2016 is the year that the first seven-figure beauty blogger contract was signed, by 22-year-old Kristina Bazan. Blogging is and continues to be big business. However I get the sense that the blogging community feel pretty under serviced by the ad tech industry and I’m intrigued to understand why.
Whilst setting up my ad tech social enterprise I have been doing lots of research into this world and have had some enlightening conversations with bloggers such as Homegirl London. They may not have the sexy high-traffic figures of larger publications but they have fans loyal (read *creepy*) enough to peer in their windows and they have the power to create deeply personal and meaningful connections with their readers. So what’s holding them back?
The Blogosphere Culture
For many bloggers, their blog is their passion but also their profession, and as such it has to make money. But unlike a blockbuster movie, or Facebook apparently, being seen to explicitly make money from their fans is taken rather unfavourably. Part of the appeal, or perhaps illusion, of a blog is that it is an honest unsullied conversation from one regular person to another. People don’t trust salesmen and essentially, when bloggers lose trust, they lose influence.
And this isn’t just important to the readers, the bloggers themselves rarely get into this business to make a quick buck. From what I can see, they do it for their online communities and for the connections and relationships they are building. I think this culture is one of the key reasons why blog monetisation tends to be subtle or in some cases even non-existent.
Some bloggers bold enough to openly monetise use banner adverting, the most common of which obviously is Google AdSense. The ease of implementation, range of format choices and easy results monitoring certainly make it an appealing option. However with an average CPM of around 60p and a click through rate of say 0.01% – earnings will literally not be enough to buy a bag of peanuts. Not to mention the fact the blogger has barely any control over what their readers are being shown – putting their own reputation and user experience on the line.
At the end of the day AdSense-type solutions are designed for high volume. They are low quality, low cost, low effort, high churn and they’re just not right for 90% of the blogs out there.
Affiliate links primarily work through tracking hyperlink clicks within an article and monetising off the conversion rate. So for example right now, if you bought this sofa, I’d make a fiver. Go on, please buy that sofa. It’s a much more native way to monetise and is more congruent with the personal anti-salesman blogging culture. From speaking to bloggers I gather that this is quite a popular method of monetisation and they like being able to chose the links they feature and the companies / brands they support. But manually finding, implementing and tracking the links is definitely a time consuming process. And the more time and effort something takes, the higher the pay-off has to be for it to be worthwhile.
The likes of Outbrain and Taboola can be a great source of income but to be eligible for revenue sharing, blogs have to reach traffic minimums as high as 500,000 monthly page views. This solution also isn’t ideal because at best you’re sending your valuable readers to a different site and at worst you’re facilitating cheesy click bait bollocks. When bloggers work so tirelessly to get people onto their page, this feels like a pretty counter-intuitive outcome.
We have to re-think the ad tech solution for bloggers
In fact it seems to me that all of the mainstream online advertising solutions for bloggers are completely counter-intuitive to their business model. A blog’s readers are its most precious asset. A blog’s style and personality is its USP. And yet ad tech offers them generic solutions with little or no editorial control. Bad or irrelevant ads undermine the carefully crafted content they are producing whilst the ‘good’ ads divert people’s attention and drive clicks off to who-knows-where.
Bloggers are entrepreneurs. They are brand-building, trend-setting hustlers who work bloody hard and deserve to have the tools they need to get properly rewarded.
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