Wednesday, December 9, 2009

One Blog Post, Five Business Models

My recent post Blogs Are Godless Communist Bullshit used five different business models. All five succeeded to some degree.

1. Ruby Row Ads

I'm kind of surprised nobody called me on this one. Even the unusually lucid criticism on Reddit didn't call me out explicitly on this obvious ploy. The upper right-hand corner of my blog showcases a small ad from Ruby Row, which uses a traditional model of cost-per-impression (CPI) advertizing.

If you're selling CPI ads, you want traffic. I explained in the post how this compromises TechCrunch's coverage, and then used TechCrunch's tactic to skyrocket my traffic. The post got over 13,000 pageviews, which is a lot for me. The best part was, I named the post after a Penny Arcade comic (included in the post) about trolling for traffic, and then trolled for traffic by condemning people for trolling for traffic. (All in the context of a blog post about why people shouldn't write or read blog posts, which more than 12,000 people decided to read.)

This is probably what inspired one Reddit commenter to say "this one quite possibly is right at that triple point of blog matter where awesome, bullshit, and satire all meet."

2. Affiliate Ads (Links)

I packed the post with affiliate links to ebooks, to, and to the diet/health program that enabled me to lose 75 pounds, improve my blood pressure, yadda yadda yadda. The funny thing is that the Reddit coverage did spot this, and went all ballistic/hateful about it, as if it's impossible to want to help people and make money at the same time. I suppose the counter-argument is that no man can serve two masters, and any altruism mixed with profit will inevitably have to choose one or the other as its primary purpose, but I think that's kind of a moot point. The primary purpose of the blog post was entertaining me, and both profit and altruism were already playing second banana to entertainment value.

Anyway, the affiliate ads worked great. Also, the blog post did a great job at entertaining me. And honestly, as somebody who probably owes his life to this health program, I can't even describe how good it feels to see people buying it.

3. Consulting

The post also sold membership in a career coaching program. I've blogged before about how I believe consulting is a terrible business model, but I think this particular bit of consulting is going to be very interesting and rewarding. It also kinda hits that profitable altruism paradox point, in that I'm showing people how to have a better career, so there's a certain feeling of helping others.

I'm going to keep details of my career consulting program private, on the whole, but I will say that some of the responses I got were better than I could have asked for.

4. Subscription Blog

This comes free with the coaching program membership, and I also sold it separately for a lower fee. No comment, again, on how many people are involved or who - privacy here I think is important - but I'm not complaining.

5. Ebook

The post directed people to a site where I collected info about who might be interested in reading an ebook on programming career strategy, if and when I write it up and start selling it. No money yet, but I now have sales leads.

Lessons Learned

This whole thing served as a fun experiment in internet "publishing" business models. I had the fun of poking the beehive, I made a few nickels and dimes, and I collected some data. So, a little about the data.

First, the TechCrunch blog-drama gambit works. I set out to get good traffic and lots of retweets, and I got them. Seeing as I've been blogging about that for a while, and I learned it by getting involved in all kinds of little blog wars, that shouldn't be a huge surprise.

Second, in the post, I attacked Paul Graham's assertion that people will only buy information products that show them how to make more money. The affiliate marketing results confirm my skepticism. I included several affiliate links to products with information about how to make more money; I sold one. People who paid for information about how to lose weight far outnumbered that solitary purchaser. Likewise for people who bought stuff on Amazon.


A couple weird things about Amazon affiliate links: first, if somebody clicks your Amazon affiliate link, looks at what you're linking to, and then decides to buy something else, you still get paid - so the smart thing is to always link to Amazon for some reason or another. Especially during the holidays.

Second, I got better results with Amazon in one day than Peter Cooper tells me Ruby Inside made in months or weeks or something like that. I think the key is a combination of strong opinions and verbose posts. You're not going to get people spending time on huge verbose posts unless they enjoy reading, and if you want to sell books, it makes sense to start with people who enjoy reading. Meanwhile, strong opinions convey sincerity and inspire trust.

Also, a caveat about my better results: I spent months on this blog post. I blog mostly to figure out what I think about stuff, and it took me a while to decide. The blog post was a goal in and of itself; if I had set about to do it for the sake of making Amazon affiliate sales, that would have been foolish. I made about $65 from Amazon; if you spend months to make $65, that's not a good hourly rate. It's likely, I think, that Ruby Inside didn't spend as much time on their Amazon experiment, and I wouldn't advise spending months on an experiment like this if your goals were purely financial.

Anyway, if all this interests you, check out Blogs Are Godless Communist Bullshit. Even if you've already read it, you might see it in an entirely different light. This time, check out the links instead of focusing on the words.

Update: $65 is no longer accurate. The Amazon earnings on this are still small, but also going up pretty consistently.