The Golden Goose everyone talks about: How do I make money online? This dilemma plagues many minds in the active online fashion publishing space. Many responses (correctly) begin with “Do Good Stuff” or variants. Sure content is king. Sure traffic is important. But the model breaks down for many quality publishers. Unless your traffic stats are through the roof, you are likely facing the proverbial uphill climb to produce more than a $32 check per month from one of the established ad networks. Many publishers in the online fashion space (whose names aren’t Vogue or InStyle) have become real influencers in their own right. Presuming you “do good stuff” i.e. you create quality content, is there hope for you?

The Landscape

There is no shortage of content in the online world of fashion. Quality content? Now that’s a different story. You can roughly break down this segment into the following categories. Note: I’m not trying to shower link love here and being mentioned carries no meaning, other than serving as example.

You can break it down much further into little niche categories. At last count in my reader, there are over 800 blogs in style, fashion, and beauty that publish content at least once/week. Some are good. Some are great. Some are full time jobs, others are hobbies. The spectrum of quality is complete.

What are Your Options?

How you make money depends somewhat on factors like traffic, reputation, design/presentation, reader engagement, type of content/focus. Still, traditionally your options have been:

  • serve ads on your site from an established network e.g Glam, Federated, or Burst
  • throw up some Google Adsense ads
  • go sell ad space on your site yourself
  • generate commission revenue from affiliate links to products you mention via Linkshare, Commission Junction, etc.
  • be a “spokes-blogger” or do pay-per-post -type content

That covers most options. The rest are basically variations on that theme.

The Dilemma

Let’s throw out the majority of sites form this discussion and limit it to the ones who’s editors give serious focus to content creation. These are the full-timers or close to full-timers. They research their posts, post often multiple times per day, pay attention to design, engage their readers via comment back-n-forth, and are active spreading their own fashion gospel on Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere their loyal readers want to hang. You might think that this narrowly defined segment might have the revenue game down pat. Not even close. While a select few make enough money to live on and an even smaller crowd make enough to run full-fledged companies, there are still a lot of quality publishers who have real influence scraping by.

This group still has the “haves” and “havenots”. Some generate massive stats and make a go via the traditional ad routes (a rare, if awesome feat). Others have such cache (well established offline names or connections) which allow them to garner high-value ad spends form well heeled brands. The dilemma is that they all have very loyal and consistent readership that is often hyper-targeted over which they exert decent influence. Many of these sites, with traffic that is respectable but not award winning, cannot make money. The ad networks often take most of the money for themselves and the publisher ends up with minuscule CPM’s wondering why they bother. Affiliate CTR’s are usually pretty high (readers respond well to quality content) but, unless you are pushing tons of product with a site designed to optimize this, your overall revenue generation won’t be impressive. Often these quality sites have a staff of one…the editor. Selling ad space and doing outreach are very tough.

The Solution

All hope is not lost. In Part 2, I will throw out a few ideas on how quality online fashion publisher might have a go at making more than lip-gloss money. Dollars continue to flow to the online space and there’s no reason why a publisher that has the attention of a niche set of readers can’t be properly compensated for all that hard work.