Can You Make Money Blogging?

The answer to that questions is of course you can. I still love Howard using that question to announce the sale of Wallstrip. And that also points out that blogging pays its dividends a bit less directly than straight publishing. Sure you can run ads on a blog, as I do, but if you want to make big money, you have to use your blog to do something else.

First and foremost you need to build an audience, build trust with them, deliver on a regular basis for them. There’s no way people are going to come back again and again if your blog doesn’t enlighten, entertain, and inform.

Jason Calacanis has expertly used his blog to launch two businesses to date, Weblogs and Mahalo. If you click on over to Jason’s blog, you’ll see a picture of our friend Jeff Jarvis, who used his blog to build a very profitable "guru" business. Jeff is also launching several new ventures and I hope and expect he’ll use his blog to help launch them.

Which naturally leads me to the venture capital business. I stumbled into blogging as a tool to help me, my partners, and our portfolio companies make money. The model works great. There are a bunch of venture capital blogs out there these days and many are great reads. Everyone knows of my fondness for Brad Feld’s blog. But you might not know that I read Susan Wu and David Beisel regularly. Susan and David are two super sharp up and comers in the VC business whose opinions I have come to respect by reading their blogs.

Which leads me to this post by Donna Bogatin taking a shot my occasional shilling for my portfolio companies. I don’t think Donna likes Twitter based on my read of her posts on the subject. That’s not surprising. There are certainly plenty of people who have a strong dislike for Twitter. I take comfort in that in a contrarian sort of way.

Shilling for portfolio companies is one of the things I do on this blog. My readers know that. We try to avoid that on the USV blog. We reserve that for think pieces, announcements about new investments, liquidity transactions, and an occasional bit of important news about one of our companies.

But I don’t just shill for our portfolio companies. I’ve shilled for YouTube, Flickr, and recently new companies like disqus and search crystal. If I like it, I’ll talk about it. It shouldn’t surprise you  that I like the companies we invest in a lot and I’ll talk about them a lot.

It’s also true that you have to balance that kind of post with other posts. If it’s something you do occasionally, it’s not a bad thing. If you do it too much, you’ll hear about it from your readers and/or they’ll simply leave. I am sure that many readers have left this blog over the years because they were tired of hearing about delicious or TACODA. That’s the risk of shilling for your portfolio company.

But if you have a well read blog, you’ve got an advantage, just like Jason’s, in launching and building a company. My post on Twitter’s new features led to posts at TechCrunch and Donna’s blog among others. We see a lot of entrepreneurs who want to tap into that. It’s a competitive advantage. It’s not going to win us a deal over any other firm all by itself. We have to do a lot of things right to win a deal, including prove to be compatible with the founder and team, pay the right price, and do our homework on the company well. At the margin, the exposure this blog can give a startup company helps quite a bit. And once the investment is won, it continues to help.

So in the venture business blogging helps. Sometimes it helps a lot. It did with delicious and I expect it will as well with Twitter.

And back to Twitter. I don’t know Donna. But if she was in East Hampton last night, and if she used Twitter, we might have been able to meet after the movie. That would have been neat. She’s got a great blog.