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How to Make Money Blogging and Why Focussing on Fam Trips is Bad

This is another post for my Indonesian readers. If you’re not Indonesian, it might not be so relevant. 

Terjemahkan dengan tombol ini.

A few days ago I wrote a big rant about how familiarisation trips (fam trips)/media trips in Indonesia were a big deal and everyone seemed to want to be a part of it. It makes sense. You enjoy writing. You enjoy travelling. Some big company or government agency wants to give you a free trip so you can enjoy the two things you love doing anyway!

It all sounds great until you figure out that you can’t pay your bills with free trips. And that means if you’re focus is on getting free trips, you’ll never really travel to where you want. You’ll always be travelling to where they want. And what do you get from it? A lousy free trip and a lot of homework. So I wanted to discuss today why I think focussing on free trips is a bad idea and what alternatives there are.

Everyone loves free things. Free trips, free food and products. Bloggers get this stuff all the time. The problem is that you can become a slave to the corporations giving those free things and you lose a lot of the flexibility that blogging is supposed to give you. So while take free trips and accepting free products is OK, I wouldn’t recommend this being the focus of your blogging efforts. If you really want flexibility while blogging, you should look at how to make money. (In other words, don’t suck up to tourism Indonesia, go out on your own and find new ways to make money)

There are few ways to make money blogging, but most of them also tie in with a big social media profile and a lot of visitors to your blog. With this in mind, you need to work on your personal brand, building a big following and getting the attention of lots of people (more on this in another post)

Sponsored Posts

Sponsored posts have a bad name in the blogging world because it basically means brands are paying bloggers to advertise their product in an editorial way. It’s often an endorsement. It’s sometimes just about getting backlinks.

In the old days of SEO, companies used to pay bloggers a lot of money to buy backlinks on their blogs. Why? Because google uses links as a signal to ranking websites. The more links pointing to your website from someone else’s website, the higher your ranking. But because this system was being abused by brands buying links on people’s sites in order to boost their rankings, google cracked down a few years back (by tweaking the algorithm). Paid links on people’s blogs have almost stopped, except in Indonesia. Lots of brands in Indonesia still buy links on people’s blogs in the disguise of a sponsored post. I don’t know why they still do it here, but they do.

So if you’re comfortable with doing these sorts of posts for brands, you need to decide how much to charge. We have had some brands offering as little as Rp. 100.000 for a post. We would never accept this. Why? Because when you accept these low offers, you are telling the world that you are a low class blogger. If you accept Rp. 100.000, you will be known as a blogger willing to accept anything. It’s a bad image. And once you have this image, it’s very difficult to then start charging Rp. 1.000.000

So what should you charge? I recommend to people to start at between Rp. 1.500.000 & Rp. 2.000.000 and negotiate. Sure, most brands want posts for Rp. 100.000, but I’d much rather have 1 sponsored post on my blog for Rp. 2.000.000 than 20 sponsored posts on my blog for Rp. 100.000. And the brand gets a lot more benefit from me if I’m only putting 1 sponsored post on my blog every few months rather than lots of them.

My best advice is: Don’t undersell yourself. Don’t be tempted by small amounts of money. Value your blog and your work much higher and people will also value you at the same level.

Advertising

There are all sorts of different advertising options for blogs, but Google Adsense is the easiest to implement. You will be paid based on how many visitors your blog gets, what sort of visitors they are (rich/poor), the type of website you have. You need a lot of visitors on a travel blog to earn Rp. 1.000.000 per month with ads. But most of the top Indonesian travel bloggers will easily get Rp. 1.000.000 from google ads, but they have a lot of page views per month.

Affiliate Sales

Affiliate sales is basically the system of getting a commission when someone buys something through your site. There a lots of affiliate programs you can sign up to, but you’ll have to experiment to see which one is the best for you. Again, it’s difficult to make a lot of money on this, but it is possible to get a little bit of side income. You should aim for Rp. 1.000.000 per month on this, but everyone’s results vary. It’s tough to earn good money here. Many online shops in Indonesia offer affiliate programs — just google “affiliate Lazada” or the name of an online shop and you can find out more.

Sponsored Tweets and Instagram

This is a big one in Indonesia. When we first started our website, we were told to offer our sponsored tweet services for Rp. 150 per follower. Back in 2012/2013, this worked so well and we earned a bit of money from this. But today, the situation is different and sponsored tweets earn a lot less money. Still, a lot of people are earning between Rp. 100.000 and Rp. 1.000.000 per sponsored tweet (some a lot more than this). The trend nowadays is to buy a packet of 10 tweets and you give the company a bunch of free tweets as well.

Instagram is similar, but the problem is that buying 10 instagram posts is impractical. Most people charge a lot more for an instagram post than a tweet. Maybe double or 3x.

You need to work on boosting your social media profiles. It’s hard to do, but it’s worth putting effort into.

Freelance Writing

Now we move onto earning money outside blogging. Freelance writing can really earn you enough money to give up your full time job, especially if you combine it with the money you earn above. The problem is, getting paid freelance writing work in Indonesia requires you to have a high profile. This means you need to increase your following on social media, get a lot more views on your blog and start pitching your articles to editors of magazines and newspapers. If you’re successful, it wouldn’t be unusual to earn Rp. 5.000.000 per month doing this.

So, there you have it. Another English language rant for my Indonesian followers basically throwing out there some ideas on how to make money from your blog rather than taking free trips all the time.

If you are earning money through your blog and no full time job, you can still go on lots of trips. It’s just that the trips will be to places that you choose, not to places some company or tourist organisation chooses.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments! You can write in Indonesian and I will understand it. 🙂

Fam Trip Madness in Indonesia

Recently in Indonesia the issue of fam trips has reared its ugly head once again. It’s a mess of jealousy, arrogance and bitterness and I wanted to comment on it from an outsider’s perspective. How am I an outsider when I’m married to an Indonesian traveller blogger? Because 99.9% of our travel is self funded and we very rarely seek freebies. That’s not because we don’t like free stuff, it’s basically because we are too busy doing our own trips.

The recent argument is similar to previous ones in the Indonesian travel blogger world. It’s about a select group of bloggers rolling in from around Indonesia to cover a particular city in Indonesia, Semarang. Ostensibly, bloggers from close to this region are unhappy that they weren’t invited. They argue they should be invited because they know the area better, that the bloggers who were invited are always invited and that bloggers from outside of Jakarta never get free trips.

While some of the sentiment sounds ok, I think the argument being used is wrong. There is only one broad argument to in my opinion and that’s whether government tourism authorities (Destination Marketing Organisations DMOs) should be selecting bloggers based on merit or not? And when it comes to merit, the main issue is statistics — pageviews and followers.

Fam trips are useful for destination marketing organisations in order to promote their message to a wider audience and have traditionally been given to traditional media. Traditional media usually has a massive audience and a 2 page article in a magazine has the advertising value equivalency (AVE) of 2 full page ads. Probably more because it’s part of editorial and readers respond better to that.

When a blogger goes on a trip, you’ve got to ask what return on investment (ROI) they are providing (as measure with AVE). And this is where things become tricky. To measure this is extremely difficult. But in order for an investment of airfares, accommodation, meals and tours to pay off, the blogger has to have a big readership, big Instagram following or big Twitter following — preferably all three. Why? Because if a blogger only receives 1,000 pageviews per month, only has 2000 instagram followers, only has 2,000 Twitter followers, there is no way that the massive investment of the fam trip is going to be paid back — that is, the ROI is negative. The AVE of a blogger with these stats is probably less than Rp. 1.000.000. In other words, you could just buy advertising on the blogger’s site without giving them a free trip for Rp. 1.000.000 and get the same coverage. So if the cost of the fam trip is more than Rp. 1.000.000, that is a bad investment and leads to negative ROI.

Clearly, you need to have a certain amount of pageviews and/or followers for the investment to be worth it. What that number is is up for debate. But I think the number is quite high because many fam trips are expensive!

Some people argue that stats are not everything. That engagement and tone is important as well. I agree. People with no engagement and a poor tone should not be selected for fam trips. But people with poor stats should also not be selected. Which leaves you with people with medium to big stats that also have a good tone and good engagement.

So what would be the minimum stats I would recommend for an international fam trip? Well, for an Indonesian blogger, I would expect a minimum of 30,000 pageviews per month. I would expect a minimum of 8,000 instagram followers. Twitter is not as important these days, so it’s a bonus. Of course, if you’re pageviews are a lot higher than 30,000, you would be able to lower the Instagram number. And vice-versa. If you’ve got 30,000 Instagram followers and only 10,000 pageviews, that would be good too.

For a local trip within Indonesia, the expenses are lower, so I think it’s OK to select people with lower stats. 20,000 pageviews per month would be OK as well 5,000 Instagram followers. In Indonesia, there are LOTS OF TRAVEL BLOGGERS WITH THESE STATS. So they should be chosen first if they meet the criteria of good engagement and tone. Again, these are rough numbers because a fam trip to Raja Ampat is much more expensive and you would want someone to have very good stats for that sort of trip. But for a trip to DuFan, you might not care about stats at all.

I get the impression that in Indonesia, people are scared of stats. People believe it to be sombong to ask about stats. But without these stats, how can someone’s performance be measured? It’s none of my business what your stats are. But it should be the business of the DMO. They should ask for people’s stats and select people based on those stats.

Just so you know, there are lots of Indonesian travel bloggers who regularly receive more than 50,000 pageviews per month. I’m guessing here, but there would be more than 10 who receive more than 100,000 pageviews per month. Are there some with more than 150,000 per month? Yes. Aside from this, there are lots of instagrammers with more than 20,000 followers. Lots.

The counter argument to what I have talked about here is this: “why should fam trips be reserved for people with big stats only?” The simple answer is that people with low stats simply aren’t worth the investment — that is, if you choose them, you get a negative ROI. You will not increase the number of visitors to Pangandaran if a traveller blogger with 2,000 views per month writes about it. The same goes for an instagrammer with 2,000 followers. It is better to spend that money on advertising directly on a blog rather than sending a blogger to the destination.

The other argument is that it’s not just about that one blogger, but all the bloggers in combination which promotes a destination. For example, a big group of bloggers might get a destination to be a trending topic on twitter, might collectively get more exposure for the destination compared to bloggers just going one by one — therefore you can’t single out smaller bloggers. They are all part of a team. I accept this argument. But why not fill the trip with bigger bloggers for bigger impact? That is important to ensure a big ROI.

Diversity in Fam Trips

One thing I have also noticed with fam trips is that marketing people are sometimes lazy and they sometimes just pick the same bloggers as were picked last time. This is a problem. Why? Because if there is no diversity in fam trips, you end up with the same people promoting 20 destinations in a year. This means that their audience gets bored of all the advertorial style blog posts about why xxx destination is so awesome when we all really know that everything is awesome when it’s free! (you see this with food bloggers all the time). The other problem with lack of diversity is that people who aren’t included in fam trips get jealous.

So I think diversity in bloggers should be high on the fam trip list of requirements to ensure the DMO message gets across more broadly and without the audience becoming blind to endless PR posts from the same bloggers. But also to ensure those people who are good enough to go fam trips, actually do go on fam trips.

Please please comment on this and put your view forward. English or Indonesian is welcome. I write in English because it’s easier for me, you can write in Indonesian if it’s easier for you. I will be able to understand it. But please also keep the discussion civilised. Any nastiness will be deleted. But I do welcome opposing views.

I am not taking sides. I just want the money from the government to be spent wisely and fairly so that Indonesian tourism can really benefit. No KKN, no waste, no abuse.

Sponsored Post: Flume and Intel in a new video


As a traveller, tech lover and someone who needs to work on the road a lot, I take notice of what’s going on in the tech industry more than many people. That’s why when I was contacted about the launch of this new video by Intel, I thought it was a good fit!

So what’s the story? Well, an Aussie DJ named Flume recently collaborated with Intel to make this short short film to demonstrate the power of tablets with Intel inside — he used a bunch of tablets to act as his band and the result is stunning! The video takes you through a futuristic robotic band set up, but actually the music was created by Flume on Asus tablets which have Intel chips inside.

So what’s so cool about this? My favourite region, Asia, is one of the fastest growing regions in the world for tablets. The sort of stuff we are going to start seeing from these devices out of Asia is incredible! I think we’re probably just seeing the start of the tablet as something other than a games machine or device to consume content. It’s going to be a device to create content. So like the music created in this video, I can’t wait to see what else people create on their tablets… Now only if I could shift my blogging workflow from a laptop to a tablet…

Anyway, check out the video and let me know what you think in the comments.

This post sponsored by Intel.

Evernote Offline Notebooks

I’m a big fan of Evernote, the iPhone and desktop app used to for taking notes, photos and generally organising your thoughts. But one thing is bugging me a lot. Last year I paid about $50 for a premium subscription which for an iPhone app is bloody expensive. The main reason I paid up is that if you want to make sure you can read all of your notes when you aren’t near the internet, you need to make sure that the notes have been downloaded for offline use. This feature is only available via subscription.

Well, that feature does not work. It’s broken. A heap of crap. I could report the problem to Evernote and go through a problem isolation procedure, but I can’t be bothered. I paid $50 for the app to work, not to be dicked around by some tech support guys in order to help fix their errors. So… I’m writing this post just to air my grievance and to let anyone else that searches for evernote offline notebook problems know that the feature is indeed buggy and you have indeed done your dough. Never again will I pay money to evernote and I encourage others to follow suit.

That feels better. Back to regular viewing.

 

Foursquare Sucks

It’s a big call, I know. Millions of people use foursquare daily and I have the hide to dis it. Well I am. I’m dissin’ it. And I’m serious, because I’m saying “dissin'”. Foursquare has gained popularity as a tool to track your friends movements and… I don’t know what else. But people love it nonetheless and I don’t know why.

If I’m lashing out and saying Foursquare sucks, I probably should give some substance to my controversial claim by providing some hard reasons for not liking it. First of all, though, I will say that I do use the app. All the time. And I don’t even know why.

Without further ado, the top reasons for hating Foursquare:

Woeful Design

I really hate the design of Foursquare. It reminds of an IBM computer circa 1988. Or maybe even a microbee circa 1986. It looks really out of place on a device such as an iphone which prides itself on fantastic aesthetics. That blue and white interface with hard lines, flat lists and endless blandness… it’s awful! Oh and don’t get me started on squares. The app is full of squares and rectangles! I like pictures. Colours. Rounded edges. Get some of that in the app and it will start to look more interesting and feel better to use. As it stands, whenever I open the app I feel irritated by it’s boringness. Note: Shaving off the edge of a corner does not give the app the rounded edges I desire. It just looks like a sharp corner was chopped off.

Duplicates?

Duplicates are rare on Foursquare. Why? Because many spots are in triplicate, quadruplicate, quintiplicate, hexatiplicate and dodecatipilacte. In other words, the database is an absolute mess making it really demoralising when you find that the spot you’ve been checking into for months is actually not the one most people have been using. They’ve been checking into the one 100m away. Another problem with all these multiple spots is that it’s sometimes difficult to know which one to checkin to. Really destroys the experience for me.

Too Many Inane Spots

There are so many inane spots on Foursquare that crowd out the real spots. Like “my bedroom”. Or all the gates that are located within an airport. Checking into gate 48a within an airport isn’t really relevant in a location-based app. Terminal maybe. Airport yes. Gate number no.

Badges Suck

The badges in Foursquare really are awful. Firstly, the implementation seems to be a half-hearted attempt and adding a game feature to the app. But it’s half-baked. Many of the badges are for things that don’t mean anything (checking into 3 locations that have photobooths in them???), they very rarely scale based on how heavy a user you are (what about a badge for checking into 100 locations that have photobooths in them?) and they are ugly. Really ugly. I don’t want those badges. They’re embarrassing.

Spot Popularity Indeterminable

It’s really difficult to tell if a spot you’ve never been to before is popular or not. This might seem irrelevant, but on my recent trip around Oz, I often used Gowalla to look at spots around me to see if lots of people were going to them. There appeared to be a direct correlation between frequently checked into spots and the location’s awesomeness. On Foursquare, you have this flat list of messed up spots and duplicates that gives no hints about what nearby is cool. Even the new “explore” feature doesn’t work.

Tips

The tips feature is busted. Rarely is it used to give tips. It’s turning into a way for users to spam and add “humurous” comments. They’re rarely of any use. This feature needs to be deleted and replaced with a rating feature. Thumb up or down if you like the spot. Add a comment and it can be thumbed up or down. Simple.

They’re my main bugbears. The design aspect is the thing that keeps me away from it most of the time. As Gowalla improves its foursquare checkin procedure, I’m going to start trying to make all my foursquare checkins through Gowalla. Then I don’t have to use foursquare at all! This begs the question, though, why don’t I just delete the app altogether? Well, I’ve been asking this question myself and I think it’s related to my 1) hope that they’ll fix it, 2) fear of missing out on something.

If you use foursquare, give Gowalla a try for a few days and let me know how you go. Better or worse? Agree that Foursquare is a bag of crap?

Moo MiniCards Make Me Feel Special

In recent times I’ve been seeing plenty of chatter on the tubes about personal branding and a whole heap of people buying into the whole personal business card thing. More specifically, everyone has been talking about Moo Business Cards and their smaller brothers, Moo MiniCards.

I’ve had personal mini-cards before and had them printed from a traditional bricks and mortar printer. The cost was phenomenal because the size I chose was non-standard and I had to do a run of 250 cards! Now, I like to hand out cards as much as the next person, but I’m no master-networker so I really have never needed that many cards. Enter moo.com

Moo MiniCards
Moo MiniCards

Moo.com allows you to design your own double-sided  cards from scratch with the main premise being that you place a photo/image on one side and a text component on the other. In practice, you can customise these cards further by placing images on both sides which essentially allows the keen designer to place mixtures of text and images on both sides of the card in a completely bespoke manner.

Me, I stuck to the recommended method of designing cards and uploaded 100 different photos cropped to their specifications and placed my contact details on the back. The result? An impressive display of all my photos with my contact details on the back. I couldn’t be more chuffed! Next time I might get a bit more creative with the text side of the card and pre-design it in a graphics program and then upload it as an image instead of using their inhouse feature. Their text feature is good, but it is limited in fonts and positioning. Not a big deal for most.

Moo MiniCards
Moo MiniCards

The last point of note is that the packaging is so brilliant that you cannot help but fall in love with them. Everything is so slick and doesn’t attempt to cut any corners. The whole thing makes you feel like you’re getting a premium product at a discounted price. You feel special!

So with that said, I recommend them highly!