How has the changing media landscape allowed bloggers to create revenue through their own website?

Blogging is very much an integral part of the 21st Century. Teenagers today will talk about their favourite blogger in the way that you would expect them to talk about their favourite celebrity. Sometimes it is actually difficult to tell the difference, as bloggers paradoxically find themselves being recognised on the front cover of magazines for their hard work – making the line between a blogger and a celebrity somewhat blurred.

The most dominant example being video blogger – or vlogger – Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella, who used to her internet stardom to create various different revenue streams and turn herself in to somewhat of a ‘brand’ in the ever growing internet culture.

Zoe started her blog in 2009 and built her empire from there.

Zoe started her blog in 2009 and built her empire from there.

Zoella's YouTube account has over 9 million subscribers

Zoella’s YouTube account has over 9 million subscribers

Zoella is the perfect example of how the changing media landscape can be used to generate an income, through the medium of sponsored posts and advertising, and even going so far as to charge for Instagram uploads. With Zoella being at the grand scale of money-making through blogging, it is not known exactly how much she is worth, however recently having moved into a one-million pound house in Brighton and said to be making over £20,000 a month on advertising alone – it is clear that blogging can bring in a lot of money.

Zoe Sugg on the front cover of Company magazine in 2014.

Zoe Sugg on the front cover of Company magazine in 2014.

Slightly further down the scale, is well-known lifestyle blogger, and former digital journalist Hannah Gale. Hannah’s blog used to be a hobby used in order to showcase her writing and the occasional freelance piece before her lists went viral and provided her with enough revenue to quit her job at Look magazine and the Metro in order to blog full-time. Admittedly, Hannah is not necessarily making such large quantities as Zoella, she claims that her blogging provides her with enough to maintain a comfortable life.

Hannah's blog has just under 3000 email subscribers

Hannah’s blog has just under 3000 email subscribers

It is easier now, than ever before to maintain your own website – with sites such as Blogspot, Medium and WordPress offering free domains as a basic package to those who want their own internet space. Users can also buy internet domains at small prices in order to maintain their own internet space. With sites such as ‘Go Daddy’ offering domain names for as little as £1.99 for the first year, it is easier than ever to create your own site, with different packages available to accommodate the scale of your blog.

Go Daddy even offers WordPress-specific internet domains.

Go Daddy even offers WordPress-specific internet domains.

The blogosphere – a term used to describe a collective network of blogs – wasn’t created overnight, and has amalgamated through a process of technological advancement and social movement.

Although the term – blog – wasn’t actually coined until the late 90s, the practise was still going on long before this. Digital communities existed in form of discussion boards since the evolution of the internet, however this wasn’t particularly accessible until the early 90s when Tim Berners-Lee created HTML in the form of the World Wide Web, commonly referred to as web 2.0, the idea being to use the internet to share ideas amongst groups of people in forms of discussion boards such as the already existing Usenet.

The modern blog could be associated as a development of the online diary, for example that of Justin Hall who kept an online journal for a sum of 11 years beginning in 1994 whilst he studied at Swarthmore College. Despite it coming under a slightly different heading, Hall is often recognised as one of the earliest bloggers, earning him world-wide recognition and a job at web magazine HotWired.

In 1997, history was made when Steve Gibson was hired by Ritual Entertainment to blog full-time, potentially making him the first hired-blogger.

The term ‘blog’ is thought to have originated from the simple act of updating a website which was called making a web-log. According to Wikipedia, this term was coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger, which was then jokingly turned into we-blog, by Peter Merholz in 1999.

The term ‘blog’ was thereafter used as both a noun – to have a blog- and a verb – being the action to blog.

‘Blog’ is defined in the Oxford Dictionary of Journalism as:

An abbreviation for web log, an online journal that typically displays the most recent items, or blog ‘posts’, first and which also allows readers to post comments beneath items. Blogs can include texts, pictures, video and audio. A blog is most often the work of one individual but there are some group or collectively produced blogs.

Blog hosting sites play a huge part in providing the domains for which we seek our news and entertainment from today. Such sites, directly affiliating themselves with the practise of ‘blogging’ is that of Blogspot, which has been around from as early as 1999. Created in Prya Labs, and later bought by Google, Blogspot was one of the earliest dedicated blog-publishing tools.

Later came the introduction of WordPress in 2003, which currently stands at the most popular blogging site in the web, with over 60,000 websites.

In a world where blogging has come to play such a dominant role in our media, it makes sense that companies are turning to independent blogs and websites for advertising purposes. With technologies such as Google AdSense, it is now more common than ever for bloggers to charge monthly, weekly or even daily rates for advertising space on their domain.

Search engine optimisation – SEO – allows bloggers to optimise search engines in order to gain as many views as possible, boosting any revenue generated through advertisements.

The web is bursting with blogs actually teaching people how to monetize their sites through SEO and advertising which is a paradox in itself in that people blog about how to blog!

The idea of blogging has long been thought of as a hobby rather than a job or a career, and for many bloggers – their intention was just to create a site for fun, until they built up a regular following and found themselves being contacted by brands.

Amy Liddell, a blogger and law student at Durham University, set up her blog after she received some comments on social media platform Instagram, complementing her style. Amy decided to showcase her love of fashion and beauty though her blog ‘Salt and Chic’ set up through Blogger.

amy

Amy said: “I literally just set my blog up on a whim and started writing. I never dreamed that I would end up working with as many brands as I have now.

I didn’t even realise that you could work with brands or use blogging as a business at all when I set it up.

I would love to think I could do blogging full time but I do think that you need a huge following in order to bring in a real income that you could solely live off. I know a lot of people who are full time bloggers who don’t have a really huge following but I’m not sure I would take the risk without one.”

The ever growing success of lifestyle blogs such as Amy Liddell’s could be attributed to the expanding social media culture. Blogger’s can advertise their sites on every platform, from Instagram, to Twitter, to Facebook to Snapchat.

The role of social media in allowing bloggers to generate revenue is a hot topic in the current media, thanks to the revolution led by so-called ‘Insta-famous’ Essena O’Neill who recently ‘quit’ social media, and cut all her ties with brands who collaborated with her. Essena claimed that social media is not real, and took to her Instagram account to change all the captions to her pictures to ‘honest captions’ explaining to her followers how she was paid to hold certain items in a certain way as a form of advertisement.

Sebastian Müller talks about the growth in generating revenue through individual blogs in his online journal; Monetizing Blogs, written in 2011.

According to Müller, there are several streams of revenue for individual blogs, under the headings of: advertising, paid content and affiliate marketing, donations, paid subscription, and consulting.

Advertising is probably the easiest revenue stream. Gone are the days in which companies head straight to the newspapers to buy advertising space. Companies are using more and more contemporary ways to get their products out there, many of which relying on individual blogs that bring in a relevant audience. This stream however relies on traffic – as there must be people there to see the advertisement. The more traffic the blog receives, the more the ad is worth.

The payment for this model can come in many formats, for example ‘pay-per-click’ in which the company pays for the initial ad and then pays the website owner for each individual who clicks on the advertisement link to their own site.

A slightly less known form of advertising is known as ‘search advertisement’. This is where the advertisement is found on the result of searching for the particular site and therefore are tailored to the keywords and content of the blog, explained by Müller.

Paid content and other forms of marketing are being seen more and more individual blogs according to Guo, 2008. In this model, bloggers get paid to talk about a certain subject of product, and is otherwise known as a sponsored post. Commonly seen on lifestyle, fashion and beauty blogs, companies will send products to bloggers for review in order to generate word of mouth. This model is heavily reliant on the influence carried by the writer – evidence of which can be seen in the example given above of Zoe Sugg.

This is a revenue model preferred by Amy Liddell. ” Although I do accept paid advertising, I prefer to do sponsored posts. When I do, do a sponsored post it will always be my own written content and I would never accept sponsored posts from something that didn’t fit in with the general theme of my blog.”

Although not so common in the blogosphere, paid subscription is another effective way to generate revenue through individual blogs. This is of course where readers must pay a subscription fee in order to access content, however this is most effective in blogs that offer valuable information, rather than entertainment blogs that have been mentioned previously.

Consulting is one of the more recent examples of revenue streams according to Technorati, 2009 and includes a number of different supportive activities. One example may be, a successful fashion blogger being paid to speak at London Fashion Week, or a successful blogger being paid to help set up other blogs.

Thanks to the invention of web 2.0, the internet is anyone’s game – and people can set up their own online space for very little expense. Gone are the days in which the media is a one way one-way traffic. Anyone can host their blog, and respond to other blogs and share each others multimedia. Increasingly, companies are noticing the shift and using this to get their products to the to relevant markets.

The blogosphere is set to keep on expanding and some predict that in the near future it will be difficult to detect between the glossy magazines and some fashion blogs, as well as the line blurring between professional journalism and that of a writer and his blog. Either way, it seems as though the gap is set to continue widening for those making a wage from their website.

Sources used:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34747560?ocid=socialflow_twitter&ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbcnews&ns_source=twitter

http://aisel.aisnet.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1255&context=ecis2011

Oxford Dictionary For Journalists – Tony Harcup

https://uk.godaddy.com/

https://www.zoella.co.uk/

http://hannahgale.co.uk/

http://www.saltandchic.com/

HOW TO START A BLOG

http://youtube.com/

http://www.google.com/adsense/start/#?modal_active=none

http://globalneighbourhoods.net/2011/03/sm-pioneer-justin-hall-the-1st-blogger.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/berners_lee_tim.shtml

http://cybher.com/12/2013/03/non-disclosure-in-blogging/

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