Blogging and Marginal Cost

A recent article in the NY Times titled “Blogs Falling In An Empty Forest” described the apparently common phenomenon of people starting blogs, and then abandoning them. Per the article

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned

The article went on to describe some common situations; a stay-at-home mom trying to earn some money from her blog, or talking about their personal beliefs and such. The blogs seemed to promise profitability, but didn’t deliver, even if they had a reasonable amount of page views.

The writer of the article was clearly a journalist and not an economist – the economist would have immediately proffered the explanation for why this occurs

The marginal revenue for this product ultimately will be equal to the marginal cost

And what is the marginal cost for setting up a blog? Why it is roughly zero, of course. And with millions setting up blogs and “chasing” (or not, in the case of LITGM and many other blogs we know and like) page views and advertising dollars, the market was instantly overloaded with choices and soon became a mass of abandoned blogs.

Beyond the economics of overwhelming choice (and resulting low average quality), another element is that people think that everyone is interested in their thoughts. In general, unless you have some compelling element (attractive, unusually funny or provocative), or are an excellent writer, or pick unique topics that you know well, your blog probably isn’t that interesting. No one is going to keep coming back to a boring blog.

Today many (most) people have likely moved on to facebook and twitter – these sites have taken a lot of the thunder that blogs used to have when they were shiny and new. The heyday of blogs has likely come and gone, replaced by these new horsemen, along with anything that runs on an iPhone (or an iPod Touch, if you are cheap like me and don’t want to pay $100 / month but like cool apps on a tiny screen).

In blogging using Blogger software, owned by Google, we are essentially providing fodder / content for the Google search engine. Nothing is cheaper than hiring us, after all we are free (over at LITGM, at least).

And we have always known that our marginal revenue will equal our marginal cost.

Cross posted at LITGM

12 thoughts on “Blogging and Marginal Cost”

  1. I think people just tried to jump on the band wagon. If you blog about something you’re passionate about it will be a joy. The money will come later, first focus on what you love.

  2. Compared to puny twitter Facebook is like an Encyclopedia Brittanica to a 2nd-grader crafts homework.
    I know because I look at my son’s wall sometimes.

    And this will pass, too…

  3. I started blogging b/c I have thoughts that are too long to post in other people’s comment threads. And in order to give my husband and child a break from me expressing my thoughts verbally all the time. (Not that they ever complained, just being pro-active there.) I found that it’s useful to go back and remind myself of what happened when so it has continued as a journal, something I didn’t anticipate. I like it when people read my blog and leave comments, but that’s not the primary focus of it. If it were, I’d have abandoned the thing long ago.

  4. oh, gosh – my own comment reminded me that I haven’t visited for some time, so I went to see what’s new in my son’s 600 friends’ life. And sure enough, I see this conversation:
    Robby just joined twitter- contemplating what Ive just done? any advice?
    5 hours ago · Comment · LikeUnlike

    Sarah at 3:14am June 20
    welcome to the twitter family hahha. Twitter’s kinda boring

    Jessie at 8:18am June 20
    No you did-ent !!!”

  5. It used to be that websites cost a pretty penny to set up, unless you had the interest and time to develop the necessary technical skills. Anyone else remember that long gone era?

    Blogs might not have all the bells and whistles of a professionally designed site, but they are decent enough. Modular, plug-and-play, difficult to personalize so they stand out. All true. But also easy and cheap.

    My blog has, in one incarnation or another, been going strong for seven years. It is a multi-media learning and reference resource for those who are interested in self defense and home security. Anyone who needs some guidance can ask an accredited expert (me!), and they will get a response for free! In fact, I just answered a question concerning how the deaf and hearing impaired can protect themselves against home invasions.

    Bottom line is that I couldn’t have helped as many people without the blog, but I’m never going to make any money at it. There just isn’t enough interest in the niche I’ve carved out for myself to attract the numbers of paying customers it would take to make it a going concern.

    I notice that the majority of blogs that provide enough income to live on are political blogs. Plenty of people are worked up over politics! Pity this one isn’t more popular, but then there would only be enough of a pie to divide between all the authors for a taste, not a meal.


  6. James, Real Men code their site’s HTML in VI. ;-)

    I second your thoughts on being a resource. I post a lot on Internet security, and point out when there are security updates that are important for people to get – and point them to the download. It makes my day when people leave comments thanking me for the pointers.

    Of course, I’m not trying to make any money from my blog. The problem with marginal value analysis is “value to whom?” I get a lot of value out of helping people take care of their security.

    I think the media has a real problem getting their heads around the idea that most people blog for fun, and maybe to help other people out. It’s Open Source, not for-pay. I think that’s what explains so many people dropping their blog – it’s not that it doesn’t pay, it’s that they don’t have any fun doing it.

    My $0.02 worth, anyway.

  7. “The problem with marginal value analysis is “value to whom?” I get a lot of value out of helping people take care of their security.”

    By gum, that was well said!


  8. I have run sites that educate the public for years at no cost. I probably have missed some semi-major money making opportunities as a result, but that’s life. One of them is for the Project Management Professional exam and one for the CPIM exam for APICS.

    I also run another site called which explains how to set up a trust fund and has practical investment advice.

    All of these for free with no expectation of gains.

    Glad you all are doing the same.

  9. The net has always been littered with abandoned communication spots – the success ratio over time is worse than for restaurants. I’ve always found it interesting that all these things – from the old home-made web page to blogs, from bulletin boards or “chat” to twitter – are the same technology, just presented with a new name and layout. And yet millions behave as though each new presentation is a new invention created from scratch.

  10. I think my blog is a sort of journal and I will sometimes post things that I don’t want to forget. I want to find them again for reflection. I also have some friends who follow the blog and will ask me to analyze some subject, like a potential model for health reform. My co-blogger is a newspaper reporter who covers science in San Diego. Neither of us thinks of making any money although he is the science blogger for his newspaper. Facebook is for posting family photos so my kids can see them and download them if they want to.

Comments are closed.