The Future of Making Money Online: Part 3
This is part three in the series discussing the future of making money online. The inspiration for this series was a Wired article called “The Web is Dead.” If you haven’t already done so, I’d encourage you to read parts one and two before reading this.
We have already discussed some major observations and trends that I see with regards to the world wide web and specifically doing business on it. Many of the trends revolve around search and how people go about getting information. In part three, we turn to blogging.
What are the trends that affect blogs? Will a diminishing role of search engines affect blogs? Will the move toward apps affect blogs? Let’s discuss…
Obviously, when it comes to blogging, the biggest trend is blogging itself. The rise of blogging. We’re easily reaching a saturation point for many blogging topics. Take for instance, personal finance. The number of blogs discussing money and personal finance is astounding. Most of them say the same thing over and over.
The challenge then for a blogger is to 1) separate oneself from the pack and 2) enable web surfers to find your content. Let’s look at each challenge briefly. First, separating yourself from the pack is a must. In order to do so, you need to either say something unique, have an angle on a topic that nobody has, have a reputation as an expert already, or maybe be able to show interesting data and research that people will want to read. Second, enabling surfers to find your content when there are an increasing number of competing sites going for the same keywords as you are with regards to search and as we’ve already discussed, this is in the midst of search playing a decreasing role in how people use the web. The best way around this is for sites that already have traffic to talk about your site. This means you either have to be really interesting or really connected. If none of what I just said in this paragraph applies to your blogging effort, I’m afraid you might be incapable of reaching any significant levels of success defined by both traffic and monetization (which is of course the goal of most bloggers including myself).
With every average Joe entering the blogging field, the idea of blogging is sort of diminishing as well. A large segment of society when they hear the word “blog,” they instantly do not trust the source because they view it as amateur, or they view it as some 22 year old kid in his mom’s basement talking about things he really knows very little about.
This is a trend that you will have to overcome as well. You must establish your voice, your blog as a trusted voice, a trusted source. How you go about doing this will depend on your subject matter or topic or industry. If you have specifics in mind, add your comment and I’ll let you know what I think.
What about search? The reality is that search engine traffic is definitely a part of blog traffic, and maybe a significant one for you, but I don’t think it makes or breaks your blog. I think you can withstand a diminishing role of search (again, depending on your specific website).
Lastly, the rise of apps actually goes hand in hand with blogging to an extent. RSS feeds and RSS readers is essentially a part of the movement towards apps and blogs are very much a part of this. As I mentioned in part 2, people want information already found for them, thus, RSS feeds. Information is delivered to them, then they can select what they want to read. The rise of blogs has helped RSS feeds become nearly ubiquitous on the web. Obviously, someone has to find your site first in order to subscribe to its content.
Apps do, however, represent a possible impact to monetization strategies. Apps impact traditional web site traffic which can impact advertising revenue. Some major sites don’t even offer RSS feeds because they want the actual traffic. Monetization strategies will need to evolve with the trend of people moving towards apps, if indeed, this trend accelerates.
One definite monetization strategy that is increasingly becoming popular is the idea of freemium content. The Wired article explains:
In the media world, this has taken the form of a shift from ad-supported free content to freemium — free samples as marketing for paid services — with an emphasis on the “premium” part. On the Web, average CPMs (the price of ads per thousand impressions) in key content categories such as news are falling, not rising, because user-generated pages are flooding Facebook and other sites. The assumption had been that once the market matured, big companies would be able to reverse the hollowing-out trend of analog dollars turning into digital pennies. Sadly that hasn’t been the case for most on the Web, and by the looks of it there’s no light at the end of that tunnel. Thus the shift to the app model on rich media platforms like the iPad, where limited free content drives subscription revenue.
This is a definite trend you can see with various websites and definitely with apps. On my iPad, magazines like Wired and Popular Science are doing this strategy. With that said, if this is your major problem, then it’s probably a good thing. I imagine that your main struggle is simple getting traffic and getting noticed.
For now, the biggest challenge of bloggers is indeed overcoming the saturation of the web of similar content and similar bloggers all saying the same thing. Your biggest fight is to become unique and to convince the web surfer that your site is actually different than the 1000 other blogs that talk about the same topic.
How are you doing this? How is your site different?
Part 4 tomorrow shifts gears and focuses on Google, the company and the investment. You won’t want to miss it.