This article was originally posted on Forbes.com on April 25, 2012 and was written by Larissa Faw, Contributor. She says, “I write about workplace trends impacting Millennial women.” Article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/larissafaw/2012/04/25/is-blogging-really-a-way-for-women-to-earn-a-living-2/
In between folding laundry and cleaning up after her children, a mom receives $5,000 to blog about an iPhone application for seven days. Another woman earns twice as much as her husband’s $35,000 annual salary by hosting several one-hour “Twitter parties” each week. Yet another female blogger has received, over the past year, all-expense paid vacations to Hawaii, Aruba, and Florida, as well as four new cameras, a camcorder, computer, and so many DVDs, food and cleaning products that she lost count.
Are these female bloggers the minority or the status quo? It’s nearly impossible to know.
There are 18.9 million women who write blogs, according to the Pew Research Center, and while these women chat openly about their lives online, discussions regarding how much merchandise or money they generate from these blogs remain noticeably unaddressed. Bloggers must legally tell their readers that they received a free toaster in exchange for a product review, per FTC government regulations, but they don’t have to disclose how much they charge for the banner ad, or how many views they need in order to attract that banner advertiser. As a result, women bloggers zealously guard this information from readers and other bloggers.
“I recently did an article with Babble where they wanted my numbers, like how many unique views I receive a month and my total readership,” says NYCityMama’s Carol Cain. “I was really open with them since I thought it would be a good point of reference [to other bloggers]. I know I would have liked to know [this information] when I was just starting out. But as soon as [the article] was published online, I asked [Babble] to retract the information. Nearly all of the comments said I was lying or fudging the numbers. It was hurting my credibility. [Women bloggers] have this sense that Brand XYZ only has a couple thousand dollars to spend and [sponsorships] are only given to so many bloggers. They want to protect their portion of the pie.”
Women bloggers neither dispel or confirm this perception that they swing toward the financial extreme — either earning six figures or nothing from their efforts — and this helps to muddle a more accurate financial analysis. It should be noted that among the 16 million men bloggers, per Pew Research Center statistics, many men also earn money from their online efforts, but they, collectively, haven’t been as aggressive or profitable as their women counterparts in generating financial support from brands.
Despite the desire for secrecy, based on conversations with brand executives, marketing analysts, and women bloggers, it’s possible to paint a clearer portrait of the financial implications associated with female blogging. For one, the term woman blogger is a misnomer. These women are active in all forms of social media, including Twitter, video, and podcasting, says SheSpeak’s Julie Wohlberg.
Also, in order to maximize their financial potential, women need to concentrate on one or two topics, and it’s more profitable to blog about travel and parenthood than knitting or stamp collecting. “Mom and tech/business bloggers get a lot of attention as revenue-generators, but food, entertainment, do-it-yourself, and fashion are hugely valuable verticals as well. There are even purely personal storytelling bloggers who are turning their way with words into a livelihood. Women who blog are the new Oprahs, Marthas and Ermas,” says BlogHer’s Elisa Camahort Page.
“You can break it down like this,” says BSM Media’s Maria Bailey and author of Power Moms. “There’s the top 10% who make six figures, who write books, and have deals with the Food Network. Then there’s the bottom 20% who are only doing it for the love and not making anything.”
This leaves 70% of women bloggers — some 13.2 million — who blog for some modicum of profit. While no two bloggers are alike, they all receive money from similar opportunities. And free merchandise in exchange for a blog review is often considered the gateway towards serious monetization. Nearly all women who “professionalize” their blogs initially start off by reviewing products and services. Although many argue that free merchandise shouldn’t be counted as revenue, notwithstanding the FTC’s stance, the majority of women bloggers receive at least $250 in free products each month.
There’s even a growing industry of online resources and one-day blogger events to teach women how to properly ask for products. “It’s almost gotten to be a full-time job just to handle these inquiries from women seeking our products. I’m getting hundreds of requests each week,” says CoAction Public Relation’s Samantha Shuman who represents several kitchen and housewares brands. “You almost can tell who went to a pitch class since you get the same blanket text over and over again.” Similarly, appliance brand Hamilton Beach receives between six and 12 inquiries a week from women bloggers seeking free products, and eco-friendly detergent brand Ecover handles 20 requests a week.
Brands generally review a woman’s blog and check to see if she is active on Twitter, but they don’t require millions, or even thousands, of visitors. In fact, brand executives and women bloggers say the going rate for a $300 kitchen product is 500 monthly views; an all-expense trip to Hawaii requires at least 20,000 monthly views.
Overall, unless these emails are littered with spelling or grammar errors, brands ship women bloggers their desired samples. “You never know who they might be tomorrow. I have emailed with someone who had 1,000 followers and the next month, she is up to 17,000. Everyone is a potential consumer, even if they are just seeking us out to get free products,” says Shuman.
Online advertisements are another money-making opportunity for bloggers. Pay-per-click affiliate networks largely benefit those with at least 300,000 monthly visitors. These programs, such as Google Adsense, Panthera, and Amazon, enable bloggers to receive a percentage of the revenue whenever a visitor clicks-through a featured advertisement. They can earn bloggers between $100-$200 a month, though money-saving blogs that enable visitors to download coupons can earn $400-$600 a month, according to advertising executives.
Traditional online advertisements are more profitable for mid-tier or up-and-coming bloggers. Those with around 60,000 monthly views earn $10-$20 a month from an affiliate network, but are able to command $200 a month for an advertisement posted on the side of the page and $500 a month for the leaderboard space, according to blogger media kits.
And then there’s Twitter. The going rate for a blogger to host a Twitter party — in which a host invites followers to tweet about a product for one hour — is $750-$5,000, which varies depending on the number of participants and media impressions. Nearly all women bloggers who earn money off their blogs have hosted at least one Twitter party, though these events are swiftly becoming concentrated among a few “experts,” say advertising executives. The reasoning is that many bloggers feel they are too overtly “selling” products and will offend their loyal followers. Nonetheless, as they generally require only three hours of prep time, these events are extremely profitable, say women bloggers who host these gatherings.
Now that some women bloggers are receiving significant compensation, the overarching issue is to deliver results that meet with financial expectations. NYCityMama’s Cain realizes that in exchange for a free trip to Maui, the tourism board is likely to expect her to go beyond the blog and write about that trip at other sites and in magazine articles.
As of now, however, brands are evaluating bloggers on a very generous curve. “Return-on-investment is a hard measurement in this space. It’s difficult to trace a blog post back to a brick and mortar purchase at one of our retail partners. That said, while we are not specifically measuring it, we are looking at impressions and more importantly awareness and sentiment of our products and brands in this channel,” says Hamilton Beach’s Mary Beth Brault.
Ultimately, women bloggers compare themselves to freelance journalists, both in what they provide and their financial opportunities. “Blogging is no different from any other industry, in that the largest sums are earned by a relatively small number. That being said, during these tough economic times, the ability for so many women to earn income and contribute significantly to their household’s income cannot be dismissed. Whether they’re using the money earned to pay rent or simply engage in a little discretionary spending, that economic contribution is critical to them, and part of what will drive a general economic recovery too,” says Camahort Page.