Monday, April 18, 2011

Genealogy Blogging - for Fun or Profit?

In Genea-Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) on the Geneabloggers blog, Thomas MacEntee has created a series of posts for this week concerning genealogy and, horrors, money!   Is there money to be made in genealogy research, teaching/speaking and writing/editing?

Monday's question is:
  • Monday: Genealogy Blogging – For Fun or Profit? – we’ll discuss whether or not a blog should have advertising, affiliate links, etc. and what constitutes a commercial genealogy blog, an individual genealogy blog and is there a balance that can and should be maintained?
Here are my two cents:

1)  It's entirely up to the genea-blogger whether to have advertising and/or affiliate links, or any other sort of money-making method.  Or not.  I choose to not do any of that - it's not worth the hassle to me.  I think that I would feel beholden to promote the affiliates or whoever has remunerated me. 

2)  Some might say that I'm a bit hypocritical here, and I'm aware of it.  I have accepted travel expenses, database subscriptions, review books and commercial products as a result of being a genea-blogger.  I have not overtly requested any remuneration, but have accepted some offers over the past three years.  I've also disclosed these facts at the time of the events in my blog posts.  This remuneration came about solely because of my genea-blogging activities.  My readers can judge my objectivity. 
3)  I write my genealogy blogs for FUN, not for profit.  They are personal genealogy blogs, with my own research experiences, reviews and opinions.  I try to stay on top of the genealogy industry news and online resources, and will often publicize and try out databases or trees that I'm experimenting with or use.  I try to be objective when I write about these websites, and will often complain or recommend actions to genealogy providers.

4)  Why not for profit?  Since I have not done this, I don't know how much time and commitment are involved in setting up affiliate links, or Google Ads, or whatever. My opinion is that there is very little money to be made with ads and links, and, frankly, it's not worth the trouble to me.  Maybe I'm wrong.   I'll be interested to see other responses! 

5)  Why not blog for money if it is offered?  I teach for money, speak for money, and have done research for money.  Why not write for money?  I would write for money if my goal was to write for a living and publish articles in genealogy magazines or in books.  It's been offered before, and I have not accepted the offer because of my time schedule and the effort involved.  I do write for the FGS FORUM Magazine, but the only remuneration is a free digital copy of the magazine and the satisfaction of seeing my name and work in print (well, digital print!).  Frankly, I'm retired with a pension, and we live within our income and still take tourist and genealogy vacations. 

6)  Every time I make, or contribute to, a presentation about genea-blogging, I get the question "Do you have ads on your site?"  The implication is that having ads makes a blogger beholden to the companies providing remuneration.  This goes along with, I think, one strain of thinking about the genealogy industry that "everything should be free."  That's a topic for Wednesday in this series.

7)  Does the fact that some genea-blogging colleagues write for money, or accept remuneration for their efforts, affect my opinion of them?  Nope - I continually read and evaluate the body of their work, and see objective and reasonable efforts from them.  The disclosure rules that most of my colleagues follow help me to judge their objectivity.  Each genea-blogger has a reputation to form and keep, and it is a precious thing.  I think that we're all aware of that, and work hard to keep it.  My opinion of the work of my genea-blogging colleagues, many of whom I have corresponded with and met in person, is based solely on their body of work, and the personal interactions I've had with them.  My own philosophy is that everyone is unique, and nobody's perfect.  I enjoy meeting and discussing genealogy with different people.

Tuesday's topic is Careers in Genealogy.  Stay tuned for Randy's musings about that.


Susan Petersen said...

Randy - I just can't envision Saturday Night Genealogy Profit in your future!

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...


I always appreciate your distinctive and useful comments ('musing' - excuse me!) on the topics of the day. We are also getting to know each other, a little better, through this great dialogue - Thanks, again, for your contribution! ;-)

Alabamahoosier said...

I enjoy your blog. Keep it as is. I generally don't return to blogs who are pushing a product.

Lynn Palermo said...

Thanks Randy for adding your input on this dialogue. As someone who does engage in ads and affiliate links I have often wondered why you do not. I personally do not find it a hassle and with your readership you could certainly make a few dollars with little to no effort, strictly by doing what you do now. I certainly don't let it stop me from offering my honest opinion on a company even if they are an affiliate. Of course I completely respect your opinion. Everyone should do what they feel works best for them.

Judy Webster said...

Ads displayed on my blogs tend to be less relevant than those on my main Web site, where I can use contextual Google ads and tweak the HTML code to control which part of the page the ad server reads when it is deciding what ads would match the page content. I earn next to nothing from ads on my blogs, but those on my Web site bring in enough to pay my Web hosting bills. But presumably that is because more people read my Web site than my blogs!

Untangled Family Roots said...

Randy, never feel guilty about what is offered to you based on your hard work. I for one love and enjoy reading your blog whenever I get the opportunity and if you make a little while doing it, good for you. I also have quit the ads on mine because I just don't have the time and found it a hassle, but for those who have mastered it. Kudos to you. It's a good thing if you can wake up every morning and love the work you do to put food on the table. I wished I could do my genealogy work full time too, but for now I've got three mouths to feed and keep clothed and a hubby to keep happy, so it's a part time venture for me. I say every man/woman to their own. Do what works for you.

Michael Hait said...


In my opinion you have made the right decision. I do not use affiliate ads on my blog or my Examiner column, though I do have a few on my business website. While it does not take any time to maintain the links (admittedly, some of them may have expired), it doesn't bring much in terms of income. I believe I have made about $40 in over five years.