Want to make money from your blog? Forget it

Typing on keyboard
In the blogging world, big traffic doesn't always mean big cash

Sod the day job: we're going to be bloggers! According to Technorati.com, if you're attracting 100,000 monthly visitors you can expect to earn a respectable $75,000 per year. That's £50,000 in real money, just from blogging.

If you can make fifty grand from 100,000 visitors, just imagine how much you'd make if you could attract fifteen times that number - like Dan Lyons did with his Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. Is he rich? "Over the course of [one] entire month, in which my site was visited by 1.5 million people, I earned a whopping total of $1,039.81," he writes.

You'd make more flipping burgers in McDonald's. Seriously: at the current exchange rate, Lyons netted £697 per month. Divide it by four and you get £174.25 per week; divide that by the typical 37.5 hour working week and that's £4.64 before tax and national insurance (in a five week month it works out as £3.72 per hour). That's not just lower than the UK minimum wage; it's lower than the minimum wage for teenagers and barely more than you'd get for a paper round.

As Technorati is quick to point out, the figures are skewed by a tiny proportion of big-name bloggers who do indeed turn over a lot of money. It turns out that the top ten percent of bloggers average just $19,000 (£12,000) in advertising revenue per year - a decent sum, but hardly a living wage let alone a fifty grand salary - and everybody else is struggling for scraps. Technorati reports that the median annual income for a US or European blogger is... wait for it... $200.

Ads don't pay

The problem is that in most cases, selling ads against user-generated content simply doesn't pay. Take Newsvine, for example: according to the Guide to Making Money with Newsvine, "if you get about 20,000 pageviews in a given month, your earnings would fluctuate between $23 (Nov 2008) and $160 (August 2008), depending on how expensive the ads being displayed in a given month are."

Is there an alternative to ads? Not really. Citizen journalism photo agency Scoopt shut its doors last week because it couldn't persuade papers to pay a decent whack for images - it seems that major media outlets would rather get you to send in your snaps for free - and the wages offered by firms via Amazon's Mechanical Turk are pathetic. Write a review? Five cents. Do some digging into historical figures? Three cents. Build a space rocket, fly to Mars, discover intelligent life and bring it back in a cage? Seven cents.

Okay, we made that last one up - but it'd fit right in. Even outright fakery doesn't pay, it seems. When a Belkin exec was caught asking Mechanical Turk users to post fake reviews of a router, he was only offering sixty-five cents apiece.

Don't get us wrong, the money is out there. Unfortunately it's being spread very, very thinly. In 2008 Technorati said that it was indexing 112.8 million blogs, and according to Dan Lyons the total amount spent on US blog advertising that year was $411 million.

Divide one by the other and you get $3.64 per blogger, per year - so for one blogger to make $75,000, more than 20,000 bloggers need to earn zero.

That one blogger could be you. But the odds are 20,000 to one against. When it comes to making money from blog ads, the only guaranteed winner is Google.


Now read 11 WordPress plug-ins every blogger needs

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.