There has been so much hype about how to “monetise”, or in normal speak “make money”, from your travel blog in recent months. So much so that I felt compelled to write something myself in order to get in on the action. All this talk about getting 1000 hits per day and that converting into $1000 per month and the like has got me thinking. Who is it that pays to advertise on a travel blog? Why would they advertise on a travel blog? And more importantly, who is actually reading travel blogs?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions with any certainty, but I do get the sense that for the vast majority of blogs, it’s travel bloggers that are the primary audience. We all comment on each other’s blogs, tweet and retweet other’s posts, promote each other and dream up wacky ways to get our message out there. It must feel great to consistently get 200+ views on your blog everyday (I don’t). But if the 200+ are just other bloggers like me, aren’t we really just preaching to the converted? Aren’t we just a self-serving community that spins stories to each other about topics that we all already know about?
Recently there seems to have been a greater push to make money from blogging and while the sentiment is great, let’s use some basic laws of business to put this notion into context. First of all we need to look at what our market is. Generally, people write travel blogs as journals and ocassionally publish something that might be useful to other travellers like “top 5 art galleries in Berlin”. Many travel blogs these days are the same as what LiveJournal was back in 2000. A diary that maybe a few interested people will read. Your average member of the public isn’t going to read because it’s not relevant to them and thus the market of the average travel blog is so small that it really has no business potential. There are a few high profile examples of travel blogging making people money, but those guys are on another planet and have just about got the market tied up. The rest of us can slog away to chip away at their market share, but there are so many of us doing EXACTLY THE SAME THING that it is impossible to get ahead. OK, so I just killed the dreams of about 50 people, but I think this is reality.
Let’s run some numbers on a best case scenario. Let’s say we actually did end up earning $1000/month from our blog. A whopping $12000 per year. Sounds fantastic! But to get the $12000, there is a requirement to be posting at least a few articles to the blog per week, a requirement to prostitute yourself on twitter and facebook and generally spend somewhere around the 50 hour mark per week working on the blog and working the phones. I reckon this is a poor use of time. I can go work at the grocery store stacking shelves and earn $30000 and I might even get 10% off my grocery bill! Oh that’s right, you can’t do that ANYWHERE in the world. You can teach English anywhere in the world and that pays more than $12000 per year even in poor countries. I think that’d be a better use of time. Anything would be a better use of time than spending endless hours on twitter and a blog for the sake of a lousy $12000!
So how can you make money from surfing the internet all day in some cheap 3rd world country where living expenses are low? Find a point of difference. It’s the same as setting up a cafe in a strip of shops. If you set one up just like the others, you’re hardly going to make a fortune. If, however, your menu is innovative, you have the best coffee, your staff are the friendliest, you have the best fit-out or you are the cheapest, you create a reason for people to visit. That needs to be the case with a business on the internet as well. Writing a travel blog in the same manner that 1000s of others do is not creating a point of difference and most travel blogs will fade into relative obscurity.
So what’s the answer? I think the answer is that if you want to write a blog, it’s needs to fill a niche and it needs to be factual. None of this “top 5 restaurants in Sydney” business. The niche needs to be smaller than just “travel”. It needs to be something like “round the world travel by bike” or “Sydney Tourism Blog” or something that you are an expert in and something that you have lots of useful information on. Sit Down Disco’s Lifestyle Design, Travel and Food is not going to make any money. And if you’re not aiming to make any money from a blog, then it doesn’t really matter how wide your audience is.
The other idea is to go out and get a real job and save up the hard way. Not sure I’m keen on that myself.
Agree? Disagree? Load of rubbish?