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How Do I Monetize My Blog (Or Podcast)?

There is not a week that goes by without the Fizzle team hearing some version of a seemingly simple question: “How do I monetize my blog?”

This question comes from would-be entrepreneurs making an honest effort to follow advice they find around the web. That advice goes something like this:

  1. Start a blog (or podcast)
  2. Build an audience
  3. Monetize
  4. Enjoy Mai-tais on the beach

Like the ambitious entrepreneur you are, you build a website, write a few posts, and get a couple email subscribers. Rinse, wash, repeat. Then, you wake up one day and realize, “Hey, I’ve been at this a while. When does the monetize part happen?”

And who better to email than your friends at Fizzle? So our inboxes fill up with a common question that has a relatively simple answer.

But wait, how did we end up here to begin with?

The Audience-First Approach to Building a Business

We ended up here because of what we like to call the “audience-first” approach to building a business.

There is a longstanding debate over the best path to building a successful business: should you build a product first or an audience first?

Many online entrepreneurs believe audience first is the way to go. The reasoning goes like this: if you pick a good topic and then blog or podcast about it, a few things will happen:

  • You’ll test whether there is interest in the topic
  • If there is interest, you will start to build an email list
  • If you’re able to build an email list, you can build trust with those people by sending valuable content
  • If you send valuable content to your email list, those people will tell their friends about you
  • If people tell their friends, your audience will continue to grow
  • If your audience grows enough (and they trust you), you can ask them about their problems
  • If you know about their problems, you can make things to solve those problems and then sell those things

The audience-first approach is great in theory, but it can be a bit like the Silicon Valley mentality of “build something popular, then figure out how to make money later.” If that sounds a little bit like, “shoot first ask questions later,” it’s because it is. (Thankfully, some startups actually have real missions.)

That is the problem with audience-first, especially when you miss a key step right in the beginning. It leads to a big ol’ question mark: “How am I supposed to make money again?”

How to Monetize Your Blog or Podcast

Before you ever build a website or publish a blog post (or podcast episode), you should decide what you will sell to your customers. You have five options:

  1. Services – this is what freelancers, coaches, consultants, web designers, and speakers sell. These entrepreneurs use their skills to perform a service for a client.
  2. Information – this is what people sell when they make ebooks, books, courses, webinars, audio programs and more. These entrepreneurs sell their knowledge and expertise by making a product that allows their customers to learn what they know.
  3. Physical things – this is what people sell when they make art, watches, computers, furniture, food, and everything else in the physical world. These entrepreneurs use their skills and knowledge to make a physical thing that their customers will take home with them.
  4. Software – this is what bootstrappers and Silicon Valley startups alike make. These entrepreneurs turn code into tools and platforms their customers can use to be more efficient with their time or have more enjoyable lives.
  5. Eyeballs (or earholes) – yes, eyeballs and earholes are the “product” when a business makes its money from advertising, sponsorships, affiliate marketing, or other similar arrangement. These entrepeneurs create content that attracts as big of an audience as possible and then they sell access to that audience.

This is the part many online entrepreneurs skip when you’re eager to leave your job, earn more money, and give your family more freedom. Gotta love the irony!

Instead of deciding how your business will make money, you build a website, start a blog and hope for the best. “I’ll figure the money part out later,” you say. I did the same thing when I started my first company. It’s more fun to get started and not worry about the hard part.

Unfortunately, skipping the hard part is a bit short-sighted. Like many Silicon Valley startups, there always comes a day when you have to figure out how to make money. That often leads to failed businesses, but it doesn’t have to. That’s why we encourage entrepreneurs to think about how they’ll eventually make money right up front.

Here’s how that process from the beginning of this post should actually look:

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Choose an audience
  3. Choose how you will make money
  4. Start a blog or podcast
  5. Build an audience
  6. Learn about your audience’s problems related to your topic
  7. Use your method for making money to build a product or service that solves one or more audience problem
  8. Sell that thing
  9. Mai-tais on the beach (if you’re lucky)

In other words, why wait until you’ve put in hundreds of hours of work and everything is on the line to ask, “How can I monetize my blog?” It’s too risky to leave it for later when you can tackle the problem head on right now.

Five Easy Takeaways to Monetize Your Blog or Podcast

So, what did we learn?

  1. You can build an audience first or a product first; it’s completely up to you.
  2. Regardless, you should decide what you’ll sell when you start your business instead of putting it off until later.
  3. There are five things you can sell in exchange for money from your customers.
  4. A blog is not a business. It’s a marketing channel. So is a podcast.
  5. Use your blog or podcast as a tool to help your business make money.

How do you monetize a blog? By selling a thing to people who want it. Here’s the kicker: that doesn’t necessarily require a blog, now does it?

If you’re an entrepreneur, the goal is not to start a blog. It’s to build a successful business. The two are not necessarily the same. I’ll bet you’d rather have a thriving business than a popular blog that makes no money.

So, how will you make money in your business? Tell us about it in the comments!




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