any other job.
It’s only two years since he founded IT Radio, a technology podcast production house that currently broadcasts three weekly news and current affairs shows; one for the IT security industry, one about systems integration, and one aimed at managers in the call centre industry.
At the time of writing, Gray had completed 97 episodes of ‘Risky Business’, his IT Security podcast that runs for around 40 minutes.
He estimates his audience at “a few thousand” devout industry regulars and he gets around 8000 unique hits on the program’s site each month.
And while he services a niche audience, it’s a niche audience backed by plenty of corporate money and one that is generally technically advanced enough to consume their media as a podcast.
“It works so well because I don’t need a big audience, I just need the right audience. My advertisers are trying to sell solutions that cost, in some cases, millions of dollars. So obviously they’re prepared to pay a higher per-listener cost.”
Parenting educator Michael Grose established an email newsletter in 1999, and has since explored various online channels including blogs, newsletters, e-books, podcasting; he is even currently in the throes of setting up his own YouTube channel.
When he gives presentations, he leaves a newsletter subscription form, just a slip of paper asking for an email address, with each of his audience members.
“At the end of the presentation, I say to the audience, if they want to continue getting their ‘dose of Grose’, just fill in the form for our free newsletter and leave it with me on the way out. About 80% of the audience will sign up.”
Grose has around 16,000 subscribers to his free newsletter and says there are plenty of journalists on his list, which can occasionally lead to publicity; but it also draws his audience to his website to buy products such as CDs and books.
Giving content away has also been a surprisingly effective strategy for Grose.
“I have produced 130-odd e-zine articles for various sites, and of course each of them links back to us. That’s been an accidental strategy really, but because of that, Parenting Ideas is ranked number four in Australia in Google for parenting which is quite good.”
It’s the audience, stupid
It seems that there is a consistent message for those who have expertise that others are willing to pay for; there is a market for genuine, honest information providers online.
Vendors trying to survive in any marketplace through the ages soon learned the value of becoming a part of their community.
It is no surprise that those who have made a success selling information online – through blogs, e-books, podcasts, newsletters, or any other channel – have carefully built their audience.
Consistently delivering value, offering free ‘tasting’ and fresh content are marketing strategies that have worked for eons. And they still deliver the results for savvy operators in the information-rich online marketplace. Find out more about making money through blogs, podcasts, e-newsletters, and downloadable content in our full article.