More on Commercial Blogging

A reader took some exception to my post previously on commercial blogging, and I just wanted to clear up some things. As a supporter of Capitalism, I don’t blame anyone for trying to make money, and therefore I don’t blame anyone for the mere act of making money off their blog. I’ve linked to plenty of commercial blog content, and I still link to The Firearm Blog, even though that is now pretty clearly a money making venture. So I don’t particularly have a problem with the idea of people making money off blogging, writing, etc. On balance I’d say that commercial blogs actually do a better job of generating quality content than the many if not most hobby bloggers. But the techniques one uses to optimize a blog for the purpose of maximizing monetary return is going to lead to a very different blog experience.

The main area of concern I have with commercial blogs, is that a core philosophy behind blogging, which is linking to other blogs and content, is in direct conflict with making money off running a web site. It’s never a good idea, from a money making standpoint, to give your readers a reason to click off your content and onto someone else’s. But that’s exactly what blogging is as a matter of core philosophy. There are commercial blogs out there that still make good money, and still largely follow the core tenants of the medium. Most of those started out as hobby blogs and went commercial. Many newer entrants into commercial blogging try to make their blogs communities unto themselves, which is great for keeping an audience, driving loyalty, and in the end, making money, but my fear is the community as a whole will suffer for it. For instance, I’d take Tam‘s advice on an old Smith or other curio any day over most of the commercial gun reviewers out there. I consider Tam’s expertise well and above most other gun writers out there on that subject, and most blog readers won’t get too far in the amateur community without being exposed to some of Tam’s writing. By the same token, Dave Hardy is my go-to source when I have 2nd Amendment legal questions. Clayton Cramer has forgotten more on early American history than most of us know, and I’m not convinced there’s much he’s forgotten. Being in the same community with these minds has greatly enhanced my own knowledge, and through the community of blogging, we’ve all been enriched. My fear is that the spread of commercial blogging will results in the dilution or destruction of the community that’s an important part of what Brian Anse Patrick calls “Horizontal Interpretive Communities.”

So my concern with commercial blogs is not that they make money. I have no problem with the idea of making money. It’s that in order to make money efficiently, your commercial venture has to make like it is the source for gun information online, and that by nature is going to weaken what has, I think, become a key part of our success as a movement.

10 thoughts on “More on Commercial Blogging”

  1. It’s that in order to make money efficiently, your commercial venture has to make like it is the source for gun information online, and that by nature is going to weaken what has, I think, become a key part of our success as a movement.

    That is honestly why I’m not too concerned about it. Commercial blogs, by that very nature are going to become limited on their output for that very reason.

    Self referencing only goes so far. The other upshot is when you’re only self referencing you become the biased media. You’re not pulling information from multiple locations and laying it out and stitching it together.

    If you can make it commercially, great, but if you do it on the side as a hobby I don’t see commercial blogs killing you off. There’s a lot that sets hobbyists apart and makes their content original and worth reading.

    1. I’m really not all that concerned about it. I’m more posting passing thoughts. My concern for this is somewhere around a hard shit making me worried about fiber in my diet, and that vibration my car is making on the highway. Not that worried yet.

    2. I also suspect that, contrary to natural intuition, the most successful comercial bloggers are going to be the ones that also freely link to outside sources. By doing all that linking, you make your place a genuine go-to for information, that people are going to want to come to!

      At the same time, I can understand the thinking “if only I can get everyone to just stay on my site…”. I suspect that the best commercial bloggers will either find ways to limit this impulse, or won’t have it at all.

  2. Heh, I took no exception to it at all. I’ve seen hobby-bloggers make just as many errors in their “facts” or “opinions” as I have commercial bloggers.

    You know Obama and his goons are going to make an issue out of us evil rich capitalists who will (reluctantly) cast a vote for Romney, and the mainstream media will be pushing that agenda as hard as they can.

    If started life as a commercial venture, fine by me. We NEED more pro-gun venture capital out there. We’ve got a brand new indoor state of the art shooting range opening up in our local suburb this fall. The money to build it didn’t fall from the sky–it came from investors and lenders and those of us who purchased early memberships.

    Glock began as a commercial venture because Gaston knew nothing about guns–but he knew about engineering and those around him knew about making money.

    I read somewhere that put up around $700K to kick things off? I’ll support them for putting their money where their mouths are, and I’ll forgive them for the occasional error in “journalism” while gently correcting them in private.

    Your point about fact-checking was one-hundred percent spot on, well-stated and gives lots of support to all the right reasons why we need to be cognizant of what we write when presenting it as fact.

    One more reason why I enjoy your blog so much.



  3. What I like about enthusiasts bloggers is that they stay true to what they believe and they’re involved with what they’re writing about. You can roll on over to [insert Gawker site here] and find a bunch of professional writers who know little to nothing about the subjects they’re covering while they pass themselves off as some sort of authority.

    Facts are a funny thing and the usually change over time. It’s no big deal of a blogger gets something wrong once in a while, the readers will be sure to point out the error, you just correct it and move on.

  4. Being the source for a narrow piece of firearms that you are actually an expert on works, even if your blog is a commercial venture. For example, David Goldman’s Gun Trust Lawyer blog. It’s fundamentally about advertising his services, but he really does know a lot about NFA trusts and includes a decent amount of useful data. And given that I sent him a lot of money, I’d also say that it works.

  5. Speaking as probably the poster boy for commercializing Internet content, diversity of content remains the key. We (my partner Marshal Halloway and I, not the Imperial We) link to everyone, including people we don’t necessarily agree with. Certainly we generate a lot of our content, but we’re more than willing to send people to other hobby or commercial blogs. Fascinating how Internet content ebbs and flows…just a few years ago it was “video or nothing;” these days plain old fashion articles are drawing traffic. The weekly podcast pretty much dwarfs blog traffic numbers ( and not only my blog). In truth, as we head toward the Great Convergence of broadcast and Internet, neither Marshal nor I have a true sense of what future content delivery is going to look like, but change is the only constant…

    Michael B

    1. You’ve been pretty good about keeping to the blogging ethos while you build your brand, and that’s always been appreciated in the community, I think. Certainly we’ve appreciated it here. The early commercializers seemed to generally follow your path, from what I’ve seen. Some of the new growth we’ve seen in this area has been different, and drives a very different blogging experience from the traditional blogs of 4 or 5 years ago.

  6. Another observation is that even hobby blogs aren’t the prolific linkers we used to be. Much of that is that reliable sources for noticing links have largely fallen by the wayside. It used to be easy to get noticed with a pingback, or through Technorati, when that worked well. Now it’s very difficult to notice someone linking unless they bring in a whole lot o’ traffic.

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