A relatively lopsided discussion between Jason Calacanis and Alan Meckler at WSJ.com, Can Bloggers Make Money?, where Jason overpowers with hard data about CPM rates and Alan restates the conventional wisdom.
The truth is that blogging is an egalitarian and edge medium: anyone can start a blog. Some years ago William S Burroughs (in Words Of Advice For Young People) said “Any old soul is worth saving, at least to a priest; but not every soul is worth buying. So, you can take the offer as a compliment.” So, while all can blog, not all can make money from it.
Glenn Fleishman makes some good comments at the WSJ.com piece, noting that he has received paychecks from both Meckler and Calacanis:
I’ve been asked many times over the last three years about how to run a blog that makes money as my Wi-Fi Networking News one does. It requires a combination of obsession, reporting skills and/or a good turn of phrase, an audience willing to read obsessively, enough of an audience in a segment, and advertising dollars that target that audience.
David Sifry of Technorati put it well in an analysis a few weeks ago (http://www.sifry.com/alerts/archives/000420.html) in which he identifed 155,000 sites that are close enough to the top of the power log curve of inbound links that they get significant traffic (not nearly as much as the real top hitting blogs and news sites). Tens of millions of blogs get only personal traffic.
Even though I enjoy what I do, it’s the equivalent of a very small business. I don’t make enough to hire other writers, although that’s a plan. But I don’t have to invest very much except my time. If I were to burn out, which has happened to some other fine bloggers, then there’s the question of monetizing a blog to sell it or to replace the main writer or writers.
My bet is that the top 20,000 blogs or so (today) can make serious bank, enough to be, as Fleishman puts it, a “significant minority” of the author’s income. These bloggers will become enmeshed in blog networks or ad networks that free them to write obsessively, focusing on the flow of words, not the clickstream.
A number of others (like Thomas Hawk and Hugh MacLeod) jump in to point out that for many of us, blogging is a way to flog our personal brands (Hugh says “microbrands”) or position ourselves as experts to get consulting gigs, or sell books.
But today’s news about the New York Times investors witholding votes because of the plummeting value of that company’s stock (fallen 47% since the start of 2004) tells the other side of the blogging for dollars story: media is surging onto the Web, and readers are gobbling up the top information sources online. And blogs (and their wild-eyed authors) are going to remain a fixture in this world. And the very best are going to be well-compensated for it, once all the kinks in the supply chain are worked out.