Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Bloggin' for Money or a Cause

In 2004 I started what turned out to be the beginning of a new career as the Arts Writer for the International Examiner in Seattle. Concerned to be taken seriously I didn't want to publish anything anymore without being paid. Self respecting professionals didn't work for free, unless they were volunteering their expertise and time for a "good cause". There you go, I said it. Meanwhile I continued posting what I didn't think would sell but deserved attention on my blog Hope Filled Jars, and as a ghostwriter for the garden blog Tuin van de Marienhof.  

Seeing my name in print in a newspaper (as the reporter) was relatively new to me. Earlier I'd published an article in a glossy for men and written for paper newsletters of infant loss support groups. After I published a book on grief  I was invited to write a column and book reviews for a Dutch parental Internet magazine Ouders Online. Still I hadn't dared consider myself a journalist until someone I was chatting with at a party stopped mid-sentence, took a look at me and said he wasn't "going to divulge any more 'secrets'", since I was a journalist. Oh, wow, he thinks I'm a journalist, well, then I must be.

It was with the curiosity of the journalist that I answered an ad on Craig's list calling for bloggers. I wondered whether  HotelsByCity's promise that bloggers could make money Online was true, and in March of 2007 I took the plunge, in order to find out. All I had to do was enter two posts per week about my home town, sharing hidden gems with visitors.

HotelsByCity informed me by email they made use of Google Adsense to monetize visits to their site and would pay bloggers 75% of "revenue generated through your blog".  Earning reports would be sent at the end of each month and payments would be made 30 days after the completion of each calendar month. After setting up my own Adsense account I found out a "hit" amounted to one penny, or 0.75 dollar cents earned. 

How could HotelsByCity offer writers 75% of the revenue? Well for one, we are talking peanuts. More importantly, HotelByCity is a hotel broker. The money generated by "our blog" does not equal the money generated by visitors making reservations for hotel rooms through the broker. HotelsByCity doesn't need the quarter penny per hit, they need the traffic to the HotelByCity sites that's generated by the bloggers who work for less than peanuts. Worse, they work for free, for recognition, and get some pennies, or if they work really hard, a voucher tossed at them. We're not talking one blog maintained by one blogger, but a group-blog per city, filled with interesting content provided by several or many bloggers. There's a HotelsByCity site for practically every large city in the world.

Today's smart bloggers create their own platforms, choose the ads Google Adsense places in the margin or banners and write content to attract readers, be it to introduce visitors to their writing, or to something else they're trying to sell, apples, oranges, any kind of knowledge. Those who are really good at hooking visitors to their posts, can make money Online, but most of the time it's not by adding up the hits on Google ads, but by selling their own product.

At some point the HotelsByCity Seattle blog entries got a bit confused, posts by SeattleBlogman09 and mine (Seattleblogger29) got mixed up, our hotel reviews credited to one or the other, but never quite right. Finally I even lost access to my account. By that time I'd lost interest in writing an article about making money Online as well. Still, I thought I'd better collect what I'd written and archive the posts on my Seattle Blog History, a blog I started in 2008 especially for that purpose, and then I forgot about it again. Until I got a response on an post at HotelsByCity about Tea at the Teacup in Seattle and Go-go Goats... 
Which proves that good blog content continues generating traffic. 

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention Google Adsense doesn't pay revenue until the moment you've accumulated $100 which for me arrived at the end of 2009.

Have you found a way to hit the Google Adsense jackpot? If so, care to share how? 

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License