It was a convenient time to renew my blog's hosting plan over the weekend, so I made my payment and you can be assured that the brainwagon blog (which as many as a dozen of you inexplicably read) will be available for another 12 months. It got me thinking about the many bloggers I know who work on authoring and popularizing content as part of a business (or at least, a plan for business). I just spent $83 on hosting for the year, I got to thinking: what's my business plan?
Well, the fact of the matter is, I don't have one. It's actually more than that: not only do I not have a plan, I have planned explicitly to not think of my blog as a business opportunity. It's an expense, and isn't expected to pay any financial dividends. Total costs in terms of name registration and hosting amount to about $100 a year or so.
So, why do I do it? Well, why do you plant flowers in front of your house? Sure, it probably does have some effect on the value of your house, but that's only likely if you are going to sell your house in the near future. Yes, maybe it keeps a home owner's association from complaining to you. But the real reason most people plant flowers is they like to garden, and it makes the place where they live a better, more beautiful place. You can thus view it as an investment of sorts, but not in the purely rational, economic sense of the word. It's an investment in ourselves as well rounded and happy individuals.
The primary reason that I blog is entirely personal: I write about the things that interest me, and my blog serves as a diary of sorts. By reading my own posts in the "On this day..." sidebar, I can see what I was thinking about a year ago, and this often stimulates new explorations in the topics that I was interested in.
But there is another ulterior motive: I don't see very many people blogging about these kinds of topics on a regular basis. I blog at least in part as a challenge and inspiration to others: if you've read my blog and found something neat, or like the approach that I take, my hope is that you will go ahead and start your own blog, on whatever topics you like.
I'm trying to inspire people to plant their own gardens on the Internet. Think of it as planting flowers.
It need not be expensive. In fact, I urge you to do it as cheaply as possible. As the saying goes, it's no virtue to do with more what can be done with less. Every dollar you spend blogging about your interests is a dollar that you aren't spending on what truly interests you, so minimizing the amount you spend on Internet means you can maximize what you spend on the good stuff. The $100 yearly expense I pay is about two cups of Starbucks per month, which seems entirely reasonable to me, but maybe times are tough for you, and you can't swing that. You could do without your own domain name, and use free blog hosting like WordPress.com or Blogger, and link to videos that you host on YouTube or blip.tv. Host audio and podcasts on sites like OurMedia.
There is a slightly disturbing trend I've noticed where every interaction with our fellow man seems to be viewed as a business opportunity. Let's face it: we can't all make our livings selling our opinions to one another. I don't view my readers as consumers or potential ad clicks. I seek to inspire and to be inspired by them. The payment I receive is in new thoughts and new ideas.
This is not meant to say that you shouldn't monetize your blog. If you can make that model work, by all means, pursue that and good luck. But there are lots of ordinary people who seem to think that if they can't make money on their blog, then they shouldn't do it. My plea is ask people to think of their blog not as an economic opportunity, but an opportunity for communication, for inspiration, and for sharing.
What's your blog's business plan? Does it need one? I'd love to hear some different ideas (or even agreement).