A Controversial Take On Income From Blogging

This post has been a long time coming. In fact, ever since I read SMOL’s take on blogging for hobby versus blogging as a business almost a year ago, I had wanted to pen down my somewhat scathing views. (And yes, if you’re interested in this topic, do read the insightful comments on that post. ) 

However, I have refrained from publishing as I knew some feathers in this personal finance blogosphere could be ruffled. And seriously, I have enjoyed being part of this community. I really didn’t want to hear things like:

“Who’s this 15HWW guy trying to judge all of us? He’s just somebody green and looking at his blog, it’s a matter of time before he monetises it like all of us! Or perhaps, his blog is just not as popular as ours.”

So what changed my mind?

For the long term success of this community and the interests of readers, I thought I needed to air some of my concerns after some recent events.


Income As A Motivation

First, let me clarify my baseline stance. I have no issues with creators of good content being rewarded monetarily. I have always wondered that if people would pay for books, why not blog content? But sadly, I might be the rare few that thinks that way.  😥

I have enjoyed the writing from bloggers like Musicwhiz, SGYoungInvestor, GetRichDiva & EarlyRetirementSG. However, due to various reasons, they have actually suspended their writing. Interestingly, there’s little or no advertisements or sponsored posts on their blogs.

I do wonder if they would be more motivated to write if they received some form of renumeration. That would be a good outcome for me as a reader.

Possible Conflict Of Interest?

To be honest, until possibly half a year ago, I was quite naive about how “lucrative” blogging could be, even in something as boring as personal finance. I had assumed that advertisement revenue would be at most a few bucks a month and sponsored posts were going to pay like fifty bucks and worthwhile projects would be rare?

I had always believed that the only sustainable way to make a good living out of blogging would be to create your own unique product. And in the most traditional sense, that would be a book. But how wrong I was. When I found out that a successful local personal finance blog could rake in $400-$500 a month just from ads and sponsors, this was my reaction:


If I looked as cute as her, I would surely bring in more traffic…*erhem*

Ah, that probably explains why there’s increasingly more financial blogs springing up. Already more than 55 and counting. A few hundred dollars a month is really pretty good money. In personal finance terms, that’s equivalent to a $100,000 asset spewing out 5-6% dividends a year!

Many of us who blog take pride in aligned interests with readers. We pour scorn over investment gurus who charge exorbitant fees for their “Sure-Win” courses and criticise insurance agents whose fundamental interests are not exactly aligned with their clients. But are a few of us being hypocritical? Seriously, would we pay the full $$$ to attend that courses that we are “promoting”?

“Bloggers’ interests are not in conflict with interests of readers like me! There’s nothing amiss if I listen to their suggestions and attend xxx seminar or purchase yyy product from this platform. They must be inherently great stuff not to be missed!” – Loyal Reader

In the food blogosphere, where the $$$ rewards are multiplied 10-20 times, it’s no surprise to find articles like this.

Let’s just end off this part by saying that my parting words to all my students was to “learn to think for yourself”. Even if the instructions came from me.

Always verify if there’s a conflict of interest before you give your trust.

Competition Amongst The Community?

Personal finance and investment blogging is a very niche area. And my guess is that by and large, most of the bloggers attract the same kind of readers.

And advertisers and sponsors know this. If Blogs A and B have a better reach than Blogs C and D, stick to A and B. Why bother to advertise at Blogs C and D?

Aha! Competition created in this community.

Even though I have rejected quite a few (looked shady to me) commercial proposals, I have to admit that there were some products I was willing to use and endorse. But well, these products obviously went for the bigger boys in this blogosphere. And to put it simply, there are quite a few blogs that are definitely more well-established and popular than mine. Honestly, a tinge of envy but kudos to them because at the very least, in my opinion, those are great products to share with your readers.

Now, would there be more aggressive fellow bloggers in the future? Would bad blood result? I really hope not.

However, what I do know is that the whole Xiaxue vs Gushcloud incident can be traced down to this whole competition for advertising $$$.

Like what GMGH mentioned, in his own words, “editorials are not easy to come by in the financial world. Many things in the financial world are objective. Who is the cheapest broker? Which unit trust platform has the most products? What are the fixed deposit rates for each bank?”

There’s likely to be only so many opportunities in this market. Hopefully, competition will not erode the support that has thrived in this small and niche blogging community.

8 thoughts on “A Controversial Take On Income From Blogging

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi SMOL,

      That’s a lofty compliment. 不敢当。Furthermore, coming from you, there’s always a lingering suspicion that it could be a dig? =p

  1. Alvin

    i think it is a matter of time where more financial blogs get more ads and more competition are drawn in for the dollars that increase the competition.

    Well, that’s the harsh reality right?

    It is good that some of the bloggers can make it a full time passion that pays well.

    For the rest, go for the gatherings to gossip over food and drinks.

    Either way, just enjoy the ride 🙂

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Alvin,

      Yes, the positive thing is as a group, we are indeed getting more attention. I guess I might be needlessly harping over the “potential” negative stuff.

      Perhaps last night was my “Jerry Maguire” moment that I might live to regret. =p

      I probably forgot to mention about non-monetary benefits of blogging. Like getting to know fellow bloggers and businessmen who goes out of the way to align their interests with their clients. Interestingly, you seem to fulfil both criteria!

      And yes, I am mostly enjoying the ride. =)

  2. GiraffeValue

    Hey 15HWW,
    Chanced your post on TheFinance.sg(who doesn’t, lol). And felt the need to write something. Let see where should I start…

    I used to be very sceptical on blogs/webs that are selling things be it courses, ebooks or anything of the like. Who here isn’t from PirateBay or Napster generation? Believing that everything on the web must be free and shareable, and that is why internet exists for. Beside that everyone has pay to use the internet don’t they.

    I’ve never a regular reader of a blog, until two years ago I found StudyHack.com which bought me through the darkest period where I think I’m not good enough to pass all ACCA exams. His writing inspired or brainwashed me to believe that having a learning mind set and putting hard deliberate hours is the way to go and talent or IQ doesn’t matter “at all”.
    Hence instead of thinking I wasn’t good enough, I would say to myself maybe I didn’t put in enough hours or I’m doing things the wrong way and there must and always be something I can do. And since I couldn’t put the blame on my IQ as it doesn’t exist in my frame of blame, the only things I can blame is doing things wrongly or insufficient hours. And well it works

    Semester after semester even though the content gets harder I found it easier to cope than ever before, eventually I’m the first one to make through all four papers at one go among my peers.(Not bad of an achievement for an ITE drop out)
    Next, is JamesAltucher.com whom I got inspired deeply, all his writing and thinking resonate with me so well that I follow his advice religiously.

    The point is that both of them provide good content and 1 more thing which is call connection. I believe people do not go to internet to simply just seek for information, they want to be part of it knowing that they are not doing things alone with but the rest of the readers or bloggers.

    So from a blogger point of view is simple, we have an advantage over enterprise when it comes to building connection. Our writing comes from experience than direct reporting, we provide genuine information rather than sales pitch and we offer our advice to reader’s question than directing their question to the right department.
    How about those snake oil blogs that sell courses or Ebook to just make money off readers, or even write advertorial post only to make money.

    I really don’t think they can succeed, even with their fancy looking web design or products. I even doubt they have a sustainable audience. We can always see their comment section to see how many people engage with them or even their facebook post, I don’t have the figure but I really don’t think people pay attention to it.
    Speaking of monetary reward, no one will do things for free. May not be money but can also be attention, say there is no one reading our blog would we still be motivated to write something? Probably not.

    Yes readership in personal finance and investing is small but we do have an engaging audience. I don’t think the reason is because the niche is taboo but more because it lacks of promotional activities.
    (Sorry my comment now looks like a blog post…)

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi GiraffeValue,

      Thanks for the sharing and appreciated your honesty and trust.

      If I don’t recall wrongly, I remember you have also just left your job. We are in the same boat. =)

      All the best to your blog’s success and on whichever path you choose to go from here. I am always rooting for the underdog and I do think you possess the qualities to make a good future anecdote.

  3. Sillyinvestor

    15 HWW

    Hmm… Few hundred a month?

    Lucky I have no such luck and capability.

    So no temptation.

    So sad no one ask me for a advertorial too. If someone ask, then I will
    Know if I can resist temptation.

    But seriously, no worries about advertorial or competition la. Like u say, readers are not stupid.

    Those who can those viewership numbers, it will be their responsibility to
    Filter off scam or downright bad investments. But who is to say something is a dude.

    I myself feel that as long as the blogger can get past himself the product is “neutral” enough and no harm is caused, we shouldn’t take a paternalistic approach.

    Just clearly state it is advertorial …

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Sillyinvestor,

      Maybe no such luck yet? Otherwise, I do think you already have the capability?

      万事俱备, 只缺东风?

      Yes, I over-worried. I probably underestimated the capability of the average reader. To think I was an average reader too not so long ago. *sigh*