Something is going on. It might be happening slowly, but I think it might be happening nonetheless.

… And I’m aware that this topic might potentially be upsetting to some people who love to see everything be free, or who believe in the power of giving and community (as I do).

It needs to be addressed, however. I like to think I’m smart enough to be looking forward on things and think outside the box. And, with today’s post, I’m going to go outside the box for a bit. In reality, I’m not alone in this line of thought.


Is Blogging Broken?

Last night, on my Facebook page, I asked about the future of blogging. Now, I posted it late on a Sunday night, so I didn’t expect much response. But, one of the responses I got was from Donovan, who said…

Everyone will have an audience of 1.

Blogging is a very saturated medium now. New bloggers can attest to the difficulty of building an audience today. You can do it, of course, but it is a lot of work.

But, then, once you have an audience, then what? I don’t care how much people praise the virtues of community and sharing… at the end of the day, money will become important to you because the ROI starts to become important with this stuff. So, where are you at with monetization options?

Well, you could go with ads and end up commoditizing yourself just like almost every other blog on the Internet, and make a few nickels in the process. Or you could begin selling things (as I recommend).

What you’ll find, however, is that sometimes a blog can feel like a big headwind when you’re trying to market products. Why is that?

  • Because there are so many blogs, most of your readers are simply scanning what you have to say (if they even notice at all). Therefore, you’re dealing with scattered attention units, at best. You’re not getting their full focus. I’m sure this varies from niche to niche, but I know I see this quite a bit.
  • On a related note, most blogs are schizophrenic in their design, with multiple calls to action pulling people in multiple directions. Combine that with multiple banner ad units (as most people do), and you just compound the problem.
  • Because of so many blogs inundating people with free info all the time, the reading audience becomes conditioned to expect everything to be free. So, you have a community of tire-kickers.

The Tire-Kicker Mentality

Now, I’m about to call a spade a spade because… well… that’s what I do. 🙂 Please don’t get offended.

Most people who read this very blog are tire-kickers. What I mean by that is you guys act like you want to make money with your blog, when all you do is dabble with it. You read blogs like mine, but you’re not willing to invest much of anything to actually pull it off. In fact, when somebody like myself or another person in this business makes an offer that will legitimately help you pull it off, that offer often gets met with suspicion.

Now, I don’t BLAME you for that. Let’s look at the environment that we’re in here. Complete and TOTAL information saturation online. Which, of course, leads people to engage in louder and more audacious marketing tactics to cut through the noise. Which leads people to question the honesty of it. Which then comes full circle yet again. Rinse and repeat.

I think the saturation with free information out there is devaluing the information. It is coming at us all with such volume and quantity that we can’t make heads or tails of it.

And that makes tire-kickers… people who will lurk, read and occasionally comment… but in the end, will never pay you a dime. Because they think the answer is out there for free somewhere else and they’re too overwhelmed to notice good information when it hits them upside the head.

The Nobility Of Sharing

In making these observations, I don’t want anybody to conclude that I am against the idea of the free sharing of information. If I were, I would have never gotten into blogging in the first place. 🙂

Some of the most successful bloggers online have gotten to that point by sharing and providing value. I think it is EXTREMELY important and a very sound philosophy for any blogger.

So, where do we draw the line, then?

The harsh truth is that, as much as people say they value free info, they really don’t. You can put out the most fantastic blog post in the world and it is going to likely be forgotten in a week (the real-time nature of Twitter is only making this factor a lot worse). Yet we know that, when you get somebody to pay for something (even if it is a super-small amount), their level of participation and dedication is much higher.

You’ll have a smaller audience, but one which pays a lot more attention and will ultimately be a more tight-knit community.

If we look at many who are doing well in the internet marketing game, you’ll notice something:

  • They hardly ever post to their blog.
  • Their blogs are usually kinda crappy looking.
  • They barely mess around with Twitter at all.
  • They focus on email, and they market things to their email list.
  • They don’t willy-nilly, freely share everything they know. You have to pay them to “touch the robe”.

Many bloggers rip on people like that, while simultaneously trying to achieve what they’ve achieved. On the other hand, most bloggers do the exact opposite (give info away freely, spend a lot of time on blog design, spend hours on Twitter, etc.) and don’t make any money.

So, who’s right?

Is Apple Changing The Marketplace?

Apple has pretty much perfected the art of making money. Anybody who pays any attention at all realizes that Apple is one of the most brilliant marketing companies in the world.

One of the things that has made them so much money is, of course, the App Store. There’s a lot of stuff for free in there (in fact, most). But, there are also a lot of paid apps. Many of them are 99 cents. The audience in the App Store has been conditioned to think that $4.99 is expensive, which is hilarious. 🙂

But, look at what’s happening in there. The audience is being “trained” to make small little micro-purchases for what is, essentially, content.

Just recently, Apple launched the subscription-billing model for the App Store. Now, I think they screwed up some things with their rules for that, but there is still a STRONG model there. It also led Google to release the OnePass system which will allow publishers to charge small micro-payments for content on a recurring basis.

Anybody who pays any attention to mobile at all knows just how FAST this segment is growing right now. Mobile is going through it’s own gold rush right now, similar to the internet boom of the late 90’s. Eventually, the space will mature. When the dust settles, though, I think we might be looking at a new reality… one where people are willing and almost prefer to make small micro-payments for content they value because they think it is worth it.

Paid Blogging?

… Which brings me back to blogging.

In the fairly recent past, I’ve seen many bloggers depart the world of blogging. My friend, Nathan Hangen, is no longer doing it. Jim Kukral isn’t doing it anymore. Darren Rowse has mostly guest bloggers now. Yaro Starak and Glen Allsopp are both moving to a magazine model where others will do a lot of their writing for them. Gary Vaynerchuk has been a little sparse lately, but even chimed in with a video in which he speculates about this same topic…

If we look at the IM world, Ryan Deiss recently came out, declared blogging to be broken, and decided to switch to an email-only setup and charge $10/month for it.

Things are changing. If it isn’t an outright paid model, you’re at least seeing bloggers try to move themselves out from the demands of writing for free all the time by hiring others.

Is this where we’re heading? I think, for some, the answer is yes. And, it isn’t a bad thing, because you’re likely going to find that the best information stays behind a pay-wall. Like it or not, reality is reality.

I’m Brainstorming My Future

I’m gonna be honest…. I’ve been thinking about this lately. I don’t completely know the answer, but I will tell you this, from a personal perspective…

I do have concerns about branding myself too closely to the medium of blogging.

Why? Because “blogging” has a shelf life. It won’t be here in the same form forever. Publishing will be here forever, but will we be doing things the same way as we are right now? Likely not. I’ve been in this business long enough to know how much has changed. And it will change to that degree (if not more) again as I stay in this business another 10 years.

So, I’ve been thinking about my branding, my blogging, my future. I have no doubt I’ll remain in the internet publishing business… I just don’t exactly know what that will look like. 🙂

Will I ponder a model of paid access? You bet I will. I’m not an idiot. I get mentally TIRED when people ask me dumb questions about blogging that I’ve answered a billion times already on my blog. Why is that happening? Because the blog is free, because they’re reading a TON of other stuff, too… and because they’re so damn overwhelmed that everything I say goes in one ear and out the other.

So, I haven’t quite figured it out yet. And, that’s why the title of today’s post ends with a question mark. 🙂

Because I’d like your opinion. I want you to post a comment and let me know your thoughts.

So, Here’s What I Want You To Do Next…

  • Post a comment below…. Do you think the culture of free is harming the blogosphere these days? Do you think there is merit to micro-payments as a form of paid access?
  • If you think this is an interesting post, then retweet it. 🙂

Stay awesome, my friends.

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