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Can a blog be self-sustaining? NoFilmSchool's traffic and revenue

05.4.10 @ 12:00PM Tags : , , , ,

Can a blog like NoFilmSchool be self-sustaining? As a blogger you can make money by being a contributor to a huge tech or political blog, wherein you’re one of many staff writers churning out content every day — which I’ve done — but can you turn a profit by writing about what’s important to you, on your own site, in your own way? In my recent manifesto I talked about blog revenue being one (small) slice of the self-sustaining pie, and on this site’s about page I wrote, “a big part of figuring out how to be independently creative — and by this I mean, being able to work on your own creations, for yourself, without having a day job — is figuring out how to derive value from the content you create.” Here, then, are the traffic and revenue stats from NoFilmSchool for the just-concluded month of April:

As illustrated by this Google Analytics screenshot, NoFilmSchool received roughly 75,000 pageviews in the month of April. Thank you all for coming! Up until January this site was just a personal blog without much of a focus, so I’m glad to see that it’s finding an audience now that I switched to actually posting helpful content! I hope to grow this number by posting better content going forward.

I compiled and exported the different revenue streams for April — advertising, affiliate programs,1 and donations to the DSLR guide — and discovered that NoFilmSchool generated $522 in April. There are two ways to look at this: as an hourly wage, NFS is a terrible job! I’d be much better off abandoning this blog and sticking to freelance shooting/editing/designing gigs in the short term, while I work to get my feature film/storyworld off the ground. But in the long run, $522 in one month makes it reasonable to imagine a future wherein this blog can be a rent-paying slice of the pie (a future where I’m working full-time on my own projects without the need to freelance). So: yes, you can make money blogging. However, it’s pretty damn hard (there are a lot of sunk costs when it comes to NoFilmSchool), and if it’s money you’re interested in, you’d be much better off doing something (anything!) else. For the coming month of May I’ll track my hours (as I do on freelance gigs) so I can actually share my NFS hourly wage and compare it to other gigs.

In the process of figuring out how to monetize NoFilmSchool, I’ve learned some things, so in the spirit of openness and transparency, here is the breakdown of the different revenue streams this past month:

There are two key points here: first of all, thank you to anyone who’s donated to the DSLR guide. I am incredibly thankful and find it amazing when someone donates for something that is otherwise available for free (the donation page is here!). This, more than anything, is what keeps me going on this site. As you can see, donations (from complete strangers — I’ve never met any of the donors in person) are a significant slice of the overall pie, and would in fact be the largest individual piece if someone hadn’t bought an expensive camera at the end of the month through one of my Amazon links (whoever you are, thank you!).

The second key point: look at how small the “advertising” slice of the pie is. I didn’t start putting ads on the site until the tenth of the month, but regardless — Google Adsense only pays you when someone clicks on an ad, so much of the time you’re basically running free ads for people. Google doesn’t allow its users to post CPM rates, so I can’t go into it as much as I’d like, but CPA advertising — where a publisher only gets paid if someone clicks on an ad — is a frustrating world, given that TV, magazine, and billboard advertisers pay good money simply to get their logo and messaging in front of an audience. CPA advertising basically treats eyeballs as worthless, and it feels foolish to run thousands of ads every day and sometimes get nothing in return. As such I’ll be experimenting with other advertising strategies going forward. And as always, I’ll share what I learn.

Why is this relevant to filmmaking? Well, if you’re working on a storyworld in which you might launch a number of websites as part of the online presence for your film, being able to realistically project online revenue streams is important. I’m putting ads on this site to learn about how online ads work as much as I am trying to support myself.

The next step with NoFilmSchool is for me to better figure out what kind of content is most helpful to readers — I will post a poll this week asking for your input! And let me know if you have any questions about any of this advertising stuff.

  1. Affiliate programs work like this: if you’re talking about a product, you link to a store (in my case, Amazon or B&H), and if someone buys that product at that store you get a small percentage of the sale kicked back to you. I joined affiliate programs like Amazon’s because I was talking about a lot of camera equipment, and it simply made sense to have those links “do work.” This opens up all sorts of potential issues where you might be motivated to shill for crappy products just to get people to buy them, but in the long run such behavior would be stupid… you’d lose credibility. []


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  • You might be interested in This guy makes his living from his blog and share that information. He also just wrote a book about making money blogging.

  • Thanks Mike, there are some interesting strategies there! “Make money online!” is such a icky world that many of these techniques don’t apply for someone who’s interested in the creative side rather than get rich quick schemes. I’m primarily interested in making movies and sharing what I learn along the way, and “sponsored reviews” and “sponsored tweets” have 0 appeal to me even if those strategies could make money in the short term. Regardless, thanks for sharing — John claims to make $40k/month from 300k page views, whereas I’m making $500/month from 75k views. Obviously I could be doing more with NFS!

    • Ryan, any technique that will assist you making money and that you’re comfortable with, I’m all for. John Chow makes his money by showing others how to make money and not all his techniques transfer well to other sites. Especially creative sites. But, if you can get just one idea to increase your income from that site then its worth it.

      I like your transparency and honesty, and I hope you find some way to earn enough and still be creative. Good luck.>

  • Hi Ryan,
    This is fascinating. Thank you for sharing and for the transparency. Makes me wonder what someone like Philip Bloom is generating. Not that I am interested in doing a blog for profit, my day job is too involving.
    What film projects are you working on these days?
    Best wishes,

  • I suspect Philip Bloom is generating a heck of a lot of income. In addition to all the advertising and consulting/shooting fees, he’s also selling DSLR DVDs at $100 a pop (all of my donations received add up to about two DVDs sold on his part). Of course, he’s shooting DSLR videos all the time and always has stuff to show, so more power to him — on my side of things, I should have some videos out there sometime in July.

  • this is good information that no one is really talking about.
    Having the numbers I think helps shed some light on whats really going on behind the scenes.
    I would have assumed that google’s ad share would have had a bigger piece of your pie.

    • I know, right? It’s crazy that running thousands and thousands of ads pays so little. As such, I’ll be going with direct ad sales starting next week — as with many things, to do something right you’ve gotta DIY.

  • i admire John Chow because of his innovative ways to gain traffic both from whitehat and greyhat methods.~~`

  • anyone who makes money on the internet would love to know the secret of John Chow’s success.`”

  • Can I just say what a reduction to find somebody who really is aware of what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know learn how to bring a problem to gentle and make it important. More individuals have to learn this and understand this facet of the story. I cant believe youre no more standard since you definitely have the gift.

  • I would say that by far the one thing you could do which is the simplest and would make the biggest difference is get a mailing list and build it up. Look into it! Feel free to email me if you’d like to pick my brains for more ideas over this :-)

  • Great blog. Very interesting. I have made money with blogging. I am making money with Paydotcom and a blog.