Carl Barenbrug

Product design, creative direction

A Blog Post Marketplace

This is a response to Manu's post, Adoption Sponsorships.

How can bloggers monetise their content without going down the path of a paywall such as Patreon or premium newsletters? Donations are possible but rely on a small number of very generous people. A blogger definitely isn't going to make a living out of that. You could also consider affiliate linking, which is widely used. Yet, in my experience, it doesn't lead to much income unless you receive an enormous amount of traffic.

Like Manu, I am an advocator of the open web. I don't like the idea of paywalls to access worthwhile writing. So how can bloggers earn money without introducing a wall to readers? The answer is advertising, of course. But what if we saw advertising applied in a low-tech and unobtrusive way?

Let's imagine that you wrote a blog post that is referenced a lot on the web. A blog post that also ranks very highly for some interesting search queries. It wasn't your goal; it just happened. What if you could let someone "adopt" that article and that article alone?

Manu poses a good question here. Instead of site-wide banner ads and animated blocks demanding your attention, we can look to apply an alternative solution that is lightweight, relative, subtle, and benefits both blogger and advertiser. What would that look like?

Let's start with the basics—how it would appear on blog posts. Low-tech can mean many things, but in this instance, like Manu has illustrated, I would suggest a single sentence text-only format. It would comprise a company name, link, and statement supporting the blog post to be read.

So far, this is very simple and not exactly innovative. However, you could take this as a foundation on which to build. Instead of manually reaching out to brands that may or may not be interested in working with you as a blogger, what might be an interesting idea is if there was a blog post marketplace for individual articles to be discovered and sponsored (or adopted). Presented as a listing similar to LessWrong.

As a blogger, you could share a selection of links from your archive that you are prepared to monetise, tagging them appropriately. It might be some of your most-read posts, or it might be something that didn't get much traction when you originally published it. You have an opportunity to attach value and recirculate your writing to be discovered while at the same time being paid by a sponsor.

What might be even more interesting is if this marketplace was created and managed by a community. Maybe it only covers specific topics, maybe there is a review process to accept or deny articles (primarily to weed out harmful material), and maybe each blogger has an opportunity to become a shareholder of the marketplace. A bit like Mirror, but less exclusive.

The marketplace might have a ranking system a bit like Hacker News as a way to spotlight articles. Maybe brands can offer to adopt it at a price set by the blogger. And the adoption period can scale along with a pricing model. Perhaps pricing is based solely on cryptocurrency. These are details, though, and probably don't have a bearing on the overall concept.

Ultimately, the idea might fall apart entirely if brands are not prepared to advertise in a low-tech way. But perhaps with modest advertising comes a reduced cost? It's difficult to say.

In essence, I think it could be interesting to combine low-tech advertising with a discovery tool such as a blog post marketplace. Maybe this could even be integrated with a search engine in some way.

Maybe this is all nonsense, and we should just persevere with affiliate linking and paywalls. However, I think we should be exploring different ways of monetisation without compromising accessibility, reading experience, and a greater return for writers. That is the problem that needs to be solved. This might be one (albeit potentially complex) way to do that.

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