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Turn knowledge into cash online

Turn Knowledge Into Cash Online – You know you’re good at what you do, but are there people out there willing to pay for your know-how? Fran Molloy investigates how online channels like blogs and podcasts can turn your pet topic into hard cash.

If you believe the scam emails that regularly appear in our inboxes, making money online is just a click away. And there’s plenty of places to try it out: a Google search on ‘make money online’ returns 203 million pages.

Although circus entrepreneur P. T. Barnum reputedly said, “There’s a sucker born every minute”, it seems most net-savvy business people, jaded by the spam deluge, are loath to be sucked in to spend any of their valuable time on what seems to be a very risky business indeed.

But as the print publishing industry slides further into obsolescence [Oi! –Ed], it seems that jumping on the online bandwagon may be a more sensible decision than investing in a printed copy for those selling information.

A November 2008 report titled Life in the Clickstream: the Future of Journalism published by Australia’s journalist union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance warned that traditional media is undergoing systemic collapse, as new technology fragments audiences and ‘steals’ advertising revenue.

But, frustratingly, it seems that even the biggest players can’t quite figure out just how to get their mitts on all that ‘stolen’ advertising revenue; in fact, even Google is struggling, with last year’s revenue from its YouTube web video acquisition falling many millions of dollars short of projections.

However, if you ignore the hype and concentrate on the fundamentals, it seems online channels such as podcasting, blogging, e-newsletters, e-books, and downloadable tools and templates do have the potential to provide you with a decent income.

How much can I make?

The new media entrepreneurs Nett spoke to for this story were all pretty cagey about the amount they earned from online channels, with none agreeing to have their income published.

But for most of them, their web presence has become a significant income generator.

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.

“For a lot of people, that’s all they’ll ever want from you and that’s fine because I’m able to monetize that with advertising; so I do have direct earnings from my blog but then a certain percentage of people will then come to me as the product,” he says.

Rowse sells advertising on his blog but admits that the economic downturn has made it harder for bloggers to sell advertising space; and, despite some impressive traffic figures, says that it has taken him time to build a profile in the advertising community.

For many bloggers, Google AdWords can be a fairly simple way to start generating an income from their blog if they are starting to build up a readership and increasing the amount of traffic to their site; but he points out that the majority of bloggers who use AdWords earn less than $10 a month from the program.

When can I go to the beach?

Rowse estimates that he spends around two days a week writing the content for his various blogs; the rest of the week, he edits to content from guest bloggers and writers he employs.

“An important part of blogging for me is about establishing a readership and a community. When I released my book in April last year, I already had a distribution network through my readership and had over 3000 sales in the first couple of weeks on Amazon,” he says.

Rowse’s book ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income summarises some of the lessons that Rowse and co-writer, Chris Garrett, have learned along the way.

But not every blogger has the potential to earn big bucks from their random writings.

“There’s an element of luck and there’s a certain amount of skill required, too. It’s like being a professional in any sort of sport, the majority play socially, some make a little bit of money, others can go full time, then you’ve got someone – perhaps like Tiger Woods – who’s a freak and can earn a lot from it.”

Get your mojo working

So what is the defining difference between the hugely successful, six-figure income-earning blogger and the $10-a-monther?

“It’s very difficult to define, I often call it mojo,” says Rowse. “It’s something some people have and some people don’t. I can’t teach it, I don’t know how it happens but for some people, anything they write just seems to connect.”

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.”

Podcast your way to wealth

Former Microsoft e-business specialist Cameron Reilly started up The Podcast Network in 2004. He now has around 60 regular podcasts and claims a global audience of around 500,000 people.

Reilly started by recruiting bloggers to produce a weekly audio show; many have since moved on, though new podcasters have stepped into the breach.

But Reilly is struggling to make money from the medium. Although he was able to enlist advertisers at one stage, he says that most of the advertising revenue has dried up over the last year.

Reilly blames a ‘Groundhog Day’ timewarp in the Australian advertising industry for the podcast advertising drought.

“Australian agencies seem to be locked into 1995; they’re looking for banner ads and text links rather than online audio or video advertising.”

It is not just an Australian phenomenon, though. Reilly cites US podcasting start-ups that crashed and burned over the last few years despite raising significant venture capital.

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