One of the big buzz posts this week comes from Read/Write Web, and it does a great job of explaining why chasing “long tail” topics as a blogger is a bad move when it comes to making money. In other words, there’s certainly money to be made from the long tail (by aggregators such as Amazon, Netflix and b5Media), but very little money to be made by the individuals who actually create free content in ultra-niche topic areas.
This echoes what I wrote in the Teaching Sells report a little over a month ago. Here’s an excerpt:
It has occurred to me recently that the term “long tail” has caused independent publishers more harm than good. Wired editor Chris Anderson coined the term to emphasize the power of niche publishing, but those who benefit from it most are aggregation companies like Amazon and Netflix who charge money for long tail items and profit by selling less of more.
There’s nothing new about niche marketing that any successful online marketer needed to hear in The Long Tail—it’s been that way for smaller players since the early days of the Internet and well before. But the key is selling specialized information, not giving it away.
Somewhere along the line people have gotten confused. You don’t want to produce free content for a tiny audience, you want to charge a small but sufficient group of people for content that is in sufficient demand.
What you want is a unique niche offering, not a niche audience. You need a large enough potential audience to profitably market to. You won’t attract all of that potential audience, and in fact you’ll only attract a tiny percentage. But if you’re an independent publisher, you don’t need to sell to anywhere close to everyone to make a lot of money.
I’m speaking in the context of membership sites and information products in the report, but the same goes for choosing blog topics if you plan to chase advertising. Copyblogger is certainly a niche blog, but the potential audience is every commercial blogger, online marketer and small business person with a web presence, which amounts to many millions of people.
Will I reach them all? No, of course not.
But you need that potential reach just to carve out a large enough audience to have a shot at significant advertising revenue. And even now, after almost two fantastic years, advertising revenue from Copyblogger is a drop in the bucket compared to what I can do because of Copyblogger.
So where’s the true value in blogging? Seth Godin said it perfectly in his Thanksgiving post:
Every time you read something I write here, you’re giving me a gift… attention. It’s getting more precious all the time, you have more choices every day, and it’s harder and harder to find the time. I know. I’m grateful. I’m doing my best to make your attention worth it.
Ditto. I appreciate your continued attention more than you know, and that’s why I would happily maintain this blog even without a dime in advertising revenue.
Thanks for reading.