State of the Blog: The Business of Blogging
Aug 4, 2012
Four years ago this month, I sat on the big orange couch in my apartment writing the first posts for Capitol Hill Style. Since that time, this blog has become more popular and more influential than I could have ever dreamed. It has surpassed all of my goals and expectations many times over. And while I have put in a lot of long hours and hard work, I know that without the generosity and support of my readers, Capitol Hill Style would not be where it is today.
Writing this blog is easily the most rewarding and entertaining activity in my life.
Recently, a blogger who I respect very much encouraged other bloggers to be more up front about how we earn money from our endeavors. Because, as writing fashion and lifestyle blogs has become profitable, some writers have blurred the lines between promoting an item they like and shilling for dollars.
If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know that it was several years before Capitol Hill Style generated any income. But as the time commitment and the cost of maintaining the blog increased, I made the decision to monetize the site. There are three ways CHS generates revenue:
1) The header and sidebar ads are run by Hearst Digital Media via a blog consortium called The Style Coalition. I have little control over what appears in that space, but it’s a mix of curated ads chosen for this readership and other content.
2) In the lower portion of the sidebar, there are two Google ads. These ads generate content based on key words, so it’s always funny when an ad for Ugg boots or Vera Bradley pops up. If only they knew.
3) Lastly, this blog’s primary source of revenue is affiliate links. Most of the links on this site are generated by Shopsense, and I earn a few pennies each time one of them is clicked. A lesser number are generated using RewardStyle, a service that pays me a small commission (3-6% usually) if you buy a product I recommend.
Even though I use these links, I always promote the best products that I can find, regardless of whether I can make money doing it. Every item that you see here is my first choice product or the product available that best fits my “vision.” If I offer an alternative or promote a “similar” item, there is always a reason–the alternative is cheaper, available in more sizes or has some other feature that makes it worth suggesting.
Alterations Needed has described earning money from affiliate links like being “a personal shopper,” and I think that’s an apt comparison.
I spend 25+ hours per week writing posts, creating Polyvore sets, responding to e-mails and doing the other things that keep Capitol Hill Style alive because I love blogging and the community that has grown up around this site. The primary goal of CHS is not to turn a profit, but when I can generate revenue without diminishing the quality of the content or the integrity of the brand, I take advantage of those opportunities.
Often people ask me if I would ever want to blog full-time, and the answer is no. I love Capitol Hill Style, but my first love will always be government and politics. Through hard work, luck and your support, my hobby-blog has become a semi-professional endeavor. But I think the fact that it’s not my primary job is what gives me the freedom to reject advertisers and partnerships that aren’t right for CHS and write honest product reviews.
I wrote this post because while I’m sure that most of you know that I make money from this site, I thought that being up front about how was the right the thing to do. Have a great weekend, see you on Monday.