Darren “ProBlogger” Rowse, on the blogosphere, paid posts and b5media
If you have any plans on making it professionally in the blogosphere you should follow Darren Rowse’s blog ProBlogger with great interest. It’s a great resource for bloggers who wants to monetize their site, trim their workflow and overall just be better bloggers.
Darren shares experiences and gives advice over at ProBlogger, but also activates his visitors to do the same. Lots of good suggestions and reactions to the tips at ProBlogger show up in the comments.
So what makes a man start a blog about professional blogging, where are the blogosphere going and what does Darren think of paid blog posts? That sure gears up for one hell of an interview, doesn’t it? I thought so.
You’re running ProBlogger with advice for professional blogging. What made you do that, really?
Just over four years ago I started my first blog. At the time I didn’t even have the smallest suspicion that I was starting the journey to a new career – my blog was simply a hobby that enabled me to connect to others around the world with similar interests to me.
Over the following two years (through a series of events) I began to experiment with making money from blogs. It started out very small and grew very slowly over time. Along the way I learned a lot about building blogs with income streams. I mostly learned as I made mistakes and experimented because there wasn’t really anyone else writing on the topic.
A few bloggers were writing blog tips – but as making money from blogs was relatively new no one was writing on that topic. I initially started writing on the topic on another personal blog (as a category) but as people stared to read the posts I realized that there was potential for a full blog on the topic.
ProBlogger.net was born.
What was your first blog then?
LivingRoom – a blog on a range of things from Spirituality, to Emerging Church (and the church I’m a leader of), to culture and personal life stuff.
What pays your bills, being a professional blogger and all? Could you do a chart, perhaps?
Blogging (or blogging related activity) is how I earn all my income these days. This includes income from my own blogs, a wage that I draw from b5media.com, some blog consulting work (not much these days) and some earnings from the sixfigureblogging.com course that I’m a co-producer.
Being a professional blogger that is trying to educate the masses, what’s the most common mistake you see bloggers doing out there?
The first thing that comes to mind is that I see many bloggers with incredibly potential who give up way too quickly. Building a blog with an income stream takes significant work over a substantial period of time.
While blogging can be quite lucrative, when you look at those that are doing well you generally find that they’ve been at it for at least two years and that they post numerous posts per day (some as many as 20 or so). While I don’t believe you need to post this many times a day to build a successful blog it does give you a hint at the level of commitment and work a successful blog needs.
Many bloggers don’t consider this up front and give up after just a few months.
I have to ask you, what’s your take on paid posts? Are they ruining the blogosphere or what?
The ‘paid post’ controversies of the last few months have been interesting to watch. To be honest I’ve largely stayed out of it as I’m not the whole things needs to have been such a big deal as it’s become – the only real people to gain out of it are the ‘paid post’ services who from what I’ve heard have done pretty well from the ‘controversy’.
My take on paid posts is (and has always been) that I don’t mind the idea of a sponsored post as long as there is some level of disclaimer made by the blogger that they are being paid to write the post.
Having said that – I don’t do paid posts and wouldn’t recommend other bloggers do them unless:
- the product or service that you’re reviewing is highly relevant to the topic of your blog – will your readers be interested in the post?
- you’ve got something of value to say about the product/service – will your post be useful to readers?
- you’re genuine and give both pros and cons of the product/service – are you being true to yourself and your readers?
- make a disclaimer that you’re being paid to write the post – are you being transparent about your motivations for writing the post?
Keep in mind that every post that you write on your blog has the potential to either add to or take away from you and your blog’s reputation. Too many off topic, unhelpful and untransparent posts will do nothing more than turn your readers off.
Good suggestions there. Speaking of off topic posts, how important is it to really niche your blog?
While there are some blogs out there that do well with a fairly general spread of topics, I’ve found that blog with a more defined niche tend to do well if you’re looking to build an entrepreneurial blog.
They’re good for readers because they get to know what can be expected from a blog on their specific topic of interest (I found on my first personal blog that readers started getting frustrated with me covering such a wide spectrum of topics).
They’re good for bloggers because they help you to explore a topic more comprehensively (I found myself writing a lot deeper and higher quality content when I moved to a niche approach – perhaps it’s just me but I found having a more tightly defined topic gave me real freedom in an ironic sort of way).
They’re good for advertisers because they get to target their message to a much more tightly focused readership. Try get a digital camera advertiser to buy an ad on a blog covering everything from digital cameras to recipes, to movies etc. They’re much more interested in a digital camera blog.
Do you think it’s a good idea to publish your entire post in your RSS, to be viewed in a feed reader? It sure can keep people from visiting your blog, and therefore hurt the revenue stream?
I have grappled with this topic for years now and am really no closer to a definitive answer. As a result on some of my blogs I publish excerpts of posts only and on others I publish full feeds.
I am not so concerned with the idea that publishing full feeds hurts revenue – my main reason for hesitating with them is around people scraping content and republishing it in full on their own blogs for commercial purposes without any acknowledgment (something I see done to my full feed blogs every day or two).
How should bloggers use RSS? I mean, to the general public “RSS” is just another techy abbreviation, right?
Every now and again on my blogs I write about my RSS feed in terms of a ‘news feed’ or as a way of ’subscribing’ to content. I think it’s important to educate readers of what RSS is and how to use it. I don’t do this on ProBlogger.net as its readership is pretty well up to speed on RSS but on other blogs with less tech savvy readers I do dumb it down a touch.
I also like to offer other ways for readers to subscribe – largely via email/newsletters. I find that readers respond very well to this and have a few quite large email newsletter lists.
The ProBlogger Job Board service has been online for a while now. Are you happy with the turnout so far?
I didn’t expect the job boards to be a massive success up front (in comparison to other job boards going around with a wider focus). Instead I started them because I think it’s a service that will only grow in demand over time. At present we see a job or two go up every two or three days. It’s not earning us a fortune but for me it isn’t really about money but instead is a way of providing value to and building relationships with readers and advertisers.
And just as important, are the job advertisers happy with the turnout?
Different advertisers have had different experiences with the job board. The majority of them have reflected very positive results – some finding bloggers within hours of placing the ads. In fact with some the advertisers have reported too many applicants for jobs.
Your one of the big names i b5media. Now that you guys have bought Ben Bleikamp (well…), will we see some big changes to the network sites overall?
b5media will continue to evolve over the coming months both in terms of design, features, blog numbers, bloggers etc. It is an exciting group of people to be involved with and I’m really inspired by the direction that the network is taking.
b5media took funding a while ago. How has this affected its blogs?
The funding that we’ve taken will help us to improve the network as a whole. Some of it will be in ways that readers will notice (for example design) and others will be more behind the scenes (such as support staff, servers, blogger pay etc).
To me, b5media represents the traditional blog network. There are others doing other things, such as rebranding to reach a wider audience, doing the social community dance and such. Where do you see blog networks going in the future? Can you just continue to do a traditional network, or do you need to evolve?
I think you’ll see a spectrum of approaches ranging from more traditional models to those really pushing the boundaries with reader interactivity and social networking. I personally believe that both can work out well for network owners because internet users are looking for different things.
Some net users are simply searching for information and will be frustrated by social bookmarking and networking while others are looking for community and interaction and won’t be satisified by more traditional approaches. Different networks will be positioned to meet those needs differently.
What’s next for you and ProBlogger? That book perhaps?
A book has been on the cards for while now – unfortunately there are only 24 hours in a day and books tend to take a fair bit of a writer’s attention so at least in the short term that’s not on my radar. I do have a few other ideas though but in the short term it will be business as usual!
I’d like to thank Darren for taking the time to do this interview with me. Check out his blog ProBlogger, it’s full of necessary advice for bloggers!