If you’re looking to get rich, blogging may not be the answer

It all started with a letter from Amazon.

amazoncheque

A cheque for £1.16. The money representing three months worth of my blog writing on Thought Symposium, thanks to those subscribed via Amazon Kindle (thank you if you are one of those subscribers!). Yes, it is a very small amount. So it is a good job I never decided to blog for the money. Over the years this blog has rarely made any sort of meaningful cash. Around 5 months ago I enjoyed a £60 pay out from Google Ads – not bad. Although that had been generated over a three year period…

There are places, such as ProBlogger, who claim by following the right blogging steps, you can eventually climb to a six-figure salary through blogging. I’m sceptical though, because I think any sort of online commercial generation usually negatively impacts user experience.

In fact, I once calculated that every day this blog generates something like 5 pence. You know what though? I don’t care.

I’ve already got a full-time job and the purpose of my writing here is to connect with fellow PR folk, whilst advising others how they may improve their comms programmes.

So thank you Amazon for my £1.16, it will help towards this blog’s running costs but I’m doing okay. Okay?

 

eBook Piracy will see a decline in Traditional Publishing and a rise in Self-Published Authors

Classic British comedy has often portrayed the working class in a favourably light with shows such as ‘The Good Life’, ‘Porridge’ and ‘Only Fools and Horses’.  Physical work, rather than intellectual delights, has always been attributed to such characters. Which may explain why during the London riots last year Clapham Junction’s Waterstones remained untouched by looters. The store kept its doors open famously remarking, “they might learn something”.

The digitalisation of books was inevitably going to cause online piracy. In the past, and to a lesser extent, audio books could be found on torrent sites. In a report by the Daily Mail it has been revealed that up to 20% of eBooks are sourced illegally as the Publishers Association issues thousands of legal threats to websites.

For the last year I have been keeping a watchful eye over the Publishing Industry due to its rapid evolution. The adoption of Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader had once only been the focus for innovators but now has found common adoption. Swaying readers away from classic hardbacks and paperbacks to instead digital formats. Inevitably this was going to cause a stir.

Debates still surround the pricing of eBooks as many still hold a price not too dis-similar from their dead tree cousins. The cost of producing a digital book formats only lies with the costs accumulated by the publishing house for its marketing, proofreading and commissions. The pricey cost of material and ink has been averted. The excessive commission which Amazon applies to eBooks can in many cases make the price irrelevant as a reason for choosing a paper or digital format.

Without wanting to share too much agreement with America’s controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) I do believe that Google has a lot to answer for online piracy. Whilst the attainment for free speech is integral online, often referred to as transparency in public relations, Google need to ask themselves serious ethical questions. Is it right for the world’s largest search engine to allow users to easily access sites promoting illegal file sharing?

A torrent site in No.1 spot. Even above Waterstones

I know there are countless other methods to find torrent files.
I know that the internet is causing industries to reconsider their business models.
I know that whilst eBook piracy is rising, so are the sales which are providing huge financial boosts for publishers and authors.

Sharing used to be word to imply generosity but the influence of the internet could begin to taint it. Could downloading an eBook be likened to lending a book to a friend or walking into Waterstones to steal a book? In a talk by Stephen Fry in 2009 at the Roundhouse in Camden (which I was fortunate enough to attend), he directly attacked the music industries’ approach towards online piracy. Stating that the pirates they were criminalising were also their customers. Ethics is not always so clear cut.

In my eyes books are different. Sharing books is a method to share knowledge but the book publishing industry can’t afford for books to be widely downloaded for free. One thing is for certain; we will witness the decline of traditional publishing houses and the rise of self-published authors. Piracy will be one of the factors causing this change.

What I have learnt after 6 years of Blogging

I’m 21 years old yet I have been blogging in various forms over the last 6 years. Before 2005 I had no idea how blogging would have shaped my life. Now 6 years on I reminisce on what I have learnt and if I would have changed anything.

Comments are Gold and Dust
It is much easier to forget positive feedback than the negative. Negative comments build like dust and unless you brush them away it is easy to let them blind your path. Treasure your positive comments and either forget or grow from the negative. Either way comments are good, it shows you are making a difference.

Your learning will speed up – LOTS!
Once I started blogging alongside my PR course at University I realised writing posts was acting as a form of revision. Every student should be aware of the world around them and blogging accelerates that process.

Be Brief
Most of us scan read when browsing the internet. Dwell times are reduced and so it is necessary for blogs to be brief. Sometimes people on Twitter will RT a post just based on the title! Shorter posts generally are more successful, in my experience the larger ones are more entertaining to write.

Old Posts are always Cringe worthy
To this very day I cannot stand reviewing old blog posts. Somewhere on my computer I have a list of posts which I wrote in 2006 and I am glad to say I have progressed a lot since then. The latest post is always one to keep in mind but be careful what you write, the posts you wrote six years ago may still be Google-able. (Nothing is truly deleted on the internet)

Your Audience is two-way
Don’t think that blogging will provide you international fame. Equally don’t think that an audience will just flock to you. Building an audience takes time (this blog’s audience is certainly niche) and requires you to make the effort to interact with other blogs. Even being listed effectively in search engines requires a lot of work. Perhaps in the next year I will become more popular than Darren Rowse?

Blogging won’t make you Rich
We have all heard the stories of people who manage to blog full-time and make a living from it but they really are exceptions. Through sponsored posts and advertising over the course of the year I have probably earned enough money to purchase a Nintendo 3DS. Compare that with the amount of time it takes to keep the blog running; it wouldn’t be worth it.

Publish Frequently
To maintain an active blog it is important to publish frequently. Quantity keeps search engines happy and causes people to regularly visit for more information. Don’t forget quality though – miss that and you won’t be doing your reputation any favours.

Extra University Places would be Fair?

David Willetts on BBC News

A deeply agnostic Universities Minister, David Willetts, appeared on BBC News yesterday morning discussing the possibility of creating extra places for those students who could cover all of their higher education expenses although I must add that this is only a possibility. By every means this is an interesting point of view but one which should be considered at arm’s length.

The current issue with higher education (beyond senseless fee increases) is the student cap policy. Each University in England has a set quota for the amount of students it can accept. The quota is set by the government to control the amount of public spending around higher education.

Currently if a University is oversubscribed then the only students who will manage to get in will be those who are funded by a business. The discussions which took place in parliament yesterday discuss the possibility (David Willetts’ favourite BBC News word) of creating extra places for students who can completely fund their education.

The way David Willetts presented this option is by saying charities could perhaps fund a student’s education. In reality it will be the students who come from rich families who will get guaranteed places at University. A move which makes the Tories appear in their same old blue limelight, catering for those who are already privileged.

The students who can have their education funded by their own means will not be a burden on public spending for the government and could actually alleviate the government’s strain on public spending costs in the higher education sector. Yet despite the business means, if this move to allow rich self-funding students to step outside of the student cap to receive almost guaranteed places at University; what does this mean for education as a whole?

In my view higher education should not be seen as an expense by the government but instead an investment. Education is at the centre of everything in society. Without education society falls as a whole or society would need to rely on educated individuals from overseas.

 

Education Inflation: Why the University of Gloucestershire Shouldn’t increase their Fees [RANT]

In November Nick Clegg said he “massively regrets” being unable to deliver on his tuition fee promise. Cheltenham’s local MP, Martin Horwood, didn’t even bother voting in the 2010 December fees vote due to attending a climate conference in Mexico. At the time students were offering to pay for his flight home but still he escaped 4,500 miles away from the vote. Now Executive Director of External Relations at the University of Gloucestershire, Paul Drake, announced that the new fees were “competitive while not undermining the value of a Gloucestershire degree”. I bet students at my University, the University of Gloucestershire, are beginning to question who exactly is on their side.

Clegg's Broken Promise

Should University students have to pay for their own education?
Yes

Should the University of Gloucestershire raise their fees to £8,250?
No

Let’s focus on Paul Drake’s words, “not undermining the value of a Gloucestershire degree”. When the government announced that Universities in England will be able to charge up to £9000 per year from 2012 the media at first speculated that the full £9000 would only be charged by the very top of the league table Universities. There were two main flaws with that plan:

  1. The Labour government left many Universities in England with massive debts after promising to raise student caps and improve funding. Their instructions to Universities were to expand, buy new equipment and prepare yourself for more students. Then the economy crashed and caps were lowered, funding was reduced. Lots of debt still exists. Increasing student fees helps the Universities with their massive debts.
  2. Big University bosses had the idea running through their minds, ‘If £9000 per year would only be charged by the best Universities in England then surely charging more money each year would in turn mean a better education. The more you spend on a degree, the better it appears… we better raise our fees’. Or something like that.

The second point is exactly on par with Paul Drake’s thoughts of “not undermining the value of a Gloucestershire degree”. When will people learn that paying more for something does not necessarily mean better? Is the country still being run by people who think the best wine costs more? Jees.

Let me make this clear that the University of Gloucestershire is only one of many Universities raising their fees. The Times have put together a list of the damage, the overwhelming costs almost move me to tears.

Which is why Paul Drake’s first word of the quote makes sense, “competitive”. Education has now reached this twisted situation when the biggest fee increase in education has happened ever and because education inflation has grown so much that even though the University of Gloucestershire can charge 151% more for a degree per year, they are still being competitive.

Fair enough, we could hold onto hope that the OFA could step in and announce the fee increases we are seeing around the country as ludicrous, but they won’t. Why? Ed Miliband reported that last weekend they announced that fee changes are the Universities decisions and they will not take steps to intervene with changes.

The government should not put so much weight of debt upon those students who wish to continue into higher education. Society relies on education to move forward. Do we really want the brightest brains of Britain entering the world with so much debt upon their shoulders? It is likely that after 2012 students can expect to finish their degrees with at least £27,000 worth of debt.

I understand that Student Finance have changed the terms of their agreement. It will now apparently be “easier” for students to pay back their fees but let’s face the music; at least £27,000 of debt. That is a lot of money for anyone; it will push prospective students away and makes me glad that I will be graduating in 2012.

Whilst the opportunities the University of Gloucestershire has offered me have been superb I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I would never have attended the University of Gloucestershire if they were going to charge me £8,250. I would have had second thoughts about higher education as a whole, I think many other students will think the same. Yet the University of Gloucestershire is being kinder than most, their fees are still competitive even with such an increase.

Whilst I will miss the increase I feel sorry for prospective students who have to make a difficult decision. Higher education or not?

PS. If this article gets into the hands of University of Gloucestershire PR department then I am truly sorry to give you more media grief. You have had a hard time lately but when fees increase by 151% in an age when the UK inflation rate is currently 0.5%, you are going to have a tough time. @Paul Drake – nothing personal.

 

Social Networks: Personal Data Spending Habits

Wired Magazine made a fantastic point concerning online privacy in their February issue by uniquely constructing front covers containing personal details aimed at some of their readers. Channel 4’s Benjamin Cohen was one of their targets.

 

Funny Facebook Update (Bit Rude!)

Social Networks sit on a foundation of our personal data. Your very essence and life experiences are a currency which Wired Magazine was attempting to expose. Generally we are all too open about our lives online, we are careful with our financial spending habits and so why don’t we pay attention to our personal data spending habits?

Sometimes I think it is a self-obsessive trend; we generally think that people are interested in our lives. Unless you are a celebrity or a popular expert in your field then it is unlikely people will take an active interest in your life. Who really cares if I tweet “Travelling to Microsoft. Looks like a busy day is ahead of me”? I may get a couple of replies which may roughly be, “Yeah, I’m not looking forward to today either” but that would be about it. Yet I have traded my personal data to fuel the social network to carry on.

Social networks are full of useless information like this… except it isn’t useless. Companies will keep an eye on Twitter and monitor what you are saying. That single tweet of mine could have been seen by my manager, fellow employee or client… it provides them a perspective.

Freelance Social Media Consultants always comment to me that when they meet companies the client is always surprised how people are already discussing them or their brand online. Just because the company hadn’t figured out their social media strategy didn’t mean people would wait for their profile to appear before discussing.

What you reveal about yourself online is public (even private profiles – your data is still online) and companies can use this information. Are you comfortable of this? Social Media campaigns aim at the individual, based on a search of your personal data: think before you update.

 

A couple of questions for you (comment below 🙂 ):

  • What do you gain for sharing your personal details?
  • Is updating your details on Social Networks self-obsessive?

 

Does News Content have a Value?

A few weeks ago I was in a discussion with a friend deliberating the future of newspapers. The Journalism industry currently has the challenge of a changing media landscape; including falling budgets (mostly due to shifts in advertising caused by readership), style of commentary (the idea of stand-up comedians being the new columnist) and the confusion of a homogenous audience (the thin line between local and national). Naturally such discourse led onto finding solutions in the digital age and much bartering of abuse to the much delusional Rupert Murdoch regarding his Newspaper pay wall decisions.

Guardian iPhone App
The Guardian iPhone App

Hope anchored to the Amazon Kindle (Amazon affiliate link), an eBook reader which not only has the ability to store books but also provides monthly newspaper subscriptions. Although in discussion it became clear that the value of news is in danger of being dismissed due to the contemporary news models being adopted.

Each morning I make my way to the local station to travel up to London for work. The journey entails a path involving the avoidance of Metro, London Lite, thelondonpaper and Shortlist on Thursday mornings. Never would I have thought that a hand-out on London pavements would be a gift, something worth keeping but psychologically this might be the problem.

We are so used to news being free. The mere act of newspapers being handed out freely on the pavements is a statement to us that news doesn’t have to cost. Yet the value of news in terms of accuracy, speed and delivery is being questioned by the very industry beginning to consider extended advertising options to keep publications free and readership levels up. I’m the consumer the newspaper industry must hate; I won’t even pick up a free newspaper, let alone buy a copy of The Times or The Guardian. The only content I touch is digital.

Glance away from the physical paper, from ink stained fingers to the soft touch of backlit LCD. Online content is a threat to Journalism, paraded by BBC News and the evolution of Citizen Journalism. On the whole online news content is mostly free of charge, there are exceptions.

Most of the news I consume is through The Guardian’s iPhone App. This convenient app allows me to select categories of the news I find most important (Headlines, Technology, Culture, Features and Obituaries in my case). On many occasions Twitter has been a useful source of news information. Through Twitter I discovered about Michael Jackson’s death before BBC News had the full details of the story.

Monetisation models for music downloads have led to subscription services rather than individual song costs. Is news heading the same way? Will readers ever pay for news content?

Five Money Management Tips for Students

Sufi M and his staff operate The Glaring Facts, one of the leading and densely populated websites involving psychology, media-related material, history of science, and money management. We are certain you will find something that will fascinate you.


We’ve all been there and as a student, we’re most likely thinking how badly we want our degrees so we could make tons of money; however, us students are facing a serious burden right now–how we are managing money at this very moment. Without adequate financial care, you will end up with more debt than you originally thought all contributed by needless and spontaneous money-spending. Take control of your finances right now, while you can still determine your financial future. Here, I provide tips on how you can fend off future debt during your studies.

Use Credit Cards Only in Times of Emergency:

A student with a credit card doesn’t have a good ending–debt begins to accumulate fast. This is not a good start and you’ll most likely have horrible credit if you continue using the credit card. Keep in mind that the money you spend on credit cards will need to be repaid, it cannot linger from month to month. If you save your credit card for emergency situations rather than buying the next Apple product, I guarantee you that you’ll have much less credit problems.

Ever Month’s Bill Needs to be Paid

Paying monthly, and punctually, is the most important aspect of your credit card usage. Accumulating balances and compounding them from month to month will penalize you tremendously in the form of increased interest. By paying every month, you can avoid getting into serious debt.

Pay on Time

To begin a strong credit history, every bill needs to be paid punctually. A credit history is basically a track record of how well you’ve been punctual. Creditors use this information when they need to know if you’re worthy of either a loan, or another credit card. In the future, they use this information to analyze whether they ought to give you a mortgage. So if you start paying on time right now and punctually, you’ll be avoiding a whole slew of problems down the road.

Save Your Money

As the ING’s spokesperson had once said, “Save Your Money”. Saving shouldn’t be taken so lightly. If you begin saving while you’re still doing your university studies, you can be assured that you will benefit when you’re older. You won’t get a job right away when you graduate, they say it’ll take close to 6 months before you land a job after you graduate. During this time, you could use these savings to help you finance your life. If you get into the habit of saving right now, you’ll be able to earn money from potentially investing your savings.

Do You Know What the Best Checking Accounts Are?

If you’ve answered this question with a no, then I suggest you do further research. During your research, collect information about who offers what checking account, it’s interest rates as well as its monthly fees. With that information, you can begin scouting for potentially beneficial checking accounts. If you’re lucky in your research and you find that some banks grant you a completely free checking account, jump on board and reap the benefits. You can be saving throughout your entire university career!

With this information in mind, you can progress through your university careers without the nagging feeling and worries that are better left for later rather than during your studies.