I started blogging years ago as a means of building an audience ahead of launching my career as a novelist. My interests have changed and shifted over the years and now I mostly blog because I enjoy it and the constant turnover of articles is good practice. But always there is hope was that readers of my blog would want to read my books.
I think that's partly borne fruit, but in studying my analytics I came to realise that I had in fact created two separate audiences. My most popular pages are my app reviews, and then, my articles about my writing process. These I suspect are popular with other writers; writers more interested in how they can improve their own craft through the apps I write about.
The problem for me as a content creator is that most writers generally aren't interested in buying other people's fiction books. In reality, most writers don't have the time to read -- despite their loud and vociferous claims otherwise! When writers read, we generally do so for research purposes and that usually means Wikipedia, non-fiction books and blogs like mine. Occasionally, we'll critically review other authors' work but that's very different to reading for pleasure.
So, armed with the knowledge that free content isn't a guarantee of more book sales, I looked to affiliate linking and advertising as a potential revenue stream. Of the two, I much prefer affiliate linking but Apple did the dirty on that one and I don't generally write enough wide-ranging product reviews to garner much revenue from Amazon links.
I agonised over adding advertising widgets to my blog. The user experience isn't great (especially on mobile devices) and they mar the design of my site, which I worked hard to make clean and fast. However, I can't deny the results I'm getting. It's not going to make me rich, but it's a revenue stream that's quietly and consistently ticking over.
I started advertising on my blog a few months after I redesigned my site. At first it was an experiment, and I wanted to see if it would cover my hosting costs. It felt a little dirty, but I made some money, then I started making more and so persisted. That is until a reader today reached out and suggested I ditch them. I no longer pay for hosting so with my initial goal off the table, I wonder if it time's to call it a day.
I'd happily trade advertising revenue for more newsletter subscribers. I've thought of making ad-free articles available to my subscribers. However, I've not had that much luck offering ad-free content as lead magnets on two high-traffic articles in which I make heavy use of adverts. It suggests to me that people are prepared to live with advertising, or perhaps it's become so ubiquitous that people accept it as a necessary evil of today's web. Then again, people may be much more wary of joining mailing lists than they once were.
There are course other models I can pursue. I can and will write more books, that's a given -- but perhaps I'll branch out into non-fiction. I can try writing a broader array of reviews with a hope of funnelling more clicks through my Amazon affiliate account. Then there's patronage or other crowdfunding mechanisms like selling memberships as is popular among independent tech bloggers and some of the more high-profile indie authors. These are all things I may explore later, but for now I want to keep things simple.
As it stands today, I only advertise on my blog section and the majority of my articles feature adverts only in the sidebar (mobile is a slightly different story). In my more popular and longer posts, I advertise within the article itself -- these are the posts which generally have the most value to other writers. Is this approach too far though? Does it cost me readers or engagement even when I offer ad-free alternatives? These are questions I'd very much like to ask because at this stage of my journey as a novelist and blogger, readers are more important than dollars.