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Byline: BARBARA CORREA Staff Writer

For most bloggers, spending hours on end in front of computer monitors is a hobby -- a kind of high-tech throwback to the days when dads tinkered in the garage to pass a slow weekend.

But a lucky few have managed to turn their Web sites into cash cows that have generated so much revenue they've been able to quit their day jobs for greener pastures online.

Still, aspiring bloggers should take note of the key words ``lucky'' and ``few.'' The odds of actually making a living off a blog or personal Web site are low.

``It's not about making money,'' said Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for BuzzMetrics, a Nielsen company that monitors blog activity. ``For most bloggers, it's their personal journal. The advertising model is against what a lot of bloggers are trying to do.''

Fewer than 1 percent make money

Of the 55 million or so blogs that exist today, Blackshaw said a minuscule fraction -- probably under 1 percent -- actually make money at it.

According to a July report by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, making money is the top priority for just 7 percent of all bloggers. The No. 1 reason for blogging was creative expression, followed by documenting personal experiences and staying in touch with people.

Rafat Ali, editor and publisher of, a news site about digital media located in Santa Monica, guesstimates there are about 500 independent bloggers making a living off their Web sites. That does not include people blogging for network sites like Weblogs, Inc. The figure also doesn't include small business owners who sell some of their products online.

Passion + Devotion = Money

Instead, independent digital entrepreneurs are people who have a specific interest, create a Web site devoted to it, and then slowly transform it into a small business through trial and error.

Take Kyle James.

About five years ago during the holidays, James, a family man who grew up in Van Nuys, reflected on how much he disliked going to the mall to shop. He was looking at a Best Buy Web site, and noticed a space for entering a ``coupon code.''

It piqued his curiosity.

``I found out that a lot of these retailers offer coupon codes,'' James said. ``I saw there weren't too many Web sites that categorize retailers.'' was born. The site lists merchandise by category, then links to coupon or promotion codes and shipping deals, such as free shipping, which can be a strong incentive for buying online. James gets paid a 5 percent to 15 percent commission from the retailer on each sale.

A few years into the project, James started blogging about new retailers, asking for feedback from site visitors, and slowly, word of mouth began building. Finally, James felt he was making enough from the site to quit his day job as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Warner Lambert Co. He won't reveal his monthly income, but says he's making significantly more than he was in sales.

James still hates going to the mall, but he's becoming an extremely savvy online shopper.

He won't buy anything anymore unless it's at a discount. ``After I found out about this, if I shopped online without a coupon I felt gypped. I got kind of addicted.''

Love Thy Topic

Being obsessed with the blog's featured topic helps, says James. His advice for prospective bloggers-for-profit is to write about something you have a passion about.

``Whether it's golf or shopping or arts and crafts, the passion is going to come out in your blog.''

That passion is meant to create a devoted following through word of mouth, key to the success of any online business.

Steve Pavlina hasn't spent a dime to market his personal development Web site, stevepav Instead, he relies on his articles on ``How to Become an Early Riser,'' ``How to Discover Your Life Purpose in About 20 Minutes,'' and ``10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job'' to attract new viewers to his blog.

It's working. In February of 2005, the number of visitors to his Web site generated a whopping $53 in revenue. A year ago, those monthly payments had grown to about $1,000, and now it's at least five times that, he said. The money comes from advertising, but Pavlina doesn't handle that himself. He uses Google AdSense, an automated program that targets Google ads to Web site content. A blogger signs up, and based on traffic to the Web site, the money comes in.

Realistic expectations

But Pavlina, a Westchester native and California State University, Northridge graduate, cautions bloggers against assuming they can build enough traffic to make a living.

``There's a lot of people getting into the blogosphere who think they can get rich quick. But it isn't like that.''

He said one requirement for making money based on his model is the ability to write quality content.

One tip: if something sells well in book form -- like personal growth and self-help -- it will probably do well online.

Blogging for profit also requires some technical expertise. ``You don't need to be a programmer, but you need to be Web savvy,'' he says.

Way before launching his personal development site, Pavlina started an online business called that publishes and sells computer games. He began to write articles about things like time management skills and had lots of other personal development ideas about finding one's purpose and spirituality, but those topics didn't fit too well with games. That's why he started

Now, he is thinking about shutting down Dexterity after 10 years, because traffic to the personal development site is dwarfing it.

Monthly traffic at steve

pavlina is 1.3 million visitors, many of whom make personal donations through a little box on the site.

Sci-Fi, Comics and Fringe Culture

Indeed, you never know what kind of content is going to generate the most traffic.

Mark Frauenfelder and his wife, Carla Sinclair, of Tarzana, started a blog called Boing to write about ``unusual fringe culture,'' such as sci-fi brain machines, comic books and the Church of the SubGenius. Now, the site gets 1.4 million page views a day and it brings in almost $1 million in ad revenue a year.

``It's a significant part of our income,'' says Frauenfelder, a former editor for Wired Magazine.

Another comics-related site,, has become a full-time job for its creator, Jonah Weiland. Weiland, who lives in Toluca Lake, started the digital magazine and blog 10 years ago, and quit his job as a producer at radio station KFI a few years later.

Staying focused

All of his revenue is from advertising. He won't say how much he's making, but it's enough for him to employ lots of freelancers. He says one of the hardest parts of success is staying focused on writing about comic books, the reason he got started in the first place.

As in any creative business, blogger heaven would be where the blog grows so successful there's enough money to hire someone else to do the back office stuff, freeing up the creative talent to focus on content -- the reason they got started in the first place. When Boing

Boing took off, they did exactly that. ``We asked John Battelle (founder of defunct Internet magazine The Industry Standard) to be our (general manager),'' said Frauenfelder. ``We just work on the blog and do podcasts.''






(color) BLOGGING for dollars

Photo illustration by Shane Michael Kidder
COPYRIGHT 2006 Daily News
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 29, 2006

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