Sell Your Blog For More: Lessons From The Dread Pirate Roberts

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In all the valuations that we perform, few are more frustrating as valuing blogs. Despite the fact that most blog owners have poured a lot of love and effort into their blog, and despite the fact that many of these blogs have built impressive audiences, blogs usually are not worth much money (relatively speaking).

Don’t get me wrong, there are some very noteworthy blogs that sell for huge amounts of money, but for the common blog owner (and even the not-so-common blog owner), the very nature of blogs lends itself to being a lower valued asset. Blogs are simply not that appealing to buyers.

But don’t worry! If you want to sell your blog for more money, all you need to do is follow the wisdom of the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Why Don’t Blogs Sell? Because It’s All About You!

The #1 problem with blogs is that they tend to be all about you. People are drawn to your voice, your style, your engaging content, your viewpoint. Whether it is an intentional goal or an unintentional side effect, most blogs result in a heavy amount of personal branding.

*You* is what is valuable about your blog.

This is a compliment to your personal abilities as a writer, thinker, and commentator. But unfortunately you cannot sell yourself to a buyer. So where is the value in your blog?

Think about this: the infrastructure of a blog is extremely easy to replicate. Blogs are notoriously easy to start. What sets one blog apart from another is the blog’s (or the blogger’s) ability to capture an audience.

So how do we fix this? How do we convert our blogs into assets that buyers will have an interest in buying?

No One Surrenders To The Dread Pirate Westley

If you have seen “The Princess Bride“, you may have picked up on the magnificent branding created by The Dread Pirate Roberts.

In the movie, Westley explains to his true love, Buttercup, how he became the Dread Pirate Roberts. He explains that he is not the real Dread Pirate Roberts, but that he merely inherited the name from his predecessor (whose name was Ryan). His predecessor in turn had inherited the name from a pirate named Cummerbund. The real Dread Pirate Roberts was retired and living like a king in Patagonia!

In a moment of business and branding truth, Westley explains to Buttercup:

“the name was the important thing for inspiring the necessary fear. You see, no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley”.

Like the Dread Pirate Roberts, if you want to retire and live like a king (or queen) in Patagonia, you need to allow your blog to live beyond yourself.  Just as no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley, a blog’s readers get attached to the brand of the blog which is usually inseparable from the author of the blog.

Your solution is to develop a brand for your blog that extends beyond yourself.

Make Your Blog About the Content

Westley explained to Buttercup: “The name is the important part to inspire fear.”  For your blog, you want to say: “the content is what attracts visitors, not me.”

Marcus Taylor recently deconstructed how 6 blogs grew to six figure readerships. There were several strategies covered, but one that stood out was Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger. Darren, like most bloggers, put a lot of time and effort into ProBlogger, but one key strategy that he focused on was creating evergreen content (that is, content that does not go out of date). The result is cumulative growth rather than living from one high point to the next.

Many bloggers like to cash in on topics that are currently trending. While this is a good strategy for gaining a new audience, it requires that you continually work hot topics and also puts you at the mercy of what is currently trending.  Take a look at the Google trends chart below for the term “ash cloud”:

Obviously if you were ranking for terms related to “ash cloud” and “ash cloud, iceland” in 2010 you would have receive a significant, albeit temporary, boost in traffic.   Now take a look at the traffic trend for “What is RSS”:

Although the traffic is in decline, ranking well for this term in 2005 would have brought in thousands upon thousands of visitors for years.

Buyers are motivated by ongoing stability. Remember that for the dread pirate Roberts, it was the name that inspired fear, not the person. Tell your buyers that “it is the content which attracts visitors, not me.” 

Define Your Style & Spread Your Contributor Base

How exactly did the dread pirate Roberts manage to transition his personal name into a nom de guerre? According to Westley, he hired a new crew, made Westley the captain, went to sea, and simply referred to Westley as “Roberts”. The crew naturally bought in and assumed Westley was the dread pirate Roberts.

One of my most frequented blogs during the NFL season (and certain times during the offseason) is Mike Florio’s ProFootballTalk.com.  Florio started PFT in 2001 with the hope of creating the type of NFL site that he would want to read. He quickly established a style: a wry sense of humor, slightly irreverent, plenty of references to Seinfeld, but most importantly a fan’s view of the NFL with inside access to the NFL.

ProFootballTalkInitially, like most bloggers, Florio did nearly all of the posting. But as the blog grew in popularity, he took on a small staff of contributors who were able to write in the same style and guidelines that Florio initially established.

Florio was rewarded for his blog in 2009 when NBC purchased the rights to the content.  Florio is still involved in generating the content largely because he is a fan first. But the deal wouldn’t have been done if NBC didn’t believe PFT could exist without Florio. In fact, I think it is quite reasonable to think that Florio could retire next month and ProFootballTalk would still be one of the most visited blogs for professional American football.

Establishing a replicable style, and proving to buyers that contributors can draw readers, makes your blog instantly more valuable for buyers. It demonstrates that there is a a brand beyond your personal brand and that the content is what drives readership.

Final Wisdom from “The Princess Bride”

you rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles
Depending on the level of personal branding you have baked into your blog, converting your blog into a more sellable asset may not be an easy task. It is much easier if, from the time you start your blog, you have your eventual exit strategy in mind (despite what Warren Buffet may have said). But even if your blog closely identifies with your personal identity, a well structured plan can add significant value to your blog and turn it into a real, sellable asset.

Remember the words of Miracle Max the Wizard: “Don’t rush me sonny. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles!”.

Be patient, make a plan, and remember that a chocolate coating makes it go down easier.

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