The Travel Media Association of Canada recently brought me out to the lovely city of Vancouver, B.C. to talk about new media. Its industry is going through some big changes: Traditional publishers are cutting back on freelance expenses or going out of business. Lucrative writing assignments are harder to come by. The travel journalists in the audience were looking for new ways to make a living with their blogs while still pursuing the work they love.
In last week’s issue, I talked about the opportunities available in advertising sponsorships, but few bloggers make a living from ads. The bigger opportunity is to build service and licensing revenues around expertise. The blog is really a showcase for other skills. Here are some ideas I shared with the group for making money from their blogs:
Books – Nearly one in 200 Americans has now published a book. A new crop of Internet self-publishers is making this easy and relatively cheap. Sites like Lulu, iUniverse, Blurb, AuthorHouse, CafePress and UBuildABook can publish books for single-copy prices starting at less than five dollars. Books don’t need to be 70,000-word tomes, either. They can be pocket guides. What’s more, the self-publishing process at some of these sites is almost totally automated. The author doesn’t even need to speak to a person. Many self-publishers now have their own bookstores and agreements with online booksellers.
Self-publishing has much better margins than traditional publishing. However, there are significant trade-offs. The author is usually responsible for all marketing and publicity, some publishers require a minimum order volume and Amazon doesn’t carry many self-published titles. Still, an entire industry of motivational speakers thrives on this model, so it can’t be all bad.
Custom publishing — If you’ve taken beautiful photographs of ski areas in Banff , offer to sell them to a local tourist bureau or resort hotel to use in a promotional calendar. Or offer to create a video travelogue of that same hotel that can be posted on a website or delivered via CD. Even if your skill is strictly in prose, lots of businesses would gladly buy copy written from an expert with demonstrated ability than risk their hand in at the freelance market. Travel companies aren’t publishers, so use your publishing skill to make their work easier.
Consulting — Blogs are a great way to strut your stuff. If you’ve been to 25 Swiss ski resorts, why not promote yourself as the expert on creating a European hospitality experience? Or maybe your experience visiting hundreds of great wine cellars can make you an expert consultant in that area for startup restaurants. By search-optimizing your site for these very specific skills, you can make the short list when businesses begin their search.
The future of publishing will be less about institutional brands and more about personal brands. Blogs are a great way to create and promote personal expertise. It takes some work, and not everyone is comfortable with the idea of self-promotion. But if you look at a blog as a window on bigger business opportunities, there really are lots of choices.
I never really “got” Second Life. I spent a few hours messing around with it, but I found myself frustrated and perplexed by its complexity. I could never understand why so many businesses spoke so highly of it. Maybe my instincts weren’t so wrong after all. In the past year, Second Life has all but faded from view as it has been eclipsed by a community that is its polar opposite: Twitter. I think the contrast is fascinating, and I remarked on that in my latest column in BtoB magazine.
Not to boast or anything (okay, just a little) but the reviews have been coming in on my latest book, Secrets Of Social Media Marketing. Between blogger and Amazon reviews, the score so far is 49 positive, one negative. I tried contacting the one naysayer for details, but he never responded. This book gathers up 25 years of publishing experience and attempts to make it practical for marketers who are publishing for the first time. If you’ve read it, please contribute your review – positive or otherwise — to the reviews section on the book website or to Amazon. I appreciate all feedback.