This article continues the discussion launched with the New Year concerning our new focus at CCB Buzz, monetization, and migration. Previously I had written about our transition from strictly a branding blog to the new focus of “Personal Development For Entrepreneurs” in my article entitled Happy New Year!. The discussion had continued with our decision to monetize our blog and the driving force behind that decision and the introduction of Google AdSense as one means of monetization in the “To Monetize Or Not To Monetize?” article. Today I will continue the monetization discussion which will focus on donations as a potential stream of income and introduce the concept of affiliate marketing, specifically that of affiliate programs.
Admittedly I felt a little strange about donations when we were first kicking around the concept here at CCB Buzz. As with the overall concept of monetization I had a potential ethical dilemma with soliciting money from readers, which prompted me to internalize many questions. A few of these questions are as follows:
1. Would requesting donations reduce our web traffic?
2. Would requesting donations cheapen the overall experience?
3. Would it be ethically right for us to request donations from our readers?
These questions were in alignment with the overall concept of monetization as I had discussed in “To Monetize Or Not To Monetize?”.
In the end the decision was made to request donations from our readers should they find the material useful and of value, there were several reasons behind this decision. First and foremost I am of the personal and professional opinion that there is nothing wrong with requesting donations for providing a service that improves the lives of others. By allowing our readers to leave a donation it provides you, our readers, with the option of recognizing us for our valuable work. Although it is certainly not required, and we value our readers for the very sake that you visit us and value our material, should you feel inclined, the option is there.
Second, both Amy and I have made donations in the past for free services that provide value. As with the first rationale, we had received value from the free services generally in the form of the service providing us with a new experience, perhaps with helping us solve a problem in the form of a “how to” article, or maybe the material or experience just had a positive impact on our lives. For these reasons we had felt inclined to donate without the requirement to do so. That being said we decided for these reasons to implement the ability to donate.
The donation feature also provides two additional benefits that go hand and hand. First, it allows us to gauge the value we are providing to our readers. If we discuss a certain topic and donations increase as compared to previous topics, then we will pursue future discussions on that topic should there continue to be relevant material to provide to our readers. Also, if donations increase steadily over time, we would ascertain that we are doing something right and are heading in the right direction. Conversely, if we begin to witness a downward trend, or even worse, a sharp decline in donations, then the opposite may be viewed.
From a dollars and cents or business perspective the income from donations is unlimited. Income from this source is only limited by the amount of value that we provide to our readers. If we would like more income in the form of donations we should increase the value we offer to our readers. An increase in value will likely correspond to increased donations by our regular readers, who in turn will tell their friends, who in turn may donate, which in turn will prompt us to provide even more value, and the cycle continues.
As I had mentioned previously donations allow us to provide readers with more value by gauging the current level of value offered by donation levels. In addition to gauging value, donations are used to invest in new information and methods of delivery to our readership. Current investments include the purchase of books and memberships to increase my knowledge as well as information on how to become more web savvy. Although this certainly benefits me, in the end it benefits my readers as well by allowing me to continue to evolve and in turn provide you with a continuing evolutionary experience.
So to return to the questions I posed at the beginning of this article:
1. Would requesting donations reduce our web traffic? I have not seen evidence of this. Although implementation of our monetization strategy only just began on January 1, 2009, our web traffic has seen a consistent increase over time. Only time will tell, but so far so good.
2. Would requesting donations cheapen the overall experience? Like anything else, requesting donations should be consistent with your overall brand, or the message you are conveying to our readers. Above all else be tasteful and consistent with the message conveyed. This is a tricky balancing act – the donation request should be prominent enough that people know it is there, but not overwhelming as to drive away your readers. Like most things there is not one single answer, try an approach, verify it is consistent, review your results, and adjust if necessary.
3. Would it be ethically right for us to request donations from our readers? Only you can answer this question in your own unique situation. Our reasons were that we believe it is ethically right for use to request donations just as long as we continue to add value to the personal and professional lives of our readers. We leave the choice in the hands of our audience.
Having just discussed the donation approach we will move on to our third stream of income, affiliate programs.
Wikipedia defines affiliate marketing as “an Internet-based marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliates marketing efforts.” Affiliate marketing is basically establishing a mutually beneficial informal partnerships between businesses. For example, at the time of this article we currently have Apple as an affiliate. We allow Apple advertising space on our blog, Apple in turn will pay us a percentage of their income received from a visitor who visits our site, clicks their ad, and makes a purchase.
To Be Continued…
In the next article I will further discuss affiliate programs and provide you with our experience to date with these programs.
Regardless of the selected monetization strategy value must be offered!