People always ask me how to make money from blog sites or the Internet generally. My response is always the same..."I have no idea." Believe me, my inability to figure out a way to make money blogging--or even providing "hard" news--is not for lack of thinking about it. That's why I pay close attention to models like The Arizona Guardian and Political Arizona.
I think it's fair to say that these sites are business ventures and are not simply hobbies by political junkies who find writing to be cheaper than therapy. I'll be interested to see if they can generate enough revenue to justify the amount of work that goes into them. I'm not sure of the answer, but I wish them luck.
After all, it was Joseph Pulitzer who figured out how to make newspapers profitable. Before he revolutionized advertising, newspapers were either sponsored by various special interest groups like Tammany Hall, or they were written "by gentlemen, for gentlemen" which was code talk for "they cost a lot of money."
Pulitzer's innovation allowed newspapers to remain independent while charging a subscription fee that was affordable. By solving that key problem, Pulitzer invented a model that sustained the newspaper industry for a hundred years.
Now that model is broken. So what does the next model look like? No one knows.
That's why I've been watching Jim Hopkins with interest. Hopkins was a business writer for USA Today and after nearly twenty years was laid off by Gannett. He started Gannett Blog and, in the beginning, I think it was two parts therapy and one part revenge, but it took off and on some days he gets over 10,000 hits. When his severance checks ran out, Hopkins decided to make a living off the blog.
Gannett Blog is a good case study because it's a reasonably successful blog, written by a professional journalist who wants to make a profit and is willing to disclose his progress.
The results aren't encouraging. Hopkins wants to make $24,000 annually though web ads and contributions and while he met his goal for the first few months, he's getting way behind. Frankly, that says a lot about the viability of the news-for-profit model. Hopkins used to make six figures at USA Today, now wants to make less than a fourth of that amount and while he has a successful blog, he's not even making that much.
So what is a viable alternative? Parrot Training.
Here's an interesting story about an 18 year old kid from India who still lives with his parents and did enough research to see where he could find a niche. Here's his story.
Before I lose you here’s the literal bottom line on Parrotsecrets. The site sells 15-20 eBook sets per day seven days per week. Using the low end of that range is 5,475 copies per year for gross sales of $437,726.25 from a web site that costs less than $10 per month.
The profit on Parrotsecrets, even after various expenses I’ll detail below, is WAY north of $400,000 per year.
Ok, so parrot training isn't for everyone, but it's a good example of what a successful web niche looks like. The profitable website uses the web as a tool to sell an integrated product line--the key realization is that the product line is knowledge or intellectual services. That's were former journalists can excel.
I think Kim Kommando has a good model. She is using the website as a vehicle to sell an information basket.
Richard Keyt is a local attorney who has a similar idea. He sells information...and for people who need more than information, he sells services.
KEYTLaw.com had 3,000,000+ visitors (not hits) 2006-2008 because it contains useful information about Arizona law, copyright law, domain name law, trademark law, internet law, FTC internet actions and guides, junk fax law. KEYTLaw.com is a legal information resource, not the electronic law firm marketing brochure found on most law firm websites.
That leaves a key question. Is there money in selling actual news? Frankly, I don't think so. It's too competitive and too many people are willing to give it away for free. The person who really wants legislative coverage doesn't need to pay for it and the person who doesn't care much about legislative coverage isn't willing to pay for it.
To be sure, Az Central gets a billion hits a year, but even that huge number isn't nearly enough to maintain the paper's 2,400 employees.
So if you cover politics for a major newspaper and you are worried about your job--don't be. In a few months, you could be making $400k explaining the behavior of unruly parrots. If you think about it...it's just like what you do now.