The economics of blogging

The Economics of blogging

Over on one of the blogging Facebook pages I belong to we are having a discussion.  It’s an interesting discussion.  Quite philosophical in nature.  It asks the question of why we exist as bloggers.

Actually, that wasn’t really the question.  One person pointed out that as a blogger they are sick to death of constantly being bombarded with links to posts about SEOs, Analytics, Brands, Affiliates, Making Money From Blogging, and the like.  What happened, they lamented, to blogging for the sheer joy of it?

Her comment sparked a plethora of comments all in agreement with her.  In fact, not one argued for the benefits of such posts, which I found interesting.  However, a few did mention that one day they would love to make enough money from their blogs so that they could give up their boring day job, have more flexibility in their day and indeed more time with their family.  Their blog, it seemed, was a possible way to that work-life balance we seem to hear so much about.

In the inaugural issue of Womankind Magazine (great mag, please do get a copy, or better yet, subscribe), Flora Michaels wrote a piece entitled The one story that’s changing your life.  In it she describes that although the world is made up of many individual stories that shape our lives, throughout history there has always been one massive story that has dominated us, and indeed shaped us as a society, at any given time in history.

During the Middle Ages, she says, it was Religion (think burning of the witches and the Spanish Inquisition), but by the 17th century, Science had overtaken religion as the dominant story (period of enlightenment anyone).  Now we are in the 21st Century, Flora says, and our dominant story is without question Economics (thank you Capitalism).

She notes that during the 1950s international development research was done that said “family relations hindered the mentality of the market and corporate development.”  The role of the family, and our loyalty to it, was clearly changing in favour of making money.

Then this caught my eye:

But in the world of markets – where the economic story plays out – relationships become something else entirely.  You’re objectively and impersonally judged based on the value of what you have to exchange with someone else.  Your relationships become arms-length and transactional, and the story values you for what you can contribute to the economy as a buyer or seller. [….] You’re told you can be summed up as a personal brand and that you need to build an ever-bigger audience for it.

The blogging story is a perfect example of this.  In the early 2000s, blogging took off.  The likes of My Space and Blogger gave people a platform to write, tell their stories and connect with like minded people (now known as “Your Tribe” in blogging circles).  It was a case of people just wanting to connect with other people.  No economics involved (unless you were blogging to sell your services or wares, of course, but that is not what I am talking about here).

In the last 10 years things have shifted.  We spend our lives online.  We have largely replaced ‘real life’ for a pseudo second life lived out online.  Billions of us the world over are ‘connecting’ with each other through cyberspace.

It didn’t take long for marketers to notice.   They noticed that some bloggers had massive followings and that their ‘tribes’ seemed to hang on every word.  It was a perfect, wonderful, new way of getting product to the masses.  BAM, a new form of economic exchange had been born.

Suddenly, bloggers who were writing just for themselves, just to connect with others, were being offered book deals, writing gigs, offering advertising on their websites, having products thrown at them to review to their masses.  Blogging had gone from being personal and about connection, to being about economics.

And here we are in 2014.  People, lots of people, want in.  They chase that dream of wanting to earn an income from their blog for simply writing about what they are passionate about.  They look at the big wigs in the blogging world and want to recreate what they have.  They want to live that big old dream of making money doing what they love.  There are even conferences you can attend to learn how.

Thus, the spawn of hundreds and hundreds of posts on what is essentially about how to get noticed by those that will pay you money.  The answer of course is to develop a massive following – your tribe (which is why Google Analytics and SEO is considered so vital).  In order to do that you have to write about what’s on trend, use words that Google will pick up, write about what is going on in the world today.  You have to follow, largely, in my opinion, the masses.  Economics is cold, bland, cut throat and if you want to make money from it, you have to comply.

The ethos of blogging, largely, has changed.

Of course, there are those of us, that continue to blog because we like to write, or we just want to get stuff out there, or we just like to talk about our passion, but when it comes down to it, if a big brand came up to us and said that they would pay us for our opinion, how many of us would decline because we are only doing it for the “love of it”?

Economics is our dominant story.  We were all born into it.  It drives us.

But each story has a turning point.  A point at which critical mass is reached.  Nothing lasts forever.  A new dominant story will emerge.  Who knows what it will be.  Until then, I’ll just keep blogging, writing, in my little corner.  Telling myself that I don’t care for the economics of blogging.

Until next time,

SHW Signature




14 thoughts on “The economics of blogging

  1. Hello Tribe Mother! This is why I am in your tribe! Because you write for the love of writing. I like that you write your heart out. It’s a good heart. As far as I am concerned, your authenticity is wonderful. If you were to write an authentically economic piece, I would read it too, but ultimately, I’m here because your voice is a voice I like to hear. Thanks for writing. Your dominant story is not Economics. It is Philosophy. Maybe you are ahead of your time?


    1. Oh My Word, I would LOVE to live in a world where philosophy (and thinking about the important things in life) was the dominant story. It tried to be, once, with the likes of Aristotle and plato and others, but alas religion was just too too strong. Now agency for power and control in philosophy you see. I like the idea of being ahead of my time though :-). Thank you my friend. xx


  2. I looove this Sarah. You have such a fab way of cutting through the bullshit and seeing the heart of the matter. I fluctuate between wanting sucess in economic terms and just wanting to write my thing. If someone offered to pay me I wouldn’t say no, but I’m enough of a realist to know it may never happen and I would keep writing anyway for the love of it. I fear the definition of success is far too often equated with a persons economic status.


  3. You make lots of wonderful points Sarah. Though I don’t totally agree, with the either or of people doing it for joy vs doing it for money.
    I very much do it for joy, but if I can also make money then yes I would like to, for me blogging isn’t free. My platform costs money as does the production of content each week, for example the recipes I create aren’t free for me to do so. So at some point it needs to help me support it or I’ll have to stop. I don’t really think this means I’m not doing it for the love of it, because with five years investment and no financial gain to show I’m still going!
    I do think there could be a much better balance across the board though, more heart to go with the passion for profit perhaps?
    Certainly lots to ponder in what you’ve said!


    1. I’m not really saying it is an either/or scenario, but what I am saying is that more often than not, it is the economics of blogging that is driving the industry. I am not really making a judgement more an observation. It doesn’t matter what happens in life, if a group of people gather to do something, eventually it will be monetised. Money does make the world go around, even more so today than ever before :-).
      I love your blog Lila. I love what you do and you should make money from that if that is what you want to do 🙂


  4. This is really interesting Sarah, and I agree. A lot of people start out writing for the love of it, and then the whole ‘economics’ of life/blogging and the juggling of both catches them and distorts things. I write what I want and for the love of it, and I know it is not always the popular idea or story or ‘on-trend’, but right now in my life, it is one of the few things that I am in control of and that makes sense to me, so nothing and no-one is taking that away from me!


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