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By Mercy King’ori

(This post forms part one of a new series on blogging and considerations that entrant bloggers face.)

Blogs have been recognised as one of the most prominent web 2.0 technologies that allow creation of user generated content.[1] Web 2.0 also known as “social computing” has been defined as “internet tools that foster collaboration and interaction”.[2] It is the web version that allows people to create their content and allow them to interact with content from others.[3] One of the most powerful features of web 2.0 is that it “empowers and generates communities with similar interests”.[4] Web 2.0 was a transition from the web that only programmers could contribute, to a web that allows anyone to participate online by publishing and sharing content.[5] A shift from “uni-directional mass media to participatory media where viewers and readers of media become the creators of the media”.[6]

The history of blogging can be traced back to the advent of the web.[7] The web was invented and implemented in 1990.[8] By this time, the internet was already operational and was mainly used by scientists, programmers and people interested in new forms of communication.[9] In 1993, the web was opened to the general public with Mosaic, the web browser that popularised the world wide web.[10] As a result of its simplicity and reliability, it facilitated a rise in personal home pages where people posted about their personal matters akin to some modern blogs.[11] However, these personal websites were not always referred to as “blogs”. Some were referred to as online personal diaries.[12] The word  “blog” came from the word “weblog” which referred to a “log of visitors that a person who administers a web server can see”.[13] However, John Barger, creator of the site “Robot Wisdom” suggested an alternative purpose of the word.[14] This alternative purpose was reflected in the title of his site “Robot Wisdom: A Weblog by John Barger”.[15] His site consisted of a list of links to other sites with no commentary.[16] As others created sites with some commentary, the term “weblogs” applied to such posts. It was Peter Merholz that shortened the term “weblog” to “blog” in 1999.[17]

The initial web was a read-only web that only allowed reading content from others and required more technical skills to upload as content was manually uploaded.[18] The first blogging site that allowed any form of interaction was known as “Open Diary”.[19] It used a membership model that allowed members to comment on the content of others.[20] This gave rise to many other blogging platforms such as Blogger and Live Journal that easily allowed users to publish their opinions and ideas. This marked an increase in the number of blogging sites and consequently the number of blogs.

The year 2002 was a great milestone for blogging since it marked the start of monetising blogs. Entities such as BlogAds and Google’s AdSense that connected blogs with advertisements emerged. Many other monetisation programs have since emerged. Currently, blogs are a “large part of the history of communication and literacy” and are part of the current changes in journalism and marketing.[21] It is now common to use blogging for income generation.[22]

In Kenya, certain blogs are already using one or more of the discussed below as income generating methods. For example, this blog here has an advertisement section where advertisements may be placed and the writer earns from the advertisement placement. The growth of the Kenyan blog-sphere is further evidenced by the creation of organisations such as “Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE)” that brings together content creators and empowers them to improve the quality of content on the web.[23]

This post seeks to explore what ways exist for a blogger to earn money. It concludes that web 2.0 technologies have created numerous channels of earning income that previously were the reserve of a few.

Advertising

Formerly advertising could only be envisioned through placing products on massive billboards, newspapers or on television. However, as the audience shifts to the online space, blogs in addition to other web 2.0 applications such as social media have transformed how companies advertise.[24] There are various forms of advertising that bloggers could benefit from. They include:

  1. Bloggers can sell advertising space directly to companies desiring to advertise on their site.[25] The advertisements do not have to be related to the content of the blog. However, the technical challenges of directly approaching bloggers makes advertisers/ companies prefer the method below.
  2. Display advertising through an online advertising network (OAN). OAN is an entity that connects bloggers to advertisers for a fee.[26] They are comparable to the traditional advertising agencies. They earn their income by taking part of the advertisement revenue and giving the remainder to the blogger. To get advertisements to place on blogs, OANs get advertisements from companies dealing with different products and services i.e. aggregate advertisements and place them as advertisements on websites that have registered with them.[27] The OAN sets the pricing for the advertising space.[28] To achieve maximum value for placing an advertisement on a blog, OAN usually places an advertisement depending on the genre of the blog. For  instance, placing an advert of a musical concert on an entertainment blog. This increases the likelihood of a visitor to the blog viewing the advertisement. This is a key differentiator with a blogger directly approaching an advertiser since a blogger can play a key role in pricing the advertisement.[29]

Paid Content

Most bloggers focus their writing on particular topics and have particular styles of writing.[30] As a result of writing a particular topic and unique style, the exposure often leads one to become an authority on it. This way companies may approach them to write a post on a particular product or topic. It could be a product review for products that a blogger is well versed with. The blogger then gets paid for writing. To access topics that one can write to get paid, a  company may directly approach the blogger and remunerate them. Alternatively, a blogger could use an online marketplace and choose topics which they can write on. Under this form of writing, the blogger splits the payment with the online marketplace.

Affiliate marketing

Compared to writing paid content, a blogger engaging in affiliate marketing is paid to generate traffic to the website of a company. This means causing web users to visit a particular website. A blogger does this by embedding links to these websites on their posts. This form of marketing requires that a blogger is creative enough to seamlessly incorporate the links in a post in a coherent manner for the readers. Lack of coherence may not convince a reader to visit the other site. It is based on “revenue sharing” between the affiliate marketer and the company promoting its products.[31]

Paid subscription

Under this form of income generation, bloggers only share content to readers who pay a fee for the content.[32] The paid subscription model is not a common method of earning as it requires the blogger to have content that is highly niche to convince people to pay to access. Unlike other forms of earning, bloggers who choose this form of earning have a target audience that is small and specific. When utilising the paid subscription model, a blogger may have a uniform subscription model or a tiered one. The tiered model classifies content and readers qualify to read depending on their type of subscription.[33]

Consulting

Similar to paid subscription, a blogger can use their knowledge in a particular subject matter to earn money through consultation. A blogger who chooses to earn money through consulting uses their “skills and experience” to earn money.[34] Unlike methods such as “affiliate marketing” which require generating traffic irrespective of whether the traffic actually purchases from the linked websites, offering consultation through blogs focuses on “getting the right kind of traffic

 i.e. people that need your services and can afford to pay for them”.[35]

Donations

Donations are mainly charitable gifts or givings. They  highly rely on the goodwill of the givers-readers. A good example of a site that uses donation to generate revenue is Wikipedia.[36] To use this technique, a blogger needs to have a “donation” option on the site. Donations to blogs can take different forms including: cash, stock donation or any form that the blogger specifies.[37] Different blogging sites give guidance on the process of adding a “donate button”. For example, if your site is powered by Blogger, the process is here. The rationale for using donations as a means of earning revenue is that a blogger believes that readers are likely to be willing to contribute money to view content they appreciate.[38] A blogger can use this form of revenue generation alongside other income sources. It is a good method for non-profit organisations.[39]

Conclusion

Web 2.0 technologies have revolutionised how users generate content on the web. Thanks to these technologies, users can now be content creators who publish and share their ideas and opinions and interact with content from others. Previously the nature of the web was a hindrance. However, the introduction of user friendly sites has resulted in the growth of blogging activities on the web. This growth has seen web 2.0 applications such as blogs used for journalistic and marketing purposes as they become ubiquitous and ultimately tools for generating income. This blogger concludes that a blogger has numerous earning opportunities thanks to the emergence of blogging. Blogs have attracted attention from users due to the unique features of web 2.0 technologies of ease of publishing content and interacting with users.


[1] https://copyright.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/1773830/wikisblogsweb2blue.pdf accessed on 25 February 2020.

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740624X15000763 accessed on 25 February 2020.

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740624X15000763 accessed on 25 February 2020.

[4] Liebert, J. (2009). What is content management system. AALL Spectrum, 13(9), 2-3.

[5] Veasman, L. (2008). Piggy backing on the web 2.0 internet: Copyright liability and web 2.0 mashups. Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal (Comm/Ent), 30(2), 311-338

[6] Jill Walker  Retterberg, ‘Blogging: Digital Media and Society Series’ Cambridge: Polity 2014’https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=VrhvqxjhSaEC&oi=fnd&pg=PP5&dq=history+of+blogging&ots=JA_OOq8BRJ&sig=YQjkrPnnA4Ipr81gBt3WHH8NeLk&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20blogging&f=false

[7] Jill Walker  Retterberg, ‘Blogging: Digital Media and Society Series’ Cambridge: Polity 2014’https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=VrhvqxjhSaEC&oi=fnd&pg=PP5&dq=history+of+blogging&ots=JA_OOq8BRJ&sig=YQjkrPnnA4Ipr81gBt3WHH8NeLk&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20blogging&f=false

[8] Jill Walker  Retterberg, ‘Blogging: Digital Media and Society Series’ Cambridge: Polity 2014’https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=VrhvqxjhSaEC&oi=fnd&pg=PP5&dq=history+of+blogging&ots=JA_OOq8BRJ&sig=YQjkrPnnA4Ipr81gBt3WHH8NeLk&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20blogging&f=false

[9] Jill Walker  Retterberg, ‘Blogging: Digital Media and Society Series’ Cambridge: Polity 2014’https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=VrhvqxjhSaEC&oi=fnd&pg=PP5&dq=history+of+blogging&ots=JA_OOq8BRJ&sig=YQjkrPnnA4Ipr81gBt3WHH8NeLk&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20blogging&f=false

[10] https://www.wired.com/2010/04/0422mosaic-web-browser/ accessed on 26 February 2020.

[11] Jill Walker  Retterberg, ‘Blogging: Digital Media and Society Series’ Cambridge: Polity 2014’https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=VrhvqxjhSaEC&oi=fnd&pg=PP5&dq=history+of+blogging&ots=JA_OOq8BRJ&sig=YQjkrPnnA4Ipr81gBt3WHH8NeLk&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20blogging&f=false

[12] Jill Walker  Retterberg, ‘Blogging: Digital Media and Society Series’ Cambridge: Polity 2014’https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=VrhvqxjhSaEC&oi=fnd&pg=PP5&dq=history+of+blogging&ots=JA_OOq8BRJ&sig=YQjkrPnnA4Ipr81gBt3WHH8NeLk&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20blogging&f=false

[13] https://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2011/03/a-brief-history-of-blogging/ accessed on 26 February 2020

[14] https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/history-of-blogging accessed on 26 February 2020

[15] https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/history-of-blogging accessed on 26 February 2020

[16] https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/history-of-blogging accessed on 26 February 2020

[17] https://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2011/03/a-brief-history-of-blogging/ accessed on 26 February 2020

[18] https://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2011/03/a-brief-history-of-blogging/accessed on 26 February 2020

[19] https://mashable.com/2010/08/05/history-of-blogs/ accessed on 26 February 2020.

[20]  https://mashable.com/2010/08/05/history-of-blogs/ accessed on 26 February 2020.

[21] Jill Walker  Retterberg, ‘Blogging: Digital Media and Society Series’ Cambridge: Polity 2014’https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=VrhvqxjhSaEC&oi=fnd&pg=PP5&dq=history+of+blogging&ots=JA_OOq8BRJ&sig=YQjkrPnnA4Ipr81gBt3WHH8NeLk&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20blogging&f=false

[22] Jill Walker  Retterberg, ‘Blogging: Digital Media and Society Series’ Cambridge: Polity 2014’https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=VrhvqxjhSaEC&oi=fnd&pg=PP5&dq=history+of+blogging&ots=JA_OOq8BRJ&sig=YQjkrPnnA4Ipr81gBt3WHH8NeLk&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=history%20of%20blogging&f=false.

[23] https://bake.co.ke/ accessed on 26 February 2020.

[24] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/109804821101500102 accessed on 26 February 2020.

[25] https://www.shoutmeloud.com/sell-ads-directly-blog.html accessed on 24 February 2020.

[26] https://www.martechadvisor.com/articles/ads/what-is-an-ad-network/ accessed on 25 February 2020

[27] https://www.muvi.com/wiki/ad-network.html accessed on 25 February 2020

[28] https://www.martechadvisor.com/articles/ads/what-is-an-ad-network/#section-v accessed on 25 February 2020

[29]  https://www.shoutmeloud.com/sell-ads-directly-blog.html accessed on 24 February 2020.

[30] https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/CMI_Ultimate-Blogging-final.pdf accessed on 26 February 2020

[31]https://neilpatel.com/what-is-affiliate-marketing/ accessed on 26 February 2020.

[32] https://wordpress.com/go/content-blogging/start-a-paid-subscription-blog-to-monetize-your-content/ accessed on 26 February 2020

[33] https://wordpress.com/go/content-blogging/start-a-paid-subscription-blog-to-monetize-your-content/accessed on 26 February 2020.

[34] https://kinsta.com/blog/how-to-monetize-a-blog/#consulting-business accessed on 26 February 2020.

[35] https://kinsta.com/blog/how-to-monetize-a-blog/#consulting-business accessed on 26 February 2020.

[36] https://donate.wikimedia.org/wiki/Ways_to_Give accessed on 26 February 2020.

[37] https://donate.wikimedia.org/wiki/Ways_to_Give accessed on 26 February 2020.

[38] https://kinsta.com/blog/how-to-monetize-a-blog/#donations accessed on 26 February 2020.

[39] https://kinsta.com/blog/how-to-monetize-a-blog/#donations accessed on 26 February 2020.