Monetizing blogs, especially female-centric blogs, has been a long-discussed, ever-evolving, passionate, competitive and aggressive debate.
[insert a slight cough followed by a crackly old lady voice here]
Long ago and right in front of our computer screens the World Wide Web was new and possibilities were indeed endless. Online opportunities were uncertain, exciting and hard to explain. Short domain names were aplenty. You, a mere human, could actually register for your own URL, and Alta Vista was the browser of choice. Some girl named Jenni was making money with her 24-7 webcam bedroom coverage, AOL was poised to buy Time Warner and third party domain registrations were demanding top dollar. (*True Story: I worked for a guy whose business partner had registered the domain name Windows95.com. The Windows95.com-domain-registering dude then sold the domain name to Microsoft for several million dollars. After that, the guy I worked for, feeling slighted by his business partner and rightly so, went a little crazy and spent countless hours registering every single domain name he could think in hopes of striking it big as well. He never did.) It was around this same time that Dave and his friend, Kevin, thought they should sell products online so they started the online mountain bike shop, Aardvark Cycles (using an “aa” name was intentional so they could come up first on a web browser). They were seen as forerunners and not long after they started their company they sold it to a local business. Those were the days.
It was a also time when the dot.com was booming and Dave and I somehow managed to hitch our wagon and join that crazy awesome ride (a few times). We thought the only way to cash out was to make it big. Most regular folks were afraid to purchase items online. “How can the internet be safe? They will steal your credit card information,” is what I often heard. The strange hybrid word, eCommerce, only made things worse yet cash-heavy Venture Capitalists were throwing money at cocktail napkin ideas. I was blogging daily yet my real job was trying to get a local company to believe in something called the internet. I was hired as their online marketing manager and my battle was uphill and then up some more. Their main product was a day planner and they would always look at me quizzically when I mentioned the internet and say (they really did), “why would anyone want to use their calendar online?”
And when I mentioned to friends and family that I had a blog on the side to make it easy for everyone to be a part (davybeth.com circa 1998), many of my friends looked at me with glassy-eyed confusion or asserted that I was cheap (because I wouldn’t pay to print my wedding plans).
I persevered, and according to 2012’s web sponsorship rate cards, by 2004 my website traffic would be worthy of some pretty good swag accompanied with a nice load of cash. Those were the days. For years I was often dismissed and received many an eye roll when I mentioned that I had a blog. “What? Why? How?” were the questions I was often asked. I was grateful to connect with friends who understood and was even more delighted to discover that some of these same friends had their own blogs.
And by 2004 I fully realized knew that I was no longer alone in my blogging pursuits. Many folks were blogging after 9-11 and the phrase, “moms who blogged” was working its way into popular dialog. It didn’t hurt that there were a couple of ballsy women out there (not even moms) who were making news because of what they were saying online. Now questions were being asked. People were getting comfortable shopping at gap.com. (You could NOT buy maternity clothes in-store at the time), and things were moving forward. Internet land grabs were a thing of the past. The dot.com had gone dot bust, layoffs were aplenty and people needed to find ways to support themselves.
Women are resourceful creatures and were figuring out how to make a place for themselves online. The internet was expanding in quadruple dog years, yet judgment was in the land, and those women, the women who were accepting money for their “online diaries,” were being accused of terrible, terrible things. These so-called money seekers were the sellouts (demon spawn — no, not really) who were bartering with their souls, or at least that was the word on the street. I remember the talk, “Well, if she is placing ads on her website, how can we really trust that she is writing for us or simply writing for the money?” That question was asked, discussed and debated yet those internet “money making” pioneers pushed forward. The year was 2005. It’s kind of funny if you think about it now. It was somehow ok for this dude from Utah to get a few million dollars for a domain name that probably took him twenty seconds to register, but it was not ok for women to support themselves? I don’t get it. I never really have.
As I recall the website advertising at the time consisted mainly of a top bar ad and maybe a few side bar ads. That’s it. Sponsorships, if there were any, were few and far between. It seemed more about getting a book deal. The closest I personally came to a sponsorship was writing a guest post for an online furniture store. What I did I get in return? A 35% discount for their high priced furniture; a discount I never used. I did not have to sell their product per se, I just needed to promote the idea of design on their website, not mine. I liked that there was no big push for me to direct people to their website or to encourage them directly to buy their product. It didn’t seem soulless. I felt like I was networking and building relationships with other types of blogs. The end.
At the time, I did not find it at all odd that bloggers were hoping to get paid for the words they were writing. If they had the traffic, why shouldn’t they get paid? I agreed and I saw these blogs as online magazines of sorts. I supported the argument that newspapers and magazines need advertisers to exist, why shouldn’t well read blogs be supported too? I was excited when I watched friends receive their first checks and didn’t mind when I was asked by my blogging friends to teach them about advertising and them set them up with our advertisers. It was easy for me. See, and like I mentioned above, Dave and I have worked in the internet really since the time you could work in the internet. In 1997 we started a website called, OSNews.com and since about 1998 we have been paid by advertisers month after month. Maybe it was because we were financially ok at the time, regardless, I never felt compelled to hustle up my own advertising. May I point out that I was awkward and comfortable being the wife of the super-hero-impressive-young-entrepreneur-hotshot in the family. I was also slightly insecure about my blog and when I heard of my other friends’ successes, I never wanted to step on their toes or take away from their opportunity. True story and if you don’t believe me, please read my last post on boundaries.
2006 came and my personal life made it hard for me to blog. I stepped away for a long while and eventually came back and was trying to blog again fulltime by 2011. And people, I will tell you what. I came back to a beast. No. I came back to a crazy new internet multi-faceted Monster. Women who had work offline nine – five jobs were now running the internet. These were business women who know who to come in, take over, bulldoze and make relationships. The simple ads of 2005 were long gone and all I heard about is, well, all I heard was a lot of stuff. When I came back I did what I thought I was supposed to do. I tried to network and I totally reached out. I am still grateful for those who reached back with their easy going acceptance. In attempts to let people know I was back, I also emailed the folks who had emailed me. That is what you do, right? Let me be more specific. When I really came back to blogging I sent out one announcement email that I copied and pasted to several hundred former readers and only those who had contacte me to let them know I was back. I assumed they would be grateful and I would say most were. I was also surprised at how some used my email and what they made it out to be. I should have been wiser. (No. I shouldn’t have been. I assume the best in others and if that is not the case then whatever…) I had been away long and while I was away, I did not read blogs. I needed to turtle and get my life on track. Instead daily, I read CNN.com, the NYtimes.com, People.com and played Peggle. Ask Dave.
Back on the web and totally overwhelmed I sought I did what my experience told me to do and I sought out professional advise from others who have made a business out of their online presence, (and received some unsolicited advise as well). I was curious and wanted to know what I needed to do so I could be current. After asking, here are some of the things I was admonished to do: I needed to hustle, go to blog conferences, social media meetings, seminars, read books and to not even think about talking to advertisers until I paid someone to redesign my out-of-date website. I needed to Tweet all day every day, but I needed to be careful not to post links to my blog. “People don’t like that.” I also need to follow people on Twitter, but not so many that I look like a “stalker.” (I totally suck at Twitter, by the way). I needed a Facebook fan page. I needed a lot of people to “like” my Facebook Page. If people didn’t like my Facebook fan page then having a fan page would mean nothing. I needed to Pinterest. I needed Instagram. I need to spend my day reading and commenting on other blogs. I needed to write just the right thing or I would completely lose my audience. I was told that I shouldn’t even think about money if I didn’t have at least 500 daily readers, and really with five hundred readers a day all I could receive was a gift for being part of a campaign. I heard the words authenticity, sell out and sentiments like, “no one blogs anymore so [insert New Jersey accent here] forget about it.” My expectations were low and I was grateful that people like Tammy, Quel, Andrea, Summer, Nino, Sara and Michelle found me or found me again.
What I didn’t bargain for was the extreme change in landscape. I should know better. Even back in the day I didn’t have the hustle and now I found myself sitting at a random lunch watching a really cool business relationship being stolen right out in front of me. Crazy crackers. Out of complete respect for those I knew before, I did listen, try, and then I realized that something somewhere was being lost in the translation. Somehow I was still thinking it was 2006 and when I mentioned advertising or tried to understand Sponsorship, I thought it meant a banner ad or a guest post. I stopped reaching out. I was not making sense and beginning to feel really insecure. Thank God for my gallbladder. What an awesome and complete distraction. I could only deal with my non eating, sick insides and my family. And as soon as my gallbladder felt a little better, I accidentally got pregnant. Yay? Then I stepped back again (because I am such a slow learner) and thought about all of it. During morning sickness and shock, I took time to process, to see and to remind myself what my purpose is online, not your purpose, mine.
I, Beth Adams, have written since I could write. I have boxes full of hand written journals and diaries. The classes I focused on in high school and college were writing classes. Writing has those subjective aspects. Some folks will love you. Some will hate you. Before I publish my post, every post since the beginning of my blogging has always been well edited (by my super-hero-grammarian-editing-aficionado, Dave).
That was my goal: well-articulated and well edited posts and sometimes it all came together like a song.
Now that my boys are older and another child does not seem to be in my cards, I would love to make money doing the thing I love to do. I really would. When I add up the numbers, however, I see that I could probably make more money working at the Gap and no, they did not pay me to say this. The market is tight. People are aggressive, fierce and many seem to be sponsored for everything. I know and totally understand how cool it is to get free Playstations and vacations. I know that getting a sponsorship has a certain prestige and I even get the woman who offered that I should buy my own stuff and give it away on my website. “It’s the only way you are going to get people to come back.” Hey and seriously with all the travel we do, if I every get a travel sponsor, I will happily accept and I will also let you know.
Coming from someone who has received advertising for a technology website month after month since 1998, I do not know if I buy it. If the only reason you click on my website is so you can win something, if the only thing I can write about is Cheerios or Smart Water, then what is the point? I started blogging to plan my wedding. I continued because I was traveling the United States with my young and small family. I was able to blog day after for two simple reasons. I am a stay-at-home mom and I love to write. I love to tell my story and I love that people actually seem interested in what I have to say. Maybe I am lazy or maybe I just feel like my writing will become way to filtered pursuing an extra freebie or $50. here or there. I really respect that people have to do what they have to do to make a living or be number one or do whatever fills their world. For me, it’s writing. It’s the process of working through an issue via my written word. I love that people have been there for both of my really heartbreaking miscarriages. I am blessed that other Stevens-Johnsons Syndrome sufferers found us because I wrote about Kyle. I love that people walk up to me and say, “is it weird that I know more about you than you know about me?” The answer, “No, it is not weird. I like it.” I am grateful for all of those who have hustled and blazed a trail for all the others to move ahead. Instead of knocking each other down, I love the idea of owning our spot and respecting each other for who we are. Isn’t it cool that women have been so successful on the World Wide Web?
Here is where it is at: I have been on the internet in one form or another for a very long time. I am an outlier. I always have been. I want to be myself and not the person I have been told I should be. My website is what it is. I will redesign it when I can or when I figure it out. Dave even sent me an offer to get a really cool Word Press template this morning. I am always happy to link to anyone yet I need help setting up a proper links page. I know. I am so 2005. Do people even link anymore? I will not have advertising on my website because I am not good at the hustle or better, because I do not want to clutter my words. Sponsorships seem super cool awesometastic (Kyle’s word), but I feel like the market is super saturated and to get a sponsorship of my own may not be worth the price I will have to pay.
If, by some small miracle and because of this blog, I ever get a job offer or a book deal (who doesn’t want a book deal?) or get off my lazy butt and self-publish (thank you Gayla!), I will jump up and down with glee and then I will let you know. Until then, thank you so much for reading, commenting and for standing by my side.
Disclaimer/Just-in-case: If you did not pick up on this earlier, please know this post comes from a happy place, not a sad, feeling stiffed or feeling-left-out place. I am big gril who feels blessed and grateful. I am more of an if-I-can’t-join-them-because-I-am-a-little-weird-and-perhaps-a-little-oppositional-I-will-appreciate-all-of-us-and-will-find-another-way sort of gal.
P.S. If you ever read about how much I love every little morsel of my Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies or how I could live at the Hilton Los Cabos forever or my great respect for OPI Nail polish’s tried and true color,Lincoln-Park-After-Dark, please know that I am not being paid to market or advertise a product here. I am sharing because I want to. If I ever get paid for anything on this website, as I promised, I will let you know!
27 thoughts on “Monetizing my Blog”
You’re so damn awesome. You pretty much articulated everything I feel about blogging. We have different experiences and histories but I think we’ve been in a lot of the same places and are in a similar spot now with it all. Outlier. What a great word.
Beth! I am unbelievably honored to be mentioned and over the moon with red cheeks and tears in my eyes to get a picture. Whew! Yes I did, I did find you! What a find it was! And what an amazing personal statement- a manifesto. I’m thrilled to be reading! Lots of love!
I like your words. And I like you and Dave. Keep writing and being great friends!
Thank you, Summer! You are awesome! I love who you are and I love that you don’t hide from it. I love your great big heart and I love that you are an amazing photographer. Without the internet, my friend, I don’t know if our paths would have ever crossed and for that I am grateful!
Thank you for getting it!
Tammy, I love you and am honored that our paths crossed. You are smart, amazing, a badass and a lovely mom. I love red cheeks and tears. You made my day with that wonderful image! Yay and you used the word, MANIFESTO! I totally wanted to call this post, “My Manifesto,” or, “My Mission Statement.” You got it! Thank you! Thank you for reading. Thank you for valuing what I say! Lots of love back! <3
Kevin, Thank you! We like your words to and are grateful you and Dave had that crazy idea all those years ago. We are grateful that our friendship with you has weathered and traveled so well over these years. I will keep writing and you keep being are most awesome friend!
Love that you’re so honest about your experiences in blogging and really, life in general. Keep up the awesome work writing.
I love this post. Pure joy that we are pictured together! YAY for us! And Davey’s expression in the background are my sentiments exactly about that awesome(tastic!) night!
Thanks for remembering how the internet all unfolded. Kyle and Eli will never really know… My amnesia about the innovations that got us here really bugs! We forget how adaptable we all are and how quickly everything changes- us along with it. This post brings back that dizzying astonishment I felt all those years ago when viewing online the first super simplistic websites of world renowned museums and galleries; crazy how much could be seen from where one sat on the edge of one’s seat! But I could in no way anticipate how the internet would give me a voice – even if its only to occasionally bring light to city policy-making or show what an open adoption looks like. Bloggers have influence, people read, the right folks find one another. I FOUND YOU AGAIN!
Are fires on your mountainside still illegal? i hope not! i need one of your fires before the season ends.
xo to you Bethie!
p.s. i heart all of your headers!
Thank you, Regina! I love your feedback and I have always loved how honest and sincere you are! Thank goodness for long wait lines at popular restaurants!
Dear Raquel, Thank you for loving the post and thank you for letting me blatantly steal pictures off of your lovely website. Please do not tell K&E that their mother is a thief. I love that picture of us. We should take more! Dave’s expression is so Dave! Love that man!
It all changes so quickly and until I started writing and re-writing this post I had kind of forgotten too. The astonishment was so dizzying and so hopeful. As a child I never could imagine this world I would grow up into. I am so glad the internet has given you a voice. You have a good one. Please please keep sharing it! I am glad you found me again and I am looking forward to sharing your words here.
I will check with Big Daddy about the fires. It’s about time!
xxoo right back at you! Oh Oh and thank you for loving my headers even though I called them logos 😉 (now fixed!)
Please forgive that my bathroom remodel began 2 hours ago and I missed out on all of this yesterday!!
I don’t have tears in my eyes that I got a shout-out from crazyus (but still YAY!) but instead I have tears in my eyes that you have made peace about your corner of the Internet, Beth. Outlier is a perfect description as is manifesto! You have shared with us quite openly that you were struggling to find how you fit into the 2012 blogging scene, and I’m over-the-moon glad that you have embraced your true love of writing and your true self (as opposed to doing things that aren’t you like hustling the ads and such). This is growth and Lord knows it’s not easy but I’m proud of you! I have been reading since way way back and I was just so tickled to be able to read your honest, heartfelt words again. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and my hubby doesn’t get it), but I feel like blogs are like a modern quilting bee. It brings people together to talk about what is on their hearts. It forms connections across miles and boundaries that are indescribable and awesome. I’d love to meet you someday…perhaps in Portland?! 🙂
In summary: YAY!!!!
Andrea, I am so excited you are remodeling your bathroom. I hope it is not too inconvenient and that you will love the end product. Please keep me posted. I have always loved your quilting bee analogy. Coming from a line of talkative Midwestern Quilters, I totally get it. Thank you for expressing it.
I have a spent a lifetime trying to accept the outlier I am. It has been a journey. You have seen the journey, step by step.
Hustling ads or sponsorships is this animal. Adjusting who I am to fit in does not feel good. This being said, I am thoroughly impressed with those who blaze right through the process. Way to go!
I would love to meet you in Portland some day! I also am grateful, as always, that you have been here. Thank you Andrea!
I miss the good old days of blogs, when there were lots of people who said lots of things on their minds. It’s not often now that I can find that. The people I used to follow either don’t blog anymore, or have become shill artists. Not that I mind product reviews, but if that’s all there is on a blog, I sigh and click on to the next website. So I’m glad you are back to writing where I can see it and read it and spend a few minutes with you.
You are a classy rock star. Making peace with that decision is a righteous thing.
I totally get that this is a happy post and I’m happy you wrote it. I’m happy you’re back and I love you for you and if you ever decide to get sponsors or advertise or whatever, I will still be here reading your wonderful stories and insights. Somehow *that’s* what got lost in the process. Authenticity. Whether it’s a true lack of it or a perceived lack of it, something is just off. Rare is the writer — I’m always incline to call us writers rather than bloggers — who became involved in monetizing who also retained their original voice. At least the ones I read or even *wanted* to read. I’m glad you’ve retained yours!
Blogging really is where we get to see all of Beth. And such a BIG heart! Be true to yourself and you can’t go wrong, as the song says.
Thanks for the trip down Internet memory lane. I remember back in the late ’90’s doing Internet marketing and there were no common banner ad sizes (can you believe?) The graphics people hated me because I was always asking them to resize a banner ad by 10 pixels or less. Oh, and animated gifs were the bomb-diggity – always put that CTA on the last image…
Love reading your blog Beth. You’ll find your way, just keep moving.
Thank you for this post. Over the past year I have felt my blog slipping, first because of family life and then becuase I just feel like I can’t keep up. Like the big keep getting bigger and everyone that used to read and comment is now to busy trying to get sponsors and grow their readership to truly be what we all used to be, a community.
I love reading people who just write to write and hopefully I will be able to get back to that on my blog soon.
You know what- the entire reason I started reading blogs is that they were personal. There was no reason for them other than that someone out there had to let out what was in their head, and sometimes the thing that was in their head was something that I could relate to and I really liked that. Sometimes it was something totally out there (from my perspective) and I liked that too. But it was all, I don’t know… real. These days, so many blogs are sponsored and over-designed and it feels like bloggers who buy into that are not writing from the heart at all anymore but only seeking pageviews. And that, I cannot relate to. And it’s not what I want to spend my time reading- I like the personal. So thank you for keeping it real, Beth, and I’m always happy when I come here and find new stuff to read. (I’ve been reading your site for years, by the way.
Also, Lincoln-Park-after-Dark is totally the best nail polish color ever. 🙂
Sara, I dropped the ball. School started. My boys changed schools and my blog to a very back seat. Thank you for your feedback about blogs. So you even remember your comments 😉 😉 ? It has been a while. I miss the good old days of blogs too. I am learning that even in this new landscape, I need to be myself. Thank you for reading! It always always means a lot!
Erin, Thank you for your classy rock star comment! You made my day with your kind and most awesome comments! Making peace is a great thing and thank you for getting it. I am just sorry I took so long to respond. Ah, the beginning of the school year! Gets me every time!
Lovely Nino, Do you remember that way back on 8.16.12 you left me the kindest comment. Thank you! Thank you for sticking with me all these years! Thank you for your support and I am grateful for your flexibility and that you get it!
Kim, thank you! Sorry I dopped the ball. I have wanted to respond for a long time. I am never the best at multi-tasking. Thank you for getting me and liking me.
Internet Memory Lane is kind of hilarious when you think about it and we were a part of it. Yay! You are totally cracking me up. Who doesn’t love an animated gif?
Thank you too for always being you, dear friend!
Heather, You are welcome! I am just sorry it has taken me a bit to respond. I hope you find my comment to you! I totally get where you are coming from (I believe) 🙂 I am so glad you appreciate the community aspect of blogging that did get lost somewhere in there. I hope you find your peace and get back to blogging again soon! Best of luck and everything else!
Amy, I hope you find my response because it has taken me so long to respond. I put the brakes on my blog while school was starting and my boys were changing to new schools. Crazy Craziness!
I love how you articulate your blogging/reading blogs experience. Thank you! Thank you for getting me and for liking why I blog. It means a lot.
Mostly, THANK YOU for being a fellow Lincoln-Park-After-Dark lover!