A couple of weeks ago, I ran a post that I called ‘The Travel Blogger Honesty Survey’. Basically, I was a little sick of hearing all and sundry bang on about how to make money from blogging when few people are prepared to admit how much they actually make from blogging.
I don’t think this was a particularly bold move. If you’re trying to make a career out of writing, then there’s a certain pointlessness to being coy about the facts and figures. Some people suggested that I should have made it an anonymous poll. I thought that at first, but then thought being able to match the words and the deeds was important. If someone is constantly appearing on panels as some sort of blogging guru, but is making 20p a week from blogging, then they’re clearly talking nonsense. Similarly, I could have just stuck to percentages, but 80% of nothing is still nothing.
I was pleasantly surprised by both the number of responses and how totally upfront most of them were. The myth that you can’t make a living from travel writing was dispelled, as was the myth that you can’t make a living from blogging. But I still got a couple of people saying it was wrong to ask people to publish their earnings.
Bloggers and PR
Well, I don’t think it was. And here’s why. An increasingly big talking point amongst the blogging fraternity is getting assistance from PRs when travelling. Whether in the form of organised blogger trips or more ad-hoc arrangements, many bloggers want their travel either subsidised or free. Anyone thinking it should work on the principle of “I’m going here, I blog, therefore the tourist board should support me” is living in a dream world. As is anyone who thinks bloggers should be paid by said tourist board on a hosted trip.
Return on investment
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How it works in the real world is that return on investment is what counts. PRs don’t give people free things out of the goodness of their own heart. They do so because they feel their client will get some sort of tangible benefit. The PR’s duty is to their client, not Johnny Blogger. With traditional media, assistance is generally given on the strength of the publication an article is due to appear in. And it’s the publication’s task to ensure it is making money from its operations, not the PR’s.
The credibility factor
And thus while talk of putting together media packs and showing the reach and influence of the blog are important, I also think that profitability – or at least making a reasonable enough living from the blog to support the blogger – is a key indicator of that blog’s worth. After all, if a business with virtually no overheads can’t even support one person, it’s surely not that important, is it? It’s by no means the be all and end all, but it’s surely a good sign – even a rule of thumb. If the information contained doesn’t see people booking trips, and if companies won’t pay to advertise on the site, how influential can it really be?
Treat it as a business
So, if a blogger wants to separate him or herself from a packed crowd of amiable but essentially pointless hobbyists, I don’t think they can afford to be so coquettish when the subject of money comes up. If you’re running a business, treat it as a business. If you think you’re important and influential, then have some way of backing the assertion up. And if you don’t want your industry to be seen as an amateur hour full of delusional kids playing dress up, then be prepared to concede that people won’t take you seriously if your ‘job’ earns you half of what a Johnny No Stars could get in McDonalds.
More on what PRs want – further reading from Ruth Haffenden.
All content copyright David Whitley.