It's been a little over a year since John Chow decided to make money by blogging about making money blogging. Since then, the 42-year-old Richmond, British Columbia, entrepreneur has watched his income from John Chow dot Com increase more than 50 fold--from $353 a month to an annual run rate of $300,000. That's $25,000 a month for sitting at home doing what Chow describes as "rambling."
He's not alone. Something has changed in the blogosphere over the past year--something really significant. It starts with the already-huge community doubling to more than 114 million blogs worldwide and spinning off 175,000 new sites daily, according to Technorati, the unofficial chronicler of the blogosphere. The Blog Bang set off an explosion in new moneymaking services just as Chow was exploring the territory beyond Google AdSense. He now uses more than 100 ad networks, like AuctionAds and Kontera ContentLink.
"When I started, the options for monetizing a blog were pretty limited," Chow recalls. "But people keep coming up with new services that can help you make money."
Chow is far from being the blogosphere's biggest lottery winner. David Sifry, who founded Technorati as a family blog in 2002, can probably claim a share of that jackpot. So can gadflies like Perez Hilton, politicos like Arianna Huffington and all those businesses for which blogging has become the marketing innovation du jour. Citizen journalism is turning semipro, explains Derek Gordon, vice president of marketing at Technorati, who feels high-gloss sites like The Huffington Post compare favorably to traditional media. A study by the Society for New Communications Research suggests that in five years, conversational marketing will attract as many ad bucks as traditional channels.
Chow deserves special recognition for demonstrating the pure, unadulterated earning power of the medium. His traffic-generating achievement isn't clouded by product sales, avant-garde content or attractive page design. Until recently, Chow wasn't even selling "himself"--that is, the personal expertise found on financial and analyst blogs. His blog remains a somewhat banal combination of his money count and what he had for lunch--the blogging equivalent of Seinfeld, the show "about nothing." With the free blogenator WordPress and a degree in accounting, Chow monetized nothing into a No. 39 ranking on Technorati's Top 100 List of most-linked blogs. His overhead is about $550 a month; the rest of that monthly 25 grand goes to the bottom line.
Chow wasn't a web novice: He'd had limited success with his reviews-oriented site, The TechZone. But what Chow has learned running John Chow dot Com has helped him monetize The TechZone and his new TZZ Media advertising network. Taken together, Chow's revenue streams are closing in on $1 million annually, making him a web marketing expert by any measure.
Chow has also assembled his income-earning techniques into a 59-page web book downloadable at johnchow.com. Make Money Online is free, but it still makes money for Chow, thanks to its active web links that drive traffic to his site. It's not a bad read, either; even if you don't make blogging your career, there's plenty there to help monetize your business blog.
"There are no rules or limits in blogging," explains Chow. "Your earning power is only limited by the traffic you can attract."
Blogging isn't just a pastime or marketing gambit anymore; it's a living.
Mike Hogan is Entrepreneur's technology editor.