It seems like there are thousands of people out there dreaming of becoming the next Internet sensation.Â Specifically, there are countless people trying to turn their personal passions into content-driven websites.
If you search the web, you'll find hundreds of sites devoted to sports fans, foodies, travelers, book lovers, love and sex, and parenting (to name a few). The web allows people with a serious passion to express themselves.
If you are going to have a blog or online publication as a hobby, that's great. Go for it! But, if you are looking at your website as your primary source of business, then you have to approach your website like any entrepreneur would approach a start-up. There are a number of entrepreneurial sites that have grown into multi-million dollar businesses.Â This group includes Perez Hilton, Mashable, TechCrunch and Timothy Sykes.
While these million dollar success stories are impressive, they are few and far between.
Nevertheless, there are many blogs and online magazines that generate enough revenue to sustain a business. The ones that succeed are the ones that target a specific and significant audience and deliver unique, informative and entertaining content.
The worst thing about the Internet, in terms of entrepreneurship, is that there is such a low barrier for entry.Â It gives you the opportunity to start a business without really thinking through your business model.
While it may be easy to set up a website, it is extremely difficult to set up a content-driven website that generates significant revenues. People with absolutely no understanding of business can set up shop online and then bleed money because they haven't done their homework, don't know the competitive landscape, have no idea of how to budget and do not understand the finances of an ongoing operation.
For a content-driven website to be successful, it needs significant traffic, enough traffic to get the attention of advertisers. To do that, you must not only tap into a large target audience, you have to serve that audience with informative, entertaining and compelling content.
First ask yourself questions about the quality of your content and the nature and scope of your target audience:
- Is my writing style clear, coherent and entertaining?
- Do I have the time to produce my content on a regular basis, ensuring that visitors are not disappointed when they return?
- Who is my target audience?
- Is that target audience large enough to sustain a business (i.e. attract advertisers)?
- Do I have the budget to market my site?
- Do I have the time and willingness to promote my site through social media, content marketing and media outreach?
If, after answering these questions, you still feel you can make it online as a business, then it is time for you to ask the same kinds of questions any entrepreneur should ask when embarking on a start-up:
- What is my competition in this niche?
- Are any competitors in this niche actually earning a living?
- What void can I fill in serving this niche that isn't currently being served?
- What makes my idea for a site unique?
- What companies are currently advertising online in my niche?
In terms of the economics of building and running your site, you must be able to answer these questions:
- How am I going to fund this site? Savings? Friends and family? Loans?
- Am I going to seek out angel or venture capital investors?
- How am I going to budget the site?
- What is my advertising/marketing budget?
- What kind of overhead am I looking at? Staff? Office space? Technology? Legal costs? Supplies?
- How much time and money am I willing to invest in this site long can I concentrate on this site before running out of funds?
- Are there other ways of bringing in income while I'm devoting time to the website?
If you've been able to answer all of these questions and still feel confident that you can make a financial success of your website, then, by all means, go for it! You have to be a little crazy to be an entrepreneur, but that's half the fun.
Jon Gelberg is the Chief Content Officer at Blue Fountain Media, where he oversees a wide range of content initiatives including Blue Fountain Media's "Business Learning Center." Read more about Jon here.