Can a writer make a cent on a Website?

Question from a freelance writer: “I want to make some changes to make my Website, making it a little friendlier and to perhaps induce more people to subscribe, offering a few more members-only services. Memberships are very low and I’m not making a cent on the site. I may eventually have to go to advertising…….What to do?”

Answer: First of all, there’s nothing wrong with having advertising. Your site is awesome; so, it’s not about making it friendlier, it’s about making more friends… You need to ask yourself, “How did the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, wine magazines, etc. get going?” There’s a myth among writers that when they strike out on their own, they need to maintain their journalistic integrity by not associating with advertisers… The advertisers won’t be the wineries (budget are too small for that, or they’d be drained in no time), so there’s nothing wrong with co-marketing. You’re now in business for yourself, and co-marketing is all it is, and that’s how successful companies stay alive, by aligning themselves to the benefit of all. (Everyone has to eat.)

A winery data base is needed so that you can query wineries, let them know that you exist, samples are appreciated, etc. (“Wines & Vines” has that available. It’s a bit expensive, but it will pay for itself in time.)

You need to send an Email newsletter to everyone on the list, asking for it to be forwarded to the winery PR person. Send it through a company like Vertical Response, so you can legally broadcast to a large audience. This way, people can unsubscribe if they want to. Depending on how many Emails you’re sending, the highest amount you’ll currently spend is .015 cents per Email; so if you send to 300 wineries, it costs a little over three dollars, all of which you can write off to advertising.

In your newsletter, list your credentials. This is like a resume. [Who ever thought you’d need that again, right?] State that you’re now an independent writer. Give a hot link to your site. Have a subscription component in this mailing. There are a few Email newsletters out there, and any good marketing department should be paying attention.

That’s a start. It takes a while to grow a business, and reinvent yourself. Journalism isn’t a well-compensated career when it’s tied to a newspaper, I’m finding. The pattern seems to be that once you’ve helped the paper to grow, firmly establishing itself based on solid advertising dollars, they sell it. New owners come in and make sweeping changes to down size expenses (even though they swore they wouldn’t do that dastardly deed). The first thing they do is let go of those who are on the higher end of the salary spectrum, those who built the paper in the first place. No one is sacred from this practice in the corporate world. It’s business evolution.

Once you’ve been given your pink slip, it’s all about marketing yourself, as you’re now the product.

(My own story’s called, “Bitch in a Pink Slip — or — The Layers of My Tulle”©)

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