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Rethinking ROI for the the blog generation: Return on “I”, Dennis, Hugh, Kathy and You

I have been a touch remiss in reading Dennis lately. Slow down mate, I can’t keep up – and I am the second subscriber to say so.

This post about Scoble and ROI got me thinking, especially given that I argued just the other day Scoble must be worth more than $100k a year. My point – how do you pay for someone that creates value across multiple dimensions; who cuts through corporate silos… in a good way.

What is the Return on Investment of a blog?

Here is what Dennis says

  • I have spent less than $3,000 on equipment.
  • I’ve devoted 10-12 hours of most waking days for the last 6 months, immersed in this activity
  • It’s transformed (a bigger version of changed) my ˜business” from being stuck in a declining MSM world to one where I get to make money from readers of all kinds. Heck – even as I’m posting this, someone from Vonage wants me to try something out.
  • I’ve renewed many old acquaintances and created new. From all over the world.
  • I am moving away from the feast and famine of freelance hackery.
  • I’ve got a great quality of life
  • I’ve got a great audience who are mostly polite and enquiring.
  • I learn something everyday
  • I don’t know how to scale this model but I will My ROi?

Dennis is already scaling the model. He is finding it easier and easier to do business. The snowball is rolling downhill.

Measuring the ROI of a blog really needs to look at the individual and their productivity rather than some broad corporate financial goal or key performance indicator.

You need to measure the Return on "I", nof the return on investment. The investment you make is in time, not money. How can I become more scalable, more effective in a networked economy?

How big is my readership? Who are my readers? Am i winning new clients? Do more people know who I am? Do people I have never met before offer me free telecoms services and free wine?

What matters is the return on me, and what I do. That is the real ROI of blogs.

Ask not what a blog can do for your corporate bottom line, but what it can do for you. If it scales you, and you’re already effective, then its also scaling business effectiveness.

Blogging creates opportunites to geometrically scale I.

"Scale I". (now i am sounding like a Rasta, "I and I")

All (or just almost all?) successful Global Microbrands are indelibly associated with people. Its people, not infrastructures, that can now scale in fairly unprecedented ways. Blogging is a part of that phenomenon.

Nick Carr (Does IT Matter), Hugh MacLeod (Gaping Void, Hughtrain), David Heinemeier Hannson (37Signals), Catarina Fake (note that Flickr is just listed under "other projects"), Kathy Sierra (Headfirst), Craig Newmark (the eponymous List) people like that.

At least one Fortune 500 firm understands this phenomenon. Can we think of Sun without Jonathan Schwartz any more? Of course we couldn’t think of Sun 1.0 without Scott either, but Jonathan has made the connection explicity. His blog is about scaling him, which then scales Sun. Its about participation.

Strong communities coalesce around people, not technologies. Linus’ Linux, Mark Fleury’s JBoss and so on. Where woudl the technology be without leadership?

That is where Doc is right in Business As Morality. Leaders have to give something, not just take. People give, corporations are by definition built to take.

So while Nick Carr as usual aims to debunk a theory, he admits that

I agree that there appears to be some kind of basic economic shift going on. It certainly seems to have something to do with "scalable platforms," and it may well have something to do with generosity

I would argue that is what is really important is not scalable platforms but scalable people. That is the real truth about Return on I. Blogs make people more scalable.

Have you ever wished you could split into two, so one of you could get on with your work, while the other went out to meet friends? With blogs you can do just that. Write a blog, leave it and see if others can improve the idea. Go do something else. Come back and work the problem. A better return on I.

Finally I just wanted to say a bit about Werner Vogels, the new smiley blog superstar, and Amazon. You say "I don’t want to turn this into a corporate announcement weblog". I am not sure you have much choice. Like Kathy says: You are a marketer: Deal with it.

So you announce Amazon Wire, "an original, free podcast about books, music, movies, and those who create them". In my opinion it would be better to be amplifying your top review contributors, and so on, rather than Stephen Soderbergh. Amazon, like every company, needs evangelists. Why not create stars of your community? Its really not about broadcast news, its about famous for 15 people. If you could help make your customers famous for 100 people, they would be an Amazon evangelist for free.

No I don’t have "hard numbers", but this is Return on I.

Related Items: Scaling Martin Taylor, 300 Hits Just Came out of my finger

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks for citing the story James – it is proving much more interesting than I thought. So a nice surprise.

  2. I think Dennis’ secret is that he still runs on UK time, but he lives in a country that runs on ‘manana’ time, so he gets more hours in the day than you and I (or should that be ‘I and I’?).

    Given that even the best bloggers can’t REALLY do more in a day because they blog, I think where blogs scale “I” is in increasing the value generated in that time – you don’t necessarily do more work, but the work you do brings more “revenue per hour” (measured in whatever units make sense to you – I’m not sure that Evelyn Rodriguez measures dollars, but I suspect she has improved her spiritual return on ‘I’ via blogging, which is more important to her).

  3. James I agree with much of your sentiment, however since Amazon’s Werner Vogels threw down a gauntlet to put some metrics on the ROI of blogging, I did exactly that with some equations of my own invention that calculate the ROI of corporate blogs based on advertising yield and lead generation versus the blogger’s time and wages. Check it out here: http://www.businessreviewonline.com/blog/archives/2006/04/the_roi_of_blog.html



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