You can't make money blogging, or at least you can't make much. At least not now. Well, actually nobody knows. I don't have any ads on this site, the main reason being nobody has ever asked me to put their ad on this site. Maybe advertisers are missing a huge opportunity!
But I think I've figured out the secret to making money from blogs. Get someone to pay you to monitor them.
That's the conclusion I draw from Deborah Brown's op-ed (subscription required) in the current PR Week. Deborah Brown is senior director at Peppercom, a much-awarded small firm with offices in New York, San Francisco and London. She's got a common-sense approach to what she calls "digital media" that reminded me of the John Prine lyric, "It don't make much sense, this common sense don't make no sense no more."
For example, she says:
It’s also critical to understand that your company cannot state the same key messages via digital media that are allowed in other marketing initiatives such as advertising. With digital, the customer is in complete control. You need to understand how to communicate and connect in a new environment in which you have little or no control.
This is true, but it is fast becoming a cliche. Realizing you have little or no control is good Zen discipline, but pretty soon the clients are going to start asking their PR people for something more than a list of "what-not-to-do's." From my perch, I think we're at the point where an old economic idea, "Creative Destruction," needs to be applied to these new realities. From Joseph Schumpeter's Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, written in 1942:
(T)he contents of the laborer's budget, say from 1760 to 1940, did not simply grow on unchanging lines but they underwent a process of qualitative change. Similarly, the history of the productive apparatus of a typical farm, from the beginnings of the rationalization of crop rotation, plowing and fattening to the mechanized thing of today–linking up with elevators and railroads–is a history of revolutions. So is the history of the productive apparatus of the iron and steel industry from the charcoal furnace to our own type of furnace, or the history of the apparatus of power production from the overshot water wheel to the modern power plant, or the history of transportation from the mailcoach to the airplane. The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation–if I may use that biological term–that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in. . . .
"Industrial mutation" — there's a term I'd like to see the PR blogs use more often! The fact is, in a breathtakingly short period of time, mass communications has undergone a profound mutation, to which the PR industry and current practices might not successfully adapt.
In PR Week, Brown quotes Christopher Barger, "Blogger-in-Chief" at IBM, saying the customers "want relationship building" and not "traditional messages." From this article and dozens more like it all over the PR blogosphere and trade media, you get the idea that some PR industry leaders see "relationship building" as just another tactic in the PR professional's arsenal.
I don't think so. Training in the PR industry is notoriously poor, but from what I remember, it's mostly about dealing with the news media, elements of good writing, client relations and "managing for profitability." There aren't many PR agency GMs who could instruct staff to go forth and help clients "build relationships" via "digital media" and have any confidence in how their employees would translate those words into action. Chaos would ensue. It might be funny like "The Office" is funny. But a client shouldn't pay for people to do something they aren't qualified to do.
I don't mean to knock Deborah Brown. Her article is good as far as it goes. She has a clear view of the mutation process, and how control is slipping away. The rather tentative tone of her article is probably appropriate. Nobody really knows what to do, and she doesn't pretend to either.
However, she did make one suggestion that made me laugh.
Monitor…monitor….monitor…know what’s being said about your company, but know when it makes sense to react.
Digital monitoring: It's a tactic PR people can certainly do. It's just like media monitoring, except more billable hours, since, according to a Pew Internet & American Life Project report,
As of last December, 35 percent of Americans had posted to a blog, created a Web page, shared online photos, or otherwise generated content. That proportion is more than double the 16 percent that had posted any content to the Web in January 2002, when Pew first researched the topic.
Can you imagine how many of those posts mention a brand-name company, one that might have PR people in-house or under contract? Monitor… monitor… monitor… monitor… monitor… monitor… monitor… monitor… monitor… monitor…