I found trouble a few years ago when I started telling creatives that they didn’t need a self-hosted WordPress blog. How dare I throw blogging under the bus? After all, I’ve been avid since before there even was such a thing as WordPress, and if anyone should be a fan, it should be me.
Traitor! Heathen! Turncoat!
The thing is, times change, and where ten years ago I was all-in on the idea of affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, ads, and creating online courses, I can see that the whole self-hosted blogging industry anymore is a broken little bird that fell from its nest.
The die-hards will tell you that blogging still has a lot of life left, mostly because they have “how-to-get-rich-quick-with-a-blog” courses to sell and a backlog of blog posts telling everyone that it’s possible to get wealthy from blogging.
The only way you will ever make money with a self-hosted blog starting from zero, is if you follow the big guys and sell coaching and courses teaching people how to make money online by teaching people how to make money online.
And even though people are making money from affiliate marketing in 2021, it will soon be in its death throes. The only thing keeping it alive is Amazon, and all Bezos has to do is change one thing for the industry to fail.
Ads suck. Everyone hates them, and no one trusts influencers or a “topic authority” anymore.
But, you can still make money online if you change your tactics a bit.
Embracing the Platforms
Over the past three years, I’ve written and published on all the major blogging platforms. I wouldn’t be much of a blogging expert if I didn’t try everything and give it a chance. I’ve been on Medium, NewsBreak, Substack, Quora, Vocal.Media, Elephant Journal, LinkedIn and a few others that ended up on the wayside.
Of all the platforms, I’ve had the most financial success on Medium and NewsBreak, but over the past month or so, NewsBreak has proven itself to be untrustworthy and I don’t foresee any more big payouts coming from there.
I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into Medium, and although I still cannot count on a set dollar payout from the platform, I do see money, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a month.
I’ve stood by Medium through all the pivots and algorithm changes and I foresee it to be a platform that will continue to be a good stream of income.
It’s all in how much work you are willing to put in.
In the past few months, Ev Williams and crew have been showing that they recognize the people on the platform who have gotten them this far: the indie writers. There have been incentives, minimums, contests, and I predict there will be a rollout soon of a new Partner Program that will implement a much better earning matrix for writers.
The signs are all there, we just have to hope that Ev Williams doesn’t get a wild hair up his ass and go the complete opposite direction.
Why is Medium Great for Blogging?
Medium is great because everything you need to build a personal blog is in the software. Now I say this about desktop, because the mobile app is still quite a clusterfuck, but it is easy enough to ignore mobile for now, at least when it comes to publishing on the platform.
Say you are a writer with an idea for a great new personal blog. You even went out and bought a domain name. Medium has you covered. As a new writer, here is what I suggest you do:
- Sign up to be a Medium Member. This is not necessary to earn money, but you create goodwill in the Medium writer community by adding to the available funds that we have access to.
- Learn the interface and publish a few “stories.” Get the feel for formatting and stats, and start commenting on posts you read by other writers. Start following people you find remarkable.
- Start gathering subscribers and adding email addresses to your list. Add a snippet automatically to your stories that will allow people to subscribe and get an email from you when you publish something new.
- Get 100 followers and join the Medium Partner Program. Start putting your stories behind the paywall and earn money when people read.
- Start a publication (blog) and link your domain name. Now you have the choice between publishing on your own publication and self-publishing. You can also publish with other, bigger publications and build a name for yourself.
- When you have built up a few subscribers, start a newsletter and send out daily, weekly, or monthly newsletters to your fans.
All this is done for you by Medium. All you have to do it set it and forget it.
Now, not only are you earning money from your stories, but you have your own personal blog that someone can access by typing in your domain name.
No, you cannot add affiliate links, and there is a limit to the things that Medium allows you to promote in your stories, but there has to be rules, right?
So why should you take the time and expend the effort learning how to set all this up in WordPress, and pay for hosting, when Medium does it all for you? You won’t miss placing ads or affiliate marketing. That shit is dead anyway, so don’t worry.
Look Out For Quora+
The latest thing I have been doing is blogging on Quora. I’ve done a half-assed job in the past, but that has all changed since they announced Quora+, which is a lot like the Medium Partner Program in that your answers to questions will be placed behind a paywall and you will receive money when people read your replies or posts.
“Rather than paying select creators, subscribers will pay Quora. Then, each subscriber’s payment will be distributed to creators “in proportion to the amount each subscriber is consuming their content, with more of a subscriber’s contribution going to writers and spaces the subscriber follows.” Creators have the option to enable a dynamic paywall on Quora+ content, which would give free users access to certain posts if Quora thinks they’re likely to convert to paid membership; there’s also an “adaptive” paywall option, which uses an algorithm to decide whether to paywall content for a specific user on a case-by-case basis. This is supposed to help creators strike a balance between monetizing their content and growing their audience to find new potential subscribers.”
So far, there is not a way to sign up for Quora + on the website, but the best guess would be that it will start as an invite-only program before rolling out to everyone else.
So, I’ve been upping my game, and answering more questions in my areas of expertise, which right now happen to be blogging, Medium, travel, and web design.
Oh, and donuts.
There is also a program called Quora Spaces, which is a lot like the Medium publications, but one can charge for subscriptions.
Quora has really stepping up it’s game, and will soon be a “power-player with a paywall” along with Medium. To give you an idea why: Medium has somewhere around 60 million registered users, Quora has 600 million. How many of those will become paying members, I wonder?
If you aren’t on Quora yet, it is in your best interest to get started.
Platforms are the Future
There are always going to be those who say you have to have your own piece of the internet, and by that they mean a self-hosted blog, and in some ways I agree, but the future of the web and blogging is with the platforms, and you need to get going learning the ins-and-outs of each – at least Quora and Medium at the minimum.
I see Medium and Quora working together in the future. How easy is it to answer a burning question and at the end of your answer, link to an article you wrote on the subject on Medium? Same way for linking to answers on Quora from a Medium story.
Everything is connected, and if you want to stick with your old, dead self-hosted WordPress blogs, by all means do, just remember, if you want to earn, the money is going into the platforms and you are going to be seeing more and more websites with paywalls.
My best advice is to step up to the platforms and learn to roll with the punches. The platforms have their rules and algorithms and much of the time you will be at their mercy. But, in the long run, you will be financially rewarded and that is why it’s time to get on board right now.