OFFICIAL BLOGHER '10 LIVEBLOG: Professional: The Mega "Mindful Monetization" Session!

BlogHer Original Post

AMY: Welcome to the mindful monetization panel. I’m Amy, I blog at ResourcefulMommy.com. I operate the marketing network, Global Influence Network and I created Twitter Parties two years ago. Megan is next to me, she writes beautiful posts on VelveteenMind. Runs the literary magazine Story Bleep and has used her own version of monetization to become a sought after voice in consulting. We also have Micaela right next to Megan, Micaela blogs about green living from the home front with a healthy dose of reality. She’s also the author of a book about green home living. On the end we have Marta. She is the owner of both Truth in Aging and Truth in Slimming.
We’re going to get started with some questions we prepared and then open it up t you and your questions. I have a question to start. How far along in your blogging career did you make the decision to monetize?

MICAELA: It took me a while, I was kind of slow at it. I started doing project reviews maybe a year in, and I’ve been blogging for four years and it wasn’t until a year ago I started doing sponsors or advertising.

MEGAN: My first BlogHer was in 2008. The December before that I’d gotten fancy and put affiliate ads on my site. I thought, I’m going to be rich! And then by January I’d made a nickel. And then come February I saw people in comments saying Hey, I wanted to let you know I bought that DVD set you were talking about and I saw your ad for those shoes and bought them, too. And I thought, wow, I’m going to make a crapload of money because people are buying these things in real life. At BlogHer I said, I’m making money for people in real-life stores because my readers like what I’m saying, and I’m not making money from this. And someone on a panel said, you know you can contact those people directly. I did not know that.

AMY: Marta was also saying she discovered advertising wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

MARTA: My main web site reviews beauty products, so when I started out people were saying where can we buy this? I realized that when we recommend something and say we like it, it’s a rigorous process to get there and that’s compelling and people want to buy it. So I became an Amazon affiliate with about half the traffic I have now and we were selling four or five hundred items a month on Amazon. People go from my site to Amazon and buy something, and I get an affiliate fee, which is like seven percent. I was onto something, but I hadn’t found the best way to maximize it. I joined another company that provides an ecommerce platform for bloggers. They took a lot of my concerns about shopping carts, etc., they were able to handle that for me and we share the net profits.

AMY: Megan, you spoke a little about your storytelling selling products for other people offline, but not affiliate anything. I think it’s really creative how you turned that into a monetization.

MEGAN: Yeah, I don’t do reviews and I don’t do give-aways. I don’t know. I can explain easily – I published one post last month. Holla! It’s July, it’s summer, whatever. People leave, they’ll come back. I realized that I couldn’t do reviews and give-aways because I don’t publish that month. At best I publish once a week. So I realized that I needed to work with very few sponsors and I needed it to come from me first so what works for me is for my audience, they’re looking for stories. I want to be able to monetize but my audience needs to come first. If I’m going to expose you to the way I pay my bills you still need to get a good story. I’m going to tell you a story I’d tell anyway and I align it with the company’s needs, so my readers get the great post they’re looking for and I’m also able to fit a brand’s needs and align it really seamlessly. It’s very different if you’re publishing infrequently on a personal blog, it’s got to be audience first and that means stories. On my blogs, people are not clicking up those ads in the side bar. They’re not going to play a widget game on some other site. I know my audience. And you know what, if anything else happens, know your audience’s needs first.

AMY: Micaela, you had concerns that monetizing would change the dynamic of your blog. What’s your advice?

MICAELA: I write a blog about green living. At first I was hesitant to monetize. One of the things behind green living is that it’s not about consumerism and selling stuff, so I wasn’t sure if that was the right fit for me. I also didn’t want it to clutter up the look of my blog. I’d seen a lot of ads that looked bad, Google ads stuck on the top, it looked bad. I wanted to make sure it looked right and made sense for me. About a year ago I did a redesign so I put some space in there for some sponsor ads, and created an advertising policy for my blog, which is up on my blog and that’s something I advise for anyone interested in monetizing that way. Spell it out on your blog what’s important to you when looking for a sponsor. I really wanted small companies, sustainable products, that kind of thing. That was important to me and that’s what I said in my policy. To be honest, I don’t make a heck of a lot of money on my blog, but I had to say what is my purpose behind monetizing? And it wasn’t all about the money. I realized that actually promoting sustainable products does make sense for me because it helps my readers lead a greener lifestyle, and also I had a lot of fun promoting these little companies, too.

MEGAN: A lot of people come up to me and say the same thing. I have a lot of fun with this. It’s different for everyone and a lot of people do these things because they love it. May not pay the bills but they’re having a lot of fun. Particularly, a lot of people say I love reaching out to small mom-owned companies and focusing on them. You’re the professional you just have to figure out how to do it.

AMY: We talked in a parenthood panel today about different ways to monetize, there’s no right or wrong, but one point that came up often was that you really need to know ahead of time where you want to go with your blog. They will come to you, if they haven’t already.

Micaela: It’s important to sit down if you haven’t monetized yet, what is your purpose behind it? Is it all about the money or is it because you want to help readers find a certain product? What are your values? People do find you and you get pitches and people want to advertise and maybe one comes up and you accept and then it doesn’t make sense at all for your blog? I advise, often when I get a pitch, don’t respond right away. Take a while to think about.

AMY: Have any of you experience backlash from readers?

MARTA: I can answer very specifically. I did a survey, I created a group of about 400 readers of the site. We reached out to our subscribers and said, would you be a VIP, 400 said yes in 24 hours so we shut it down. One of the first things we did was survey them and ask them what they thought we could do to improve the site. We got about 300 responses to that to a detailed survey, great feedback. Out of that, two people said we think you’re promoting the products you sell and we’re not sure you’re as credible. And it hurt. Two out of 300 is not a significant percentage but it’s still too many. I immediately posted on it and talked about the feedback and improvements, and said I got this feedback from a small number but I take it seriously.

MEGAN: I have an army of critics in my head. I post maybe four times a month, if it’s good, but they’re short and the reason is that I’ve already heard your comment sin my head and I answer them. I don’t leave a lot of room for comments but I’m so mindful about how I think you’ll feel about this. Am I phrasing this the right way? I’m really mindful of the reader and the audience.

AMY: We want to make sure we’re meeting your needs today and answering your questions, so we’ve got a mic out here somewhere.

Question: My name is Sherry. I do a lot of give-aways and someone said, well do you get paid? And I never thought about that, that someone would pay me. So do you do that? Do you have experience with it?

AMY: I do a lot of give-aways, and for one reason. It’s not easy, as you’ll know, it’s incredibly time consuming, but I do it as a gift to my readers. What I’ve found is that they come for the contests and stay for the content. If I removed the give-aways I’d be letting them down. They’re also fun for me, it’s like playing Santa. I don’t monetize them, don’t charge for them and don’t intend to because I think the value they add to my life is they make my readers happy. I know everyone has their own thoughts on that. Discussing it with PR reps, they say as much as they’d love to pay bloggers in many cases they cannot. They can budget for a service or a task but not something necessarily involving a blog post unless it’s been approved for that campaign. A lot of times they have a give-away and that’s it. It comes down to knowing what you want to do when you start. If you want to do paid give-aways, just make that clear from the beginning.

MARTA: We use give-aways to create content actually. We give our readers a full-sized sample, so often that’s a $200 anti-wrinkle cream for free, but they do have to write a review. If they write back in and say it didn’t work for me, so be it. And the manufacturers have to take their chances with it.

Micaela: I do give-aways and reviews but I don’t charge for them. I consider that a gift to my readers, too.

MEGAN: I don’t give away crap, but I’d charge for it if I did.
(Laughter)

Question: As a blogger with a very small blog, I’m a mommy blogger who blogs from my child’s perspective. If I’m trying to monetize, where do you suggest starting with your stats? I do have readers, not as many as some of you, but at what point do you feel comfortable approaching a company?

MARTA: Two ways. Google analytics is free, just put the code on your web site and you can see the traffic and where it’s coming from. And a survey’s really good too. Get people’s ages, things like that.

Q: But if I know how few people are reading?

AMY: I believe there was a panel earlier on statistics and how…anyway. This is my personal advice – don’t worry so much about the numbers. Worry about the whole package. If you’ve got people who are following you on Twitter, start your fan page on FB, if you’re prez of your mom’s club.

MEGAN: You do stuff in real life. Do you have an about page? Is that on your about page? Put that stuff on your about page, the stuff you do in real life. I get a lot of feedback from PR agencies, they want people who aren’t holed up in front of a computer.

AMY: And don’t go to Fortune 500 companies. Find a small company who is looking for a mommy blogger to pay attention to them.

Micaela: Don’t be afraid to approach a company and then just don’t charge a whole lot at first and get yourself in the door.

MEGAN: I love that question and then they’re like, we didn’t get the answer to that last night. When do I start? I had a convo last night about managing expectations, advertiser expectations. If you start small, it’s a testing ground. You’re ready to start now, just start small and manage expectations.

AMY: And maybe even reach out to local companies.

Question: I have a question about pricing yourself when you’re solicited about potential ads. I get e-mails from beauty companies who inquire about my rates, and I’m never sure what to quote them. I’ve looked at comparable sites and priced myself below and I don’t get responses back. How do you know what to charge?

MARTA: The way I handle advertising is I have Google AdSense. Google serves the ads and goes after the bidding process across their network. In the beauty space, the CPM is really high. It could be eight to 12 dollars, which is really good. I’d say go through Google and that’s an advertiser taking their chances. But if you really targeted me and my site, I’m going to charge you more than I’m getting from Google. That’s my benchmark. Google AdSense is free, just try it out and see what you get. Give them a week and they’ll give you ads that are accurately about your content that you’re serving.

Q: I have Google AdSense, but I haven’t seen as much action from that as a beauty network I’m in.

MARTA: Whoever’s giving you the highest CPMs, that’s your benchmarks. When someone specifically wants your site and not through a third party, you try to charge them a bit more. And you’ve got a benchmark now.

AMY: I’ve had an issue where people have requested my rate card and never got back with me but months later said, I’ve got an ad for you. It’s a longer process than we realize.

MEGAN: I started like you did. Looked at similar sites. Do your research. I found sites similar to mine I doubled it, and when they say no I’ll back down. That’s the perfect way to do it. Find your niche.

Question: I have a question about sponsored posts. I’ve waffled back and forth on doing it. Writing one could be good money but my readers could get turned off by it.

MARTA: I would never do it. It would be completely compromising.

AMY: Because of the nature of your blog?

MARTA: We say we’re giving you objective information, so it would compromise what we’re doing.

AMY: What comes to mind is Megan’s innovative campaigns and I think there’s an idea out there about what a sponsored post is and it’s this thing of a blogger in a back alley and getting slipped a $50 but then you’ve got someone like Megan who’s got this gift of writing. I mean, I blog, she writes. When she tells a story, it might be part of an ad relationship, but it’s a story.

MEGAN: You could say I write sponsored posts, but I disclose that. I’m serving everyone’s needs, I don’t feel bad at all. This company is a sponsor. We’re already knee-deep in the story at that point. It’s not like they’re like, hey, write about this. I don’t think I’ve ever written about a product, just brands or campaigns. I understand that gray area. I you’re writing about a lipstick, I get it.

AMY: I don’t think there’s a reader out there that would say, you got paid for that I’m not ever coming back here. You have to find your comfort level and disclose on your page that you pay taxes and hey, it’s your site.

Question: I have a question about monetizing with integrity. One thing I’m always impressed with on your sites is how you monetize with disclosure and I’d like to learn more about that. Best practices? Tips?

AMY: I tell too much rather than not enough. I recently moved from blogger to wordpress, that was my big girl move. When I was on blogger, I had it at the bottom. It was always there on my home page, literally saying I get paid for this, for this, not for that. I assume the readers assume it, so I put it out there. Now on WP it’s a dedicated page that the site creator made for me. I think we’d probably all agree saying too much is better than not enough and I integrate my disclosure into my posts, so if it’s a give-away I say thanks to the folks at Hasbro for providing this and also in a disclosure.

MEGAN: I found a disclosure on her site and I use that. When I do posts it’s usually part of a broader campaign so I’ll have something in the side bar that says, featured sponsor. There’s that reminder. I’m hitting it everywhere.

Question: You said something about managing expectations. I find that’s one of the hardest things to do because I think no one talks about it. I have no clue what a realistic expectation is. How are we supposed to find out what that is?

MEGAN: Let me clarify. What I was saying, the hardest thing for me is managing their expectations. For them to know what they’re going to get. Are you looking for click-throughs or product purchase? And then I’d have to be really clear about that. So when we were thinking about starting out and talking to a mom-owned business, you have to manage that business’s expectations. You’re not going to turn into their evangelist for four months because they gave you twenty dollars.

Micaela: Well I’ll just say that what I did when I decided to start offering sponsors or advertising on my blog, I searched other blogs. Some people do disclose their rates and you can learn some that way. It’s frustrating that it’s not easier, but just talk to people. Like at BlogHer, don’t be afraid to ask. We should be and learning from each other.

MEGAN: Doesn’t it change? I think maybe two years ago I’d taken my BlogHer ads down because I wasn’t making enough money and then I decided to put them back up because we were in a tight spot and $40 would pay the water bill. And now I took them back down because I decided that space and energy was worth more. It really ebbs and flows. Specifically for me I said, that’s not enough, then damn, I need that money.

AMY: You want numbers.

Q: I wish there was a place where we could go and say look your blog is getting 1,000 hits. Shoot for this much, etc.

AMY: I think Marta spoke to that very clearly. Find out what the CPM is in your niche. She’s talking beauty products, but I’m sure there’s other niche groups that you’d fit into and find your CPM.

MARTA: It depends. If you’re in food, for example, getting ads from mass market grocery companies the CPMs are low. My audience now is about 120,000 uniques a month and I make enough to pay for technical support and freelance writers. I don’t pay myself a salary because I’m constantly reinvesting, but on 100,000 clicks – I came from big media companies so I still feel embarrassed by that number, but frankly these days that’s a pretty good sized audience. People go, wow! It’s taken me two years, and I posted three stories a day for two years. If you want to make it on that level it’s really hard work. And now I can back up a little bit on the content, archiving content, and it’s all about how I monetize it effectively. Five to 10,000 a month is possible, but it’s hard.

AMY: CPMs.

MARTA: Cost per thousands, so it’s the rate an advertiser will give you per impression. Google gives you the two. They don’t pay you for the impression, they pay for the click-through, but they give you the effective CPM. How many impressions can I serve you, for every thousand you’ll give me $10. On AdSense they give you that number but pay you on how many click through. It’s an effective CPM of say, in my case, $9 or something. I also get a pretty good click through rate, it’s over one percent, which is good. It’s very targeted. If you’ve got cellulite, you come to my site, there’ll be an ad telling you there’s a cream to get rid of it.

MEGAN: Exactly what you’re saying. I was in a monetizing session and people were talking numbers and this girl said, okay, I went to my friends’ site and she’s charging $40 a month for an ad this size, so I decided to charge this much and I feel really guilty because I get 40,000 a month – and I said, only? That’s good! And she was a personal blogger. That’s good. I know there’s this stigma of what is good, impression-wise, but you know if we were on Twitter right now people would’ve brought up price-fixing. You may want us to say, this is what you should do and this is the standard, and then half people’s heads will blow off their necks because they freak out. You’re ruining it for the rest of us.

AMY: And if you want to go beyond ads, the best advice I’ve had was someone said, whatever someone is willing to pay. You can crunch numbers, but if Johnny Money doesn’t have a check for you, you’re out of luck. That’s why I think we all need to, if we’re serious about this, we need to look beyond ads and beyond ad networks and again I go back to the conversation with the PR agent who said you need to provide a service beyond just an ad on your blog. A lot of time, people who are –emailing you, they have no access to the media buy money. Not the same agency, not the same city, and if you get a pitch to review a product and ask them to buy an ad, they might not have the budget for that because it’s not who they are. Look beyond your blog at your total work online and locally where your influence is.

MARTA: I just wanted to say, making money from just one revenue stream is pretty hard with a smaller audience. I’ve got my shop, my ads and my affiliate streams. Get it wherever you can take it.

Question: On monetizing with integrity, beyond disclosure, what sort of research do you do when you’re approached by a brand?

MEGAN: When you get these PR pitches, the thing I generally do, it’s story based. I have a story I was going to do anyway, I’m halfway through and I realize, this brand will actually love this, I wonder what they have coming up or what they’re doing. So my stuff is story-based. But from pitches, if you’re lucky you get a ton of pitches. I understand many of you might not have. When you start getting them some of them won’t make sense, but I look at every single pitch. If it’s a good pitch and it makes sense, I read it like this: Hey Megan! We like you. We’d like to work with you. So when I go back and say, I love what you’re doing, how about this? It’s only IF I connected with it on a story level. For a personal blogger, I look at it as do I connect with the brand, so I already have a story or a memory that’s already part of my life. That weeds out a whole lot of stuff. And to be honest I don’t answer some of that stuff. I just put them in a pile, what do they care?

Micaela: I can speak to it because I’m a green blogger. I get pitches for products that are supposedly green but I have to do some research. What is this? Is it legit, is it green? If it looks interesting to me, I’ll look into it and sometimes I’ve realized no, this isn’t something I want to promote. I don’t have the time to respond to every person who pitches me but some other green bloggers I know will reply back and say hey, and give them a hard time about how their product isn’t really green but I don’t always have the time to do that.

AMY: I do Twitter parties and so I have a lot of clients and they’re just for the night. (Laughter.) You gotta diversify when you monetize. The problem that can come from that is that we have a relationship leading up to the event and it’s often a very quick period of time and then we have one event, one hour, one night and it’s not the same company for a long period of time. I might not know the products as well. When I started Twitter parties they were called site warmings. So if it’s a new product to market, I haven’t tried it. A lot of times they’ll send it to me so I can try it but sometimes there isn’t time for it. I had one client I did everything for and was researching them the entire time and didn’t realize until the end that I didn’t want to work with them. I e-mailed and said I’m sorry, it’s not a fit for my personal morals and I never heard back from them.

Question: I’m an Amazon affiliate and I make hundreds a month. I like Amazon because people are comfortable with the site, but I’ve been reading a lot about Open Sky and I’m wondering, have you noticed your sales going up or down? Are they more inclined to one or the other?

MARTA: I approach them differently. Amazon has everything, and you get a high conversion rate. Again, we’ll only put the lead on there if it’s a product we’ve reviewed and we like. With Open Sky it’s got to be something we tested and like, but here I’ll go for more uncommon things, harder to get, and I want to give my readers a fabulous deal. With Open Sky it’s a direct relationship with a supplier. We can negotiate really good deals. People are always writing to me saying, I’ve got this sample but I don’t have $150. So my VIPs, last week, I called the manufacturer and asked for a 30 percent discount, and they said yes. Now, I can’t do that with Amazon. But Amazon you get volume and with Open Sky, I treat it as a way of bringing great products at a great deal that they might not be able to find. And I get a much better margin than an affiliate fee.

AMY: I think a rep from Open Sky is here this weekend.

Question: I’ve been working with PR agencies for years, and if I’m trying to monetize and bypass them, how do I go through the process of approaching a company?

AMY: I don’t try to bypass the PR folks. And so sometimes what I do is Google a press release and see who the contact info is. If it’s someone I want to get in touch with, I write a lot about Disney, I love Disney, and I don’t have access to some of the higher res photos, so in that case I get the contact from a release. Megan, do you bypass PR?

MEGAN: No, I don’t. Bear with me. I use an agent. It’s a blogger that I’m friends with and she has an agency and what happens with me is I have an idea, and as I try to figure out who’s the PR company, I have three kids, I get distracted. So with this I can say, this is my idea and she helps me get connected with the right agency. Often we know them, and sometimes I contact them but sometimes she does and says, hey, I have a client and matches us up. I don’t think I’ve ever not gone through PR firms.

Audience: It depends on the industry. Entertainment or publishing, you’re just going to digital marketing or promotion, there’s different people to go to. I would go to marketing for consumer packaged goods, food, cosmetics, those kinds of things. But for entertainment, try the digital marketing person.

MEGAN: In my experience, in the campaigns I do I’m in direct contact with the brand at some point. If I took my brilliant idea and went straight to the brand with it, they’d be like, can we have our lawyers look at this? You save yourself a lot of trouble. It’s hard enough to get the PR agency to understand, all of this is still new. You have to work with really good PR people who get it. You want them to understand, and if they speak brand speak, they can speak in the fancy lingo with the brand and not freak them out.

Audience member: I’m glad you asked that question. I’m from a brand, and we don’t use a PR agency for our relationships with our bloggers, I work with bloggers directly. Id’ never say there’s only one way to do it, there are a lot of different approaches. I don’t like to outsource my relationships with other people. I feel comfortable talking with our bloggers. One of the ways to get our attention is look at the person in that company, whoever they are in social media, chances are they’ll be a little more open to people in this universe. Companies online, companies who tweet. If you get on a fan page and say something on Facebook, we’ll notice that. There are ways you can get my attention and then if you write me a good pitch, I’ll read it. Make sure the subject line of the e-mail is a good one. Any way you can get some extra attention for yourself that talks about what you can do for the brand. Don’t start your pitch with your page views. I write pitches all the time, I have to pitch companies. I always start off, it’s about them, what are they looking for and how can I serve their needs. Those are some of the tips I would offer.

MEGAN: Do you understand the difference? That’s a bigger company that has secured a PR agency. If you’re going to Sara’s Shoe Strings, they probably don’t have a PR agency. If they don’t have an agency, you won’t go through it. That’s pretty simple.

AMY: Look for social media liaisons.

Question: I just wanted to ask your opinion on monetizing different niches. Personal bloggers might feel frustrated trying to monetize, say you don’t already have a blog and you want to start one and monetize, do you go niche or broad?

MEGAN: Run Away.

AMY: if you’re goal is to make money, probably not personal blogging.

MARTA: I think if you do want to make money you need to own something. Even beauty is not a niche, it’s a fairly broad area. We own the anti-aging part of it, and even that we don’t own, so what is there within that. You can get pretty detailed within that, so with me it’s eyelash growth products. That’s how we turned the corner. I did a story on a glaucoma product with bad side effects and the WSJ picked it up. My audience exploded and now PR companies will say, can you review my eyelash growth product because you’re the reference point.

Question: I use my blog to promote other things like my online practice, stuff like that. I’ve been very wary of advertising since I am an MD and I don’t have a lot of time to spend. I’m afraid of AdSense because I need to see every ad. Even if I specify a type, I need to approve specific ads. Is that possible?

MARTA: Yeah, you can go through a list and shut out certain advertisers. Your other option is to go to a network that specializes in health. And there is one. But you know they will pair you with smaller businesses and only health companies and you can say upfront it’s gotta be this and definitely not that.

Question: I only write about things I actually use myself and then I try it out, I’m also a green blogger and I’m really particular. I don’t have kids but a lot of moms read my blog. I was interested in your comments on inviting your readers to do guest reviews. How do you find them? I’ve done them a couple of times and I feel so responsible if they don’t come through because it’s a reflection on me.

MARTA: We have a process but you could make up a different one, where, first of all we only give it to people who subscribe to our web site. That’s the first filter. We send out our weekly newsletter and say, whoever wants to try this, go to the web site and leave a comment on a post and be persuasive and that and 60 percent of them will say, I’m really going to review this, I promise. And you can tell if people are going to come through or not. I keep a list now, I think we’ve blacklisted two for not coming through. But pretty much, the response – if people are coming to your site, you’ve got integrity and your readers probably do too. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Question: I’m bringing my how-to workshops for women to my blog. I notice a lot of women asking about price, I’ve been business for 11 years, I’m an electrical contractor. I think it’s all about the art of negotiation. My workshops are always sold out. You’ve got to find out who’s more flexible and will do what you want them to do, I’ve called corporate and they say, how’d you get this number? And I said I need $50 coupon cards for my attendees and I ended up getting like $15,000. Ask for what you want and then if they don’t give it to you, ask again.

MEGAN: I know a lot of you came in and wanted someone to tell you how much to charge. The answer is we can’t tell you that. But you know you ask for what you think you’re worth. If they say no, it’s not over. Ask again. Let me refigure it. How about this? Don’t just drop your price with the same package. Reconfigure. It’s back and forth, it’s a conversation. Don’t be afraid of them saying what? Keep it moving. Do not be afraid of them telling you no. If you ask too much, you are in great shape. You’re already in a good position.

AMY: Be sure you’re providing something that’s really a service. If you’ve got a product you love, write about it well for free and someone else will want you to do the same thing. Put some local ads on your site, make them clean and crisp and someone else will ask how they can do it. And tell them where to send the check.

Question: One thing we haven’t mentioned, my blog makes zero money but I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities because I have a blog. I’ve gotten well=paid partnerships with companies and great articles assigned to me because of my network.

MARTA: That’s a great point. It may be a means to something else.

MEGAN: That’s why they call them platforms. Those are my platforms to leap from, to build from, it’s not the floor.

AMY: Can I ask, do you have something on your site that says contact me about… Like for freelance writing? What I like to tell people is make yourself available. What I hate is if I have to spend 15 minutes on your site to find your e-mail address or to find out where you live, you’re not getting what you just won. Make sure someone can contact you.

Q: I have a separate site set up that’s like my calling card for editors. A lot of editors are still very traditional, so a lot of them may not come to you unless you have a relationship with them.

AMY: Five minutes.

Q: I work with a small mom-owned footwear brand that has been looking for innovative partnerships with bloggers. I want to emphasize innovative. This is still a very new space. It’s not like TV ads where everything is all nailed down. People are creating new ways of doing business every day. People are looking for innovative, passionate people. I think that’s the key is to really keep thinking creatively.

Q: Further to that, about what should I blog about and the general idea of making connections, I come from a company that works between brands and bloggers and we get companies looking for bloggers all the time and it’s not all about the A listers with huge traffic, it’s not all about a niche, we want groups of people from different places, different topics and crazy niches. So just because half your audience is your mom or you live in Oklahoma doesn’t mean you don’t have marketing value if you want to get into that. You may not have a book deal but there are opportunities out there for you. We get companies coming to us, we’ve got an agency working with Microsoft and smaller niche companies looking to specifically target. They’re out there and looking for you and up til now they’ve had a hell of a time finding you. Make yourselves easier to find and make it obvious what you’re writing about and what you’re interested in and that’ll take you a long way in terms of getting these relationships started and then you can specify who you are and what you write about.

AMY: One more question.

Q: I get the feeling I’m the only one in here who doesn’t know, if I had ten companies I wanted to sell ads to, how do I manage those 10 companies? Am I responsible for billing them? There isn’t a program?

Micaela: it’s a lot of work to monetize.

AMY: You have a great point, I blogged for two years without an ad because the time it’d take me to invoice you for $10, drive to the bank, etc., is not worth $10. So I chose not to put ads up, but I monetized well off my blog, and if that hadn’t been the case I might have invested there. It’s all a case of if it’s worth it to you.

MEGAN: The main thing, this is mindful monetization. If you remember anything I say, it’s the willingness to walk away. I walk away from opportunity all day long. And sometimes you are going to have an opportunity that comes and it’s not the best fit. Last night I was talking to a friend and I said I had a really good campaign and I was going to use you for it but you did something recently and she said, what’d I do? It wasn’t really meaningful, but I didn’t choose to work with her because she’d just done something recently. Every time you choose to do something it has to really pack a punch if you’re concerned about your messaging or your niche. Really make mindful choices and be willing to lose, because by walking away from one thing you may be opening the door to something greater.

Micaela: I’ll second that and say take the time to think through what your purpose is for monetizing, whether it’s the money or what you’re promoting. Take the time, think about it, write it down in a policy you’ve got on your blog, I think that’s key. If you know your purpose it’s a lot easier.

MARTA: Experiment. Not everything works for everyone. I tried ad networks that paid me nothing and surprisingly I’ve done well with Google. Keep trying different things. And if you want to make money, it is hard work.

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