The first post was the review of a new printer he had bought. And soon he was fielding questions from people who had the printer or any other gadgets.
Agarwal didn't know it then but the blog would become his full-time profession. Seven years later, he is still writing the blog (now labnol.org), and no longer looking for freelancing. The blog with 4.5 million page views per month has him clocking in 14-hour workdays. The only difference: he works from home. "Back then, I didn't think or know that a blog could be my source of income," he confesses. His source of revenue: Google AdSense, the Google service that places contextual ads on blogs. The blog and Google stay his chief source of income, with 75% of the revenue coming from it.
With little to no capital required, taking your business to the web is clearly the way forward. But decoding the web is not that easy. As yet another tech blogger, 27-yearold Amit Bhawani, found out. Starting as a personal blogger (amitbhawani.com now techadvices.com), the MBA graduate from Hyderabad has 300 domain names registered under his company Digital World Solutions with 40 sites and blogs operational, covering technology, health, education and automobiles.
Bhawani started blogging as a 22-year-old in 2006 and soon realised that it's the only business where there's an assured 100% year-on-year growth. Last year he made Rs 1.2 crore from his blog with 70% of the revenue coming from Google AdSense.
Unlike Agarwal, Bhawani has a team of content writers (four on the rolls) and is soon planning to move out of his home office and set up a team of 16 writers to feed his 40 websites. "It's easy to make money online and you keep hearing offhand stories of webpreneurship. But it's difficult to find any guidance," he says. There are no agencies telling you what to do, and competition will misguide you. The web is the only source.
But as Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development and supporter of many internet-oriented businesses, famously said, "Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant." In his five years as a web entrepreneur, Bhawani says the three Ps that help you are passion, persistence and patience. But a few pointers never hurt.
Find a Niche
While studying to be an engineer, which he never got down to pursuing, Rishi Sachdeva, 27, realised that there's no specific service that caters to NRIs who wish to deliver flowers to India. His mother had a small florist business catering to local clients. His idea: to provide "similar or better virtual environment". He started aryanflorist.com in 2004, when he was studying engineering. Based out of Yamuna Nagar, he built a network of 100 florists within India to deliver pan-India, even to remote villages like Sangrur in Punjab for an additional cost. Today, the company has started delivering gift items like champagne, chocolates along with flowers and has a pan-world presence with a network of 250 florists in countries like the US, the UK, UAE, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Sachdeva has Africa and Europe on his list next. After setting up the website in 2004, designed by a Delhi web designer, he only used Google AdWords to popularise the site. gWhen I started out, there was no one to help me out. I made mistakes in reading the Ad-Words clauses, how to get traffic to the site and the search keywords to be used and learnt from them he says.
The first five years of business were spent in understanding how Google works and how to increase his site's visibility. The money that came in was pumped back into advertising. Result: what started as a Rs 200 per day ad spend has spiralled into Rs 50,000 a day (AdWords works on a pay-perclick model).
"There has to be a key differentiator to your blog, site or service you offer that will drive people onto your site," says Raju PP, a tech blogger who runs the site techpp.com (started in 2008). It started as a personal blog in 2005 and took on a life of its own as a consumer and personal tech blog in 2008.
In 2009, Raju quit his job with Infosys to start full-time blogging. The blog has 2 million page views per month with 1.23 million unique users. Raju says he's working harder than he has ever done in any job but he's happy with the results. AdSense contributes 60% towards his monthly kitty of a few lakhs while Tribal Fusion make the rest.
Get the Numbers
Ultimately it's all about the numbers, read the traffic on your site. It has to be more content creative than resource intensive as the people will come back to you only if they like what they see,says Hitendra Merchant of YoBoHo New Media. Merchant hosts 35 YouTube channels and nearly 10,000 videos on Bollywood, Hollywood, general entertainment, cooking, kids and yoga and is part of the YouTube Partner Program (YPP).
An old hand from the music industry, Merchant was in music marketing with HMV and Times Music for some time. In 2007, he joined promoter Shripal Morakhia who exited out of ShareKhan in 2007, to launch a service for digital downloads. The licensing hassles stopped the idea from taking off.
Then they decided to create entertainment content for mobile phones, but were few years too early. In December 2007, the same set of animators designed web content and desimad.com was launched. But Merchant and his men were still struggling with the numbers and thus getting the advertiser interested. In 2008, Desimad started uploading on YouTube. Within 7-8 months, YouTube started paying up and as soon as the YPP started we got regular cheques within 45 days from them, very encouraging for a start-up, and now we are one of the leading partners with the YPP he says. YPP is Google's way of sharing advertising revenue with its most popular and successful video creators. Once in the YPP, ads start appearing overlaid or next to their videos. The content developer gets 68% share of the revenue while Google pockets 32%.
"There's a fair bit of handholding from Google, as they advise on what content will fetch us more views, key searches, feature placements on youtube etc," Merchant says. But over time, he has found out that sometimes what they think will work and what actually does are poles apart. Take for instance, some of our nursery rhymes on the Hooplakidz Channel on youtube gets YoBoHo nearly 50,000 views a day. For 40-year-old Saameer Mody, part of the YPP, YouTube has been helpful in getting the numbers.
Mody, along with two friends, started 1takemedia. com to provide opportunities within the Indian Film & TV Industry. The site also had job postings a sort of yellow pages for the Mumbai film industry. "In 2009, we took the next step by deciding to set up a distribution platform for short films and documentaries through YouTube," Mody says.
The 1takemedia channel on YouTube has over 14 million views and is adding over 50,000 views a day for its library of over 1600 videos from over 800 independent and aspiring filmmakers. According to Mody, there's been a 400% jump in the company's revenues. "The way content is consumed today is changing and it's this evolution that keeps me going," he says.
Optimise your Earnings
Mody is now planning to launch a video app for Apple and Android platforms, which will generate revenues through AdMobs from Google, one of the world's largest mobile advertising networks, offering solutions for discovery, branding and monetisation on the mobile web. He also regularly conducts short film contests including the recent exclusive branded contest called Gorbatschow Pure Shorts.
Agarwal of labnol.org has started making tech videos for YouTube and monetises it through YPP but as he says it's a "work in progress". Once the idea takes off and you have the eyeballs, the rest is a matter of channelising the same resources to develop more content. M R Hari of Invis Multimedia that runs indiavideo. org is an old hand at developing video content.
It was in 1996 he got into the industry and made several cultural videos for Kerala Tourism. In 2004, they realised that DVD is on its way out. And indiavideo.org was born. But how to monetise it? In 2008, their YouTube channel started. From less than 1,000 views a day they are at 50,000 views per day at present. "This is amazing as most of our content is serious and educational in nature," he says.
But more than numbers, aligning with Google has had other benefits too. Like using YouTube as a host server rather their own, which helped in cutting down on bandwidth, server and security costs. "Our annual savings in this regards is more than Rs 10 lakh. Plus, we are free of technical hurdles and save on manpower too," he says. While Indiavideo made Rs 25 lakh last year from YouTube, they follow suggestions from YouTube and Ad-Sense that help in maximising revenues. "Our group is one of the earliest certified marketing partners for AdWords. We use the skills of the advertising team in increasing revenues from advertising by selecting most searched topic in content production," he says.
Also, since 50% of their viewership comes by way of related videos, they have started setting up brand pages of clients on their host site with videos uploaded to our brand channel in YouTube. "This has become a major player in multiplying our revenue and we are seriously thinking of a shift in policy," he says.
Sachdeva of Aryan Florist has hired a UKbased web service agency to carry out search engine optimisation (SEO) plan for Aryan Florist that will help to get it on the first page of Google search engine as a search response to certain keywords. "I will keep using Ad-Words but I want Aryan Florist to grow organically too," he says.
And after that he plans to have a physical presence for his company through florist and gift shops. Mody has also launched an education-related video content channel called Pocketgyan which will have tutorials for engineering students and will extend it for other subjects as well.
You could have started your online venture just for fun and it paid for some time but you can't sustain it without continued focus. "It's not rocket science," says Bhawani of techadvices.com. After all, failure can be a click away.
Seven webpreneurs on how to make the online format work for you
YouTube Channel: youtube.com/1takemedia
Business: Distribution of "alternate content" ie.
short films, documentaries, indie films, etc
Started in : 2006; Joined YouTube: 2008
Before Google: Less than 1,500 viewers a day
After Google: 14 million views, adding 50,000 views a day
Service Used: YouTube Partner Programme
Money Matters: Rs 9,460 a day
Google Gyan: "Being online doesn't get traffic. You have to network
offline. We are present at all film festivals, take part in
seminars and connect via social media"
Location: Yamuna Nagar
Company: Aryan Florist
Business: Worldwide flower and gift delivery
Started in: 2004
After Google: 30-fold increase in order volumes
Service Used: AdWords
Money Matters: Rs 46,000 a day
Google Gyan: "Google should keep an eye on clicks from network partners
to ensure that they are not spamming to generate more business
for themselves. Once you have established your credentials,
channelise towards search engine optimisation. The
idea is to feature on the first page of Google for key search words"
Company: Invis Multimedia
YouTube Channel: youtube.com/indiavideodotorg
Started in: 1996; Joined YouTube: 2008
Before Google: Less than 1,000 views a day
After Google: 50,000 views a day
Service Used: YouTube Partner Programme
Money Matters: Earned Rs 25 lakh last year from YouTube alone
Google Gyan: "Google should update their view meter. Their counter for
measuring views is not reliable. In certain cases, we know
that the video has been watched by more than 1 lakh people
but the counter shows 10,000. Using YouTube as the host
server you save on bandwidth, server and security cost. Secondly, it
rids you of all technical hurdles and saves manpower"
Name: Amit Agarwal,34
Company: Digital Inspiration
After Google: 4.5 million views a month and
Service Used: Google Adsense, YouTube Partner Programme
Money Matters: Few crores per year
Google Gyan: "One area where Google can improve is "support." The
premium AdSense partners do have dedicated account
managers but the smaller publishers can only reach Google
by email or though online forums. Also the YPP is still relatively
new. Google can help in the training area so that the quality of
produced content can get better. They do have initiatives like YouTube
Next in the US - maybe they can introduce something similar here"
Business: Personal &
consumer tech blog Started in: 2007
After Google: 2 million views a month,
with 1.23 million unique users
Service Used: AdSense
Money Matters: Rs 4,60,000 a month*
"You have to scale the blog to
stay topical. Extend your
Hitendra Merchant, 39
New Media; YouTube Channel: youtube.com/bollywoodbackstage,
Business: Video content on entertainment,
health, cooking, children, etc
Started in: 2008
Before Google: 30,000 views
After Google: More than 2 million video
views per day across 30 channels
Service Used: YouTube Partner
Money Matters: Approx Rs 30 lakh
Google Gyan: "You'd be surprised as to
what can get you more traffic
online. For instance, a
nursery rhyme gets us our maximum
hits at 50,000 a day"
techadvices.com (tech blog), mastergadgets.
com (gadget blog), androidadvices.
com (Android blog), helpfulhealthtips.
com (health blog), autoadvices.
com (auto blog), hyderabadadvisor.
com (city blog)
Business: Websites and blogs on technology,
health, automobiles, city info
Started in: 2006
After Google: 1.2 million views per day
Service Used: AdSense
Money Matters: Rs 1.2 crore last year
Google Gyan: "Start with a generic brand
name even if your blog is a
personal blog. It's difficult to
pitch a personalised blog
(with your name) as a viable business
brand to get advertisers in the future.
Never under estimate the power of
your social connections and start sharing
your blog content with them which
can go viral and help you reach a