Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Is anyone apart from Guido making money from blogging?

Some money. Not pictured: My hand
In a somewhat below-the-belt post on The Speccie yesterday Douglas Murray highlighted how Sunny Hundal (who is quitting full time writing for Liberal Conspiracy) was not making a living from blogging.

This has led me to ponder whether any independent blogging sites* are actually making enough money to support full-time people and be self-sustaining. Liberal Conspiracy wasn't. Left Foot Forward, LabourList and ConservativeHome all have full time staff but also have external backers. Lib Dem Voice is run by volunteers, none of whom draw a salary from it.

The more I think about it, the more I think the answer is none. Apart from Order Order the Guido Fawkes site. That does appear to be profitable enough to support full time staff. Although even there they have straddled the mainstream media by publishing a column initially in the Sunday Star and latterly in the Sun on Sunday. Also, it is worth noting that Guido very much goes down the tabloid sensationalist route (albeit punctuated by occasional deep level economic posts to show what Paul Staines is really capable of).

I know that one of the reasons Iain Dale stepped down from such heavy blogging a few years ago was because even at its peak it was not bringing in enough to sustain a living.

I've already highlighted previously how I have never made any money from my online writing despite now having been at it for 5 years and winning awards and acclaim.

So have I got this wrong? Is anyone other than Guido making money from blogging?

*I am not including sites like CiF, Coffee House, or any other magazine or newspaper blogs as they are not independent and I suspect are cross-subsidised from the main papers although I'll be happy for anyone from them to set me straight on this.


Caron Lindsay said...

A friend of mine makes money by writing commissioned articles on her blog and testing products and writing about them but that's not an option for political bloggers.

Louise Mensch said...

Blogging, like anything else, is a form of entertainment. Guido writes in such a way as to be entertaining. So people who aren't natural politicos read him for gossip and scandal. Young people in America aren't news junkies but they watch Jon Stewart and (more) Colbert. These are fifty-somethings who make news relevant by making it funny.

Straight political news is not a commercial proposition and so unless blogs offer something more than regurgitating the news (ie, they regularly break stories, they have humour, or they have gossip and insider info) then they will not make money from readership.

There is the ConHome model where you can attract more in sponsorship than from reader levels because although low, your readership is perceived by the sponsor to be powerful and influential. Time was that every Tory MP and candidate read ConHome every day. So did most activists on the net. Now that audience might be small but it is wildly disproportionately powerful and therefore ad revenue and sponsors want to get on it. In this model the blog is "worth it" not from clicks and traffic, but as a very cheap and effective form of lobbying.

Your problem Mark is that few are interested in the LibDems (cf: opinion polls) and so, to get readership up, you would need regularly to deliver inside scuttlebut on politicians - LibDem and otherwise (eg you could pass on nasty rumours about Tory MPs from their LD partners).

Private Eye even manages to make the utterly tedious subjects of local government and railways interesting via "rotten boroughs" and "dr. beaching" - essentially the trade is human behaviour studied amusingly, and the subject field (councils, politics, railways) is then less important.

Ben Mitchell said...

I've always wondered this. Apart from Guido and ConHome (and LabourList to a lesser extent), blogs don't really set the agenda. They're very reactive and rely on ad hoc contributions from readers. And their good will and free time it should be said.

Why would advertisers want to advertise on them? It's not so much how many visitors that's important, but the influence of the blog. Are people in Westminster talking about it? Are the mainstream media picking up stories or comment made on them?

ConHome is extremely well respected and attracts anyone who's anyone in the Tory party. The debates it has so often find themselves being debated in Westminster and beyond.

A good example of how important and successful it has become is Tim Montgomerie. He now edits the comment section of the most influential paper in the country. And some of the people he's brought in to pen comment pieces for The Times have been well known in the blogosphere for years.

Guido seems to be an exception. Scoop after scoop. The site itself has barely changed. It still looks pretty basic but its content is enough.

One thing I would say is that it's quite outrageous that online sites such as HuffPo and IndyVoices don't pay...unless I'm mistaken. Well, they've never paid me! I will no longer write for them because of this.

HuffPo has become successful based on the free labour of its bloggers. We're all to blame to an extent. We should refuse to write anything without being paid. But, if we don't, there'll always be someone else willing to work for nowt.

The end of LibCon further highlights that newspapers online are still the places to be; where the best comment is to be found, and where agendas are being set.

The rise and rise of Telegraph Blogs shows you how important a paper's blog section can be.

I remember Iain Dale writing something a few years back about the rise of blogs in the UK and whether they'd become profitable. Obviously that hasn't happened.

Also, let's be honest. Some blogs are just crap! They look amateurish and the content is dreadful.

Tim Worstall said...

I've long argued that it's exceedingly difficult to make a living from blogging. But it is entirely possible to make a living from having blogged.

To see what I mean.....I've been blogging for 9 years now. Income from actually blogging has varied wildly with fashions for different types of advertising etc. But it's beer money now, no more.

However, the jobs I've gained as a result of having blogged (ie, regular gigs at Forbes, The Register, ASI etc) provide a solid upper middle class income thank you very much.

My advice to anyone who did want to "get into the media" would be to blog still. Even if nothing else the practice of doing 1,500 words a day every day is going to improve skills. And I do think that the good do get noticed (but then so did Laurie Penny but no system is perfect).

Anonymous said...

There's also here the issue of 'bundling', isn't there? Single author blogs are no more likely to be successful than if newspaper columnists decided to go it alone. Say your columnist wants to be paid £100,000/year including taxes, so £250/day, in a newspaper that has sales of 250k /day, which means she needs to get 0.1p per reader per day.

If they launch their own subscription website, with micro-payments, they might find 1,000 people a day who will pay 10p to read their column, that's not enough. They need the 5,000 who will pay 2p, and 10,000 who will pay 0.5p. If they could find a way to get the 1,000 to pay 10p while the 10,000 only pay 0.5p, ie price discrimination all would be well, otherwise the best solution is to bundle their output with someone whom has a very different audience, in particular one for who the 0.5p payers will pay 10p, and so on.

Advertising models are a bit different, but still rely on creating a product that vast numbers of people will look at, which needs a widespread mix of information.

Anyway just an idea.

A Very Public Sociologist said...

I've often wondered this myself. Before I took a break from blogging I did think about taking ads and stuff, but it would only be pennies a day - if that.

I would agree with Tim. Blogging can, or was, a gateway onto bigger and better things. Like Sunny I think my recent move into academia is partly thanks to the small but occasionally noticed blog operation I have running. The question is whether this route is being closed down. And I'm afraid to say I think it is, unless all of us who are in some way part of blogging's 'establishment' do something to help bring along new writers.

Eoghan O'Neill said...

I wonder if Mike Smithson makes any money? I presume hardly anything directly from his own blog whose design is hardly optimised for advertising.

Nick Drew said...

What Tim said. Capitalists@Work makes a few bob via advertising - pays for the beers we buy a couple of times a year for our Comments regulars, etc etc - but the key is other gigs that follow, which have been great

as regards C@W, that's just a big heap of fun: but I have also helped set up a 100% straight-faced, face-value business blog used as collateral in the launch of a new 'boutique' consultancy

the formula has been:
- regular once-weekly posts of very high quality (unlike the embarrassing stuff such blogs usually contain)
- very careful alignment with the new brand
- no advertising, no puffs - not even for the consultancy, although the parentage is made 100% clear
- very careful analysis of the hits, for all manner of data that can be obtained (you'd be amazed)

it has worked perfectly: this is now a go-to site for people who are exactly the targets for the content the consultancy offers; without any doubt it has generated plenty of work; the reputation and 'share-of-mind' it has established for the consultancy go way beyond anything that could have been achieved on a similar budget using conventional means

(BTW, this is not yer media-sector art-fart consultancy, it is 'hard' industry, steel'n'concrete stuff)

takes time, iron discipline and a willingness to give a bit of IP away for free (which is always the way in consultancy) - but it really works - by the acid test, which is £££