October 21, 2014

Fake Steve Jobs is Wrong About Blogging

Business schoolWhy is it that every article that proclaims “you can’t make money at blogging,” is written by someone who is NOT an entrepreneur?

Coincidence?  Or cause and effect?

The latest such article is by the journalist formerly known as Fake Steve Jobs.  For almost two years he wrote a blog of the same name.  He writes in his column at Newsweek:

I posted 10 or 20 items a day to my site, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, rarely taking a break. I blogged from cabs, using my BlackBerry. I blogged in the middle of the night, having awakened with an idea. I rationalized this insane behavior by telling myself that at the end of this rainbow I would find a huge pot of gold. But reality kept interfering with this fantasy….I walked away feeling burned out and weighing 20 pounds more than when I started. I also came away with a sneaking suspicion that while blogs can do many wonderful things, generating huge amounts of money isn’t one of them.

When you read his article, it is immediately apparent that he focused his energies almost exclusively on the writing.  He was obviously good at the style of writing he did.  However, writing by itself — no matter how good — won’t cut it.  Writing is just one of many activities that you have to pay equal attention to if you plan to start and grow a successful publishing business.

People often ask me how to grow a blog into a business.  My response?  Treat it as a business.

By treating it as a business, you have to address the many elements necessary to run a successful business.  Just like growing any other business, in a blog-based business you have to have all these things covered: marketing, sales, technology, operations, staffing, customer service, finance, legal, accounting — and a lot more.

Matt DiPietro of Federated Media speaks as eloquently as anyone I’ve ever heard about the complexity of creating a business based on blogging:

With blogs, like with any media product, there are at least two sides to the equation. There is the creative/editorial side, which is concerned with creating content, and there is the business/publishing side, which is concerned with leveraging that content to produce profits. I think the vast majority of observers fail to recognize just how complicated both sides of this equation are. Creating great content that attracts a loyal community is hard work that depends on a special kind of creative person. Trust me, successful bloggers are invariably professionals that take their jobs very seriously and work as hard as anyone. In this sense, the vision of the guy in his pajamas was never reality.

But maybe even less understood is the business side. Turning social media into a profit-making business depends not only on great content and engaged communities (which are absolutely necessary) but also on deep knowledge and relationships across the advertising industry, the technical expertise to make integrated advertising campaigns happen, the business acumen to know which tech solutions to partner with and how, reciprocal and productive relationships with brands and ad agencies, not to mention all of the other activities and departments that make businesses happen – finance, HR, marketing, etc.

Successful blogs are in reality niche publishing businesses that are every bit as sophisticated as any digital publishing company.

As regular readers know, Small Business Trends is a blog that forms the foundation of my business. It supports a staff and quite a few service providers — all of them small businesses.

I seldom write about what goes on behind the scenes, because that’s not what this site is about. But I can attest that what Matt DiPietro says about complexity is true — and then some.

A digital publishing business — a blog as a business — requires a variety of skills.  It’s not just about writing.  That’s a fraction of what goes on in a blog business.  It’s about how you pull it all together and the sum of the parts.

28 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

28 Reactions

  1. I absolutely agree with you. Promotion is as important, if not more, than content on a blog. It takes time for a blog to be noticed in the blogosphere.

    It’s also true that an overwhelming majority of blogs would only make small amounts of money. You have to be useful and persistent in order to make money from blogging.

    Nice post.

  2. That’s a nice post Anita. I did come across almost the same insight when I sold an ad slot on our blog. And then realized that even though I sold the ad at a fraction of what I know is the market rate for such ad slot, I still made much more than what google ads would pay. One thing is clear – if you want google ads to pay for your blog, it is hardly going to. You have to find other ways.

    Can you tell me, what are your revenue generating activities of your blog?

  3. Bravo Anita. As always, you put your finger right on the pain point that so many suffer from in growing a business. It doesn’t matter if that business is a blog-based entity, a flower shop out of one’s garage, or an eBay storefront — if you don’t treat your venture as a business, you won’t be able to move the needle in sales.

    I’m finally making the moves to graduate from being a little consultant in a tiny home office (nothing wrong with that, by the way), to growing my company to the next level.

    I talk with publishers, digital and print (gasp), every week and the ones who are most successful do what Matt says so well. Thanks for sharing such insights and nudges to keep people like me on their toes!

  4. Well said Anita! Blogging, like just about anything, can be a money maker if treated as a business venture. Because of the approach you take in focusing your efforts on the business aspects of Small Business Trends, you can laugh all the way to the bank.

  5. Anita,

    This is a very enlightening post!

    I am starting to get the notion that Small Business Trends LLC is consisting of a group of “companies” / divisions that together as a whole is a great empire and force in the small business community! :)

    Jhangora: Very cute photo on your blog! Is it a wild cat? I have been blogging for 6+ years. I don’t know how “noted” I am in the blogosphere, but enjoy myself and have a good time. I can’t live solely on my blogging at the moment but this extra curricular activity that could lead to new job & business opportunities. I look forward to when I could start my podcasting interviews on a regular basis. I think that addition could give me a break-through effect of some sort.

    TJ: Regarding successful companies in the printing industry. Yes, they have to be good at marketing their services due to the fact that it is pretty “simple” to print things in today’s world and you have a tough competition. I think that a European version of old Kinko’s could be successful. How about creating starter kits for small business owners when they start up their business?

    I wrote the following “editorial” comment in my blogpost, Ads Popping Up: [Editor's comment: Maybe Daniel Lyons, a.k.a "Fake Steve Jobs", landed some other writing gigs?]

    I think that Daniel is a true writer / author, but he hasn’t learned the true nature of the blogosphere and how the social media is working. Sure, he got a lot of attention for a short time as a copy of a real businessman, but the stardom could fade away quickly.

    Here is my comment on the piece in NewsWeek:

    Posted By: lyceum1776 @ 02/11/2009 10:32:18 AM

    Interesting story. Did it not feel strange to blog as a “copy” of Steve Jobs? I think you could make money on advertising, affiliate marketing, sponsorship and in other ways. I am a “poor” capitalist at the moment, but I enjoy my blogging and it has lead to great things, in a material & spiritual way. With my experience and increased knowledge how social media is working, I could create workshops, engage in consulting projects and the spread the good word.

    All the Best,

    Martin Lindeskog – American in spirit.
    Gothenburg, Sweden.
    ——————-

    For more on this topic, please click on the link “Martin Lindeskog” Says: I look forward to hear your comments! :)

  6. Anita,

    A follow-up question. I am interested to hear your views on Federated Media Publishing.

    In Mike Rosen-Molina’s post, Project Wonderful, Blogads, FM Go Beyond Click-Through Ads, this company is described in some length. I took an excerpt from this article and added to my post, Popping Up Ads.

    Right after the article was published in November, 2008, Owen Thomas wrote the post, The death of conversational marketing on Gawker. Om Malik of GigaOm commented on the situation at that time in his post, Time to Say Good-bye, and Thanks.

    I am interested to learn more about FM Publishing and their journey in the media landscape.

  7. Denise,

    I am looking forward to the day when I could “laugh all the way to the bank.” :)

    At the moment, I am smiling when I get an email from e.g., PayPal, TipJoy, ScratchBack etc., receiving micro-donations from readers, friends and supporters.

    For more ways to support my blogging, read my post, Sponsor and Support EGO Blog. Click on “Martin Lindeskog” Says.

    You know that I “work for olives”?! ;) Check out my blog in order to find the answer. The saying is inspired by a fellow blogger’s carton with this title. I have a standard price, measured in 1 kg of silver per 1/2 working day. More on this price list in the above mentioned post.

  8. I absolutely agree that blogging is not just writing alone and one of the primary reasons why not many blogs actually see success is because they either forgot about the writing side or the business side.

    You need to be good on either side to make blogging a success.

    Wayne Liew
    http://www.wayneliew.com

  9. Wayne Liew,

    I will subscribe to your newsletter. You are young entrepreneur, located in Malaysia?

  10. Anita,
    If blogging was just about “writing,” there would be a ton of new millionaires all over the world.

    Blogging for business is very complex. Plus, it is so new, those of us that do blog regularly, are on a constant learning curve.

    Joel Libava
    The Franchise King BLOG

  11. Joel,

    You are so right! Maybe it is time to set up a blogging franchise concept on how to get started?! ;)

    My learning curve has been 6+ years and counting… :)

  12. So true. People are always under the misconception that you don’t need to work hard for your money. The truth is, you need to work extremely hard. Writing is only one aspect of a blog but there is so much involved behind the scenes. I still consider myself a newbie and I learn something new at least daily.

  13. You are doing a great job at Small Business CEO! I will “fly over” there soon and comment on some posts… :)

  14. Great comments Anita. I read that article by Dan Lyons and thought he just didn’t get it. He thinks you can slap a few Adsense ads on a blog and be able to quit your day job.

    I was a big fan of Fake Steve Jobs and I think he is a brilliant writer. But a businessman he is not. If he spent time reading your blog here or talking with someone like Jeremy Shoemaker or Darren Rowse he could have had a different outcome.

  15. Peter Renton,

    I am now following you on Twitter.

    Don’t you think Dan Lyons got a good deal from selling his blog site to Forbes and then start writing for NewsWeek? Maybe it was his plan and agenda from the beginning, like a test? We have seen several “copy cats” and “fake” blog users in past, e.g., Washingtonienne and Wonkette.

    P.S. I want to discuss your post on Fat Tire Beer at some point.

  16. Hopefully many would be bloggers or those wanting an online business will take onboard what you have said.

    Your business is actually a good case study of how to it properly.

  17. It IS just like any other business: an exceptional artist does not necessarily have a profitable business; or an outstanding carpenter doesn’t necessarily have a successful business … a great blogger needs to have a business plan and successful strategy to make blogging into a successful business. Thanks Anita – sometimes we assume that being good at something means that we can be successful, but business certainly needs more than that.

  18. Nice post Anita! Btw, I have a question: What if you are not so good in writing? Can you still be successful in turning your blog into a business? Or when can you say that a certain writing style is good or not?

  19. I absolutely agree with you. Promotion is as important, if not more, than content on a blog. It takes time for a blog to be noticed in the blogosphere.

    It’s also true that an overwhelming majority of blogs would only make small amounts of money. You have to be useful and persistent in order to make money from blogging.

    Nice post.

    HI,

    Check the following link:

    http://www.ciiglabs.com/promo/

    It will helps you to improve your business

  20. Well said Anita. To Rose’s point – I’m not sure you need to be a fabulous writer. Although your blog needs to have quality writing that’s readable and useful to your target audience. But “stellar” writing – I’m not sure that’s a requirement.

    I think the point you make about running a business is critical. It doesn’t matter what you want to make money at – making money requires treating any activity as a business.

  21. Hi Jhangora, you are so right. Building a business and making money at it is hard work. It takes persistence, no matter what business you are in. Anybody who thinks it’s easy — or should be easy — has never been responsible for generating a lick of revenue.

    Hi Chaitanya,

    The revenue generating activities here are similar to any publishing business: sponsorships and display advertising; syndication of custom content; a small amount from affiliate sales (very small); associated consulting and events.

    Anita

  22. On monetizing your blog, I think that is not the easiest thing to do. I think you do need exceptional content—and a very unique voice. But, as Matt has so clearly laid out, there are so many more components to a successful blog-business.

    I blog to promote my business, but also because I absolutely love the experience and the connections with other people that it brings.

    Thought-provoking post, Anita. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Hi Rose, yes, I agree with Ivana. You don’t have to be a stellar writer. But there has to be something unique about your blog — something that sets it part and makes people want to visit it.

    Anita

  24. That’s the thing, I know of many blogger who do write great content but they don’t do anything to promote their blogs. That’s fine if you’re not looking to monetize it.

    Your’re not going to make $xxx,xxx or even $x,xxx overnight either!

  25. Thanks Anita for the kind words! This is right on:

    “A digital publishing business — a blog as a business — requires a variety of skills. It’s not just about writing. That’s a fraction of what goes on in a blog business. It’s about how you pull it all together and the sum of the parts.”

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