I went to WordCamp in SF last Saturday, to hang out for a day with the bloggers and developers who, like me, use the charmingly sophisticated open source WordPress blogging software. WordPress used to be just free software that you downloaded and configured onto your website to create a blog. Now it is actually a whole enterprise where you can host your blog on their servers for free, becoming part of the “community” while not having to install upgrades or worry about .htaccess files. Ah, progress! (And it’s easy to import from Blogger, TypePad, LiveJournal and all those other places. I’m just saying.)
If they’d had wordpress.com when I succumbed to the lure of blogging two years ago I would probably have set my blog up there, because I like supporting open source software and they all seem like very nice people. As it is though, the Gnosis Cafe blog is doing quite nicely here on my server so long as I don’t try anything too fancy and screw it all up.
Anyway, I came, I saw, I sat. I was not there for any important reason, just trying to find out what’s new, hear the latest blogging buzz, and of course drink my fill of Peet’s coffee and get a new t-shirt. It didn’t take much sipping and listening to figure out that the latest thing in blogging is people making money at it.
This got my attention, of course. I love blogging, and happily do it for free on a regular basis, but who wouldn’t like a little extra income for their trouble? The current options for “blog monetization” seem to be the ubiquitous Google ads, being an Amazon affiliate, using paid text links, writing for other people’s blogs, getting blog sponsors, having your content syndicated, writing reviews, and using your blog to get other kinds of paid writing and consulting work.
Apparently there is some serious money being funneled by corporate advertisers into the land o’ blogs, so start ducking everybody. I’ve considered doing some of those Google ads, but I personally hate them and never look at them on other people’s sites, so I don’t want to have them here. Writing reviews for money is interesting, but I think it is geared more toward the tech and gadget industries. In any case, I’m already writing some book reviews here and other places as well which is right up my alley, so I think I’m covered on that one.
I do have an amazon.com bookstore but the returns from that are very low. I probably need to update it. Syndication seems to require the least extra work and I may look into that a bit more, though essays about dreams and spirituality are not necessarily what everyone in the business world wants to read about over their morning espresso.
In the end I was forced to conclude that I’ve been doing the right thing all along: writing regularly about what interests me, keeping up a conversation with my friends, dream clients, and extended network through comments here and on other people’s blogs, and using my blog to generally increase my visibility as a writer and all that other stuff I do.
It was a bit of a let down, I have to admit, because I’d love for there to be some magic bullet that solves all my cash flow problems. There was some very good news, though. Bloggers are becoming more recognized by the mainstream as legitimate writers, commentators, even journalists. That bodes well for all of us who have something to say and know how to say it well.
After the conference I had a delicious meal with two old and very dear friends before heading back home. All three of us have been through painful breakups, and have also been part of the Pagan activist community since we were young. We talked about writing, mostly—about putting our stories on paper and giving voice to our experience and opinions, which at this point vary considerably from the status quo.
It was really good to cap the day off by remembering what a unique slice of history we have all been living through. We are veterans of some great and exciting times, with a lot of crap thrown in for good measure, and each of us has something to say which might help others as young as we were survive with fewer bruises. How nice it was to feel excited by the prospect of keeping those stories alive, and how nice it is now to come home and use my lovely blog to record yet another step on that journey.