Regardless of whether or not you agree with his politics, Andrew Sullivan’s decision to monetize the Daily Dish is an admirable one, which I envy. I’m hardly a blip compared to him, even if you aggregate all my various blogs. Still, I often think about blogging in a meta-sense and the issue of monetization is one that no blogger can avoid for very long. Simply put, blogging costs money and time. There are hosting costs, domain costs, and software costs, as well as the time needed to ensure that you suppress spam, silence trolls, and above all encourage sincere commentors by engaging them in conversation. You *can* run a freeblog on wordpress or blogspot, of course, but you’re limited in your growth.
Here at haibane I started this blog because I was genuinely frustrated with political blogging. Haibane was my refuge, where I write what i want about what I like, and it’s amassed enough of a following that I think it’s been a success. That success largely covers the cost issues; what meager earnings the ads bring in, mostly covers the hosting costs, with just a small deficit. The bigger issue is time, though. Writing for myself and my audience is fun, but not a priority compared to other ways to use my time that bring greater rewards in family time, work, and money. So, ultimately, blogging is a hobby that must be actively accomodated even without the cost issues. And of course, time is money.
The ironic thing is, if I were to increase the income I make from the blog, that would probably be a great motivator to blog more. More revenue would raise the priority of blogging vs other activities to spend my time on. And of course that is a positive feedback loop, because more posts = more traffic = more revenue. Most blogs like mine are in a static phase where traffic and revenue are flat; we have our usual coterie of readers and blog community, but no growth, because the barriers to growth are time and money. There is a point well above where this blog and others like it are, where those barriers get reduced.
I think of those barriers as “cost overhead” to blogging. How does a medium blog reduce that cost overhead? One way is to recruit more bloggers. Here at Haibane I’ve had occasional guest posters on, but recruitment is also a large time investment. A regular blog partner or partners is more reliable and less effort, and allows shared overhead of time.
Another way is to simply monetize. I do have ads, but as the Sullivan example shows there are more direct ways – and for a blog with 100 unique visitors a day, if I could extract $5 from 10% of them a month, then that would triple the revenue for a year. There are more subtle ways of doing this, for example something like what Brooks Review does.
If you monetize of course then you become responsible to the audience. That’s not a bad thing, especially if it increases and motivates more output, on the topics of interest to that audience. (The question is always, what audience do you pursue). I’d certainly be willing to blog more and be responsive to what my readers wanted, if they were paying for it.