BLOGGING, MONETIZING | June 1, 2012

Monetizing a Blog in Canada: It is Not Like in the USA!

I will start with a little background about why I decided to talk about this. Last week , I went to Toronto to attend BlogPodium where the topic was “The Business of Blogging”.

We heard the keynote speaker Nicole Balch of Making It Lovely talking about how she makes money from her blog. Nicole is an established design blogger who lives in a Chicago suburb. Her blog is her livelihood.  Then, it was the turn of a Canadian panel composed of  bloggers Christine Dovey  of Bijou and Boheme and Lindsay Stephenson of Little House Blog , and PR professionals Laura Muirhead of Tribal DDB and Cheryl Kozoriz of GlucksteinHome. The panel was moderated by the excellent Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault.

There has been a lot of talk about how difficult it is for Canadian bloggers to earn a living from their blog. It’s true! And I will like to explore why in this post. First, I want to make something clear. Even in the United States, only a fraction of bloggers earn a living by running a blog.  Sadly for you, blogging is one of these industries where money comes with hard work. On these words, let’s go back to what is happening in Canada.

I agree that we are behind in Canada. They are  — and probably will always be — fewer opportunities for a blogger to make money in Canada. The first rule for making money is to ask for it. If you are serious about making money, my first suggestion is that you write down a fee schedule that you can use as a basis for when you will need to negotiate a campaign.

Hobby versus Business

There is a different marketing/business mentality in the States than in Canada. The difference doesn’t stop at the brand side. Many people in the blogging community struggle with the idea of making money with blogging. I heard people who work at Canadian agencies saying that they have a hard time to find bloggers or influencers who accept to participate in paid content. This debate seems to be more a thing of the past in the States.  As long as the blogger limits the number of (clearly identified) sponsored content and continue to provide lots of meaningful editorial, the readers seem OK with that.

I will add that the fee that you get must be high enough to justify a blogger’s participation in any kind of sponsored activities. US brands started to pay bloggers for sponsored posts at lot sooner than the Canadian brands. As Jennifer commented on this post by Lindsay, US sponsored posts run in thousands of dollars. It took more time for bloggers to be recognized as influencers in Canada.  That might explain the price difference. But if Canadian brands want to get awareness from bloggers, I think that they need to increase their social media budget.

Some brands are starting to acknowledge this fact. I noticed higher budgets being allocated, even at PR agencies. Typically, the ad agencies have the big budget campaigns. Building relationships with ad agencies requires a lot of efforts and having access to good contacts. Your blog will then compete not just with other bloggers but with the printed magazines, their online presences and the various portals. It is not easy to get your piece of the pie. Obviously, you need to attract a large numbers of followers before ad agencies consider you. There are not many blogs in Canada who can qualify.

For most bloggers, the best option remains to talk to PR agencies. One benefit is that it will often be the PR agency that approaches you.

Be Creative in Your Offer

A crucial point that Nicole Balch mentioned in her talk was the need to tailor her proposals when she pitches brands. Your offer needs to stand out and you must convince the brands that you will bring value if you want a brand to pay more money. As I said earlier, selling your brand and getting profitable contracts require a lot of time and efforts. And then, you must do the job.

Take for exemple, the Cool Whip sponsored posts on Making It Lovely. Her stories involve a photo shoot and Nicole either designs an event or creates a DIY project. The work that is required to create these original content posts justifies the higher fee that she gets. Naturally, the fact that the US brands usually set bigger social media budgets means that she can propose more elaborate campaigns.

A Sale Team is a Must-Have

Regardless of where you are located, the biggest monetization challenge for bloggers remains how to assemble a sale team. Bloggers who live from their blog in the US and in Canada (they are a few) are all working full-time at their blog and have managed to set up effective sale channels (whether in house and/or through belonging to an ad network).

I will continue to explore the various facets of monetizing a blog. Stay tuned! For the moment, what do you think about my positions?

+ photo credits: Mango Studios

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3 Responses to “Monetizing a Blog in Canada: It is Not Like in the USA!”

  1. Hi Kim…very interesting article, thank you. I’d like to just add that as an online retailer in Canada and the U.S., I’ve noticed that Canadians are much slower at taking up online purchasing. When my business first launched four years ago, the U.S. sales started flowing in. It was the exact opposite of what I had proposed in my business plan. I thought Canadians would flock to an online opportunity, but that was not the case. I have had to work many times harder to build up my Canadian customer base, and I think it is because Canadians are still somewhat suspicious of online transactions. It’s getting better, but I’ve still got a long way to go on the Canadian side of the border. So overall, I think we’re just much slower than the U.S. to “risk” and it impacts all areas of online activity, including blogging.

  2. You made an excellent observation, Jennifer. I was on an ecommerce panel a couple of weeks ago at WebCom Montreal. All panelists (that included 2 Canadian etailers) agree with what you said. This is why educating the public, the brands and the suppliers are so important. Good luck with your business.

  3. Hi Kim,

    Great article. You covered a lot of ground.

    Another pair of factors are population/market density, and proximity.

    A reasonable advertiser will only sign up a publisher (what professional bloggers really are) if they feel that that publisher’s content and audience overlap with their own. In Canada our lack of proximity (we are simply too far from the geographical centres of the larger markets in North America). The internet crosses borders, but most of the big advertising spenders are American corporations and they will reasonably prefer to promote through American publishers.

    Market density is another issue. Canada has a population of about 34 million. The State of California alone as a population of about 37.6 million. Larger consumer markets support larger numbers of retailers and manufacturers who in turn support more advertisers and publishers.

    Culture certainly has a lot to do with the current lack of support for professional bloggers in Canada, but the numbers have at least as much to do with it.

    It would be interesting to see per capita numbers for some of the stats too. Are Canadians really more conservative than our American counterparts? Or are there just fewer of us?

    Just some further food for thought after a really thoughtful article. The bottom line you point out is so true: blogging in Canada is nothing like blogging in the US if you are trying to do it for a living.