Thursday, March 2, 2006

Robin Good: Succeeding in Independent Publishing

Robin Good posts today a synopsis of his success to date as an independent online publisher, success that flies in the face of many who are now souring on the ability of user-generated media to sustain profits independently. Robin has built up his weblogs and premium publications over the past few years into a USD 20K/month business, which sits in or near the top 8,000 of Alexa-ranked Web sites and among Technorati's top 300 weblogs. with consistent and steady growth. That's a business that can sustain an independent publisher quite comfortably, albeit with contributions from other writers. Robin does it with very aggressive use of the best tools for channeling and monetizing his efforts: aggressive and comprehensive submissions to RSS weblog feed search engines and directories, weblog "pinging" to alert readers to new content, marketing articles through alternative channels, submitting content to news hubs, social bookmarks, and - yes - email newsletters to build quality traffic to a site. Robin tunes his content with almost religious precision to get the best match between content and keywords with high-value clicks via contextual ads to make sure that they are both relevant and revenue-generating.

All of this is...work. But it's independent work, work that anyone who had both the will and the ability to write and to manage a small business could take on to one degree or another. Not many will do this to the level of achievement that Robin has attained, but in doing so he points the way towards a lifestyle that many authors may yearn for but never quite attain. The tools are there in raw form, and with services such as Gather.com that encourage amateur authors to find both a voice and an audience for original content there will be more and more talented writers who will learn how to make money from their talents without having to rely on traditional publishing outlets for some or all of their incomes.

Given the sketchy returns that the vast majority of authors see from their work through traditional channels anyway online publishing will become a lifestyle option for many more authors who can get those revenues with far less hassle and humiliation than they'd otherwise have to endure - and with far more potential to be engaged with audiences who will appreciate their voices. Like a sports team that has neglected its "farm system" to develop up-and-coming talents traditional publishers are going to have to reconsider how they can develop and encourage independent writers in this new type of self-empowered publishing environment. The era of the "free agent" writer has arrived, thanks to people like Robin Good who have shown that success is indeed possible as an independent publisher.
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