Review: Money for Content and Your Clicks For Free
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Published: 26 Feb 2008
Abstract
In this article, Steve reviews JD Frazer's (User Friendly Cartoonist) book on turning web sites, blogs, and podcasts into cash. The book includes a lot of useful knowledge for any developer/bloggers seeking to earn some income from their online writing.
by Steven Smith
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Overview

"Money for Content and Your Clicks for Free" is by cartoonist JD Frazer, aka Iliad, author of the popular computer geek cartoon series, User Friendly. Right away, this should tell you that this book is not going to be boring to read and dry like many advertising and economics books can be.  What is more, JD Frazer had direct experience building up an online community site driven by content (his cartoons, in this case) with sufficient revenues to earn himself a living. In this book, he shares some of his tips for earning money from web sites, blogs, and podcasts. And each chapter begins with a User Friendly cartoon - how cool is that?

The book is organized into ten chapters and an appendix. The first chapter explains the importance of content - if you do not have it, then everything else is academic. You need good, preferably original (and never fake or stolen) content. The first chapter also has some good information on syndicates.

Chapter 2 is my favorite chapter in the book, and is now required reading at Lake Quincy Media.  It explains "The Advertising Game" better than I could myself, and I have been playing that game for a decade. Seriously, if you are going to be selling ads on your web site or blog, you should buy this book if only for this chapter.

Chapters 3 and 4 discuss building up membership for your site, and deciding whether or not it is worthwhile to cordon off part of your content for members or premium members. These are important decisions, and the author does a good job of covering many of the concerns, pros, and cons involved. At the end of the day, the decisions comes down to weighing increased reach (more users) with less revenue per user (free content) with limited reach (members only) with more revenue per user (subscriber feeds).

One area that I have not done nearly enough with in my own web properties is branding and merchandising, and this is the subject of Chapter 5. The main goal of this chapter is to educate the reader on the value of building a brand, and how to use a strong brand to improve revenues.

That covers the first half of the book, which for me was the better half. In it I learned about creating content through various means, earning money from advertising and/or from subscribers, and how to build up my brand to increase both paid and free visitors. The second half of the book goes into somewhat less fun topics, like protecting your intellectual property and things to worry about when you start to get famous. While not quite as cool to the budding Internet entrepreneur, this is the part of the book that you need to read to help soften your enthusiasm a bit and give you a realistic idea of some of the things that can go wrong with your online empire.

Chapter 6 discusses the key differences between a business's consumers and a community, and how to build community for your business. Of course, some of the key considerations for community building include deciding how open to make it (in terms of membership) and how to handle disputes. Many online communities, including several mailing lists I am on, are restricted to a limited audience.  Others, including many other lists and forums I am on, are open to anyone. Each has its place and its unique challenges for keeping the culture and flow of ideas going.

Chapters 7 and 8 discuss the ethics of creating versus consuming content, and how to protect your content. It covers copyrights and trademarks, the Creative Commons, and attempts to classify online content consumers into four profiles: Thief, Naïve, Policeman, and Citizen.

Chapter 9 goes into a discussion of how to react to popularity and fame, including both the pros and cons of having it. The author does a good job of covering many of the perks that can come with fame, as well as the many disadvantages. The chapter wraps up with some tips on how to handle criticism of your creation.

Chapter 10 is another keeper in my book. Its title is "Ready, Fire, Aim!" and that as much as anything can make for a good Mission Statement for an Internet company with a good idea behind it. It is also another way of describing the Agile Programming methodology, through which software is written quickly and shown to users (long before it would be considered "done") who provide the feedback needed to adjust the software and get it closer to its target. Although the chapter's title might make you think it is all about why "Fire, Aim!" is better than "Aim, Fire!" that is hardly the case. That point is made earlier in the book and this chapter's task is to provide you with what you need to "Fire!" - to get started with your online content business. It includes a simple checklist of the things you need to do to simply get started, from writing your content and a privacy policy to building a media kit and getting some ad sales. This last chapter walks you through the steps you need to start earning money from your content.

 

I actually read this book almost two years ago. It has taken me quite a while to find the time to write this review, but I am glad I took the time now to do so, as it has given me an opportunity to revisit the book. In the meantime, I have sent a few emails back and forth to the author, and found him to be responsive, which is cool since he is a famous celebrity (see Chapter 9).  Seriously, this was a very quick (and fun!) read, inexpensive, and still valuable two years later.  I strongly recommend it (assuming you are trying to make money from content).


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