Q: I'm thinking of starting a blog and am curious about selling advertising on it. Do bloggers make much money from ads? How would I go about selling ads on my site? I have a full-time job, so I don't need to make a living off of this, but it would be great to bring in a few extra bucks.
A: From a business point of view, there are two reasons to start a blog. One is as a marketing tool to bring exposure, credibility and clientele to an existing business - for instance, using a blog about gardening to promote a local plant nursery.
The other reason - the one you're considering - is to generate money through the blog itself. Rather than promoting a business, the blog is the business.
There certainly are some examples of blogs as successful businesses. High-profile blogs like Huffington Post and Daily Kos attract millions of readers and sell oodles of ads.
Some lesser-known blogs do well also: Steve Pavlina has a blog and Web site about personal growth called StevePavlina.com that generates more than $10,000 in ad revenue each month. And Tom Foremski publishes a blog called Silicon Valley Watcher that garners about $10,000 a month in corporate sponsorships.
But those are the exceptions. There are 103 million blogs in existence and 175,000 new ones created every day, according to Technorati, a San Francisco company that tracks blogs and offers a blog search engine.
Most of those 103 million blogs don't even try to sell ads. And those that do accept ads - most commonly through Google's AdSense program - typically make only a few dollars a month.
"A good rule of thumb would be that for every 1,000 page views, the blogger will make 50 cents," said Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of the popular blog Truemors.
"Someone starting a new blog shouldn't expect a dime from advertising," said Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas. "People should blog because they love to write about their chosen subject matter. That should be the only motivation because for 99.9999 percent of bloggers, that personal satisfaction will be all the payment they will ever see."
But you're right that a few extra bucks never hurts anyone. So let's look at the various ways to sell ads on a blog:
-- Google's AdSense. You can find these little text ads with the "Ads by Google" caption on lots of Web pages. Advertisers bid for these slots on a per-click basis, and Google splits the revenue with the blogger or Web page owner. Since it's an auction system, the cost of ads varies widely - from a few pennies per click up to $15 per click or more.
Google doesn't disclose how it splits the revenue with Web page owners. But Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher estimated that small Web publishers probably receive about 60 percent of ad revenues while Google keeps 40 percent.
-- Blog ad networks. Some companies have created networks of independent blogs and sell packages of advertising on those blogs - for instance, a package of ads on parenting-related blogs.
Federated Media and Pajamas Media are two such companies; BlogHer is another one that focuses on blogs written by or for women. These networks typically charge on a per-view rather than a per-click basis, which may be more lucrative for many bloggers.
"We sell ads for $10 to $20 for 1,000 impressions (page views)," said Elisa Camahort, co-founder of BlogHer, which is based in Redwood City. "The average blogger gets 50 percent of that, although large bloggers get more."
-- Sell ads yourself. Some megablogs like Huffington Post have in-house advertising sales teams. There are also sites like BlogAds.com that help you sell ads yourself. But do-it-yourself ad sales is not a great idea for a new, unknown, part-time blogger like you.
What determines whether a blog receives $10 or $10,000 from ads each month?
Partly it's the number of readers. But it's also the nature of those readers. Advertisers will pay more if your blog attracts a particular audience they want to reach, such as high-tech decision-makers or new parents with lots of disposable income to spend on children's products.
"It's not so much the numbers in themselves as what they represent - in my case, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, the Silicon Valley crowd," Foremski said.
So if you're viewing this blog as a business endeavor, think about how to develop a readership that is either large or desirable to advertisers. Attracting those readers will require marketing and networking within the blogosphere. But mostly it will require a well-written and interesting blog that is updated frequently.
"Do you blog regularly in a voice that's individual? Do you participate in the community of people with similar blogs so they come to your blog?" said Camahort. "If you write with absolute authenticity about who you are, you'll find the people who will be your readers."
"The Average Joe will fail to make a living from blogging," Pavlina said. "But the Average Joe will fail at every other serious long-term endeavor anyway. If you want to succeed in blogging, you can't be average because people don't want to visit and read average blogs. Average is boring."
Keep in mind that ad sales aren't the only way to make money from a blog. Other strategies include selling merchandise, setting up affiliate relationships with online stores such as Amazon.com so you receive a percentage of sales that come through your site, and even asking readers for donations.
Pavlina - whose total Web-related revenue from all sources come to $40,000 per month - has a helpful article about making money from blogging at links.sfgate.com/ZTJ. For more advanced tips, go to www.problogger.com or www.doshdosh.com, which deal with how to make money from blogging and the Web.
Q: I have an architectural business that suffers when the real estate industry goes into a slump. I'd like to cushion myself by diversifying. Would it be better for me to open a second office in a different geographical area or start a completely different kind of business in the field of art/media?
A: How about this for an answer: Neither of the above.
It's hard enough to make one business succeed, let alone two enterprises in completely different fields like architecture and media. So while diversifying is a good idea, I'd suggest doing it in a way that extends and builds upon your expertise.
Opening a satellite office in another region would fit that bill. But this path presents its own challenges.
"Architecture is a local business that requires developing local contacts and a lot of face time with clients," said Michael Strogoff, a Mill Valley architect with Strogoff Consulting who advises other architects on managing their practice.
"Unless this person adds a colleague in this other office, it will be difficult to expand to a second location," Strogoff said. "He or she needs a partner there, or a key employee who can be trusted. ... They should work side by side for a year or two before trusting an employee (to open) a new location."
So rather than leaping into an unrelated industry or an unfamiliar city, look for ways to expand the kinds of architectural work you do locally.
You can push the boundaries of your current work incrementally. For instance, someone who specializes in designing single-family homes could branch out to multifamily complexes.
"Look at what you're already an expert in, and push the envelope," said Michael Bernard of Virtual Practice, a San Francisco consulting business that works with small design firms.
Or consider expanding beyond your current niche. You can team up with architects who have a complementary specialty. Or past clients can help you go after new kinds of work.
Maybe you did a great kitchen redesign last year for an executive whose company now needs a new office - a job that could be your first step into the commercial market.
"Capitalize on existing relationships to build your work in a new sector," Bernard said.
Finally, some architects are expanding beyond design into related endeavors such as corporate site selection, feasibility studies, leasing, facility management or real estate development.
Whichever path you choose, commit the time needed to build up your new line of work - even if it means sacrificing a little income in the here and now. Often, small businesses are so swamped during boom periods that they don't set aside time to cultivate new kinds of clients. Then the boom ends, and they're left high and dry.
"Diversification is good, but it doesn't happen overnight," Bernard said.
Send your small-business questions to Ilana DeBare at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to Mind Your Business, San Francisco Chronicle, 901 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103.