Bloggers Talking About Making Dollars (Three Ways)

“How do blogs make money?” is a thing some people want to know. “Advertising,” is the basic answer. “Relationships with brands,” is a slightly more complicated answer. (“Talk to Shankman,” is the best answer.)

Despite, uh, being a blogger, my education in how blogs make money has mostly come from other bloggers’ sites. The FTC requires that bloggers disclose relationships with their advertisers, but some site owners have gone further. Joanna Goddard, Gabrielle Blair, and Jordan Ferney all run successful lifestyle blogs, and they’re particularly transparent about how they make their money. Their FAQ sections are a lesson in monetizing:

Jordan Ferney, Oh Happy Day

I get this question a lot! I make some money from advertising on Oh Happy Day but most of my income comes from writing for other websites and projects that I promote on my blog like letterpress. It took a long time to get to a place where we were working for ourselves. We drove a 2001 Honda Civic for years and years (we don’t currently have a car.) And we lived in a one bedroom apartment where our kids slept in a closet. We work really hard and then we try to take smart risks that feel a little scary in order to grow.

Gabrielle Blair, Design Mom

1) How does this site make money?
The main source is ad revenue. I’m represented by Federated Media. They fill the 3 largest ad spaces with display ads from a wide variety of sponsors. I also sell the display ads in my left hand margin to small businesses. In addition to display ads, I form sponsor partnerships and trades (for example, I partnered with Mayflower for my cross-country move. You can read a dissection of how that partnership worked here.)

If you’d like to advertise on Design Mom, please contact me at

2) Tell me about giveaways? Do you receive one prize to keep and one to give away? Do companies send you tons of free stuff?
I do receive some fun things in the mail. And it’s always a delight to get a package. But, because I currently don’t make my shipping address publicly available, I receive a lot less stuff than you might think. If a vendor wants to send me something, they have to ask for my address. And unless I need to see the product’s function up close, or shoot better product photos, then I typically decline.

Be assured, if someone sends me a product and I decide to write about it, I’ll definitely let you know I received a freebie. I’m all about full-disclosure.

And no, when hosting a giveaway, I do not receive a prize for myself.

3) Any other sources of revenue from this site?
Yes, I’m also an Amazon Affiliate. If you have a blog or website, you can become one too. Why not?

4) Can I advertise on your site? Or provide a giveaway prize?
Let’s talk. Please send inquiries to

Joanna Goddard, A Cup of Jo

A Cup of Jo is a blog that I work on full-time to help support my family and young son. Without exception, A Cup of Jo’s daily posts feature only products I genuinely recommend, and frequently use for myself and my family. Read on if you would like details about how I’m able to fund my work. A Cup of Jo features banner advertising, and my rates are set with small businesses in mind. Many of my sponsors come about organically, since they’re brands or companies that I’ve always loved. A Cup of Jo sometimes includes affiliate links within certain posts, which means that we may make a small commission if a product is purchased through the blog. Of course, a reader would never pay more for a product; it’s a branding relationship directly between the brand and me. Rarely (a few times a year), I allow sponsored posts, as long as they’re a natural and positive fit with the blog; please be assured that I mark these posts clearly for my readers. As a final note, I sometimes feature my sponsors within round-ups, link lists or gift guides, but only when it’s an organic fit and only when I would have included them even if they weren’t sponsors; this editorial inclusion is never paid for. Please feel free to email me at hellojoannagoddard (at) gmail (dot) com if you have any questions at all. After more than five years of blogging, I feel truly connected with my readers, and my relationship with these incredible men and women is my top priority and, honestly, one of the great joys of my life. Thank you so much for visiting!


9 Comments / Post A Comment

Megano! (#124)

Oh man, this is timely. My blog is relaunching this week, and we’re trying to figure out what to charge for ads, and we have NO IDEA. All of us are even from a publishing program where we took like marketing courses and an online magazine course, but nobody taught us this!
So….if anyone has any secrets, TELL ME THE SECRETS. We’ve been offered a couple of really, really shitty deals (which of course we turned down, though there’s this one dude who is like “Here are some infographics are you interested?” and I don’t even know what he is talking about)

@Megano! (Check out the link I just posted below, may be helpful for you)

Megano! (#124)

@stuffisthings Well part of the problem is, we fall into like…several different categories. We’re a geek culture site for women, so we cover entertainment, books, video games, tech, and style, and I guess “lifestyle” (we have a section labeled that, it’s more for our feature pieces and like, think pieces).

@Megano! Aim for something in the middle, then? I’ve also noticed that smaller blogs which post their ad rates sometimes tend to list monthly prices for different spots, rather than going by CPM. I guess a good place to start would be to figure out how much you need/want to earn and then divide that up among what you’ve got to offer and see if it makes sense? You especially want to be sensitive to your marginal costs, e.g. bandwidth. If you grow your audience but each 1,000 new readers is costing more than they bring in, you’ve got a problem. (Anyway I’m not an expert on this stuff, I work for a nonprofit so we don’t have to deal with it!)

Megano! (#124)

@stuffisthings Oh we don’t want to do CPM, I think CPM is kind of a rip-off (You do mean clicks per minute right?)

@Megano! Cost Per Mille – an old advertising term meaning what they pay you 1000 impressions

Megano! (#124)

@stuffisthings This has been helpful, thanks!

I want to see dollar figures!

Seriously though, I am eagerly anticipating the day that we get a breakdown of this site makes money (or, better yet, a guest post from Choire about the whole Awl empire). One of the only things I like about Nick Denton is his transparency about how his bloggers get paid.

I do think y’alls approach to sponsored posts is utter genius, from a reader’s perspective, but I wonder how the sponsors feel. Are they willing to pay more to have their name on actual high-quality content that is not specifically about what they’re selling? And how do they feel about the sometimes-less-than-charitable comments?

I’m also curious about what display ad CPMs are like these days. I remember signing a contract for something seemingly ridiculous — I want to say $7? — with a soon-to-go-under company just as the First Tech Bubble was collapsing in 2000 or 2001. This chart makes it look as if those days might have returned?

meg (#329)

@stuffisthings I second everything you just said!

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