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6 ways bloggers are diversifying their income

There’s an underlying sense of fear and uncertainty right now by bloggers about the future of display advertising on their sites.

Reasons contributing to this include:

  1. The rise in use of ad blockers, now also available on phones.
  2. The huge promises made by ad networks aren’t met. One large traffic client was told in meetings to expect $65K in a month, but was paid out a measly $235 – even though the ad impressions targets were exceeded! While the ad industry as a whole is growing, the revenue for individual sites often is decreasing, even as traffic increases.
  3. Competition is everywhere. It’s a vicious relentless game of having to make content to keep up the numbers game.
  4. The utter ugliness, spamminess, scams, invasiveness and obnoxiousness of ads are off-putting to both bloggers and their loyal readers: they’re slowing down their sites, can be hijacked or collecting all sorts of privacy-related data and selling it off to others. Content is now being overridden by ads which generally have nothing to do with the site you’re interested in which are injected every paragraph on mobile. The unease is increasing.

The big shift in blogging is the move away from solely ad-driven to diversifying their income is gaining momentum. There’s hope and excitement about these possibilities. However, a lot of people are left wondering which direction they should go in – leading to lots of overwhelm, indecision and inaction.

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The old ways of generating income aren’t going away, but they’re being supplemented by new ways:

#1 Partnering with brands

Older way: Clearly sponsored blog posts or native advertising.

Newer way: Subtle social media sponsored posts – e.g. on Instagram, SnapChat, Periscope, Pinterest, Twitter. These can be separated or connected to blog content.

  • Can be lucrative but also can be underpaid if you don’t know the going rates.
  • Generally need an agency to find and organize deals who take a cut.
  • Some bloggers feel hemmed in by the constraints and demands involved.
  • Others worry about “selling out” as their opinions can’t truly be unbiased when they’re being paid to write about a product or service.
  • Other worry they’ll feel pressured to keep up income by accepting every offer.

#2 Affiliate income

Older way: Largely limited to Amazon shops and affiliate links.

  • Low percentage paid out 6-12%.
  • Set up once and leave it to work.

Newer way: Broad range of products, memberships, subscriptions, workshops, courses, hosting and software.

  • Can be high percentages (50%) and recurring payouts for subscriptions.
  • Little revenue streams can add up over time but can also wildly fluctuate.
  • Requires constant updating of coupon codes and monitoring of deals.

#3 Selling writing

Older way: Traditional book publishing deals or freelance columns.

  • Slow process.
  • Long length.
  • Hard to get into.
  • Generally of high quality.
  • Advances, few make a living off solely this.

Newer way: Producing e-books, cookbooks, research reports, gated longform blog posts, guides and workbooks – often based on re-formatting the best blog content. Paid guest posts. Syndicating content.

  • Fast process (if you’re dedicated and disciplined).
  • Mixed length.
  • Easy to get into.
  • Mixed quality.
  • No upfront income, few make a living off solely this.
  • Ability to set up subscription models for more stability of income.

#4 Teaching

Older way: Running classes or workshops in person with travel and location costs and limitations in size and time.

Newer way: Teaching flexible online courses, workshops and live webinars at premium prices, with private Facebook Groups or Slack Communities for paid members.

  • Joint ventures combining audiences and complimentary bloggers, rather than competing with each other.
  • Leveraging online teaching platforms such as Teachable which take a percentage cut rather than the high cost of building your own secure system.

#5 Services

Older way: In-person/phone/email consulting and coaching.

Newer way: Skype/Google Hangout consulting sessions and private Slack access or Facebook chat sessions.

#5 Products

Older way: Selling other people’s products and taking a commission.

Newer way: Creating your own products (branded clothing, art, crafts, custom research reports) and selling these directly on the site, or via Etsy etc as applicable.