This post is a continuation of Waging War on Cheapskate Audiences Part 1, which was inspired by Niall Doherty’s move to add a paid subscription option to his blog. Further echoed by Raam Dev’s Income Ethics series of last year. You can read part 1 of this post here.
In part 1 we looked at the economics behind blogging, marketing (or a lack of) and the tipping point of offering a paid subscription to a blog. Part 2 will deal with the expectations of a freemium audience, marketing versus authenticity and the nature of social media audiences.
The [insert field of expertise here] Blogger
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a couple of travel bloggers this year. Folks who existed for a time in my inbox, writing of travels adventures and mishaps from the road while I was at a desk job in Perth. They were seemingly footloose and fancy free.
A behind the scenes look reveals the authentic traveller to be constrained by having to find a decent internet connection, being able to access social media on a regular basis and respond to emails and product support in a timely manner (which in our fast paced read/write world, is within 24 hours). All of these day-to-day tasks exclude producing new material (as previously mentioned in part 1), working on any new products or doing that thing they’re writing about; travelling, sightseeing, meeting locals, filling their boots with local cuisine etc.
A bit of logic and common sense and you might reach the conclusion that I have; the true adventurer and wanderer hasn’t travelled through1 all the countries in the world, or anywhere close because, taking into account what we’ve mentioned above, how do you backpack and caravan through the heartland of Africa, while still working from your laptop? It’s an over-marketed concept that this is even remotely possible.
We (the general public, information hounds, consumers, learners, keen travellers etc.) will readily buy a lonely planet or rough guide authored by a stranger, to help us with advice regarding something as (relatively) simple as a visa, local customs, airport transfers and the directions to the old city or budget hostel, and we won’t hesitate in emailing a travel blogger about a recommendation for a good shisha bar or the best place to do yoga in India, while expecting a reply within 24 hours (for free) irrespective of whether they’re traipsing across South America or cruising the Indian Ocean with little to no wifi.
“I emailed that shmuck yesterday, why hasn’t he sifted through his 50+ emails received per day, and answered my query about whether there are bed bugs in Northern Laos?” – Me
I’m as guilty of this as the next person, but this is where our case studies have to balance on the tightrope of freemium. It’s this authenticity, responsiveness and accessibility that is burying them under a pile of email replies (for free). Where would you draw the line if you were in this situation, one email reply? Two? How would you (as a reader) react to a concept of paying for quality email replies and advice? (as you would from a normal consultant ‘offline’)
I’d question whether a traveller wants to have made it all the way to Kathmandu, only to be thinking about where to get good wifi and a good vantage point for a video, all in return for adding to his story and a couple of retweets?
From a travel perspective; Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and a few other books are rumoured to get paid to influence their accommodation/activity recommendations, I’d ask how much you are willing to pay for an unbiased first-hand recommendation of a clean/safe hostel in Syria (or any other off-the-beaten-track locale)?2 What do you currently have to pay a travel blogger for this peace of mind? (I’ll give you a hint, it’s $0)
Authenticity and Bullshit
When your favourite online writer (blogger) has any history in marketing, working for aweber or has participated in a 72 hour sale3 they then default to your favourite internet marketer.
I was struck by some sort of disbelief upon meeting the nomad philosopher minimalist. He’d waited for a few hours for my arrival to Amit‘s house in Daytona beach, wearing his minimal running shoes he’d written about 5 odd months prior, his one outfit of clothing and his small backpack of belongings. This wasn’t a minimal pissing contest (as I’d clearly lost with my 16kg of backpack) but this was for me a confirmation that there are genuine people who write online, whose ideas and conversation in person actually go above and beyond what they write about.
Our nomad minimalist could have released a few eBooks and hundreds of essays on minimalism, self promoted himself to the nines and personified ‘the’ minimalist, but all of that effort doesn’t seem very minimal.
What our nomad minimalist (and most of the authentic humble mass) lacks in marketing or hard sales, he makes up for in authenticity. If you skimmed over the introduction to this blog post in part one I’d recommend reading Raam’s income ethics series as a starting point. You can then confirm some authenticity for yourself by browsing his blog archives of the past 10 years.
Charity Water: Happy Birthday Ben
Ben is guest starring in this post as his charity water birthday present seems to highlight how fickle and faux-fame social media can be. Ben is one of the only honest people online who is clear about being an internet marketer. As a side activity and completely unrelated to how he earns an income online, he writes about his move to Spain, language learning and other hiccups at liferapture.com.
Ben has 3,016 twitter followers, 369 facebook friends and his blog life rapture has a good few subscribers. As the young buck is turning 24 later this month he’s raising money via charity water.
Charity Water is a non-profit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. 100% of all public donations directly fund water projects. A great cause, very transparent and in this consumer world, quite a nice birthday alternative to an amazon wish list. To stick to the birthday theme, Ben is asking for a donation in multiples if $24, being 24 years since the stalk dropped him down the chimney.
Of his 3,385 social media connections, do you care to guess as to how many donations have been received?
That’s 0.12% percent for those of you playing at home.
Social media followers, friends, subscribers, affiliates, klout scores etc don’t mean a thing when people have to pull their fingers out of their metaphorical backsides and do something tangible. Action speaks louder than words, or in the online world, retweets and Facebook likes. If you’d like to increase the 0.12% figure you can donate here.
This (Authentic) Idiot
I don’t plan on deriving an income online via a social media presence or blog. This affords me a certain freedom and means I’m not dictated by a brand I’m trying portray, retweeting every piece of garbage written by today’s popular blogger, along with giving me the luxury of occasionally waging war on bullshit.
While I try my best to encourage the detractors and some critical thinking online, I’m genuine. Risk arrest & trespass in abandoned buildings? Lead the way. Campaign passionately about Occupy Wallstreet, i’ll be silly enough to send you the money to go and protest. Arrange your own photoshoot posing naked with your macbook, you better believe I’ll be silly enough to photoshop my head on there. Fancy a coffee in the heartland of Brazil, i’ll be silly enough to fly there. Release a good quality high content book but don’t have a slimey marketing bone in your body? You better believe I’ll by ten copies.
Focus on your 0.12%.
- Travelling ‘through’ a country versus travelling ‘to’ a country is a huge point to consider. ↩
- On travel to Syria, firstly I’d question why you’re visiting Syria. ↩
- The 72 hour sale is an internet bundle sale that lasts for 72 hours and primarily consists of eBooks produced by internet marketers ranging from anything to reclaiming your dreams to waking up early. http://only72.com/ ↩