Money for Nothing, Clicks for Free: How Facebook Could Finally Make Blogging Profitable

Zuckerberg and co. are about to take on WordPress.

A few months ago, I published a blog post outlining my thoughts on where the concept of ‘blogging’ is heading over the next few years. You didn’t read it? Damn. Well, in that post, I basically said that self-hosted blogs will be replaced by the evolution of social media sites into platforms for new and original written content.

I still stand by what I said in that post. I still think that social media sites — in particular, Facebook — will look to host the content it currently directs its users to, and I do think that this’ll happen sooner rather than later. The thing is, I’ve had a bit of time to dwell on this idea since I wrote it, and I’ve realised something that I didn’t even think about before.

In my last post, I covered how the evolution of social media sites into platforms could lead to a heck of a lot more exposure for bloggers. What I didn’t talk about, though, was how this could — whisper it — mean that some bloggers might actually make a bit of money from blogging.

Spoiler: it’s not looking good for WordPress.

How could this be?

Now, it goes without saying that if a publisher chooses to publish their content on Facebook’s platform, the platform will place some adverts alongside their posts. This is Facebook, after all. By placing ads alongside the content, Facebook will, of course, make some money.

This is where it gets interesting. Facebook’s obviously not going to give the blogger all the money they make from placing ads next to their blog. I’d be very surprised if they let the blogger place their own ads next to (or within) their posts, too. What isn’t unimaginable, though, is that Facebook may offer the blogger — or, perhaps, a large independent publisher — a performance-based financial incentive to migrate their blog to Facebook’s platform.

Facebook could strike a deal with a popular publisher — say, The Line of Best Fit, which averages about two million readers a month ­– to migrate their blog, and all their past and future content, to their hosting platform. In return, The Line of Best Fit would be given a cut — fifteen percent, perhaps — of all the money Facebook makes from placing ads alongside their content.

What’s not to love about more money and wider reach?

This would be a win-win.

For the publisher, it would mean that more people than ever before would be exposed to their content, and therefore their brand.

Facebook’s currently averaging 1.86 billion monthly active users. That is, by anyone’s reckoning, a heck of a lot of people. If even 0.5% of them happened to stumble across one of The Line of Best Fit’s posts — which wouldn’t be unimaginable, if the blog was made prominent on Facebook’s platforms page — it would mean that they would more than quadruple their average monthly readership.

Facebook would also make a hell of a lot of money from this. If we use The Line of Best Fit as an example, we can assume that about two million people a month would therefore visit the new, Facebook-hosted The Line of Best Fit site. These people will all be served advertisements by Facebook; advertisements that they would never have been served if they had been visiting the old, externally-hosted version of The Line of Best Fit. Multiply this by a few hundred thousand blogs’ worth of readership (and subsequent advertising revenues), and you’re beginning to see the start of a pretty big business.

A cut of this money would, as agreed, then be passed on to the publisher. It would benefit both parties, and — when you consider the costs of hosting a widely-read website — make perfect financial sense for a fair few blogs and publications.

It could give some blogs a serious boost.

It wouldn’t be the first time that Facebook have monopolised a market, either.

We’ve already seen this happen with photos. If you ask the average consumer to name a place to view photos on the internet, they’ll almost certainly say Facebook. Nowadays, the likes of Flickr — and other dedicated photo-hosting websites — are reserved for the fanatics and the professionals. It’s beginning to happen with videos, too; any regular Facebook user will have been exposed to the newly-prominent (and, now, newly-monetised) barrage of video content on their Facebook timeline, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that YouTube are starting to get a little worried about this.

Still, this migration to Facebook’s platform wouldn’t be suited to everybody.

It’s true that this probably wouldn’t be an option for the internet’s larger publications, for instance. Sites like The Huffington Post and the New York Times, for example, are certainly big enough to be able to survive on their own, independent, advertising revenue.

For smaller publications, though — music sites like The 405 and Drowned In Sound, for instance — this could be a winning partnership. The blog reaches more people than ever before, and potentially makes more money than they were making previously. In return, Facebook has gained the monopoly over the content of a well-established (and well-read) blog, and one that they can guarantee will bring x-thousand/million people per month (and the subsequent advertising revenue that comes with this) to Facebook’s platform.

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