Two of my favorite blogs are worlds apart in terms of branding and profitability. The first, a blog entitled Hyperbole and a Half, neither displays advertisements nor offers a way to make donations to the site. The author, when asked why she did not use ads said (in the FAQ section of the site):
“I had ads for a while too, but it didn’t work out. I kind of like not having advertisements for the same reason I like not having a donation button. I don’t want to subject you guys to a bunch of ads just so I can make more money (not that sites with ads are bad, I just don’t feel comfortable with it). I feel that having advertisements on my page creates a sort of weirdness about my motivation for writing. I think some people feel used when a site they enjoy is plastered with ads, and I don’t want to make you guys feel like that. I’m more comfortable having just the one little button for my store. It feels less intrusive and it lets people choose whether they want to support me or not.”
In fact, the only way the site appears to bring in any sort of revenue is through its Store, which offers different items of merchandise bearing the author’s most popular drawings. One of my personal favorites:
note the time of this post’s publication….actually, please don’t
The author of Hyperbole and a Half falls into the larger percentage of bloggers who, as Jill Rettberg states in Chapter 6 of Blogging, do not trouble themselves with ads either because they consider their blogging to be more of a hobby or because, as in this case, they believe it detracts from the personal connection they wish to achieve with their readers.
The second blog of sorts I frequent is Cracked.com, a semi-educational comedy website composed of videos and articles pertaining to pretty much every topic imaginable. I say “blog of sorts” because, while much of the site’s posts come from about 20 paid columnists, a good majority come from its readers. The site offers anyone who is “passionate, creative, and respectful of the other writers” the chance to submit articles which will then be considered by the site’s editors. While the selection process is demanding (as readers are warned on the Write for Us landing page), if chosen, articles are featured for millions to see and writers are given monetary compensation.
One such writer, author of the blog, Hyperbole and Dynamite, chronicled his experience writing for Cracked in a post entitled The Reality of Writing for Cracked.com. The writer, who we’ll refer to as Apozem, submitted an article which was, after several rewrites, featured on the front page of the site. Apozem was thrilled by the traffic his work received, stating, “At one point I actually got 200,000 hits within the span of a single bathroom break.” Cracked.com certainly falls into the “commercial blog” Rettberg describes, and Apozem breaks down the site’s means of income:
“The site itself is elegantly designed, offering readers the chance to spread the Cracked message on Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Reddit. When you finish an article, you’re immediately offered the chance to read another one. One of my friends admitted to staying up for six hours reading endless nature articles on Cracked. The format constantly pushes you to read more and more, and it works. As a whole, Cracked.com got 573,098,203 total hits. In four months. That’s over half a billion, or more hits than The Onion, FunnyorDie, and CollegeHumor, combined. That kind of traffic translates into serious profits. It’s unknown how much the site makes from advertising, but their parent company Demand Media is certainly rolling in cash.”
Apozem attests that it is through the use of freelance writers such as himself that Cracked manages to maintain its consistent publication. Through this (and the sheer hilarity and high quality of its material), the cite has garnered remarkable credibility. Hyperbole and a Half, on the other hand, lacks such consistency since all posts come from a single author whose life naturally dictates when posts may be written and published. (Before writing this, I had not visited Hyperbole and a Half for quite some time as it seemed the author had permanently stopped posting new material. When I returned today, I was pleasantly surprised to see a new post in which the author explained her absence, admitting to readers that she was slowly recovering from a long period of depression – a recuperation accelerated hugely by her epiphanic interaction with a piece of corn she found under her refrigerator.) While Hyperbole and a Half is extremely different from Cracked.com, both sites create a strong sense of affinity between readers and readers and authors, and I believe that’s why I, as well as many others, love them so much. That and they’re just downright hilarious.