Why Bloggers Need More Than Ads to Survive


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.


[Image source: Shutterstock.com]


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About The Author

Ana is a Travel Blogger and Blogging Coach at The City Sidewalks. With her expertise in online marketing, she's able to help other bloggers, creatives, and entrepreneurs grow their businesses so that they can achieve financial freedom to travel the world on their own terms.

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26 Responses

  1. Andrew Wiebe

    Thanks for this article Jennine!

    This is very true, and, while content marketing is a great way to attract search traffic, it’s necessary to draw larger numbers of readers or as you suggest find many ways of monetizing your blog if your objective is to make a living at it.

    Affiliate marketing, products or services and membership sites are great ways of accomplishing that.

  2. Sharzad Kiadeh

    Great topic! Thanks for sharing. I still don’t know why it’s taboo for bloggers/youtubers to discuss how they make money. I am personally proud of the fact that I get paid to create content with and for some of my favorite companies, brands, people, etc. Just because I get paid, doesn’t mean the content is bad ; ) I would be an idiot NOT to charge for the amount of work that goes into everything I do.

  3. TheStylishCity

    I am so glad that somebody finally wrote this article. In fact I was thinking to write something along that line myself. I have been working on my site for the last 5 yrs, and depended on ads to make money. I have tried hard, used every affiliated program out there, and yet never made enough $$$ to even break even
    (somebody updates for me the website with NY and Online Sample Sale information 24/7). I am glad I found IFB and this article. Thank you, IFB!
    Mirela Gluck

  4. Jezz Dallas

    Ok, so whats the point of this article? Not to sound mean, but I guess we all know that already….an article about what to do instead would be more helpful. I think you should consider a lot more, that all this money making business only becomes reality, if you actually have enough page views and followers! Most however don´t!! I have read every article on here that involves monetization…but really how many blogs here have enough followers/page views to back that up and work with companies etc. to actually make serious money?
    Speaking from my own experience as well….

    • Jennine Jacob

      Hmm… the point of this article is that bloggers need to be savvy business people as well as creatives. Most articles I read about bloggers seem to say that this is somehow wrong, or bad… even though the traditional model does not work.

  5. Abigail

    There is a lot of helpful info here, but I stopped in my tracks when I got to this:

    “And who can survive off of $48/day which roughly translates to $17,520 per year.”

    The answer is: almost everyone in the world. And an incredible number of people in the US. Yes, there’s more context later in the article, but this is the sort of myopic statement that gives fashion bloggers a bad name.

    • Ashe @ Ash in Fashoin

      Abigail, you make an interesting point. Which for me is that most fashion bloggers, and a large percent of Americans, live with a great deal of privilege that we take for granted. If a blogger were to rely on ad network revenue to that degree alone, it would put them just above the poverty threshold for 1 person living in a household. Certainly manageable if you were living in the right city or place, but as we’ve been seeing in the news and in politics lately, it’s easier said than done to live on that amount of income alone.

      I know living in New Orleans, where the cost of living is steadily rising (we never experienced the housing burst because of the rebuilding effects post-Katrina), that that income would pay my rent for a year, with about $6,000 a year to spare. Certainly not enough to begin to cover the remainder of living expenses a person has (and I don’t live a particularly extravagent life)!

      I don’t think it gives fashion bloggers a bad name, I think it helps fashion bloggers understand the work necessary, and goals that may not be attainable trying to pursue the dream of blogging full time and making a sustainable living off of it. Making that much is hard– I freelance, run an ad network, and take on sponsored posts, and I don’t even bring in a quarter of that each year. (It’s why I haven’t quit my day job!)

      • Lilli

        I’ve lived on less than $6000 a year and that included rent. It’s doable. It’s not ideal but it’s doable.

    • DesignThrift

      Abigail – I agree with you. From personal experience I know it is possible and very do-able especially if you live in a less expensive place. I survived on $21,000 a year while living in Manhattan for 7 years with no roommate. If i could do it in Manhattan, one of the most expensive places in the country, then anyone can do it. I had no outside help, no government assistance, no trust fund or family help etc. I once tried to apply for food stamps on that income and they said “i made too much money for a household of 1 to qualify” You just have to be very budget savvy and spend wisely but it is possible. I know people will wonder how the hell i was able to pull that off so if anybody is really curious for more detailed information, email me. my 7 years of living on that budget in NYC are what inspired my blog, which is focused on “being thrifty without sacrificing style”.

  6. Jamie

    I’m launching my first blog, Street Style Indy, this Friday and I’m curious if anyone will even visit! Any advice for a newbie? I’m learning so much from the ladies here on IFB, and it gives me a little more confidence. I’d love to learn as much as possible and then perhaps share my experience on here? In the meanwhile, I’m trying to think of other ways to monetize beyond just ads.

    With Love,


  7. Tali

    I always had the feeling, that surviving in fashion blogging world would demand more than hard every day work and generally known ways of earning money. It’s not what it used to be 5 years ago, now amount of fashion bloggers is huge and to shine (aka at least make living) in this world you have to be a creative business (wo)man.
    Thank you for the article, Jennine.

  8. Maria V

    I loved the discussion even more than the article!
    I lived on $4,000 and I lived on $15,000. But the reality is: I prefer to live on $200,000.

    Jennine, fantastic article!

    Though I must add anyone who starts a blog with a thought of making money out of it is destined to fail. Most of the time we’re blogging for love not for money. It takes YEARS to build a following. So dear new bloggers/millionaires-wanna-be, my advice you better learn how trade on stock market than trying to understand HTML code basics.

  9. sunshine

    hey jennine, i agree with your article, by making/promoting ads isnt the only option of taking your blog to another level. with the help of SEO and its tools one can get enough traffic on the website and increase its visibilty.

  10. sunshine

    hey jennine, i agree with your article, by making/promoting ads isnt the only option of taking your blog to another level. with the help of SEO and its tools one can get enough traffic on the website and increase its visibilty. Turtok.com

  11. Kholá

    Yep. It’s true. At least for me, we start blogging out of love for fashion, beauty, what have you. When I started I didn’t eve know I *could* make money from it. Two years in, I’m still blogging for the love of it and no, I’m not wealthy from it….yet!


  12. Fashion-isha

    Great article and really reafirming. It really bothers me that in any other industry we would never ever question anyone for charging for a service but somehow bloggers are expected to promote other people for free…what the…???

    Thanks for this!

  13. Lauren Nolan

    I didn’t read this when you first posted it, but I bookmarked it and I’m so glad that I did. It is so interesting to read not only the article, but the comments! I am just now feeling confident enough about my blog to really seriously think about monetization. It’s definitely tricky- how do you start getting results with Rewards Style and Shop Sense? How do you from getting a designer to do a giveaway or discount code– all the way to paying for ad space? It’s a lot to take in and I’m so glad that I have IFB as a resource to guide me through it!!!

  14. Clever Little Buttons

    Great article and very true! I live off the equivalent of $18,000 over in the UK and with the rising cost of living, it’s quite difficult at times! I monetise my blog the best I can, but to get the amount of traffic needed to hit the $17,000 I would have to put in much more than the 3 or 4 hours I have spare.
    At the end of the day, my blog is my baby and I am very cautious as to how I make money from it, but it’s all about the writing for me!
    Love C xxx