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Timing is everything, they say.
I had long waited to write this particular article. I knew the moment had finally come after I read the following article in the Financial Times: “Substack’s success shows readers have had enough of polarised media“.
It wasn’t the article itself, though, but the comments underneath it that triggered me into writing this lengthy brain dump of ideas for aspiring bloggers, authors, and other content creators.
The most liked comment – by a multiple! – started with:
“I’m certainly considering dropping my FT subscription (over $60/month!) and increase my allocation to some of the more credible and unbiased writers in Substack.“
Substack, in case you didn’t know, is a platform that allows anyone and everyone to create their own publication and charge for subscriptions.
Think about how remarkable this is. Subscribers of the FT had a go at the newspaper by mass-liking a comment about switching to the publications of some unknown people on the Internet. It’s a clear sign of what’s afoot in the media industry.
Indeed, the mainstream media have arrived at a watershed moment. I had already thought as much a few weeks earlier in an instance involving the BBC.
A TV production company had asked me to locate new residents of Sark to interview for a BBC documentary. Take a guess how many of those 100+ people wanted to speak to the BBC? Not a single one. Z-e-r-o. One person who I asked personally declined with a reply that anyone who knows something about British politeness will recognise as a devastating put-down: “I’m not the biggest fan of mainstream TV.“
Compare that to the olden days, when people would have jumped at the opportunity to appear on mainstream television.
People don’t want to waste their money on subscribing to mainstream media anymore. They don’t even want to get free PR from mainstream media anymore – remarkable!
I had seen this coming for years. As far back as 2017, I expected much of the mainstream media to go into a tailspin. My prediction that ever-more people were going to desert mainstream media was one reason why I decided to set up two blogs myself (the other one is www.undervalued-shares.com and deals with investments). I sensed a massive opportunity. Not that many people would have agreed with me at the time. Even just these short four years ago, if you bat for alternative media, you were a nutcase (at best).
The switch away from mainstream media is now happening at an astonishing rate, and that’s a tremendous opportunity for anyone who can offer alternative forms of content on the Internet. There is a growing audience out there looking for new information products and they are willing to pay for it, whether it’s written material, videos, or other forms of content.
Building a multi-million media operation from a kitchen table (or sofa) will become a common occurrence during the 2020s, and you could be part of it.
Increasingly, people ask for my advice on how to create their own content business. That’s why in July 2020, I published “My top 10 rules for building a blog“. The article distilled much of my experience in the sector, and it has proven popular.
Today’s article is building on that with more insights and ideas but always geared towards the headline’s promise. Yes, I do think you can build a USD 100m blog. Building a multi-million media operation from a kitchen table (or sofa) will become a common occurrence during the 2020s, and you could be part of it. You might even succeed with building a USD 1bn blog, although these will remain rarefied. In any case, the massive unfolding shift in media consumption is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Now indeed is the time to get going and build a blog or another content business. (For better readability, I use the term “blog” to describe any regularly updated site that is owned and operated by an individual).
Today’s article is based on the notes and material I have collected since publishing the last article about the subject. The article is free in the true sense of the word, i.e. there won’t even be any effort to sell you anything. There are no courses to sign up for, no eBooks to purchase, and no masterclasses to book. I just want other bloggers and content creators to be more successful.
It does come with a few disclaimers, though.
What this article can and cannot deliver
I will be the first to admit that today’s article comes with a few inherent weaknesses.
Given the personal interest I have in blogging, I come across VAST amounts of material that’s potentially relevant for other bloggers. Nine months after writing the first such missive, I had a mountain of material to go through and consider.
Frankly, I could have easily written a book instead of an article.
I didn’t have quite that much time available, though. I am too busy building the more commercially attractive parts of my two blog operations, so there is limited time for dishing out free advice. Still, I wanted to share these thoughts and materials.
Before sitting down to write this article, I set myself three rules:
- I gave myself 48h to produce the article. Easter Sunday 2021 was set aside to have one day of uninterrupted time for writing, and Easter Monday was for polishing the resulting article. This is the best I can to deliver to you within the time constraints I had to work with.
- Knowing how my readers are at very different stages of developing their blogs and have different needs, I wanted to make it an eclectic mixture. Of the 15 tips below, you’ll probably find only five or eight are helpful for you – but these five or eight should be really valuable!
- I wanted the time invested in this article to take care of one selfish need. I regularly get emailed for advice, and it has already been extremely helpful for me that I can refer to my July 2020 article. I wanted the second article to answer other questions that I frequently hear so that in the future, I have to spend less time replying individually to such emails.
With that in mind, don’t take this article as a complete instruction manual for creating a successful blogging operation. It’s just one man’s opinion and a selection of points that you may find useful. Ideally, you should read it concurrently with my other article on this subject and also make use of the various other websites that the article points you towards.
Shall we start?
In the spirit of the article’s introduction, I made a conscious decision on what to put into point #1 and why I’d make that the most extensive one. It’s all about the “TMA”, the total addressable market – and that is getting bigger by the day.
#1: Mainstream media are driving readers towards blogs – accelerated by wokeism
Journalists and the news media used to be referred to as the fourth estate. It kept the other three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial) in check, and that was appreciated as necessary for the functioning of democracy.
Today, few people believe the media are still playing that role.
E.g., when politicians launch unprecedented multi-trillion debt financings, uncritical mainstream journalists describe it as “stimulus” rather than call it out for what it is – irresponsible debt orgies that are selling future generations down the river. Ordinary people can see through it because in their world, taking on debt means having to repay it later and with interest on top of it. Much of the drivel spread by mainstream media outlets has become similar to the “propaganda of success” you can read about in history books covering the dying days of communist regimes. Many journalists involved with defending the work of the establishment have lowered themselves to a system-supportive propaganda function.
The sector’s credibility is none the better for it.
The single-best statistics about the resulting developments come from the US because that’s where in-depth stats have been recorded the longest. Generally, trends elsewhere mimic those measured in the US, which is why US-based stats are usually useful to non-Americans, too.
Gallup has kept track of America’s confidence in various institutions for decades, and in most cases, from 1973 until today. The analytics company’s recent annual assessment was headlined “Americans Remain Distrustful of Mass Media“.
There are nuances and variations to each statistic, e.g. there is a divide along party lines. However, Gallup’s conclusion could not have been clearer:
“Americans’ confidence in the media to report the news fairly, accurately and fully has been persistently low for over a decade and shows no signs of improving.“
For a more globally-orientated overview of statistics, check the “Digital News Report 2020” published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
According to the data, trust in news in the UK is among the lowest in the world. As the report puts it: “Even the most trusted brands like the BBC are seen by many as pushing or supressing agendas.“
Is it just pushing and suppressing agendas, though? A growing number of consumers feel that establishment journalists moved up a level and have effectively banned acknowledgement of physical reality.
Many mainstream media outlets are increasingly becoming synonymous with journalists telling us that men can menstruate and that math problems are racist. These are mere examples of the bizarro-world reality that a growing number of mainstream journalists now live in, and you will surely know of other examples. Their reality no longer matches the reality of most citizens. There is an extraordinary gap, and each time you think that you have seen the peak of this insanity, it keeps getting wilder still. It’s all the more remarkable given how much effort many of these outlets still expend on portraying themselves as objective observers of reality and neutral arbiters of truth.
The root cause is easily identified. Most mainstream media outlets have given in to the cult of political correctness. The result is a strange world where the deranged are given free rein to project their delusions on the masses. It is a world built on ideas and premises that have no basis in reality and which are diametrically opposed to natural law, logic, and reason. Facts would threaten these fantasies. Those who don’t pretend to see it are called names or discarded as unworthy plebs. Anyone who points out what they are doing gets keelhauled through cancelling, demonetising, shadow-banning and other techniques.
Of course, I am speaking of the church of woke, of which many mainstream media outlets are now the high priests. It’s the compliant following of wokery that has pushed the BBC to a point where they can be likened to the Jevoha’s Witnesses of Broadcasting. They believe that the rest of us are non-believers who need to be converted, educated, and enlightened to their deranged values and all that nonsense they believe in.
A few years ago, these developments upset me. Today, I see them as a tremendous opportunity.
More than ever before, there is a need for alternative media. It’s increasingly down to alternative journalists, many of them without conventional credentials, to report on reality. Call them citizen journalists, independent authors or whatever you like – the key is that they aren’t part of the establishment and can write without restraints.
Most mainstream journalists and media outfits have closely tied their careers and financial success to that of career politicians – and vice versa. They need each other and have no way out of their current mode of operating. Mainstream media writing about career politicians is now predominantly a system where untalented rich people cover other untalented rich people in a broken system they don’t recognise as abnormal – because they benefit from it, and it’s all they know.
More than ever before, there is a need for alternative media.
Someone who is not inside (and dependent on) this system has a world of opportunity in front of them. They can mock the political correctness and gleefully poke holes in the massive hot-air balloon that is woke society. There is a large and growing audience hungry for someone doing just that. I know because I wrote one article specifically geared towards just that, and it has become the most-read article in my 30 years of writing – see point #13.
You can even do this in areas where you wouldn’t immediately expect it – for example, finance.
In the world of woke finance, money is a construct. It can be created from thin air thanks to the Magic Money Tree (aka Modern Monetary Theory). In the fantasy world of the wokerati, human beings don’t anymore value the now more highly than the future. They view it as normal that interest rates are at zero or negative – even though this was never the case (on a global scale) during the first 5,000 years of financial history. Ignoring history and human nature, the high priests of woke finance claim that rewarding debtors and punishing savers through negative interest rates is normal and here to stay.
Of course, it’s not, and it won’t. The reckoning will come, and just about everyone knows it. History books will laugh about those who fell for this nonsense.
Here is your opportunity to produce content that looks at the world from angles that much of the mainstream media are too afraid to pursue or not incentivised to do (or, more likely, both).
It has never been easier to build a successful, lucrative one-man media operation.
The author of the no. 1 most liked comment underneath that Financial Times article succinctly summarised the illness that mainstream media are suffering from: “I believe that the virus of “political correctness”/identity politics is starting to contaminate the ranks of this medium.“
When previously serious publications leave the realms of reality and stray into fantasy worlds, you end up with subscribers looking for alternatives. Readers don’t want to be treated like children and morons, and they do realise that much of what the mainstream media nowadays present as facts is simply made-up guff. Younger readers, in particular, are far smarter than this. Millennials and Gen-Z’ers will drive entirely new media sectors as a result of all this.
These changes in market demand and consumption patterns are your golden opportunity!
The bar for being more useful than mainstream media is ever so low these days. Reporting reality will suffice, you really don’t need to do anything else. It has never been easier to build a successful, lucrative one-man media operation.
Or as Mark Pack said in the opening of his 2020 book “Bad news: What the headlines don’t tell us“:
“I used to read a newspaper every day. Now that I don’t, I’m better informed.“
So, go on and create that Substack! Report reality. Don’t let political correctness, wokery and other bouts of insanity take your publication hostage.
As you can see from the much-liked comment underneath the FT article, simply doing that is a major step towards attracting a paying audience. Your competition is so busy pushing deranged fantasies that the market is yours for the taking.
#2: You can now have someone help you locate your niche
Are you at a loss what your blog or content business should be about?
You don’t even need to come up with your own ideas anymore. There is now a service that identifies and researches unoccupied and underexploited niches that content creators can launch themselves into.
The team at Nichewit spend hours researching and uncovering profitable niches ripe with opportunity. They package analysis and insights into a weekly email exclusively for their subscribers so that they can build a successful niche website. The niches they uncover are not exclusively for bloggers and content creators, but many of them are.
E.g., check out their free report about opportunities involving the subject of “milk”. As they concluded to their own surprise: “I wasn’t able to find a single niche site dedicated to just milk.“
The Internet is still in its infancy, and there is an almost infinite number of unoccupied niches waiting to be discovered and exploited. Nichewit can help you with it, if only by giving you the right mindset to find a niche yourself.
Their weekly newsletter is FREE. With such resources available on the Internet, what is your excuse for not starting to plan your own blog today?
#3: Access to business intelligence
You can now get unprecedented levels of help in building your blog. Other successful bloggers and content creators are increasingly willing to publish information about the inner workings of their business, which you can use to inform your own plans.
Morning Brew is a famous example of someone successfully building a blog. It was started by two 26-year olds just six years ago and recently sold for a cool USD 75m to Insider, the business website.
Stacked Marketer is a daily free newsletter that I cannot recommend highly enough. It recently published an in-depth analysis of what made Morning Brew so successful. Getting the entire deep-dive requires a subscription that comes at USD 99 a month, but you can cancel the subscription within 24h if you don’t find it valuable.
Also, Stacked Marketer makes a lot of information available about itself by publishing an annual report. This report is also a terrific free resource for anyone who wants to learn how to build a blog as a business.
When it comes to being able to learn from others in their trade, bloggers and content creators never before had it so good.
As the content creator economy grows, there’ll be ever more such information available, much of it for free. When it comes to being able to learn from others in their trade, bloggers and content creators never before had it so good.
Seriously, if you are making excuses about how hard it is to join the party, then I have zero sympathies for you. You are living at the best of times ever to start your publication.
#4: Use a new understanding of the network effect to your advantage
In economics, “network effect” describes the phenomenon that the value of a good or service increases if there are other users with compatible products.
The prime example is the telephone. If there were only one telephone in the world, it would be useless. If 10% of the population have a telephone, it becomes more useful – but it reaches its maximum effect if everyone has a phone.
In the past, the network effect was often simplified and focussed on the size of the network.
1,000,000 users of a network – great! 10,000 users of a network – not so great.
Increasingly, there is a more nuanced understanding of the network effect, and this more thoughtful interpretation of the phenomenon can guide your thinking on creating your blog.
More nuanced analysis shows that you can benefit from a tremendous network effect even if you have a small number of users/readers/followers. It is down to the quality of their engagement rather than just their quantity.
A decade ago, Wired editor Kevin Kelly wrote a seminal article about “1,000 true fans“. He predicted that large numbers of people could make a living off their creations by finding just 1,000 true fans who pay them USD 100 per year (for a total annual income of USD 100,000). The article has been doing the rounds ever since, and I recommend you read it.
It’s not necessarily about the number of followers you accumulate, but how much revenue you generate from your most ardent fans.
In the meantime, it has become clear that you can push this point even further.
100 fans may be all you need. That is 100 fans who pay you USD 1,000 each.
The digital economy has grown and evolved. Among other things, content creators nowadays have a much broader set of tools available to engage their audience, and the audience is more willing to pay top dollars for great content.
Ten years after Kelly’s article, it has become a lot easier to work towards 100 fans that pay you USD 1,000 each.
Nota bene, I am not saying it’s easy. However, it’s easier than it used to be.
For more inspiration, read “1,000 fans? Try 100!” by Li Jin of Andreessen Horowitz.
This development is almost akin to turning the traditional understanding of the network effect on its head. It’s not necessarily about the number of followers you accumulate, but how much revenue you generate from your most ardent fans. Keep that in mind when planning your blog.
I can confirm from my own experience that focussing on your super-users is a very worthwhile endeavour indeed.
#5: You have more content creator tools available to you than anyone before
The content creator economy is just over a decade old, but there are already 50m people around the world who consider themselves content creators.
If you become one of them, you will benefit from the fast-growing number of tools specifically aimed at helping content creators do business.
A few examples that you may not have heard about yet include:
- Superpeer is a platform for experts and creators to sell one-on-one video calls to their followers. Aka “OnlyFans for brains”.
- Streamlabs is a streaming platform for creators to go live in minutes, not hours. It helps creators monetize with tips and sponsor banners.
- Buy Me a Coffee is a tool to turn fans into financial supporters. At last count, it already had 300,000 creators on it.
- SendFox is an email marketing software that specifically targets content creators.
- Circle is a platform to help creators grow and manage niche communities.
- Disciple is a community platform for musicians to interact with fans.
- ZeBRAND helps you to build your brand.
- Artgrid for stock video footage.
- Kapwing is a SaaS tool for editing images, videos, and GIFs.
- VEED is also for video editing.
- Wavve turns podcast content into shareable video clips so that podcasters can quickly repurpose episodes into a format more suited for social media.
- Mighty Networks allows brands to build free or paid online communities, within which they can host events and run courses.
To give credit where credit is due, I nicked this list off a members-only email from Exploding Topics, a website dedicated to identifying rapidly growing topics before they take off. If you are into trendspotting, this is another website you absolutely should check out. They also have a free newsletter.
Still confused about where to start? Then read this excellent article “How to start your own blog from scratch” by Camille Cordova at the Writing Cooperative.
#6: Blogs allow you to achieve incremental progress 365 days a year
In most businesses, you depend on other peoples’ availability during office hours or limiting factors such as shop opening times. If a colleague doesn’t work on Sunday or if shop opening times require you to close down for a bank holiday weekend, it slows down the growth and the success of your business.
Not so in blogging and other forms of content creating.
If you create content that is of interest to a global audience, your product can be in demand 365 days a year and 24 hours each day. Equally important, you will be free to work on producing content every single day at literally any time you wish. You may not have access to your video editor on a Sunday, and I am not suggesting you publish something every day. However, nothing will stop you from working on content every day of the year, if only by contemplating content ideas during a walk on Saturday afternoon.
Presumably, since you are looking at ideas for an online business, you are keen to grow a business fast.
If you do something every day instead of sticking to conventions about workdays and holidays, you have 30% more days available to you in a year. On many of these days, you will face fewer interruptions, so you can probably achieve 50% more in a year if you operate a business where your progress doesn’t depend on the availability of others (just as I wrote this article over the Easter holidays).
Imagine letting this advantage compound over a few years.
If you are a bit puzzled by this point, you should order a copy of the book “The Joys of Compounding” by Gautam Baid. It will change your perspective and open up an entirely new way of looking at your life.
Baid also writes about how reaching financial independence changes everything because it enables you to look at reality in a truly unbiased manner. However, you won’t get there without working for it. By putting in some work every day, you’ll experience the magic of compounding and financial independence earlier in life.
Blogging and content creation are a business that enables you to get there faster if you wish.
That makes it one hell of a good business to be in. Unless you are looking for a 9-to-5 situation (or believe that a 4h work week will make you successful), it’s vastly superior to most of the businesses that exist in the physical world and where conventions followed by others will hold you back.
#7: Blogging does not require wasting much time on (physical) meetings
This point will be controversial and not necessarily apply to everyone and every situation, but it’s worth pointing out.
We have just gone through a year of Zoom meetings and restrictions on meeting up in person. Many predict that working from home is here to stay. I am, in many ways, not a fan of meeting through Zoom rather than in person. Meeting in person allows you a different form of building personal relationships, which can be extremely valuable personally and professionally. Besides, it’s part of what makes us human.
Nevertheless, meetings suck in time. Dressing up, going to a meeting destination, doing small talk, having to attend post-meeting lunches and dinners… It’s often not very efficient.
If you play your cards right, you can generally build a blog without (m)any physical meetings. Most people in the blogging and content creation industry will be highly apt at working by email or other electronic messaging. Meetings will generally be low on their agenda. As far as efficiency is concerned, it’s ideal if you can find people to work with who don’t require you to get onto the phone all the time and who do meetings very selectively. It saves you so much time and allows you to work on communication at your own pace rather than let others interrupt your workflow.
Looking back at my past three years of building two blogs, I did have some physical meetings along the way. However, these were far and few, and I could have done it with almost no meetings at all had I wanted to. My two blogs are as close to the efficiency nirvana as anyone can be (and in line with that, their metrics are off the charts).
That leaves me with a bigger part of the day for creating content, which helps me grow my blogs faster. It also leaves me with the option to spend time outside of work largely whenever I want.
You may think of this as a slightly odd point, and different situations do require different means of communication and collaboration. However, given how many people still call useless meetings or require a phone call for something that can be put into an email of two sentences, its too important an advantage not to include it. If you run a content business, you are much more likely to work with hyper-efficient colleagues than, for example, if you work with people in large corporations. Ignore this inconvenient fact at your peril.
#8: Running a blog (almost) tax-free means you double your income
If you live in the so-called developed part of the world, you will probably spend anywhere from 30% to 60% of your time working for someone else. Chances are, it’ll be nearer to the upper end of this range, even though most people either don’t realise it or don’t want to admit.
I wrote extensively about the subject in my 3-part blog series about your “lifetime tax bill“, which some readers have described as a mind-bending and life-changing series of articles.
Blogs and other forms of content creation businesses are usually portable. You can take them with you to any destination in the world.
Why not legally base yourself in a jurisdiction where the overall tax burden is low? There are dozens of jurisdictions you could move to and legally pay between 2% and 20% of your income in tax, instead of the 30% to 60% that most other people are stuck with. Many of them also allow you to cut down on admin, which is another valuable advantage since it saves time and enables you to focus on what matters (or stick your feet in the sand on the nearest beach).
Such a move can be akin to doubling your net income overnight and without taking any risks. If you choose wisely, you’ll also improve other aspects of your quality of life, such as getting more sunshine (if that’s what you are looking for).
The need to relocate to a tax-efficient jurisdiction is another point that many don’t want to hear about because they are afraid of making changes in their life. Fair enough if you simply have a strong preference for living in a jurisdiction that requires you to pay unreasonably high taxes – it’s a choice to make. All I can say is (again), ignore this point at your peril.
#9: There are new safe havens for bloggers, such as Poland
Just as there are new companies vying to appeal to bloggers and content creators, so are some countries – whether advertently or not.
If you absolutely must use social media, consider a base in Poland.
The country has announced the introduction of laws to protect free speech on the Internet. Its prime minister promised in January 2021 that “everything which is not forbidden is allowed” (to post on social media). Evidently, the country has learned a lesson about censorship during communism. With much of the West currently moving to ever-increasing censorship of social media and other platforms, this is a relevant point to include.
I am not saying that Poland has perfect media laws (it hasn’t), or that it’s the single best choice of a country to move to (it isn’t). The point is, with growing pushback against some of the insane freedom-restricting policies implemented in Western Europe and the US, there’ll be more and more jurisdictions offering an alternative.
If it also happens to offer you the right lifestyle and lower taxes, why not consider it? As they say, go where you are treated best!
#10: Turn yourself into a one-person TV channel
Much as I tend to speak of blogs, the opportunity stretches across multiple other forms of content creation. As I said before, whenever I refer to a blog, I mean any content-producing website that is operated by an individual.
Turning yourself into a one-person TV channel deserves a special mentioning.
If you wanted to study a real-life case to see what is possible in this regard, look no further than Tim Pool’s Timcast. Pool is a former Bernie Sanders-activist who has become a political commentator who believes the old left/right categorisation doesn’t work anymore. He is doing multimedia journalism in a completely new way, mixing factual reporting with commentary and breaking exclusive own stories. In essence, he does what once took an entire cable news agency!
You could say that a dude with an iPhone is now running a global media channel.
He also provides an antidote to the self-important, antagonistic journalists that the mainstream media are populated with. Do you fancy consuming TV media that are essentially the opposite of the infamous interview style of the insufferable Cathy Newman at the UK’s Channel 4? Then Timcast is for you! Pool is talking to interested and intelligent people in a way that normal human beings would speak to.
Pool has attracted 1m YouTube subscribers, and his following across multiple platforms gives him more active users than many TV stations – probably including CNN. He rose to fame as a 25-year old when his on-the-ground reporting from the Occupy Wall Street movement got 200m (!) views. You could say that a dude with an iPhone is now running a global media channel. Some channels try to deride him as “right-wing”, which is what inevitably happens to you once you become more successful than members of the class of anointed “journalists”. As I always say, you haven’t worked hard enough on your content if there isn’t someone calling you right-wing in a misguided effort to denounce your work.
If you are willing to spend USD 10 on the members-only part of Tim’s channel, I highly recommend watching his 1 April 2021 episode: “Michael Malice And Tim Pool Talk Secret To Success And How We Are WINNING“. It’s outstandingly interesting for any content creator. It also has Tim mention that he wants to build his media company to USD 1bn – need I say more?
#11: Guerrilla journalism will come back in fashion
The Western world now has more restrictions on reporting than at any time since the end of the Second World War.
Much of this ongoing war against transparency and journalism started during the Obama administration. David Sanger, the New York Times national security correspondent, once told the Colombia Journalism Review: “This is the most closed, control freak administration I’ve ever covered.“
The New York Times summarised the Obama administration’s assaults on media freedom: “It’s turning out to be the administration of unprecedented secrecy and of unprecedented attacks on a free press.” One particularly upsetting Obama scandal involved his administration spying on a journalist, following which the New York Times published an opinion piece: “Only Nixon Harmed a Free Press More“.
PJ Media provided an excellent overview of the Obama administration’s trail of destruction in “The Top Five Ways Obama Attacked the Free Press“.
Even the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers had to step in and protest against the Obama administration’s attacks on journalism. Up to that point, such criticism would have usually been reserved for tinpot dictatorships in Third World countries.
Many joke that Joe Biden’s administration is, in actuality, Obama’s third term. There is a lot of truth to it, as this article by NPR gets across: “What Most Biden Picks Have In Common: Time In Obama Administration“.
Following the change in government in the US, the Obama administration’s monstrous attitude towards journalism seems set for a comeback. Quite probably, it will be even worse, given the strong presence of the radical left in O’Biden’s (sic) administration.
Which is an excellent opportunity for anyone who wants to leave their mark as a journalist and create content that the public will be hungry for.
In the current environment, landing a viral success with your content can be as simple as visiting places that your government doesn’t want you to visit and using your iPhone to film. Case in point, the Biden administration’s recent efforts to prevent filming at the facilities for children that illegally cross into the sovereign territory of the United States. The US government does not want the now-infamous Biden Cages to be filmed, not the least since they were recently filled with 1,500% of the number of children that the cages were built for (during corona pandemic times, no less). The Biden administration’s efforts to prevent even a Congressman from filming the state of affairs were exemplary of the new reign of news suppression sweeping America. (Check this video of the incident – it’s shocking footage, so viewer discretion is advised.)
The situation provides a multitude of opportunities for independent content creators. Bloggers to the border, to report the sad reality!
It’s just an example, and there’ll be endless similar opportunities out there given the degree to which mainstream media journalists derelicted their duties and instead colluded with the subjects they were supposed to critically report on.
#12: Running a solo corporation is easier (and more lucrative) than ever
In the old days, becoming an entrepreneur usually meant having to set up a company with multiple employees. Barriers to entry were high and expensive.
We are now witnessing the opposite trend, and it will play right into the hands of bloggers and other content creators.
“The Creator Economy … unlocks massive human potential. … We are on an inexorable march towards individuals mattering more than institutions. We’re on the precipice of a creative explosion, fueled by putting power, and the ability to generate wealth, in the hands of the people. Armed with powerful technical and financial tools, individuals will be able to launch and scale increasingly complex projects and businesses.
Within two decades, we will have multiple trillion-plus dollar publicly traded entities with just one full-time employee, the founder. That sounds bold, but it’s kind of already happened: as of last week, Bitcoin, which has no employees, crossed the $1 trillion mark.
I think that the Passion Economy broadly will continue to expand beyond media and entertainment and that we’ll see more and more companies — some small, some big; some permanent, some temporary — that do all of the things that companies do today, with one person. That doesn’t mean we’ll all be sitting in our basements, alone, growing rich and unhappy; to the contrary, I think we’ll see the continued rise of collectives and communities, some lifelong and some project-specific and Meeting. Some of us might even choose to work together.
People follow people, not companies, but companies have long had the advantage because of all of the coordination it takes to build scaled products. As a result, they capture a disproportionate share of the projects. Even Creator Economy platforms like Substack and TikTok treat creators themselves as commoditized supply. While people are making great livings through their work, which is a great step, I think the confluence of the Passion Economy, DeFi, and NFTs will mean that the creators themselves will capture the lions’ share of the profits.“
The other must-read article about this development is “The Passion Economy and the Future of Work” by Li Jin of Andreessen Horrowitz:
“The top-earning writer on the paid newsletter platform Substack earns more than $500,000 a year from reader subscriptions. The top content creator on Podia, a platform for video courses and digital memberships, makes more than $100,000 a month. And teachers across the US are bringing in thousands of dollars a month teaching live, virtual classes on Outschool and Juni Learning. These stories are indicative of a larger trend: call it the “creator stack” or the “enterprization of consumer.” Whereas previously, the biggest online labor marketplaces flattened the individuality of workers, new platforms allow anyone to monetize unique skills. Gig work isn’t going anywhere—but there are now more ways to capitalize on creativity. Users can now build audiences at scale and turn their passions into livelihoods, whether that’s playing video games or producing video content. This has huge implications for entrepreneurship and what we’ll think of as a “job” in the future.
New digital platforms enable people to earn a livelihood in a way that highlights their individuality. These platforms give providers greater ability to build customer relationships, increased support in growing their businesses, and better tools for differentiating themselves from the competition. In the process, they’re fueling a new model of internet-powered entrepreneurship. It’s akin to the dynamic between Amazon—the standardized, mass-produced monolith—and the indie-focused Shopify, which allows users to form direct relationships with customers. That shift is already evident in marketplaces for physical products; it’s now extending into services. These new platforms share a few commonalities: They’re accessible to everyone, not only existing businesses and professionals. They view individuality as a feature, not a bug They focus on digital products and virtual services. They provide holistic tools to grow and operate a business They open doors to new forms of work.“
To which there is nothing further to add.
Running a company around the idea of an individual is more feasible than ever, and possibly even the best way of running a company given the speed of decision-making it enables.
#13: The Internet rewards real creativity (and forget about “focus”)
This section is a call to action, first and foremost.
I get a lot of emails from bloggers who ask me about “focus”. They feel that unless their blog focusses on a particular subject, it will never be successful.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
You should treat your blog as a place where to explore your creativity. Don’t let conventions limit what you do and how you do it.
Follow the example of David Perell, whose incredibly successful blog does not have a focus at all. As he describes it, he is in his exploratory phase, and that involves exploring subjects that are genuinely off-the-beaten-path. Did this eclectic approach to picking topics stop his blog from becoming an insanely profitable seven-digit operation? Not at all. Perell letting his creative mind off the leash was probably what enabled his blog to become so successful. It made him stand out from the crowd. Remember, being boring and conventional is the ONE grave mistake you have to avoid – being a bit colourful and occasionally being a bit out of line is much better, even if it sometimes goes wrong.
Given his own experience, Perell goes a step further and encourages all content creators to create wonky content:
“Patrick O’Shaughnessy runs one of the largest investing podcasts in the world. When I ask my friends why they religiously listen to every episode, they say: “There’s nothing else like it on the Internet.” His podcast, Invest like the Best, explores the business world with a level of wonkiness that MBA programs don’t even sniff. …
As the show has grown, the episodes have become wonkier. They now go so far into the details that a casual observer would say: “Nobody’s interested in that.” And yet, the wonkiest episodes tend to be the most popular ones. As Patrick says: “On the internet, … the more wonky and niche you are, the bigger your audience is. I think the internet rewards the edges of distributions, and I just happened to be really interested in one of those edges, which was deep, wonky business and investing discussions.“
Wonky people have an enthusiastic interest in the specialized details of their domain. They ignore the social incentives that shame people for having unique interests. Wonkiness is the opposite of how you’re trained in school, where you’re taught to follow the syllabus and repeat exactly what the teacher said in the exact way they said it.
Wonkiness is an algorithm for fresh ideas. It’s how you liberate yourself from the handcuffs of precedent and in our oversocialized world, it’s increasingly rare.
Once you get wonky, you’ll have a combination of ideas nobody’s ever seen before.“
You should treat your blog as a place where to explore your creativity. Don’t let conventions limit what you do and how you do it.
I did something similar once when writing a lengthy article: “10 reasons not to date woke women (if you want to be successful in life)“.
Was I a trained expert in dating? No.
Did my blog’s business model revolve around dating? No.
Was I passionate about exploring if I could construct a unique argument involving experiences from my rather mixed dating life? You bet!
It became the single most successful article I have ever written, and by a multiple. The numbers of readers it attracts every month (despite being 13 months old) is off the scale. If you google “woke women”, you’ll see me come up as #1 search result.
What was in it for me?
Well, if you want to learn about the value of having an eclectic background and a broad set of interests, look no further than Joe Rogan. The world’s no. 1 podcaster recently sold his business for USD 100m to Spotify, and he is primarily famous for one thing. He has had such a varied career and continues to have so broad a set of interests that he does not fit into any established category. His unusually comprehensive set of experiences allow him to make connections across multiple disciplines, which makes him an extraordinarily good host. Rogan is a Jack of all Trades and a master of none. This particular approach is widely seen as the key to his innovation and genius. Entirely against conventional wisdom, it has made him one of the world’s highest-earning content creators.
Other interesting resources in this context are:
“The Golden Age of Art and Creativity” by Howard Lindzon.
“10 rules for writing thought-provoking articles” by Darius Foroux.
“5 ways to monetise your mind” by Michael Thompson.
#14: Next-generation finance companies will let you weaponise your revenue
This section will probably be for a later phase of developing your blog. If anything, it can provide a great goal to work towards.
Recurring revenue streams can be securitised, which means someone will give you cash upfront in exchange for your future revenue streams. The model for doing so isn’t new at all. Debt factoring and securitising income streams have been around forever. What’s new is that bloggers and content creators can make use of it.
A financial services company that has started to make waves among more established bloggers is Pipe. The Miami-based company offers you cash upfront in exchange for your recurring subscription revenue.
If you have subscription-based revenue of more than USD 1m p.a., you can sell future revenue to Pipe and get cash today.
Why would you want to do so?
You can use the financing mechanism to raise cash for investing in your business or invest in anything else you like. You can even blow it on hookers. It doesn’t matter. Investors will buy your future revenue if it secures them an annual return of 8% to 15%. That’s the discount at which you can sell your future revenue once you have built a sizeable and stable operation.
The rough formula for determining how much cash upfront you can receive is to divide your annual recurring revenue (ARR) by three. Your ARR figure needs to account for average cancellation rates. If you have an ARR of USD 1m, you can get USD 333,000 paid into your account tomorrow by making an agreement with Pipe.
Pipe has first-class backers, and it already raised USD 1bn from hedge funds to scale up its financing activities. This is a real business and a real opportunity for content creators who have secured recurring revenue but want more cash in their account today.
I will leave this point short because it won’t apply to many of my readers yet. View it as a goal!
You can educate yourself about it by visiting the following websites:
16 March 2021, Financial Times: “Pipe dreams of turning recurring revenues into an asset class“.
12 March 2021, Net Interest: “From Bowie Bonds to Pipe: Financing Recurring Revenue“.
Or, of course, visit the company website itself: www.pipe.com
There is probably a whole separate article (or book) waiting to be written about financial tools that can help bloggers and content creators.
E.g., do you have a website to sell? Try Flippa, a tool to help you find out the value of your online business. It’s “free” (you hand over data), and you get the results in just two minutes. The tool compares your inputs with Flippa’s own sales data and historical index to create an estimated valuation for any website or app.
Also, content creators should soon have a bank dedicated to their needs. Juno in Sweden is aiming to launch a full-service bank for entrepreneurs operating on the Internet, which covers e-commerce, content creation and related areas. Their service hasn’t launched yet, but a beta test is available, and they have raised serious seed funding. Watch this space!
#15: USD 100m blogs are becoming common – so why miss out?
You may still wonder about the premise of the headline. Can you really make USD 100m building a blog?
Actually, successful blogs worth that order of magnitude have already started to become more common.
Case in point, the recent sale of Morning Brew to Insider for USD 75m. The blog was started by two students who have now cashed out before even hitting 30 years of age.
I already told you about the success story of Boring Money in an article on my own website. That blog was worth “only” USD 10m at its last point of valuation, but who’d sniff at that?
A case that will soon make a lot more headlines is that of PensionBee. The platform helps British savers manage their pensions, and its success is also down to blogging and content creation. I know because I had dinner with both of the company’s founders in early 2019.
Notably, PensionBee’s success was due to them writing about subjects that were NOT usually associated with finance and pension planning. As I wrote in my own blog article:
“To get on potential clients’ radar screen, the team then created a lot of content that was: Mostly NOT about finance.
Resulting articles included examples such as:
- 10 places where to organise your wedding
- 7 ways to host a Christmas lunch on a budget
- 4 tips for coping with empty nest syndrome
This all took place at a time when Facebook advertising was still relatively new, which offered under-priced opportunities for spreading your message. Imagine asking a banking director back in 2014 to utilise Facebook advertising to find new clients and to base the advertising on content that didn’t immediately revolve around the bank’s product offerings. Most would have seen this as below their dignity.“
Speak of wonky content! (Point #13)
The founder of PensionBee, Romi Savova, is now set for a GBP 135m (USD 190m) windfall when her company goes public.
You may not be satisfied with the example because PensionBee has branched out into fintech-style related services – is it really a blog? Increasingly, there’ll be content creators whose work blurs the boundaries of blog and service company. Still, the point remains the same. A bunch of people create lots of content and use that as a basis for establishing a valuable company. Many roads lead to Rome.
It’s a matter of time before we’ll see not one but several billion-dollar blogs and podcasts.
For an unusual yet at the same time more conventional example, take a look at the Drudge Report, the eponymous news agglomeration website run by Matt Drudge in Washington, DC. The website was never more than a collection of headlines, and its design looks positively 1990s. Even back in 2012, estimates for the website’s value ranged from USD 150m to USD 375m. Today, it’s more likely worth a billion. Matt Drudge found a unique way of doing things, and it has made him a very wealthy man indeed.
That all said, the lead example for someone turning his one-man content creation operation into a successful company is, of course, Joe Rogan. He uploaded his first video to YouTube in 2009 and subsequently became the world’s most listened to podcaster. He made waves in 2020 when striking USD 100m deal with Spotify. If you want to make yourself feel better about your current baby steps towards building a blog, check out his very first YouTube video (jump to 12 min 37 sec to watch). Are you feeling better now?
Despite the seemingly stellar deal, some believe that Rogan sold out on the cheap. Read “Joe Rogan Got Ripped off” for a fascinating review of the numbers behind the deal. Indeed, Spotify gained USD 3bn in market cap the day the deal was announced. Maybe he did sell out too early and too cheap?
Rogan, Pool… It’s a matter of time before we’ll see not one but several billion-dollar blogs and podcasts. That’s aiming rather high, and it will only happen for a few, but it goes to show this is a serious business.
Even with a much smaller operation, blogging can be as lucrative as it is rewarding intellectually. If you create a blog that makes a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year, it can secure yourself an independent lifestyle and plenty of money in the bank.
Just find a subject you enjoy, build a website around it, and get started! Others are doing it already, so why shouldn’t you be successful at it?
To cite Hamish McKenzie, co-founder of Substack:
“Look at what Polina Marinova, formerly of Fortune, is doing with The Profile, where she focuses on deep-dives on fascinating people; or what Tony Mecia, formerly of the Weekly Standard, is doing with business news publication the Charlotte Ledger; or how Richard Rushfield, a former editor of HitFix, is covering the business of Hollywood with The Ankler. Matt Taibbi left Rolling Stone and is using Substackto put a spotlight on corruption in politics. Matt Elliott is covering Toronto’s City Hall. Judd Legum is exposing miscreant corporate giants with Popular Information.
These journalists are doing the work they find most meaningful, having an impact, and making good money along the way.“
To get you started, McKenzie has even created a service where you can get advice calls with more established Substack writers. The extensive list is at the bottom of McKenzie’s article.
You are not too late to the party – become a blogger and transform your life
The way people consume news and information is about to change forever in a big way.
Ever fewer people trust mainstream media reports but are looking for the free flow of information, authenticity, and truth. They are no longer going to submit to celebrities, Big Tech companies, or activists disguised as journalists telling us what to believe, what to think, and what reality is. The era of smug inner-city elites dictating “facts” to us like a parent scolding a child is forever over.
When you publish independent content, be prepared for attacks on you once your channel has reached a size where people notice you.
Not everyone treats “anthropogenic climate change” as a religion where scientific debate is not allowed. Yet, if you are of that view, there are relatively few publications to look to. That’s where the opportunity lies.
Those who are looking for independent thinkers and clear-headed information increasingly need to seek out alternative sources of news. They are the people who have realised that trusting the lamestream media is like staying in an abusive relationship. The number of people who are breaking free from all this is increasing by the day. I caught the trend early in 2017, but it’s only going to grow further.
All of that makes for one huge addressable market for content creators. You do need thick skin, though, if you want to enter this business.
Much as the mainstream media are increasingly seen as a joke, they still fight back. Locked in a death match against a burgeoning armada of blogs, podcasts, YouTubers, and other content creators, the mainstream media is desperate to fight back. Citizen journalists (like myself) are disdained by legacy media, and we will continue to face smears and ugly insults. So desperate are the mainstream media that some of them have even resorted to doxing independent content creators.
When you publish independent content, be prepared for attacks on you once your channel has reached a size where people notice you.
The good news is, none of this silly fightback is going to stop the audience from switching sides at ever-increasing speed.
Increasingly, people who are deserting mainstream media are getting prominent company.
Elon Musk recently declined an interview with the Washington Post and instead sent back a disdainful potshot at Jeff Bezos: “Give my regards to your puppet master.“
When Andreessen Horowitz’ Li Jin announced a new venture capital fund aimed at the creator economy, she didn’t release the news through the mainstream media but a blog.
You have a lot more of this coming your way.
What we can now have as a consequence of these seismic shifts is the rise of a truly impactful, widely-followed alternative media. This article is also a call to action for anyone who can play a role in offering a more realistic point of view, a different point of view, and a point of view that is more reasonable. It’s time to expose the nature of mainstream media journalism as the dressed-up extremism that much of it is – and to offer an alternative.
This also provides a massive opening for the next generation – that’d be you, Millennials and Gen-Z’ers! If you follow the theory of the 4th turning, then you’ll essentially be the restoration generation. It’ll be up to you to restore media to the useful function it once had and which millions (if not billions) of people are hungry for. You are the first generation to have grown up with the largest wealth generation tool in human history – the Internet. Make use of your intimate knowledge of the medium during the limited time your brain is at its maximum malleability. Carpe diem and use the 2020s to build your blog.
It’ll be up to you to restore media to the useful function it once had and which millions (if not billions) of people are hungry for.
There is much to be gained, including financially. Subscription-based blogs are even better than the much-hyped SaaS businesses. Create one that is a personal monopoly, and you’ll be almost sure to enjoy a great financial future. You will have recurring revenue, a predictable growth rate, predictable customer lifetime value, and predictable churn without having to cover expensive marketing, research and development, and without ruthless competition.
The media industry’s transition away from advertising and towards a subscription model will make many bloggers millionaires, quite a few will become centimillionaires, and some will even become billionaires.
We’re in the early days of this transformation. The old rules are crumbling, and no one knows what the new rules are. So make up your own ones, but do get started!
“How This 26-Year-Old Writer Generates $1.94 Million Per Year“, by Dave Schools @ Entrepreneur’s Handbook
“Why podcasting may have minted its first billionaire, subscription podcasting is the next great business model, and how to join the revolution“, by Andrew Wilkinson on Supercast
“This is the best time to start a business“, by Scott Galloway
“How newsletters are making big bucks from your inbox“, Financial Times
“The way to make money on Substack is completely misunderstood“, by Tim Denning @ Entrepreneur’s Handbook
“10 (Painful) Lessons I’ve Learned Writing 3,000+ Articles Online Over The Past 7 Years“, by Nicolas Cole @ Medium
“The simple philosophy that enables writers to build a large following“, by Concoda @ Medium
“Blogging’s bright future“, Stratechery (2015 but still relevant)
“The Almanack of Naval Ravikant“, by Eric Jorgensen
“Becoming a Citizen of the Internet“, by David Perell
“You are not too late to the party – become a creator and transform your life“, by Jessie van Breugel
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