No, this post isn’t about making a difference; it is about the blogger (specifically myself) and advertising, so be warned that this post will be in a far more conversant style than I usually use. In a perfect world people would throw money at me like confetti for every word that flows like poetry out of my keyboard, unfortunately as those extremely annoying commercials reminded us, we don’t live in perfect and are forced to live in reality.
I would love to be able to make money with this site, but the average blogger has only three basic ways to make money through their efforts–selling ad space, reviews, or just hoping loyal readers will contribute. (Assuming, of course, that the blogger only writes content and doesn’t sell tangible products or services.) However, each of these methods are fundamentally flawed and are just as likely to backfire as create a steady income (income of any sort, not just the quit-your-day-job amounts).
Selling ad space through programs like Google Adsense or straight selling links and banners is probably the most common method because in 5 minutes one can have Google ads served automatically across the entirety of their blog and all they have to do is sit back and wait. I, personally, have always had a hard time deciding whether or not to use ads on this site. I’d love the simplicity of just setting a few options and then having the ability to make money, but I hate advertisements and commercialization, and I have always worried that if I do add advertisements they will perform badly and just irritate readers—at the very least I know they will irritate me. I have considered, however, selling single links on specific popular posts and pages (for example the INAP page has had over 15k page views in a 3 month period) but even this seems to take advantage of the user, and reducing them to nothing more than a number so you can ask for more money.
Pay-per-post type schemes are getting more popular and are most likely the most violate of the money making methods. While yes, it is possible to make money off them, if you don’t strike the correct balance and tone with your posts, you risk alienating your readership. While I have been attracted by the prospect of relatively large payoffs I know that it could not possibly be worth it in the long run. Many times I’ll come across blogs that does use payed reviews and frequently, because of it, I will never return. I would consider pay-per-post type things if I could completely control it and not feel pressured to give a review that wasn’t 100% honest. However, even if I am being honest all the reader will see is the sponsored post sign and automatically think I’m doing it just for the money.
However, adding a donation button is the least likely of the three to irritate people, but it is also the most risky because it relies entirely on the moods and desires of the few readers who will actually contribute. Also, there are very few things that people are willing to open their wallets for, and most of the time they only do so when you offer something that directly saves them time or money—very few people use donations as just general thank you gifts outside of a few specific niches. However, regardless of the risks, this is the method I chose to offset costs involved in blogging.
I personally have been lucky, while I have never received a donation for something other than a plugin nor have I received enough money to buy myself a 1979 Lamborghini Countach (or even a chip of the original paint on the same), my plugins, through the actions of a few grateful people, have raised enough money to pay for hosting. While it doesn’t seem like much, those few donations allowed me to finally purchase reliable hosting which ended the many headaches I had to go through with sub-standard hosts which has made my life much easier.
However, even though I have made some money with this site, it has never been enough where I could actually say I’m making a profit nor have I been compensated for even a tiny fraction of the time I have spent working on, writing, and programming for this site. I could help offset this by adding ads, but as I said before the idea of them alone irritates me enough not to force them on other people. Unfortunately, however, by not placing ads, I guarantee that this site will always be just a side project. Currently–because the site makes no regular income–it only has priority because I want it to, and it is the first thing that suffers when the “real” world calls.
I also worry that if I do place ads it will manipulate what I write and how I write about it. “What do you mean that ads related to Roman history don’t pay well? Fine I’ll show you…here are 20 posts on Mesothelioma.” So in the end, as much as I cringe when I say it, I don’t think there is anything that will make me add ads (of the adsense variety). While at some point I might sell individual links, I’m just going to sit back and hope the generous people out there don’t disappear and are willing to “return the favor” in some small way.
Have you come up against similar issues? How did you deal with them?