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November 20, 2007

The Viability of Micro-Tipping

I recently stumbled upon ScratchBack, one of the latest projects by Jim Kukral. ScratchBack presents itself as an online tipping system that lets your readers send you small payments for a link and several lines of text on your blog or website.

ScratchBack is an online “tipping” system. It allows you, the publisher, to accept tips and “give back” links* or images* in return.

You name your price on your tips, and you earn money from every interaction through our easy-to-use automated system. It’s free to sign-up, and you can have a TopSpot widget on your website or blog in minutes.

Think of it as a mix between text link ads and a tagboard. Readers get to post messages, but unlike a free-for-all tagboard, anyone who would like to leave a link and a message would have to pay for the space. Rates can range from anywhere as small as $1 (or less?) per link, to as high as you want. And the duration of each “message” can last for as short as a day, to a week, to a month, or until newer messages bump off the older ones.

This made me think about the viability of this as a model for blog monetization. Then it came to me. Aggregating the small stuff can lead to bigger stuff. Most of you would know of this concept already as one of the oft-used (and over-used) concepts of new media: the long tail.

More of the small stuff results in big stuff

Having dinner out yesterday evening, the family came across a small store that sells stuff for 50 cents apiece (or the equivalent in my local currency). You have all sorts of simple kids’ toys, household implements, hairbands, pens, notepads, notebooks, folders–name any cheap stuff, they have it. One would tend to think these things are so inexpensive it’s probably worth grabbing a few. And at these prices, our minds would be conditioned to think these are mostly necessities anyway, or at least stuff convenient to have around (my desk is constantly running out of good pens and notepads, for instance).

Our purchases totaled about $10, I think. So much for cheap 50-cent items.

What I mean is that if the price is low enough, consumers or buyers would consider it negligible enough that a purchase decision shouldn’t be too hard. In terms of link advertising, I would carefully weigh my options and choices, were I to pay for links or ad space somewhere in the tune of hundreds of dollars. However, I wouldn’t think twice about tipping a good blog with a buck for a few lines of text.

Sure, I can get a free link by writing a comment on a post. But if it’s convenient enough (meaning I wouldn’t have to go through ten sign-up steps just to send that one measly dollar), then I’d probably be happy to part with a small sum. And I get that warm, fuzzy feeling of having made a fellow blogger one dollar richer.

And for a blogger, having a handful of micro-tips per day could add up to good money each month. Probably enough to pay for hosting, bandwidth, DSL bills, or perhaps a spiffy new blog theme. Hmm, micropatronage campaigns might be a good idea after all.

Of course, there are arguments against blogging for tips, which can be a hit-or miss thing (remember this experiment way back?). But then this system isn’t exactly for donations per se, since tippers get something in return. I’ve seen a lot of “tip this blogger” PayPal buttons out there and I tend to ignore them. Yes, some ask for regular subscriptions, but unless I get added value out of my tip or subscription, I probably won’t bite. So this ScratchBack system seems to be more interesting than plain ol’ tipping.

Would you try out ScratchBack? And would you think such a system would prove to be a viable means of monetizing blogs? And would you agree with me that feeling warm and fuzzy all over makes blogging worth it?

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November 13, 2007

Improve My Site: Why I Returned The Money From a Paid Web Consultancy Job

Eager for my expertise, a company recently hired me to improve their web traffic by reviewing their web design, content, and structure.

I don’t do “web traffic” work. Traffic isn’t important. The numbers aren’t important. The ones who stick around, and pay for the privilege, aren’t on a normal score card. To influence me to take them on, they told me that they wanted to improve their online presence, visibility, and really connect to their customers, expanding their reputation to a global market, as well as be more attractive to modern shoppers and web users.

Basically, their site was six months old and not working for them. They wanted an expert to tell them why. With misgivings, I decided to take them on. In the end, I gave them their money back. Here’s why.
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October 30, 2007

Blogging For Hobby Or Money

I write and photograph, and play on the web. Okay, it’s more serious than that, but many think of these things as hobbies. I’ve never thought there were hobbies. They are jobs. My career. My business. I’ve been selling my writing and photography since I was 15. Blogging and web publishing was a natural career move as technology developed along with my skills and business. Writing and photography aren’t hobbies. They paid the rent.

Along with my work, I have hobbies, too. A hobby is something you do for fun, relaxation, and enjoyment. It’s a change from the day-to-day grind of your job, whatever your job is. Luckily, most of us live in a society that allows us hours away from a paid job to do something other than work.

For most, their hobby brings creativity and fun into their lives. It stretches the mind and body, actually making them a better worker for the time away from the job. Hobbies are wonderful things and they need to be honored.

The moment you make money with your hobby, your hobby becomes a business. Things change. You change. The hobby changes.

Recently, people have a new attitude about hobbies. I learned how to knit last year and I’m having some fun with it, making mistakes as one does when they are learning. I sit waiting in airports and offices, knitting away mindlessly, enjoying this new hobby that allows my mind to wander while my hands are busy and I’m accomplishing something. I like hobbies which make things.

Someone notices and they start chatting, eventually leading up to:

You Can Make Money Selling That

I cannot count how many people have admired whatever I was working on with these words, “You could make money selling that.”
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October 13, 2007

Reaching Out To Bring Back More to Your Blog

Mohsin of Blogging Bits writes in 5 Sources That Brought Me Tons Of Visitors about the different methods that have brought him success from outside of his blog to his blog.

At the end of the post, he shares this great summary of the lessons learned:

Again, the best part of the traffic coming from related blogs is that those visitors are interested in my content. It’s up to me if I can retain their interest long enough to convert them into regular readers.

…Every new visitor on a new blog brings with him tons of new hopes for the blogger, and helps shape the future of the blog.

…Don’t be afraid to link out to others, participate in contests, volunteer to post on other blogs, and make contacts in the social media world. You have to do all this to survive, if not to succeed.

Sometimes we are so concerned about linking to sources to help further educate and enlighten our readers that we forget that links are communication, connections between the blogs, and those links are a two way street.
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October 4, 2007

Chitika gives free clicks with Blogtober Challenge

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Chitika announced that it is kicking off the holiday advertising season with a promotion that lets brands test drive its rapidly growing blog network for their advertising. For the month of October, Chitika is offering 500 free clicks to advertisers that sign up for its Blogtober Challenge promotion.

“This holiday shopping season, which effectively starts this month, blogs will play a larger role than ever,” said Venkat Kolluri, chief executive officer at Chitika. “As we’ve started talking with more advertisers and media buyers, it is clear brands are excited about the ways our eMiniMalls blend branding with direct marketing in a powerful, self-contained ad unit. Once a brand tries this approach, we believe the results will keep them coming back to blogs for many holiday seasons to come.”

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August 22, 2007

Marketing Your Blog In The Real World (Offline)

This week’s post is different – instead of sharing another “newbie” tip, I’m actually seeking your advice.

Over the past month, I attended two weddings, met many people for the first time, and did much more “offline” socializing than normal.

Upon meeting someone new, the inevitable ice breaker is, “So… what do you do?” followed by the obligatory mention of profession and home state, and ideally, stimulating conversation ensues.

But despite encountering folks from across the country with a variety of interests, I hardly mentioned my blog, Webomatica. A few days after the last event, I realized I missed the opportunity to gain a few more readers.

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August 17, 2007

What Is the Return on Your Investment in Social Media?

I was recently asked if signing up for a social linking service was “good” for the blogger.

How can I answer that?

First, what’s good for you as a blogger may not be good for me. How would I know what’s good for you?

Second, social media services are popping up all the time. Do they work? I don’t know. How much money has anyone honestly made from Twitter recently?

Hours a day are spent twittering, but does it really enhance your reputation, bring business through your virtual door, increase traffic and revenue on your blog, or just bring in money directly? Is it working for you, and only you? Or is it working for everyone?

You probably have a facebook, myspace, mybloglog, and numerous other social accounts in addition to your blog. How is that really working for you? Are these multiple services bringing in the traffic, and are they hanging around for good? Are they making you money? Are they building your reputation that brings in indirect income through consultation and services? Or are you neglecting your blog?

What about all those links you added to del.icio.us, Digg, Spurl, Furl, Reddit, and so on? Are they bringing in the traffic they once did? Are you still seeing the benefits? Or are the benefits now diluted because everyone is doing it and it’s so hard to find anything because there is so much too look through?

What about Technorati and all those tags you smeared all over your blog, which you thought would bring you a lot of traffic from Technorati. Does it still?

Does anyone use Technorati as a search engine or directory any more? Honestly. When you use it, you go looking for yourself, don’t you? You don’t begin your search there, do you? Do potential readers?
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August 13, 2007

The Art of Guest Blogging: Should You Pay Guest Bloggers to Blog?

In addition to being a web consultant, I’m a writer. I’m a professional writer. That means I get paid for writing. My blogs help me make money through my writing and reputation. So why would I want to give my work away for free?

When the benefit of good will exceeds the return on the investment.

That’s when.

Before I get into the issues of deciding when to pay guest bloggers, let me address the cultural definition of “guest”.

Do you charge a “guest” in your home for their visit? Do you expect compensation when a guest spends the night or two? A guest on your blog is no different.

Guests often like to pitch in, help with cleaning, fixing meals, and even offering to contribute by paying for groceries and such. But blatant compensation for the visit is considered poor manners in much of the world. A guest is a guest because they are treated differently from the rest of the family. They are like royalty in your home, treated with honor. You share your home, food, and anything you can with them.

This is how a guest blogger should be on a blog – if the visit is occasional. If the visit turns into a long-term stay, or is repeated enough that they turn into renters or boarders, then the situation changes and compensation of some sort is expected.

At what point does this changeover happen on a blog?
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June 24, 2007

Alternatives to Contextual Advertising On A Blog

As most of you probably know I posted 3 times about how using Adsense and Yahoo Publisher network would probably be the best way to monetize a blog. Although I still feel that those options are the best, I would like to tell you guys about some other options which can be used in addition to contextual advertising.

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June 22, 2007

Sweden’s Metro Nordic launches user-generated pay-per-view scheme

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Though it’s quite hard to tell exactly what the deal is from the incredibly short press release (hampered by my inability to read Swedish on the web site), it seems that Metro Nordic, part of Metro International, has launched a “user-generated content concept” in Sweden that will put qualified bloggers on the company’s payroll.

It sounds as if chosen bloggers will be given the blogging tools they require to write their own content for the site, and will be paid relatively to how many times their article is viewed, once they reach a certain threshold of page views.

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