Old money sign

A friend posted a fascinating question yesterday that are worth sharing publicly:

“Is it really possible to run a blog for the sake of financial independence and not write for traffic?”

The short answer to this question is yes. The long answer is that there are two fundamental models for earning money in publishing. The first is the media model, in which you go broad, gather up eyeballs, and sell them to advertisers. This is publishing as we’ve known it for ages and ages, and it does still work. Blogs, social media, and new media have broadened the formats that we receive this method in, but it’s still a basic model that works today.

The second model, the model to which my friend refers, is the publication model. In the publication model, subscribers simply foot the bill for the publication directly. No advertisers are involved, and thus, if the margins are sufficiently good, you don’t need a ton of audience to be successful.

In both cases, the core value must be the same: the publication must have incredible value. In the media model, it has to be information that is appealing and with a unique angle. For example, a blog covering celebrities had better have unique access or viewpoints that are valuable in order to attract audience. Blogs like TMZ have done this extraordinarily well at the expense of things like supermarket tabloids.

In the publisher model, it has to be information that is scarce and valuable, valuable enough to pay for. For example, Bloomberg provides a paid service for $1,800/month to investors. However, the information they provide is so valuable that investors with talent can make that investment back many times over, and thus people have no problem paying for it. Typically in the publisher model, lucrative niches are what makes for straightforward success.

What people get mixed up is that the medium isn’t the secret to success. The secret to success is the value of the message. A blog is inherently no more likely to be successful than a Facebook Page or a newspaper or an email newsletter or a cable TV show by itself. A blog will only be as successful as the value of information it provides.

Create a message of great enough value that people will pay you money or attention for it. The rest will come after people understand the value you provide.


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