Four New Ways to Monetize a Blog

The ad industry is dead.

Target will only buy remnant inventory. Federated Media, the darling of the online ad world, is just about vaporized. And media behemoth IAC is building a state-of-the-art ad sales system that will work like a trading floor where you don’t even know what content you’re buying—you only see the profiles of the people who are viewing the content right this second.

So how are people going to make money blogging? Here are four ways.

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Image by Jeff Kubina, licensed under Creative Commons

1. Build a paywall

This was once seen as impossible. But after growing up online, generation Y reads and writes more than any other generation in history and is therefore more willing to than others to pay for online content.

This attitude has opened up lots of fee-based content models. Today The New York Times is successful in its paywall strategy, and it’s paved the way for bloggers to start looking at this as a viable option. Andrew Sullivan, for example, launched a paywall and raised $100K in a few days.

The problem is that a paywall is limiting rather than expanding in terms of the ways you can connect to the world as revenue options grow and change.

2. Turn your brand into a company and take in investors

As a serial entrepreneur, I saw this option coming early in the blogging game. So I named my blog something that was not attached to the domain name. Then I built up the brand name, sold the brand to investors, and spun off a company.

I don’t know why more people don’t do this. It’s a great way to leverage your community-building abilities, if you have them.

In this scenario, you hold onto your blog and your personal brand and you own stock in the spin-off brand. (And look: I recently gave up the CEO position and went back to blogging. But I held onto the founder’s stock. It’s like a big lottery ticket.)

3. Use your blog as an incubator

The best way to test new companies is to launch them. You could throw up a product offering on a web site, then announce it on the incubator blog. If it takes off, fine, if it doesn’t, then announce the next product.

In this scenario, the blogger is like a full-time marketing team for a range of startups within the incubator. Keep writing good content and you can send your audience to any beta site you need to. In this scenario, you’d get stock in each of the companies that you help launch.

4. Go after a talent acquisition

It’s common these days for companies to buy a startup to get the employees who would otherwise not be in the job market. You could create this same scenario with your blog.

Typically, a talent acquisition is for developers. But I can see it happening for someone who is amazing at PR, for example, and is essentially offering up her social media sauce and her high-powered media network in the talent acquisition of her blog.

Another way I can see this going is that someone uses the blog as a way to display thought leadership in the industry, so the acquisition’s purpose is to have the property attached to the larger brand, but also, to get the talented thought leader behind the blog.

What will you do?

Each of these four ideas takes planning, but with ad sales no longer being a viable option for blog revenue, we need to think more creatively.

Blogs are clearly becoming more and more prominent in the social and intellectual fabric of our lives. Those of us who can adjust in the most creative, big-thinking ways will benefit the most from our blogging talents.

Contributing author Penelope Trunk is a serial entrepreneur, and the author of the bestselling book Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success. She has written for a wide range of publications including Time, Business Week, and the Wall St. Journal, but she likes writing for her blog