Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, a financial services industry thinktank, organises a seminar on "for profit" blogging, which was held on 8 March 2007.
Entitled "For-profit blogging – Helping the elderly across the Internet highway: a CSFI experiment", it dealt with "How can blogging be turned from a hobby into a profitable venture? This roundtable put together four experts – a mini “Dragons’ Den” – to advise Marco Niada, the London correspondent of Il Sole 24 Ore, on how to set up a blog successfully."
The panel comprised:
- Andrew Hilton and Tim Jones of the CSFI
- Dave Birch (of Consult Hyperion, who runs the Digital Money forum and Digital Identity forum)
- Jerome Guillet (of European Tribune, a French investment banker who blogs for free for Daily Kos as Jérôme à Paris)
- Karl Bunyan (of web development/design company Exponetic, who'd blogged about his involvement in the seminar in advance), and
- blog strategist Jane Adams.
"Mr Hilton suggested that Mr Guillet is being exploited by blogging for free for Daily Kos (as Jérôme à Paris), a US site which gets a million hits a day and is one of the few sites that make money.
The fourth expert, Karl Bunyan (Exponetic) said blogging is not a completely new phenomenon and has been around for about seven years. To make money, blogs would have to go down the subscription route but they would lose their edge and would no longer distinguish themselves from online newspapers. He thought advertisers would only be interested if sites pulled in millions of readers.
Ms Adams said people who make money out of blogging tend to be teams working full-time, rather than individuals doing it part-time. It is almost impossible for an individual to turn blogging into a profitable venture, especially as the newspapers offer free online blogs. On the other hand, she said it is very easy to set up a blog which can be done in half a day. You do it for love, not money, she concluded, though blogs can be used as a promotional tool to sell books or other items. This summed up the consensus at the roundtable.
Tim Jones said the blogosphere has created a new and better way of conducting and sharing research, with newspapers and blogs feeding off each other. While blogs are raising the bar for quality, he thought there is still room for the journalist who can present ideas clearly. Mr Guillet said he saw his role as a blogger to influence the public debate and become part of it. Mr Niada said he had suspected that blogging was only a side activity, so the only way for him to go at the moment would be to do a blog for his newspaper. In his closing remarks, Mr Hilton expressed disappointment at the failure of the advertising industry to get involved in blogging sites."
So it's disappointing but not surprising that someone who is already a professional journalist doesn't feel he can make money from blogging, even when advised by a panel of experts.
But what about Mr Hilton's comment about the advertising industry not getting involved in blogging sites? Lots of blogs do have Google Adsense ads, that's how many bloggers who make a bit of money from blogging manage to do it. Was he referring to advertising companies in general dealing direct with bloggers then, rather than via Google?
I do think the PR industry at least are realising the benefits of involving bloggers in their products, e.g. Hill & Knowlton with the LG Shine blog and LG Chocolate blog for those mobile phones (who've invited me to join in their schemes for bloggers in the past, see e.g. my posts on Chocolate connectivity and preliminary review of the Shine, and handle their blogger relations programme very professionally through Gaylene Ravenscroft). But of course, while it's great publicity for LG, as a blogger I've not made any money out of the programme (though I've had the free loan of those phones, with no obligation to review them).
So, maybe Mr Hilton has a point. There must be more scope for the advertising industry to make greater use of blogs in future. (And cough cough there is advertising space on my blog if any ad company is interested! For the right price, of course...)