I see bloggers falling into three categories.
- Pro-bloggers are like professors in that they are they bearers of the current culture. In particular they carry the knowledge that does not get written down in books and they try to impart both book knowledge and their experience on their students (here readers). Pro-bloggers often repeat themselves just like professors present essentially the same talks year after year with few modifications. There are two reasons for this: 1) Being busy teaching every day makes it hard to be inventive (one might even say that mentally if you say the same things over and over, the brain does not get the opportunity of getting creative, creativity usually being the result of downtime.) 2) The material and thoughts are there. Once a “best way” of explaining something has been developed, why not keep reusing it?
- Researchers. I would humbly submit myself to this category both in terms of blogging and also professionally. Rather than present old ideas, researchers strive to present new ideas. This means that the ideas are more unrefined (you rarely get a presentation right the first time, try the tenth time!) but also more interesting as well as being occasionally irrelevant. I posit that nobody can present novel ideas on a daily basis though.
- Students and amateurs which are full of enthusiasm, but don’t know everything yet. They discuss what they learn as they go along: Today I started my emergency fund; I will pay off my debt in a year; We are turning down the warm water heater; … Such enthusiasm rub off and a combination between student and professor, that is, someone who is able to lecture as well as being able to connect with amateurs, is probably the most effective way of monetizing a blog.
(Most blogs are a mixture of these three).
Learn about a subject, find a voice that people like (hint: people tend to like people that are much like themselves), developing the course material and start lecturing. When a semester has finished, restart the cycle.
The most important thing is to be dependable – I can not stress enough how important and consistent record of publication is to a pro-blogger (or a professor). As discovered here, research or new ideas, does not pay as well as lecturing which is true in the real world as well(*). Even though all knowledge is based on research at some point, the researchers are too far removed from the money-stream to benefit directly(**). Its effect are not easily quantifiable either. For instance, more than a quarter of the world economy is based on quantum mechanics, but I assure you that the inventors of quantum mechanics are not deriving royalties from the trillions of dollars that economy represents.
(*) Unless kept proprietary and somehow inserted into the money stream.
(**) It is semi-easy to evaluate the return on an investment letter. You see it on your broker account. However, how would you evaluate the value of this idea as applied to all parts on your life on your bank account?
In the real world, when staying on the same path, students and amateurs tend to turn into a researchers and researchers tend to turn into professors. For example, someone who initially talked about starting an index fund will go on to research other investment choices, and then go back to explaining what index funds are. I suggest that those who do not want to go through this natural progression are “doomed” to be temporary in nature.
For instance, sooner or later a student/amateur will have learned all the basics. At this part it becomes hard to remain excited about starting a new project because said project has already been started. In particular, once a person has paid down his debt that topic is certainly gone. Also, sooner or later a researcher will run out of ideas(***) and that spells the end, because consistency as mentioned above is so crucial. However, a professor never runs out of topics, because the same topic is presented over and over.
(***) Incremental researchers run out of ideas much slower which is why professors at research universities, who are expected to do research for a living as in publish or perish, prefer the low-risk/low-return incremental method over the high-risk/high-return sporadic method. This is not much different from investing in terms of how incentives (you’re rewarded for publications) rather than stated goals (to produce ground breaking new ideas) influence behavior.
There are some natural exit points though. Students naturally graduate and move on to something else. Amateurs naturally fade away and develop new interests. Researchers, in turn, can also move on to something else and find a new area that are low on their S-curve. Professors have a much harder time stopping, because they are deeply vested in what they do (why, they earn real money, something that students and researchers don’t tend to). For instance, several probloggers have discussed the stress of continuous posting due to the fact that they will lose too many readers if they let off. For example, when I stopped the consistent daily posting in late April 2008, I lost about a third of my readers and about half of my daily visitors. If my main income was based on those metrics, you can easily imagine, what kind of pressure this puts on a problogger.