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What the Instagram advertising model could look like

As a follow up to my previous piece on the hyperbole surrounding the Instagram Terms of Service I thought I’d put forward a suggestion on how an advertising model for Instagram might theoretically work. This is purely speculative and designed to work within the TOS as published on Monday and with the intent to a) make money for Instagram, b) use your name, likeness, and photos for advertising purposes for a 3rd party, and c) be of value to you as the photographer even without you receiving compensation for the use of your photos.

In other words, if I were in charge of the Instagram Advertising Scheme, this is how it would work.

Consider the following hypothetical:

Julie, a 21 year old Instagram user in Oslo, goes to a local cafe called Kaffekakao to hang out with friends over a warm cup of cocoa on a particularly snowy December evening. She takes a somewhat artistic photo of her cocoa, applies a filter and posts it to Instagram alongside a remark “Cocoa with friends at Kaffekakao”.

Meanwhile the marketing department at Kaffekakao wants to get their name on the map for potential tourists visiting the city. Locals know that this is the place to be if you want a good cup of cocoa but tourists may not be aware. They approach Instagram asking if the service has any advertising opportunities.

Instagram picks Julie’s photo of the cocoa as a great candidate and proposes to use it for a flash promotion for Kaffekakao, targeted at english speaking people in and around Oslo.

The cafe says yes and the promotion kicks in.

Hours later Instagram users in Oslo start seeing Julie’s picture in their Instagram feeds. There is no blatant advertising or call to action, just the picture along with Julie’s comment, the name of the cafe hyperlinked. Because it’s a good photo, a nice comment, and Julie is a well trusted trend setter in the community, people feel inclined to go get a cup of cocoa at Kaffekakao. If the cool kids hang there, so should we!

From this several things happen: Instagram gets paid for the promotion, Kaffekakao gets some much deserved exposure for their excellent cocoa, and Julie gets a lot of new followers. Everybody wins.

Like I said this is pure speculation on my part, but as you can see it is not hard to come up with an advertising model for Instagram that doesn’t involve ripping you off and throwing you to the wolves.

Instagram should totally pay me for this.

Publishing WordPress

How can I monetize my WordPress blog? Blog like money didn’t matter!
There is a viral video doing the rounds right now titled “What if Money Didn’t Matter?” I’ve added it in here for your viewing pleasure. The video talks about how we would do things differently – most specifically we would probably do more things we actually like to do and things that make us happy – if money wasn’t part of the equation.

This video relates closely to a question that keeps coming up again and again and one I keep answering over and over: How can I monetize my blog? My answer? Blog as if money didn’t matter.

Most recently it showed up on Quora and I provided the answer you see further down. But before we get to that, allow me to elaborate:

The problem with the question “How can I monetize my blog” is that in almost every case it comes from a desire to make easy money online rather than a desire to make something of value and have that something actually return value to you. We have been lead to believe the internet, and the blogosphere in particular, is a money making machine you just plug into and then magically money will start appearing out of nowhere. Just like with most other get rich quick schemes this is utter nonsense. Even so there are enough shining examples of people who have beat the odds and are raking in the dough for the rest of us to support the illusion that there is a golden goose hidden somewhere on the www we can coax into laying diamond studded platinum eggs.

Rather than asking “How can I monetize my blog?” meaning “how can I put ads on my site and then get thousands of people to click on them so I earn money?” you should be asking “How can my blog or website help me make money?”

If you think about it, a blog or website is not much different from a printed magazine or newspaper. And the reason why printed magazines and newspapers are able to make money on advertising is because their content is excellent. No sane person would pick up a magazine that was pretty much all ads and no content, so why would anyone show any interest in a blog or website that was all ads and no content? The key to making money online is to produce great content. And in most cases advertising gets in the way of that.

Yep, you heard me right: Advertising distracts from your goal.

Here’s what I answered on Quora:

How can I monetize my WordPress blog?

Earning money from a blog itself is hard because there are a lot of people out there doing it (or rather trying to do it) and the ad market is not what it once was. I’ll ask you the same question I ask my clients when they ask how to monetize their blog: What is the goal of your blog? If the blog is to put information out there, then the monetizing component should be a secondary consideration. If your goal is to make money, then I politely suggest you spend your hard earned time and money on something more likely to give you a return on your investment.

The key to earning money through your blog is to use it to promote you as a service. If you are a writer, use the blog to get people to become interested in your content and then sell your services to someone who wants you to write for them. If you are a content curator, use your blog as an example and pursue contracts from other companies that have a larger base of visitors.

The hard truth is that most of the most financially successful blogs out there are successful not because they have a good monetizing strategy but because they started out focusing on how to produce great content rather than how to earn money off that content. Of course there are exceptions. John Chow is one.

Take a step back and think about how you can turn your writing / content into a value in its own right. Ads are distracting and more often than not more work than they are worth.

Like I said, the key to making money with your blog or website is to use it to sell what you are actually selling, not advertising. A blog or website can be a great marketing tool and can land you amazing jobs doing what you love. But if focus all your attention on making the advertising on your site work, you’ll lose focus of what really matters, and you’ll get nowhere really fast.

To put it into perspective: Blog as if money didn’t matter.

And be sure to follow me on Quora where I’m answering questions on WordPress, web development and other interesting subjects every day.