Monday, December 5, 2016

Moentizing Your Blog - An Update

Google Adsense has a user interface only a Mother could love...

After a month on Google Adsense, an update.   First, the estimated $80 a month income turned out to be $140 the first month.   Hardly enough to live on, to be sure, but more than I expected.

Getting that money, of course, turns out to be tricky.   You have to verify your address by typing in a code number from a postal card mailed to your house.  You have to set up a W-9 with your social security number.  And you have to verify your bank account either by giving them your username and password (!!!) or by entering in some small deposit numbers they make to your account.  It works well enough, but navigating the pages is anything but easy - large red warnings appear, but when you click on them, nothing happens.   You sort of have to stumble around the menus until you find the right page - and the same page never seems to appear twice!  If you try to log into Adsense by searching for it on Google, it takes you only to a sign-up page.   It seems the only way I can get into my account is by using a link from an e-mail they send me, and we all know the pitfalls of clicking on links in e-mails.

But I presume once it is set up, it will automatically credit my checking account.  We'll see.

The interesting thing to me is to see how this works and also get a greater understanding of why we see content on the Internet that we do see.   Since with little effort you can set up a blog, a youtube channel, or a website and then link it to one of these advertisement companies, you can make a lot of money by putting up content on the Internet, if you tried.  Sadly, I am lazy.

The problem with this model is multifold.   First, you start writing content based on how many hits you will get.   So instead of writing what you want to write about, you write to the audience (which any good writer is supposed to do, if you took courses in writing - know your audience!  Write to the audience!).   But a blog, as originally conceived, was more like a diary - where the writer wrote what they wanted to write about, not what someone else wanted to hear.

Second, this ad model is one reason we have sites like Breitbart.   You recall the recent "contravasy" (as the Brits pronounce it) about advertisers pulling their ads from Breitbart.  They didn't want their brand name associated with odious content.   But odious content sells - it is what people like, either to wallow in it or to say, "Gee, that is really messed up".   Either way, people click or watch.    But there is a fine line here.  The reader may want to wallow in fake news about a pizza shop that Hillary is using to traffic children (really? People actually believe this shit?) but there reaches a point where "at long last, have you no shame?" and advertising on such a site becomes a dirty halo.    At least for some.  Nissan doesn't seem to give a shit.  And quite frankly, the Breitbarts of the world end up winning, at least for a while.   We'll see if the net sales of corn flakes drop or not.

Third is garbage content.   If you can make $100 a month from a blog, why not put up ten blogs?  Or a 100 blogs?   It isn't hard to do.  You just get people from third world countries to type up bland and poorly-worded content about topical subjects that seem to get a lot of hits on the Internet.   For example, write a bland and inoffensive screed about car leasing.  "Leasing a car is a good way to afford more car!" and that sort of nonsense.    Don't go into any details of course, you only have ten minutes to write the whole entry.

The content is basicaly useless - it provides no real information or helpful tips.   Next, spoof the Google search engine so your hits come out on top, and pretty soon, you're getting lots of hits and checks from Google, without a lot of work.   If that doesn't work, just cut-and-paste someone else's content and create a fake blog from that.   A bot could be programmed to do this, monetize, and then disappear before someone reports the theft to Google.

And yes, this has happened to me - I find articles I have written cut-and-pasted (badly!) on some Indian website that is hoping to make a couple of Rupees from sidebar ads.

The upside of monetizing a blog is that it allows an individual writer to make money from their writings.  The promise of the Internet is that it can allow an author to sell a book on Amazon without having to find a "publisher".   It allows a garage band to advertise themselves and sell their music on iTunes without having to sign with a "label".   It allows people to make things and sell them online without having to find a "distributor."  It allows people to sell unwanted possessions without having to go through a "middleman." It allows people to create without the filter of editors, publishing companies, record companies, retailers and the like.   It has so much potential for good, and yet much of this potential is not realized.

And the reason is that people want to game the system rather than work it.   So you create crap content and hope to get clicks, or pretend to sell things on eBay and then never deliver.   Or create incendiary content and sell your country down the toilet for some click-dollars.  Or just try to con people out of money by offering them a great deal on a car you don't own.   You can work the system and make some small amount of money, or you can scam the system and make huge amounts.

It is not a healthy system.   In the past, those editors, retailers, music companies, publishers, and other middle-men did act as a brake on the system, to some extent, even as they throttled competition and perhaps overlooked opportunities.   If you wanted to publish a "Breitbart" type newspaper or magazine back in the day, you would have to self-fund it, and it would only circulate to a mailing list of right-wing nutjobs.   Mainstream publishers would shy away from such content, as it would offend a majority of readers, and since you had to publish what most people wanted to hear (again, writing to your audience) you tend to avoid extremism.

Similarly, as a retailer, you would not want to get involved in fraudulent transactions as you could be sued or sent to jail - there is little that is anonymous about a store front.  And as a legitimate retailer, you would be one of the first to call for cracking down on fraudulent outfits.  The old system might have been more restrictive, but it was self-policing.

Of course, there were drawbacks to the old ways.  Publishers might censor books or refuse to publish "obscene" content.   Record producers and movie studios were the same way - even coming up with their  own methods of self-policing of movies and explicit lyrics through a rating system.  They wanted to protect their industries and their audiences, and of course, their bottom line.

All of this has changed, in part due to societal changes, but also due to the wide-open nature of the Internet.   If you want to watch the most bizarre porn, you can, online.  If you want to watch ISIS beheading videos, in gory detail, you can, online.  If you want to organize a terror attack, you can, online.   There is very little in the way of filtering going on.

But once again, I digress.   This just occurred to me as I chased after $140 on the Internet.   You could make some good coin at this, if you were smart and ambitious (two things I am lacking in).   You could set up a site and attract members.  Have a catchy name, like "the money beard" or something.  Have your readers call themselves "beardians" or whatever.   Build it up, get lots of members, lots of readers, lots of commenters (who will generate lots of hits and return often!), and who knows?  Before long you might have  a book, a show on CNN Money, and product endorsements for Buick and Sea Ray!

Hey, it worked for the Sooze.   It could work for you!

Or you could be one of these young kids who is "Driving a motorhome to see America and blogging about it!"   There are zillions of these clowns around.  They get "sponsors" to provide goods, cash, and maybe even the big motorhome.  You then set up your blog and YouTube channel and watch the money roll in.  The secret, of course, is not to do something stupid like deface national monuments and end up losing it all.

But a lot of people are doing this.   Year before last we met a kid on a bicycle in Zion National Park who was "bicycling across America" and blogging.  He also had a deal set up with some cable channel.  He was sort of amazed we didn't know who he was, being cable-famous and all.   I explained to him we didn't watch television.   From talking to him, it seemed his manufactured fame was starting to unravel already, as he said his bike was stolen and the sponsor was being a dick about replacing it - and the other sponsors were upset he wasn't traveling and blogging lately.   I guess it is like a merry-go-round you can't get off.

And we've seen more than one RV with a full-body wrap advertising their blog or youtube channel of their great adventure across America.   In Lubec, Maine, we saw a couple with an annoying small dog in an Airstream, completely wrapped with a jumbo picture of said annoying dog with the caption, "Follow us and Fluffy as we dream across America!"  

But the web is clogged with such folks - bicycling to here, motorcycling to there, sailing up and down the ICW or to the Bahamas, or wherever.   Everyone is off on a grand adventure and blogging about it!  No one, it seems, is actually doing this stuff because they enjoy it.   Still others are just getting killed as the law of probability catches up with their bicycle on busy roads, or they do something stupid like "Blog my way through Mexico by Motorcycle!"  (Been there, done that, by motorhome.  It was dangerous enough in 2002, today it would be suicide).

"It's been done" as they say.   I am not sure how you could make a buck at this sort of thing today with the field so crowded.   You'd have to have a really good gimmick, or be willing to sell yourself as a "personality" online.  The thought of that just exhausts me.

And that is the sad part, is that it comes down to making a buck, not just doing things for enjoyment.   I like traveling by RV.  I think I would despise it if it became a job that required me to make funny and witty videos every day, documenting everything to try to generate click revenue - while prominently mentioning the names of my sponsors!

I guess that is the other downside of the Internet - it has turned us all into actors and showmen, selling ourselves, either through a carefully groomed Facebook page, or through online videos, blogs and websites.

We can't just be ourselves anymore, we each have to be a character and a brand.