I recently spoke with my friend Ricky Ribeiro, founder and editor of barkbiteblog.com (also known as Bark + Bite), to get a better understanding of how a blogger without the backing of a big media organization survives in the digital market. Ricky, 27, started blogging about music and pop culture about two years ago and has reached a marginal level of success: He’s had a few mentions on the MTV blog Buzzworthy and all of his content is fed into the music section of AOL. His site gets 75,000 to 100,000 page views each month.
So what’s the key to his good fortune? Networking – especially the social kind.
“Twitter is number one for getting contact out and interacting with readers,” he said. Bark+Bite’s Twitter account has 1,062 followers, and the site also has its own Facebook page (which 862 people like).
But liking, friending and following isn’t enough, Ricky warns. Manual outreach with other people in the industry is also necessary for distributing his content.
“Networking with other bloggers is huge,” Ricky says. “If they’re not reaching out to you, you neeed to knock on doors.”
He’ll occasionally contact bloggers with similar beats to say he likes their work and will include them in his blog roll, hoping they’ll also include him on theirs. He also leaves comments on blogs similar to his own and includes a link to Bark + Bite.
Ricky’s newest distribution plan involves podcasting. In August, he began discussing entertainment news for Fashion BS radio once a week.
“It’s more about getting [out] that awareness [about Bark + Bite] and introducing that brand and that voice to people that otherwise haven’t found it,” says Ricky.
In the future, Ricky plans to continue using social media, blogger-to-blogger outreach and podcasting to attract more people to his blog, and he will also experiment with a few new distribution plans.
Relying on sites that are in the business of aggregating and sharing content from other media outlets is one way Ricky hopes to expand his audience. Right now, he’s “trying to delve into Digg and something else called BuzzFeed.”
An e-mail newsletter is also in the works. When he first started blogging, he didn’t see the point in newsletters. He’s now realized that advertisers see things differently. Banner ads are the money makers for him so far, and e-mail newsletters can expand his platform for advertisers.
“You can take an e-mail database and say hey I have X amount of readers to advertisers,” he says.
“Yes it’s good to have banners, but you also want to offer different products that embed advertising…Advertisers value newsletters more than a blog. Whoever signs up for your newsletter really wants your content.”
But advertisers aren’t paying enough to allow Ricky to quit his full time job as a web editor at Grab Networks, a video distribution company.
“[The blog’s] not paying my bills full-time. It’s really hard to get to that level,” says Ricky. While he makes much more money at Grab Networks than he does at blogging, he also realizes that if he spent more time with Bark + Bite the blog could be more lucrative.
“That’s the hard thing about blogging as a side job,” Ricky says. “If you’re not putting in full-time hours, it’s kind of hard to expect full-time success.”