Blogging for Money, Redux

Glenn Reynolds has an interesting look at the shopworn subject in a piece at TCS Daily.

People are making a living, or a decent chunk of one, by blogging. Some are warbloggers in the Middle East, like Michael Totten, who blogs from Beirut, with occasional sidetrips to Egypt, Turkey, and Iraq, or Michael Yon, who served as a war correspondent via blog, or Bill Roggio, who embedded himself for a while with a U.S. combat unit in Iraq.

Back here in the States, there are plenty of people making money the older-fashioned way, without being shot at. Andrew Sullivan has moved in-house at Time for a presumably pretty penny, Josh Marshall is running a blog-collective, and lots of bloggers are running ads via Google, Blogads, or Pajamas Media. Some are making a living; more are making a second income, or beer money, or, well, not very much, but a little. There’s a new enterprise targeting would-be professional bloggers. (Slogan: “You think ‘Full-Time Blogger’ has a nice ring to it? So do we.”)

Some people lament this phenomenon because it takes the “bloginess” out of blogging, adding many of the pitfalls associated with the mainstream media to the blogosphere. Others lament it because they think they are better bloggers than the ones making all the money and it just isn’t fair.

Reynolds, who is modest about the amount of money he’s making from his blog and related activities,

Making money off a blog requires a lot of traffic, and no matter how much the blogosphere grows, most blogs won’t have a lot of traffic, as Clay Shirky persuasively demonstrated a while back. Shirky observed that blogs, like many other things, follow a power-law distribution in terms of links and traffic, with a small number getting most of the links and traffic, and a much larger number getting much less of either. This was, he argued, essentially a function of attention economics. (I’ve written on that subject here).

As with many things, you can argue about whether this is a bug or a feature. As a “bug,” it seems to demonstrate that most bloggers won’t ever get rich — they just won’t have enough traffic. (Niche bloggers can make up for this to a degree, by finding an area where low traffic is still valuable, but that only goes so far). As a “feature,” it seems to guarantee that most blogging will always be amateur.

After all, there’s no surer way to maintain your amateur status than to have no one who’s willing to pay you! And it’s silly to think that people won’t do things, or enjoy them, just because they aren’t being paid.

Quite right. Few bloggers are making, or ever likely to make, enough money to make a living at it. Some have even given up on taking advertising altogether.

But, certainly, blogging for love and money are not mutually exclusive. Making enough money to cover site expenses is nice. More is better. Putting out enough content to keep traffic high sometimes seems like work; you might as well get paid for it if you can.

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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. Digger says:

    Amen to your last sentence brother Joyner.