Blog monetization: The book of comments

4 years after launching his blog, a famous French writer publishes a book of comments. The revenues of the book roughly equal 30 years of on-blog advertising.

Pierre Assouline is the typical 50-something, successful French intellectual. Whatever he authors turns into a bestseller, he is involved in the movie industry, writes op-ed pieces for the best newspapers, gives lectures and hosts a radio talk show. And, like many of his ilk, was definitely technophobic.

Until 2004, that is. 4 years ago, people at Le Monde convinced him to launch a blog, 6 months only after he started mastering e-mailing skills. La République des Livres (Books Republic) was born.

Hosted by the #1 news website in France, his blog quickly garnered success. It is currently ranked #16 on Wikio’s national blog chart and #1 in the ‘literature’ category. More than 170,000 comments have been left under a few thousand posts.

A few months ago, Assouline decided to compile an anthology of all comments (150k at the time). After reading through all his archive, he selected 600 of them that he organized in categories. They fill about 350 pages, published after a 50-page foreword in Brèves de Blog (Blog’s shorts).

Now, the literary value of such an aggregation is very debatable, although I found reading the book enjoyable despite my abysmal knowledge of literature. Assouline’s foreword nicely puts blogging into a wider timeframe, quite useful if you live around geeks for whom History started with Pong.

What’s most interesting, however, is to look at the numbers. 16,000 copies of the book have been made and the price tag is 21€ (30$/17£). Let’s do a little math. Sales amount to 315k€, which leaves an operating profit of 150k to share between the publisher and the writer. (See my post in French for the details).

Let’s compare this figure with revenues from blogging. With an estimated 5,000 daily visitors and a very optimistic 2€ eCPM, yearly revenues barely reach 6,700€ – approximately 4,800€ in operating profits. The book is therefore 31 times more profitable than the blog.

Now, 150k comments have been written by approximately 24,000 people. Even if 60% of them are 1- or 2-time commentators, the number of loyal readers, including those who do not comment, probably nears 30,000 persons.

That’s quite a large pool of prospects if you’re to market a blog’s spin-off, all the more as you know exactly how to reach out to them.

Bloggers could very well get inspiration from the movie industry, where profits come from squeezing a brand into by-products, rather than trying to monetize clicks and pageviews.

Do you have other examples of a blog being monetized in such ways?

By Nicolas Kayser-Bril

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4 thoughts on “Blog monetization: The book of comments

  1. nicolaskb

    Joe,

    It’s an interesting point. I’ve crammed through Le Monde’s Terms of Use and didn’t read anything that mentioned the property rights of the comments.

    Now, as most of them are sent under pseudonyms, you can’t really ask everyone the permission. Plus, the editing work (selecting 600 comments among 150k) is such that the book would probably legally qualify as an original piece.

    All in all, I’d think that commentators will feel honored rather than cheated when they see they’ve been published.

    Reply
  2. Joe Clark

    No, there isn’t an EU country where it is true that (a) seriously editing an original is OK at all (look up derivative work), (b) such editing makes it OK to publish without compensation, and (c) anonymous authors have no rights (look up droit moral).

    Your last argument is actually a bit of a joke –essentially, “Think of the exposure!” I’d prefer to think of the law.

    Reply

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