ALT Summit Presentation

So while I was at ALT Summit, I did a panel on the business of blogging with Erin Loechner from Design for Mankind and Liz Gumbinner from Cool Mom Picks and Mom101. I always enjoy presenting, but something about the chemistry with those two girls made this conversation extra engaging for me.

I finally remembered to ask someone to record my presentation, but neglected to bring her a tripod. (Thanks for your forbearance, Kelly.) Here’s a slightly shaky video of my portion of the presentation:

I know a lot of you are bloggers trying to bring in a little income, so here are the main points of our entire presentation — each of us took on four tips.

Beyond the Banner:
A 12-Step Program for Successful Content Campaigns

Erin Loechner from Design for Mankind:

1. Re-invent the wheel.
Creative campaigns are fun and memorable. Consider Jason, who’s renting out his torso at I Wear Your Shirt. What do you have to offer that’s a little offbeat?

2. Test the waters first.
Before you jump into a huge commitment with a single advertiser, put a toe in the water. This way you’ll know more about how your readers will respond, learn how to price yourself through trial and error, and figure out which campaigns make you want to take a nap, and which are fun.

3. Know your professional strengths.
If you’re crappy at project management or staying on top of communications with clients, hire someone to do that for you while you produce content.

4. Less is more.
Erin likes to keep a ratio of 95 percent content to 5 percent sponsored posts. You’ll find your own ratio, but be mindful that you’re giving your readers something of value while you’re paying the rent.

Liz Gumbinner from Cool Mom Picks and Mom101:

5. It’s not all about you.
Think about the sponsor, what are their wants and needs? Let that shape the program you propose.

6. Measure your digital footprint.
Remember that your blog probably isn’t your only online presence. You may have readers on Twitter, Facebook, or even a newsletter. Think of the whole package.

7. Know thyself.
If your gut tells you that an advertiser doesn’t seem like the right fit, say no. Your readers know you, and they’ll obviously be able to tell if you’re promoting something and your heart isn’t in it.

8. Disclose.
No one likes to feel misled. Let your audience know who’s paying you and for what.

And me, Maggie Mason from Mighty Girl:

9. Consider events.
Throw a party for a local boutique, host an event in conjunction with a larger conference, or start a little retreat and build from there. If you enjoy throwing events, they can be a good way to build a tighter community while you grow your business.

10. Remember advertisers are people.
People who want to give you money are not your enemies, so keep the conversation going. If you start to feel adversarial about a proposed campaign, suggest other ways to work with a brand that might be more interesting to you and your readers. Even the largest brand has a team of people behind it, people with faces and families, who care about their product succeeding.

11. Pitch to your passions.
Seek out advertisers to support the content you’re already producing by being smart about how you package it. Can you tell people what your site is about in a single sentence? Is there a memorable narrative in your life story – maybe you’re building a house, starting your life over, becoming a new parent? Focus on that when you approach potential sponsors.

12. Know your worth.
Don’t just look at your daily unique visitors when you’re pricing a campaign. Consider your ability to amplify on Twitter, Facebook, via newsletter. Think about engagement — if you have a small audience of readers who are passionate about a particular subject and will leave lots of comments, that’s valuable to an advertiser. And don’t forget to take your time into account. Your work is probably worth more than you think.

That’s it! Are you trying to figure out how to make your living as a blogger? What did we forget?

19 thoughts on “ALT Summit Presentation

  1. is there a benchmark for number of site visits that a sponsor wants to see first? before I were to approach them I mean? (said the 100% complete novice.)

    thanks for the takeaways!


    1. Sugarleg, it depends on the sponsor. If it’s a small local boutique and you have 100 readers, but all of them are local socialites, that’s a good reach. If it’s Coca-Cola, they’re probably not going to look at you until you have upwards of 5,000 visitors a day, and then they’d want to see that your visitors are really engaged (commenting a lot, etc.)


  2. I think so many people forget this one: “Even the largest brand has a team of people behind it, people with faces and families, who care about their product succeeding.” So right: the big brand isn’t always the ENEMY and it bothers me when bloggers approach them as such. There’s someone sitting at her computer, having a crappy day in a cubicle in that big brand’s headquarters, and (s)he wants to work with you to make the situation a win-win for both of you.


  3. Jane, do a little digging on Google and you’ll find all the information you need and then some on how to build web traffic. Consistency and quality are key, but there’s lots of other stuff you can do, just look around a bit.


  4. Maggie, I must say I was stunned by this talk you gave. First of all, I never realized how many “checks” you are getting for this blog of yours that really doesn’t feel sponsored. I feel a bit deceived, yet think it’s SO funny that you admit you do this for money…that’s it all about the advertising and making money. Finally, truth.

    I know you are very liberally minded. But your stuff about McDonald’s…how you viewed them before and how you KNEW the audience you were talking to do as well…FLOORED me. I mean seriously, you view corporations as evil…in general…yet you are you out to get their “checks” every single day!! I am glad McDonald’s changed your mind. (wish your town would get over itself already with that stupid “ban”). Yes, people who work for huge, mega corporations (like Intel, which pollutes the environment, egads, by making it’s computer chips btw) are real people (eye roll). I’m sorry Maggie, I like your blog, but that bit came off as SO pretentious, it wasn’t even funny. Like REALLY pretentious and condescending. It was uncomfortable to watch in truth.

    I’ve never seen a liberal admit they were wrong about a silly misconceived notion like “corporations are evil.” I have hope.

    Yes, I’m conservative : ).

    Very informative talk. Opened my eyes ALOT about popular blogs and all the backroom deals going on.


  5. Amy J,

    You missed Maggie’s point, and you were snarky in the process.

    I didn’t hear Maggie say that she does this for the money. I heard her talking about getting paid for the things she would be doing anyway, that she would actually do for free. And frankly, anyone who can figure out how to make that happen is a genius in my book!

    I also appreciated the example of bloggers knowing their worth and valuing what they do enough to command appropriate fees for their work.


  6. Amy J, what is so surprising to you about Maggie earning a living blogging full-time? Don’t other people work to “make money.” It’s many people’s dream to be able to do what they love and earn a living wage doing it.

    On the McDonald’s thing, I have to say I was surprised to see McDonald’s as a sponsor for the Summit. It’s not Maggie’s “brand” whereas other big corporations (like Intel) are certainly her brand. I loved the explanation of how the conversation went with McDonald’s. It made perfect sense, and I loved how honest Maggie was about coming around to it.

    Do you think Maggie should only do this for free?


  7. Thanks so much for posting your part of this presentation. I’ve been reading a lot about Alt, but this is the first I’ve gotten to HEAR anything. It was fun to hear your story about working with McDonalds for the Mighty Summit. Way to stick to those standards!

    Oh, and I’m eager to hear more about these upcoming “public versions” of the Mighty Summit!


  8. Maggie, Thank you for your comprehensive points about a subject that I have been researching and pondering lately. I was not able to see the whole video but IMHO your advertising choices are just that,your own. It is engaging content(why can’t we call it writing?)That keeps me coming back to a blog.

    Life is often a series of comprises. I think we all struggle to make our work rewarding enough to be worth our trouble, and well paying enough to compensate for the inconveniences it causes our families.
    Keep wearing those red pants. I loved them.


  9. hi maggie – i loved attending your presentation at alt! I learned SO much that I am anxious to put into practice. thanks for sharing this on your blog as well, for those readers that couldn’t be there. so valuable!


  10. Thanks for making us all look good. Pleasure doing a panel with you — looking forward to the reprise in New Orleans.

    I want you to wear The Dress by the way.


  11. I really enjoyed seeing this – I’d love to see the other two presenters’ points as well if you have that video.

    I think the human factor is something that’s easy to discount until you start working with a lot of brands/companies directly (more than PR reps who I think are still focused too much on “selling”) – the more a brand can get to know you, and you them, the more compelling your story becomes together, and you can humanize the experience. I spent the last 3 years working with brands for the Girl Geek Dinners here in Milan and the events we created grew increasingly relevant and interesting the more time we spent getting to know each other and our mutual goals.


  12. Jumping in a little late in the game here, but I’m just now getting a chance to absorb this. So, so helpful. I haven’t made much progress finding much clarity this side of blogging. I’ve sort of just glossed over it, and this helps me get over the intimidation factor for sure. Thank you for the ah HA! moment.


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