This is a guest post from Anita Campbell, well known to bloggers as the CEO behind the recent Small Business Trends BizBookAwards, the small business advice community BizSugar and the blogging community BloggerTone.
Back in the day, I used to be a corporate executive. People often ask, “Why did you leave that world to become an online publisher?” My answer is usually something like “I wanted to be my own boss and run my own business.”
That’s perfectly true, and like many online entrepreneurs, I love what I do and wouldn’t change it.
But I saw something this week that made me realize that my daily activities are not nearly as glamorous or relaxed or stress free as some might assume. Certainly, I don’t have to deal with office politics. I don’t have nearly as many time wasters (er, lengthy reports and standing meetings).
But what I thought I would be doing as an Internet publisher, and what I actually do – are two different things. And what people think Internet publishers do, and what we actually do, are REALLY different. I created this image with the inspiration of the “What I really do” meme to describe it:
You see, my neighbors think I sit around, drink coffee and surf the Web all day. And in a way, I do. Although… it’s not nearly as random as they might think. I have to stop myself from just aimlessly reading anything interesting that I stumble upon – because there’s always something interesting. I’d never get the important things done. Instead I have had to discipline myself to bookmark articles and sites to read later, so I can stay focused on my business goals.
The world seems to think that publishing Internet blogs is done by people who wear fuzzy bunny slippers and take a lax approach. That is not me. I dress everyday, because I feel more businesslike that way. And this is a business, not a hobby. I treat it as a business. Now I don’t dress up in a suit or skirt – I can dress in a more relaxed manner if I will be in the office all day and not going out. But I definitely get dressed.
Newbies who have just recently started an online publishing business may think it’s about passive income and spending all afternoon at the beach. While I have been known to sneak away to the beach now and then, it’s much rarer than you may think. Why? Because publishing content-focused Internet sites is not passive income. There are some websites that can lead to passive income, but it’s not blogs and magazine sites. It takes active involvement to keep content fresh. And if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the more fresh original content you publish, the more your site will grow over time. Why? It means more pages that people will share on social networks, and your brand has more chances to spread. More content means more pageviews to monetize in the near term. It also leads to more long-tail search traffic as those additional pages get indexed in the search engines. Running blogs and content sites is not about sticking up an RSS autofeed. Creating original content and even dealing with guest bloggers takes time and effort. But content accumulates over time and it will pay off.
PR firms and marketing representatives sometimes think we are an extension of them and will work for free. Now, don’t get me wrong — I actually welcome getting press releases and news tips from PR reps. After all, writing about real news is part of our job. But that’s different from people wanting to get your site involved in holding product giveaways or conducting surveys, without compensation. In the beginning you may need to blog for swag just to grow your audience. But after a certain point, when your site starts to grow, be conscious of the value of the audience you’ve built. Make sure that you are TRULY getting valuable marketing exposure for participating, and not just being taken advantage of. We still do a lot of co-marketing arrangements and giveaways, but we evaluate them more carefully now. And we are much more likely to say yes to helping out other entrepreneurs, than to huge brands that can afford to pay for advertising.
Then there’s what I like to think I do on my best days. I like to think it’s about having fun and networking with others, and providing a great resource. And I suppose that’s true much of the time.
But more often than not, what I REALLY do is … a lot of in-depth work (sometimes boring) to meet business goals. I set goals for the business and my team. I work with the team to implement the steps to meet those goals. Then I closely evaluate the metrics to see how we are doing and whether we need to adjust our efforts. For instance, I can tell you exactly how much it costs us to create an article (including our overhead, salaries, etc.). And I can tell you how many pageviews we need to get from an article in the first 30 days to break even, before we make a profit.
Do you set goals? And do you measure them? If you don’t I strongly advise you to start. It’s how most of us will grow our businesses, and get them to the next level and the next after that. Because if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you ever get there?
Please share what YOU have learned about Internet publishing in the comments. And good luck!