Can bloggers make money off of ad networks? Sure of course!
Can they make enough money to live off of? Yes, if they have enough traffic.
The reality is, ad networks are indeed fantastic for earning money you don't have to think about. Just install the code and the money comes in. However when it comes to reaching monthly targets where you need to, say pay the rent. Just how much traffic does a blogger need?
Ad networks generally pay in the neighborhood of $2/CPM (cost per thousand impressions) for each ad, and that is just US inventory. If you have 50% of your traffic coming from the US, then only half your traffic is monetizable unless your network serves other countries. Then there is the amount of inventory networks can fill, which is rarely your entire inventory unless you are working with a premium ad network, which can warrant higher CPMs and fill inventory based on campaign.
Hypothetically speaking, even if you were to run three ads on your site, each running at $2/CPM that would mean you would have to garner and fill at least 8,000 impressions (page views) each day to make $48. And who can survive off of $48/day which roughly translates to $17,520 per year.
That's why bloggers need to be business people as well as creatives.
Still, if you have a good amount of traffic $17,520 is a good chunk of a person's annual income. And a pretty good chunk considering advertising through networks provides a good stream that doesn't require too much attention. Selling ads directly from the site is certainly an option, which I'm personally finding to be more flexible than the network model. This too takes time to develop.
But $17,520 is not enough to live, considering the amount of hours a blogger would have to put into their site to get to that point. It also is not enough to live off of considering the old advertising model used by traditional media where it's possible to have a “separation of church and state” with editorial and advertising content. [Correction: Some readers have pointed out that one can live off of $17,000 per year]
Regardless of the scrutiny bloggers have come under for paving a new way to do business, for doing brand collaborations, providing services, using affiliate marketing, accepting gifts, etc. What many people outside the blogging industry do not realize is it's important to have as many streams of revenue as possible to sustain a blog.
The reality is that bloggers who succeed not only need to be expert content creators as well as savvy entrepreneurs. Bloggers need to self-promote, think outside the box in order to make ends meet. While that might lead to some raised eyebrows, until a tried and true model evolves for digital publishing, then developing new ways to monetize is the only way forward.
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