How to make money from a blog

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 11:47 25/06/2014

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Making a career from blogging takes perserverance, sacrifice and most likely a pay cut.

New Zealand's top bloggers say the secret to a successful blog is simple: pick a niche topic you are passionate about and deliver genuine content.

The term "blog" emerged in the late 1990s, derived from the phrase "web log". Most are created on online blogging platforms such as Tumblr and WordPress where information is uploaded in the form of "posts".

Tumblr alone has 191 million blogs, with a combined total of 83 billion posts, since it was created in 2007.

An audience exists for all sorts of obscure subject matter in the blogosphere. Take the Tumblr blog Hungover Owls, for example. Who would have thought that a blog dedicated to photos of hungover- looking of owls would become an internet hit?

While most blog for personal enjoyment, a small percentage use it as a way to generate income, land a job or build a profile.

Here is what four well-known Kiwi bloggers have to say about the business of blogging.

The $1m blogger

Wellington's Richard MacManus is undoubtedly New Zealand's most successful blogger. In 2011, he sold his technology blog ReadWriteWeb to United States digital publishing firm Say Media.

He hasn't disclosed how much he sold it for, but reports at the time suggested NZ$6.7 million.

MacManus says that, when he started the blog in 2003, he just wanted an outlet for exploring technology. It was not until 2005 that blogs like his started featuring advertising on the sidebar.

In 2006, he quit his day job as a consultant to work fulltime on ReadWriteWeb, employing about 20 staff at its peak.

The key to developing a successful blog is to target a niche topic you are passionate about and be genuine in your writing. "Readers of blogs are very savvy about what's genuine."

Despite the huge number of blogs, there is still money to be made in blogging, he says.

"There's a huge amount of money pouring into the space. There's always an opportunity for really good coverage of a niche space."

Bloggers looking to earn a buck should focus on making money on the side and build up to earning enough to make it a day job.

When targeting advertisers, he says, it is important to look at the blog's analytics to see where traffic comes from, how long readers stay on the site and what articles they click on.

"Make a list of possible companies that might want to rent the audience that's reading your blog."

The duchess of design

Aucklander Julia Atkinson started her blog Studio Home six years ago and attracts between 800 to 1500 unique visitors each day.

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The blog, which profiles New Zealand and Australian products and designers, has about 30 advertisers, most of which are small businesses, she says.

The former interior designer and marketer manages all her own advertising contracts, which provide the bulk of her income.

Atkinson says she works from 8am to 10pm most weekdays. It's hard work and does not pay that well, but she loves it.

"I'm 32 and I'm earning far less than anyone else that I know.

"It is a struggle but it's growing so rapidly. This time next year I could be earning more than I was in marketing."

Because Kiwis are only just catching on to reading blogs, advertising space is not as lucrative as in the US market. "It's the wild west at the moment. No-one really knows what they're doing a lot of the time."

Atkinson says she managed to secure a few advertisers within months of Studio Home launching, one of which has advertised on the site for the past six years.

The blog has an online magazine format focused on increasing readership while providing great content, she says.

"That's my bargaining tool when I work with advertisers."

The political pot stirrer

David Farrar is open about how much he earns from his popular political commentary Kiwiblog.

"The time I put into the blog is well below minimum wage. But I don't do it to make money."

Started in 2003, Kiwiblog now attracts about 15,000 unique user visits a day. When advertising was at its peak, ads on Kiwiblog were earning Farrar up to $25,000 a year before tax.

But after paying 30 per cent to the advertising agency, 20 per cent to the internet service provider, 20 per cent to charity and a third of what's left to the Government little was left over, he says.

Advertising in the past four years has gone from a small but useful amount to virtually nothing. That is because internet advertisers can measure exactly how many clicks an ad receives, and on blogs they are not seeing enough return on investment.

The next Nigella

Delaney Mes gave up a law career to pursue her passion for food.

In 2010 her relationship ended and she turned to blogging about food to help her move on.

The blog, Heartbreak Pie, has a relatively small but loyal following with about 300 to 500 visits a day.

But rather than use it as a source of income, the Aucklander has used it to build her profile and open up other opportunities.

Heartbreak Pie has helped Mes secure freelance writing roles and a guest cooking spot on Good Morning, and given her the inspiration to start her own dinner-party business. Mes says the goal is to build her own food empire, writing cookbooks and making television shows.

"I want to be like Nigella," she says referring to celebrity chef Nigella Lawson.

Another perk of having a well- read blog is the constant stream of promotional goods from public relations companies, she says.

"I get lots of free stuff which is great."

- Stuff

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