The finances of blogging

A while ago when Tankspot was acquired by Zam (in some kind of transaction which is still unclear to me), I wrote a blog post about the economics of WoW sites. Tobold did too.

One thing I have wanted to do since then is find out how much money pwnwear could make from advertising. I had said that you cannot make money easily off WoW, and you are far better off looking for some other way to make money. That still remains true, and here I’ll give you some hard facts to hopefully convince people that really they should drop any delusional beliefs that you can get rich from WoW blogging or site. I won’t lecture you on the economics of the internet, and the power of the network effect, or first-mover advantage, but they’re worth knowing if you want to try to be an internet entrepreneur.

Context: the traffic at pwnwear

To put the income and costs into perspective, here are some facts.

This site is the highest-traffic DK site on the internet.

  • EJ’s DK tank thread alone got 334K views in October 2010.
  • Pwnwear got 511K in the same period.

Consider’s DPS posts got about 3x the traffic in the same period (992K hits), which makes sense, since there are more deeps than tanks, and also tanks read the DPS threads for off-spec.

In a normal month pwnwear get 10 to 15k pageviews. October had the massive burst traffic for 4.0.1 and went up to 41K in a day.

This is crucial to bear in mind when you read the next section on income: most new blogs get 100 hits a day (not thousands) and a successful one is getting 1K hits a day.

My stats are publicly available at quantcast if you want to know about unique visitors instead of pageviews (since that’s a more useful stat).

Income

Because I have no interest in making money from my gaming hobby, but have a genuine desire to help people and provide a community, I have been disclosing all my income and expenses at pwnwear since April this year. I just posted October’s report.

I get sponsors and just recently allowed advertising. I will earn about $1 a day in normal traffic periods, and earned a little more than that during the 4.0.1 burst. I earned $1.37 yesterday.

I get one or two sponsors a month, sometimes none. That’s all in the management reports.

Server costs

When your traffic is as high as mine, you are unlikely to survive on a shared host, you need something more serious. A great shared host like liquidweb (affiliate link) costs $15 a month. Totemspot use them on my recommendation. They’re great, but that’s more expensive than a budget host.

Shared hosts have a CPU limit which you will hit before your traffic/bandwidth limit. Forums use a lot of CPU, and WordPress can too. As you site grows, your CPU usage does too, and eventually your shared host provider will suspend your website and require that you upgrade to a virtual private server or something similar. That’s what I’ve got (read my long review of LiquidWeb if you’re interested in a managed service).

I’m paying $95 a month for a managed service (they provide engineering support). I could spend $70 a month if I was confident with Linux and system administration, and pay even less still with linode if I was quite good at it. Bear that in mind. If you’re a webmaster like me (know HTML/ CSS/ forums/ WordPress) but not a Linux geek, you have less options.

Also, if you really watch your CPU usage, you could survive on a shared host for a lot longer than I did, and then your income of $30 a month from ads vs costs of $15 would result in profit… so you could buy one pizza per month with that earning.

3. Not profit

So my costs outweigh the income. If I had lower server costs because I was geeky, I’d break-even. However, I don’t think I could get sponsors if I was trying to make a profit. That would mean less sponsorship income, and the gap between income and cost would appear again.

Big networks like Zam and Curse run on a different economic model, because of staffing costs being shared across multiple estates and higher advertising revenue. Getting to that scale though is a massive jump from any old WoW blog site, and is not one that people should hope for in their dreams of internet fortunes. Be realistic.

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7 comments to The finances of blogging

  • I’m glad you wrote about this because I’ve been considering it lately.  I have a small blog, with a small readership.  I also have a small blog budget.  I don’t wanna do ads, because… uh… they clash with my pretty theme.
    So the few times I’ve been linked by wow insider (2? 3?) I’ve been elated followed by OH CRAP!  There are definite financial advantages to being less popular.  I want people to read via feedreader so they don’t come to the site and nomnom my bandwidth :) unless they’re gonna comment.

  • Neuter

    So.  If I wanted to ‘sponsor’, to help out, how would I go about that?   And if I funded your expenses outright?  Just curious.

  • Dave

    Well I used to work for a website (not own, work for) that had roughly half a million page views a day, and according to Website Outlook they earned roughly $1,400 a day in ad revenue.  Well I sure as hell wish I made that much, but guess what… Website Outlook had the numbers right.
    According to them, you should be able to make about $11/day. Which is plenty to cover the cost of running the site and even pocket a couple hundred each month.
    Take a look…
    http://www.websiteoutlook.com/www.pwnwear.com
    So I think you should research doing your ads and such a bit… it might pay off. ;)

  • Chev

    I was amazed at how small the ad revenue is. A ‘sponsor pwnwear and keep it ad-free’ campaign may help drive sponsorships and keep the karma circulating.

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