Having a large readership base is one of the greatest perks of maintaining a personal blog. Blog writing is a fun and inexpensive way of projecting one’s talent publicly – and making some money by the wayside!
I first started writing my own blog posts at the age of 15, when my father finally agreed to sign-up for an internet connection for our home. Like most parents, he was worried that his three daughters might (inevitably) end up watching something obscene.
But the Frontier FiOS plan that he ordered came with stringent parental lock features; which gave him some reassurance. And then there was the factor of us kids, who simply had to have internet connectivity within our living quarters. Like our friends, we wanted our own Orkut, Netscape and AOL accounts. And we wanted to binge on YouTube music videos – because that’s what the cool kids did (or so we thought)!
Initially, I used my blog for venting on my personal thoughts and feelings; in the manner of a routine journal. These posts were mostly centered on my latest flings with new boyfriends or my usual ‘falling outs’ with some nagging girlfriends. They vividly represented the sort of angst that all American high schoolers go through at one stage. And when taken in their context, they still seem pretty real and interesting to me today. As well as to some other people, who I didn’t know were sneakily reading everything that I dished out back then.
In those days, I didn’t have a clue about ‘Analytics’ software, or that I could actually monitor the number of people who were visiting my blog. Or their locations, IP addresses, age, sex, political inclinations, and other personal credentials. I learned these things gradually, after my blog subscribers numbered in more than a thousand regular visitors. And afterward, it wasn’t long before I was contacted by a dishwashing brand, which wanted to post its advertisements on my page.
I was more than willing to oblige them, of course.
A college sophomore in that period, my blogs had taken to delving into more mature themes. These included my reactions to environmental and cultural influences, like the pressing ‘turn of the millennium’ debates on race, feminism, sexuality, and multiculturalism. Since my readership had reached well over eighty thousand at this point, and I was making more than $600 per month through hosted ads, I also hired the services of a graphics artist. She was a dorm mate who specialized in creating comic art and beautiful digital portraits.
From this point onwards, each of my posts came supplemented with original pieces of art. These were vivid representations of what I experienced on the inside and were thematically very close to what I had written. And now that I was making close to $2500 through my blog, I decided to leave my original academic orientation towards medicine.
My parents were a little difficult to convince with regard to this decision because they had always imagined their second youngest child in a physician’s coat. But after seeing the money that I was making, they softened their position. And they completely changed their minds when they came to terms with the expected college debt that a medical degree would most certainly entail.
And so in the world of my personal blogosphere, I was free to pursue my passion. An English teacher in high school had once counseled me that everyone had the potential of becoming a bestselling author. Doing most about its SEO ranking is important otherwise it will be useless for the search engines. To realize this, all they had to do was to become comfortable in sharing their personal truths with the world. Intimate knowledge, she said, was what fascinated people the most. Human beings, she explained, have an innate tendency to thrive on gossip, and they are hopelessly curious about others. Even the ones who like to pretend otherwise, and carry an air of detached self-interest about them.
Today, I feel truly lucky to have taken these instructions to heart (when I did). Because this became the grounding formula upon which I crafted my first online post all those years ago. And it continues to be the guiding principle through which I design all my current blog content.
The first seven years of my blog writing venture, in which I consolidated a one hundred thousand strong subscription base, were mostly based around my personal experiences. But then I became familiar with the wildly popular Humans of New York Facebook page, and its focus on other people’s stories. I was fascinated by the power of a short story snippet (of a few hundred words) and a simple DSLR picture. And I was thirsty to replicate this model as part of the content strategy for my own blog.
This decision turned out to be an even more successful gamble. Because not only did I start receiving more corporate Ad sponsorships, I became a ‘reading sensation’ with my audiences; in the words of the New York Times. Some of the people whose stories I featured even became my employees.
Today, I have offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Michigan – and my company manages a total of fifty ‘blog’ websites. Some of these are similar to my original debut creation, while others carry stories that are age and gender specific.
Recently, I agreed to a collaboration agreement with the Frontier Service. The ISP company, in exchange for signing up all of its customers to one of my websites, put in a request to run their ads within the text spaces of my blogs. Initially, I was a bit reluctant to do this, as I didn’t want to get into the whole ‘affiliate marketing’ thing. But the price tag that I was offered, for good or for bad, was a deal that I couldn’t refuse.
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