This blog post was originally written by Ruan Fourie.
Every blogger dreams about monetizing their blog, so that they can blog full-time. We love helping bloggers and influencers monetize their social platforms. Webfluential can be just one of the multiple revenue streams that keeps a blog going.
But everyone has to start somewhere. It takes time and work to make your blog a success. So we thought we would inspire you with an inspirational story of a blog that made it big, after almost falling flat on it’s face.
The Chive: A Photoblog with an audience that cares
How many blogs are started because they want to become a multimillion dollar company. When John and Leo Resig started The Chive, they had no idea that they would be creating a company that would soon have 50 employees and a charity division created with the sole purpose of raising money for charitable causes.
The Chive employees are not your average employees
It all started by simply driving traffic
John was an actor (he had a recurring role in True Blood) and Leo was an office manager at a movie-poster design company. This is where Leo first discovered how profitable digital media could be: “The Travel Channel would spend like $2 million on digital ads,” he says. “I thought, Wow, there is a lot of money to be had here. How do we get it?”
theCHIVE founders Jon and Leo Resig
Their first blog was a Perez Hilton copy celebrity gossip site charmingly called “Derober”. Driving traffic to your blog can be tricky, but the Resig brother’s created a bunch of online pranks that would get them coverage on Fox News, E! Online and The Huffington Post. The prank was simple: Photoshopping of a receipt with Donald Trump’s signature and claim that he left the waiter a $10 000 tip.
The Donald Trump receipt prank earned Derober 15 million visitors, but because of their inexperience in digital media they had almost no advertising on the site and the prank only earned them $153. Viral pranks were not going to lead to a solid income so John and Leo set out to generate a constant stream of traffic to their site, against which they can sell ads. This is when their experimentation around driving traffic to their site began.
The first channel John would use to market their content was Digg, the link-voting platform that eventually led to the creation of Reddit. If your content could get enough votes and land a spot on the front page of Digg, you could potentially drive 120 million views a day. He studied Digg and started sharing content from Hollywood Reporter, IGN and other entertainment websites, rather than self-promoting Derober content. After sharing content for a month he would contact IGN and the other publications that he had been driving traffic to, asking them if they experienced a traffic spike over the last month. Once they confirmed the spike in website traffic, John would explain that he was responsible for the spike, and that he could continue doing it if they paid him. Pay him they did.
The Chive is born
Soon (Septermber 28th, 2008 to be exact) John and Leo abandoned Derober to start The Chive. The site’s success grew quickly because of Leo’s previous Digg connections. In no time TMZ, College Humor and Cracked were linking to The Chive content. The Resigs also started The Berry to cater more to their female audience, and The Brigade as a military themed offshoot. They hired other Resign family members to help them edit all the sites.
The Chive offices are not your average offices
Their initial success is also coincidentally the thing that almost killed The Chive. The Chive was getting tons of traffic to their themed photo posts, but this also meant that they were incurring a massive hosting bill, $16 000. They had an offer that would save the company and get them out of their debt, but it would also mean that they would have to offer up 51% of their company.
In a last ditch effort to keep The Chive afloat they printed 200 t-shirts at the local t-shirt store down the road from their cramped three bedroom office that was also their home. They put the t-shirts up for sale and thought they would sell in maybe a couple of months. The 200 initial t-shirts sold out within minutes. They printed another 200 t-shirts and these also sold out within minutes.
Not only does The Chive love beer, they also sell beer
Not only did this save The Chive, and keep the business 100% family owned, but it also created the strong connection between The Chive and it’s audience. The audience saved the company by buying the t-shirts. Thus the “Chivers”, as The Chive’s audience is affectionately known, unbeknownst to them also opened up a new revenue stream for The Chive. Merchandise now earns The Chive more than four times what they earn on advertising revenue. A substantial amount when you consider that The Chive makes more than $50 million annually.
This close bond with the “Chivers” has also lead to The Chive raising millions for various charitable causes. Not only is The Chive giving back to the community, they are making their audience part of the process.
The team behind Chive Charities
What can we learn from The Chive?
- Even when it feels like you are about to fail, you have to keep going. You never know when those 200 t-shirts might sell out. But if you give up, you will never know.
- You need more than just one revenue stream. Ad sponsored content to your revenue streams by signing up as a Webfluential influencer.
- If you are authentic with your audience, they will support you through thick and thin. They trust you and you should trust them, and keep nurturing that connection with great content and by listening to your audience.
- The influence an influencer has over it’s audience can not only be used for marketing purposes like advertising, but also to sell your own or a brand’s products.
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