Bloggers For Hire

There are nearly as many people making their living as bloggers than as lawyers — and more than as computer programmers or firefighters.  At least according to a report by Mark Penn (with E. Kinney Zalesne) in today’s WSJ.

The best studies we can find say we are a nation of over 20 million bloggers, with 1.7 million profiting from the work, and 452,000 of those using blogging as their primary source of income. That’s almost 2 million Americans getting paid by the word, the post, or the click — whether on their site or someone else’s. And that’s nearly half a million of whom it can be said, as Bob Dylan did of Hurricane Carter: “It’s my work he’d say, I do it for pay.”


Demographically, bloggers are extremely well educated: three out of every four are college graduates. Most are white males reporting above-average incomes. One out of three young people reports blogging, but bloggers who do it for a living successfully are 2% of bloggers overall. It takes about 100,000 unique visitors a month to generate an income of $75,000 a year. Bloggers can get $75 to $200 for a good post, and some even serve as “spokesbloggers” — paid by advertisers to blog about products. As a job with zero commuting, blogging could be one of the most environmentally friendly jobs around — but it can also be quite profitable. For sites at the top, the returns can be substantial. At some point the value of the Huffington Post will no doubt pass the value of the Washington Post.

I’m quite dubious of these figures.  They are likely self-reported and inflated.  $75,000 a year is $6250 a month.  Who is it that’s getting paid $6.50 per thousand visits?  At that rate, Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds, who average around 4.3 million and 10 million monthly uniques, should be atop the Forbes 500.

UPDATE: Daniel Solove is skeptical as well: “At Concurring Opinions, we get 100,000+ unique visitors per month, and sadly, our take home pay is far far south of $22,000. Where’s all the money? If it’s out there, it sure ain’t in our pockets, I’ll boldly state that we’re all keeping our day jobs!”

UPDATE II: Apparently, writing about blogging is good linkbait.  The piece is climbing the charts at Memeorandum, getting mentions at And So it Goes in Shreveport, Simply Left Behind, Gawker, Clusterstock, American Power, Scott Rosenberg’s Wordyard, CANNONFIRE, The Other McCain, and BuzzMachine.   Little Miss Attila is on the case, too.

UPDATE III: In an addendum to the piece, Penn responds to his critics, further demonstrating he understands neither simple mathematics nor the basics of research.

Story via Jonathan Adler.  Image: NY/NJ Bengali.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Economics and Business, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    So am I, James.
    I am particularly suspicious of the sources employed.

  2. Steve Hynd says:

    From the WSJ-linked Technorati survey, emphasis mine:

    The average annual blogger revenue is more than $6,000. However, this is skewed by the top 1% of bloggers who earn $200k+. Among active bloggers that we surveyed, the average income was $75,000 for those who had 100,000 or more unique visitors per month (some of whom had more than one million visitors each month). The median annual income for this group is significantly lower — $22,000.

    Bloggers with advertising invest an average of $1,800 annually in their blogs. U.S. bloggers earn an average of $5,000, though bloggers in Asia earn 50% more on average and European bloggers earn an average of 75% more than U.S. bloggers. High revenue bloggers skew the mean revenue. The median revenue for U.S. bloggers is $200 annually (and the median annual investment is only $50).

    The WSJ has often proven it can’t cite facts correctly (see Marc A. Thiessen’s column today, for instance). But to get figures wildly wrong too…

    Regards, Steve

  3. mattt says:

    That has to be way high. Assuming the self-reported numbers are fundamentally honest (big assumption) I suspect the 452,000 who claim blogging as their “primary source of income” includes a lot of people who meant to say “earned income.” In other words, they make a few bucks from blogads or the like and have no other regular job. But they are also retirees collecting pensions or SS, housewives/stay at home dads, students living off loans and handouts from their parents, and etc.

  4. Triumph says:

    I’m quite dubious of these figures. They are likely self-reported and inflated.

    Speak for yourself, dude. I get a three figure salary from Richard Mellon Scaife just for posting stupid comments on this blog.

  5. G.A.Phillips says:

    Speak for yourself, dude. I get a three figure salary from Richard Mellon Scaife just for posting stupid comments on this blog.

    What in the great green hell? someone owes me a lot of money!