What is your blog’s business plan? Does it really need one?

June 27, 2011 | Blogging, Rants and Raves | By: Mark VandeWettering

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).

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Comments

Comment from Francisco
Time 6/27/2011 at 12:37 pm

My “blogs” aren’t really on similar topics to brainwagon, but I agree about planting flowers on the internet. WordPress.com and Blogger are fine (I’ve used both), but if your blogging is anything but totally casual you should go with dedicated domain hosting, whether you “monetize” or not.

It’s worth the cost to have complete control over the content you create. If you’re planting flowers, you might as well as plant them in your own dirt.

Comment from Roy Eltham
Time 6/27/2011 at 12:49 pm

I’m with you brainwagon. My blog is not a business opportunity. Besides, I don’t update mine enough…

Comment from Mark VandeWettering
Time 6/27/2011 at 1:00 pm

Francisco: I’m glad that you mentioned the “complete control” aspect. Certainly I agree: it’s part of why I have a dedicated domain and hosting plan in place. But while I think that it’s desirable, it’s also not strictly speaking necessary. I’d much rather people use free services and get their interests and views out there than to get discouraged by the costs and do nothing.

Doing something is almost always preferable to not doing anything.

Comment from Dave Jones
Time 6/28/2011 at 2:27 am

I blog because I enjoy sharing information, nothing more, just like I always have. Long before the internet and blogging even came along I published articles in magazines, and have always contributed to forum communities and even started my own ones over the years. Why? for the same reasons.
The magazine articles used to pay, but that’s not why you did it, you did it for the satisfaction of it. Indeed, the pay never covered your time to do it, not even close.
But now, well, I’m technically a full time blogger and it does pay my bills, kinda.
Not because I planned for that to happen, it just seemed to happen over time on it’s own. But as always, I’d still be doing it even if it didn’t make a cent and it actually cost me money.
Does my blogging “business” pay for my time I put into? Probably not if you actually got down to it!
It’s a passion, a hobby, not work.
My plan is to simply keep doing it as long as I enjoy it.
My “business plan” is non-existent, and that’s the way I like it.

Dave.

Comment from Bill
Time 6/28/2011 at 4:26 pm

I’m glad you are blogging Mark. Count me among the loyal dozen!

Comment from Richard
Time 6/28/2011 at 4:35 pm

Mark, I always enjoy your blog. I’m retired from a long careen in computing, a radio amateur, astronomy buff and general science geek. I also like gardening and model railroading, but other than that it seems to me that our interests coincide. I’m not a blogger. I can’t keep up with the things that interest me and I often wonder how bloggers, like yourself, find time to create such interesting information. I rationalize my lack of blogging by thinking that blog consumers are needed as much as blog creators. Still, you make a good argument and I may investigate WordPress and BlogSpot.

I’m glad to hear that your thoughts will be available for another year. Thanks.

Comment from Mark VandeWettering
Time 6/28/2011 at 5:59 pm

Wow. Thanks Dave (love your videos), Bill (love your podcast) and Richard (glad you enjoy my blog) for taking the time to chime in on my little corner of the Internet. Glad that you all find some reason to come around every once in a while and see what I’m up to.

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