Venturing into New York City used to be a daily thing for me, not so long ago. It was strange to be back on the train this week to attend BlogWorld, which is now called New Media Expo (a much better name in my opinion!). I attended BlogWorld to investigate a possible source of income once I’m in Mérida.
BlogWorld had the heavy lifting of replacing the Latin American Bloggers Conference, which was my introduction to the whole Mérida bloggers’ community last year. The New York event, of course, was much less community oriented and guided bloggers toward making their websites commercially relevant, if not completely monetized.
I only got to go the first day of the three-day conference. But it was a full day. How did it go?
On the train, I was wondering how many commuters would still be reading a newspaper, on paper. The Wall Street Journal was the dominant morning read among dead-tree-edition holdovers. Off the train and onto the platform, I immediately headed the wrong direction. Most of the riders on the rear cars, with me, headed to the northwest passage out of Grand Central, so I followed along rather than fighting the throngs.
This took me past Rockefeller Center, where I used to work. The Today Show was still filming on the ground floor. It’s a tourist cluster, and I should have known I was heading toward it, but I was so lost in my thoughts, I was surprised to suddenly come across that building.
At Broadway, I turned left and then right on 46th Street, which soon found me at Restaurant Row. This one-block zone, between 8th and 9th, was never really fashionable, which is precisely why I like it there. It’s the mellow, charming spot that used to be much more commonly found in the 1990s. The mediocre restaurants are still there, including Joe Allen’s, which is a cheap but speedy bistro perfect for pre-theater dining. Don’t Tell Mama’s is producing cabaret in the same spot, but a few new restaurants are also in place, and they’re getting progressively upscale. Also going upscale is 42nd Street’s far west side, which was no-man’s land until lately. The area directly around the Javits Center is still no-man’s land, though. The city’s prime convention space is on the edge of the midtown’s west side, practically in New Jersey. Visitors staying at hotels need shuttle buses, which idle out front. It’s one of the worst convention center situations I’ve seen in this country.
So, on to the show.
The first session I attended was Scott Stratten’s “Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media,” which was hilarious and informative. Pointing to blunders made by hapless companies who take their social strategy only half-way, Stratten drove home the point that social media is about engaging with your community, not collecting huge numbers of “likes” and followers. The community punishes those who don’t monitor their comments, or thoughtlessly fire off headlines and pronouncements with no thought of conversation.
Next was Missy Ward, who has built her career building websites with affiliate ads. She asked for a raise of hands: Who has put affiliate ads on their website, and then given up. I raised mine. “I like you,” she said, pointing right at me and sensing a challenge. She then went on to explain how difficult making money through affiliate advertising really is. We’re lured in by thinking that plopping some banner ads on your website will pay off. What’s really required is building a website around those sites, and writing to build your authority on the given topic. So I signed up Imagine Mérida to be an affiliate for BlogWorld. Will I be writing about BlogWorld again? Maybe. But if you click the link and sign up within 30 days to a future conference, I get a small commission. It would be my first. But this blog isn’t built around the advertising, which goes against this expert advice. I won’t hold my breath for that check.
My background is writing and design, but Missy says you have to be a marketer at heart to succeed in this sphere. I studied copywriting in college, but I’ve never had much of a gift, or inclination, toward marketing or sales. Oh, and she called those Google Adsense links, which I still employ as of this writing, “webmaster welfare.” You could make so much more money with affiliate advertising, she insists, which gives you a percentage of a sale but nothing for clickthroughs. AdSense pays me about a penny or two a click, and in about a year I’ve amassed about $30 in revenue. Which has yet to arrive because I need to reach a threshold of $100 for Google to cut a check.
But then a sign from God! Missy’s young son handed out “golden tickets,” with a one-in-three chance of winning free admission to the Affiliate Summit in August. They’re worth $549, and earlier, I was tempted to go, but was reluctant to pay that kind of fee for something I’m not sure I’m really cut out for. And I won! It will be at the New York Hilton, a place I’ve stayed at many times for other conferences. Midtown in August, yuck. But I’ll be there.
Afterwards came Adam Baker from Man Vs. Debt., on how to “find your sweet spot” when starting a website. Without passion, aptitude and something the public will pay money for, your business idea will fail. Settle for two out of three, you’ll end up burned out, busted or broke. Again, more straight talk about how you don’t build a hobby blog first and expect to make money out of it. Get the business idea going first. Adam seems to be advocating a focus on one big blog that you pour all your energy into. Missy, however, runs about 40 niche sites that are smaller, have a narrow focus (one is on hula hoops) and individually bring in smaller checks. Either would be ideal for an expat with little more than a laptop and a broadband connection.
The final session I attended was from the author of one of my favorite sites, Smart Passive Income. Pat Flynn is under 30, lives in Orange County, Calif., and has a wife, one child and another on the way. He was laid off from an office job about five years ago, and started figuring out niche sites almost immediately. He now makes a good living, and shares his insights on how to do the same. He’s specific, precise and comes off as very caring — he even shook everyone’s hand in the room, and it was a very packed room. Unsurprisingly, he said that sales comes from being a caring, considerate and attentive salesman. Engaging your readers and being generous with your time cultivates trust, which leads to more sales. No get-rich-quick schemes from this speaker, either, although “passive income” is a bit of a misnomer. You need to keep on those comments areas, and leave comments on others’ websites, too, to build your community and reputation. Start running a network of blogs, and you’ve got long days ahead.
Everything I learned and more is somewhere online if you search around. I liked being there, though, meeting people and seeing them in person. I had to return to my day job, and missed out on the other two-thirds of the conference. Bummer. But I bought a “virtual ticket” for videos of everything I missed, and I’ll be back in August for the Affiliate Summit, perhaps with ideas to share again.