Money and Blogging

BLOG IDEAS (Photo credit: owenwbrown)

I recently read a guest post on a well known blog hosted by a blogger who's often cited as an expert in the “business” of blogging. The guest writer was talking about the steps to turning a blog into a profitable business, and one of the steps he talked about was “monetizing” the blog.

He mentioned that some bloggers he knows resist the idea of monetizing their blogs for fear of driving readers away. In response, he said the following:

Who says selling chases readers away? Monetizing a blog is as important as setting up and updating the blog. Without this, people won’t take you seriously. You’ll be regarded as a newbie at worst, and an amateur at best.

Am I reading that correctly? Is he saying that monetizing your blog is necessary to be legitimate as a blogger?

As far as I can tell, the sentences I quote above refer specifically to running ads on your blog. I assume this, because the paragraph about “monetizing” was part of a larger section about profiting from your blog, and “monetizing” was only one way to profit (along with using your blog to get a job or to sell products).

There is a whole industry made up of people (apparently mostly in their early 20s) whose sole job is blogging. They make their living by blogging–mostly about how to make money by blogging. And I've seen lots of blog posts and ebooks that recommend monetizing your blog as a source of income. Some of those recommendations come from writers that I respect, whose primary business is writing and speaking on substantive topics and for whom their blogs are a secondary outlet and a means for interacting with their fans. A lot of those recommending monetization, though, are these young “professional bloggers.”

In all cases, they seem to think that it's a good idea to sell ad space on your blog and/or to join affiliate programs for which you get a percentage of any sales resulting from links on your blog.

On my own blog, I have experimented with the Amazon Affiliate program–with some reservations. Frankly, I'm not comfortable with selling stuff, and I don't blog to make money. I blog with the hope of communicating, connecting, and interacting with other people. (Which is not to say that I think people who sell things on their blogs are wrong!) I signed up for the program because so many of the pros recommend doing it, but I've only used it a couple of times, and then only to create links for books that I was reviewing or recommending anyway.

But as for selling ad space or posting affiliate ads . . . I personally am just not comfortable with it. Maybe I'll change my mind someday, but honestly, I find it hard to believe that it would be worthwhile. Apparently lots of people read these ads and buy the stuff they promote. (At least, I assume that's the case, because if it's not profitable, people wouldn't be doing it, right?)

But I personally never (never) read the ads on any of the many blogs that I read.


And contrary to the opinion quoted at the beginning of this post, the existence or absence of ads on a blog has virtually nothing to do with whether I view the blog as authoritative or worthwhile, or how much I respect the blogger.

I say “virtually nothing” because if anything, the more ads a blog features the less likely I am to take the blog seriously, and the less credibility I'm likely to give the blog's author. If I like a blogger's content over time, I might buy that blogger's book from a link on her site, but I simply never even look at any of the sidebar ads on even my favorite bloggers' sites.

What about you? Have you ever bought something that was advertised on a blog's sidebar? How do you feel about ads on blogs? And if you're a blogger yourself, what's your position on monetizing your blog?

Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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Why I Love America

I have lots of time to think during my 50+-mile (each way) commute each weekday. The other day I got to thinking about what's going on in this country. Lots to complain about, with the troubled economy, the (in my opinion) out-of-control politicians going crazy coming up with new ways to spend ridiculous amounts of taxpayer money while intruding into ever more areas of our lives, etc.

Anyway . . . some country song came on the radio, talking about all the great things about America, and it reminded me that, even with all that's going on, this still is a great country, for so many reasons. So here's my list — in no particular order — of some of the things I love about this country.

  1. Our land is beautiful. No matter what kind of scenery floats your boat, you'll find it somewhere in this country: evergreen-covered mountains? crashing ocean waves? red-rock desert? endless prairies? We've got it all. 
  2. We are diverse. No matter what you believe, there's somewhere for you to live and feel like you fit in. If you're a Christian, the south is a great place to be, because you still can talk openly about your faith (even on the TV news) without being ridiculed. If you're a secular humanist, you'll feel right at home in certain parts of New York or the Pacific Northwest. City boy or country girl, there is a place for you in this vast country.
  3. We give. Americans have the most generous hearts in the world. If someone has a genuine need — a child becomes critically ill, or a natural disaster strikes, or neglected animals are found, or a tyrant is wreaking havoc on the people of his country — Americans will fall all over themselves to help.
  4. We're strong. There's not much this country can't endure, working together. And like many families, no matter how much we bicker, when the need is great, we come together for the common good. We can disagree (vehemently) on everything from politics to religion to pizza toppings, but when push comes to shove (e.g., when someone flies an airplane into one of our buildings) or a tornado devastates one of our cities, we unite to do what needs to be done.
  5. We achieve. Though times are tough, this still is the land of opportunity. No matter how humble a person's beginnings, she still has the chance to work her way into a better life. There are support systems available for those who have the will and the heart to try.
  6. We're free. The fact that our airwaves and social networking sites are rife with disparate viewpoints and sometimes angry debate is a symptom of the freedom of speech and thought that we still enjoy. Don't like the government? You're free to criticize it to your heart's content. No one will throw you in jail, and most people — even those who disagree — will fight to defend your right to state your opinion. Lead a march, launch a website, write a letter to the editor or your congressman, speak out at the city council meeting. The marketplace of ideas is alive and thriving in the United States, and the national government is constitutionally prohibited from punishing us for our “dissident” ideas.

Do I think that Americans are intrinsically better than citizens of other nations? Of course not. Am I blind to the difficulties facing us in these modern times? Not at all. We have serious issues to address as a nation. But still, I'd rather be a citizen of the United States than of any other country in the world, and sometimes it's good to take a step back and reflect on all the good things we have here, that make this union worth preserving.

Freedom of speech is alive and well on this blog. Your comments (respectful and non-profane) are invited and encouraged.

The Bible and Occupy Wall Street – To Do, or to Demand?

Last week a story on NPR talked about the religious community's response to Occupy Wall Street and the plight of the poor. Among others, the story interviewed a pastor (in California, I think) who had recently preached on the topic of social injustice and expounded on a passage in Isaiah to support his validation of the Occupy movement's demands for government action to force social change.

Here's the passage that this pastor preached from (Is. 58:6-11):

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.”

In the NPR story, this pastor's sermon was an example of religious support for the demands that the wealthy should be required to contribute more, that the government should take more action to provide for the poor and needy. This passage was quoted to support protest gatherings like those sponsored by the Occupy movement, asserting that, because the Bible tells us to feed the poor, it's therefore right and valid to gather to demand action by the government and the wealthy to “fix” wealth inequality.

The Bible clearly tells us, both here and elsewhere, that we should feed the poor and care for the needy. Nevertheless, I disagree with the theme of this pastor's message, of the NPR story, and of the Occupy movement (on this point, at least). I believe that it's a misuse of the Bible, to take a passage like this and use it as a justification for public complaints that the government and the rich–the others–aren't doing enough to fix the problems of the poor and general injustice.

I don't believe that these words are meant to be used that way. This passage, like the whole Bible, is not meant to be used as a club to force others to change. It is meant as a message to me, to each of us, personally, as an individual. I am to read it as God's Word to ME, telling ME what I should be doing. I'm not supposed to be digging through it looking for words to use as proof that somebody else is wrong, to scold somebody else and demand that they change their behavior.

Should we feed the poor and care for the helpless? Yes. But it's not my job to read the Bible to find out what other people should do. It's my job to read it and DO WHAT I FIND THERE. If I do that, if each one of us does that, then the poor will be cared for, the oppressed will be set free, and the hungry will be fed. It's just that simple.

None of us can fix the problem alone, but each one of us can do something. We can help the people we see, those who come across our path. We can teach our own children to live that way–watching for opportunities to help those less fortunate than we are. We can join together voluntarily with other like-minded individuals to undertake collective efforts–the soup kitchen, the food pantry, the church ministries. Each of us can lead by example instead of by harsh and unkind rhetoric.

But gathering in a park to talk about what somebody else is not doing? All that does is alienate, separate, frustrate. Nobody gets fed, no one is set free. It's talk masquerading as action. It's criticism and jealousy replacing personal responsibility. It's the “pointing finger and malicious talk” that Isaiah condemns in the passage quoted above.

I, too, want to see the hungry fed and the downtrodden lifted up. But I don't like to see the Bible used as a weapon. I truly don't believe that's why it was given to us. It's not my job to MAKE somebody else do what the Bible says. It's my job to do it myself. Until I do, I lack the moral authority to persuade anybody else to change her ways. Each of us needs to stop looking around to see what somebody else is doing or not doing, and start looking in the mirror and changing our own behavior to align it with what the Bible asks of us.

What do you think?

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

Yesterday I finally got around to transfering a bunch of photos from our digital camera to my laptop. Many of them were taken last month when our children surprised Mike and me with a party for our thirtieth wedding anniversary. Part of the surprise was that both of our sailor sons (one stationed in Hawaii, the other in San Diego) showed up. We'd been told that both were at sea (and, in fact, they were), so although we suspected that the kids were up to something vis a vis our anniversary, we never dreamed the boys would be there. For the first time ever we had all five of our children, both kids-in-law, and all four of our grandchildren (along with my mother and one of my sisters, whose visit also was a surprise) here in Texas with us at the same time. I was in heaven.

Anyway . . . we took LOTS of photos. And yesterday, in response to a Navy son's request that I email some of those photos to him, I spent some time transfering the photos. This was on a day when I was sitting at my desk worrying about . . . a lot of things. Mostly, though, about the economy and its impact on my law practice. I do not cope well with uncertainty, so I was feeling pretty discouraged, pretty down, pretty . . . stressed out about the future.

But then I saw this photo. I was overwhelmed. I can't even describe the emotions I felt, looking at the two of us with these babies — the future of our extended family. When I recovered from being all choked up, I got to thinking . . . these may be anxious times, but so what? Prices are rising, business is bad, our retirement fund has taken a beating. Like everyone else these days, our family is struggling because of the economy. Okay. Still, though, in general, life is pretty good. We are generally healthy and basically happy and we all love each other. Mike and I have had thirty years together, we have these great kids and these beautiful, funny, amazing grandchildren. And even in an uncertain world, those things are for sure. Though it doesn't happen often enough, we occasionally have these opportunities to gather the family and eat and laugh together and just generally enjoy each other. It doesn't get any better than that.