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A Disney Case Study: How to Dump Your Readers in a Blog “Gift Shop”


When I first started writing for the NMX blog (BlogWorld at the time), it was just after I spent a week in Orlando, which included two days at Disney World. Needless to say, I had Disney on the brain, and lucky for you all I jotted down a few ideas for blog posts that had hit me while on vacation.

Yes, I know I have problems when I’m brainstorming blog post ideas and monetizing techniques while at the Magic Kingdom. Don’t judge me.

I’ve been to Disney World in the past, but something that is so striking to me every single time I go is just how good this company is at getting you to buy crap. Seriously. I came home with about $30 worth of junk that I not only don’t need, but I don’t even really want. And remember, it’s just me; I don’t have kids nagging me to buy even more useless tchotchkes. There are products for sale packed into every corner of that darn park, and instead of becoming blind to it, as is often the case with overexposure, people just buy more.

So why does Disney items sell so well? Why do people really care about the approximate 231,390,908 gift shops in the park? It’s not just about wanting a single souvenir to take home – why does nearly everyone leave with bags and bags of Disney crap?

Value and Excitement

The first thing that Disney does, better than any other park in the country in my opinion, is get you excited. You’ve paid a park admission fee, so it isn’t like you get to go on rides for free, but when you’re standing in line it seems like what you’re getting is free, since you aren’t handing someone money to board a roller coaster or boat or whatever.

What you get for “free” is pretty amazing. Even as an adult, you can imagine that the animatronics and special effects are real. Some of the attractions allow you a peak into movie sets. Some allow you to step into your favorite Disney movies. Some even have allow audience participation, which puts you in the middle of the show. All of this builds excitement. If you’ve never been to a Disney park, let me assure you – it is not just for kids and it’s not like typical run-of-the-mill amusement parks. You’ll get excited about their attractions no matter what your age. You leave nearly every attraction giggling and giddy, or at least, I did (and I’m pretty sure most of the adults around me did as well).

The Dump

This is the kicker – at the height of your giddiness, Disney does what I call “The Dump” and shoots your into one of their gift shops. They aren’t just nearby; in some cases, you exit the attraction through a gift shop. And not just any gift shop – a gift shop specifically themed to sell items relating to the content you just saw.

In a split second, visitors to the park become consumers. Those aren’t Mickey ears you’re wearing, it’s a sign that hey, I’ll buy anything if I’m tempted, like ridiculous mouse ears even though I’m a grown man. You had so much fun on the ride that you can’t possibly leave without an item to remind you of it. You’re so excited that you want to take home items for your family so they can share in the excitement. You don’t just want to buy. You need to buy.

Disney is sneaky, too. They have theme gift shops, but within each, they also have items that are kinda-but-not-really related. For example, in the Pirates of the Caribbean gift shop, they had a section of Nightmare Before Christmas items. Ok, he’s a skeleton, but that’s about the only link between the two themes. It doesn’t matter. For those guests who missed the excitement, who didn’t really have a high level of enjoyment for that particular ride, there are other popular niche areas of the store to explore while the rest of the family is buying pirate hats and eye patches.

Because you need an eye patch. You suddenly are overwhelmed at the thought of how you survived this long without one in the first place.

I digress. The point is that Disney hits you with a hard sell at the moment when you’re most emotional excited about the theme. They know that if you walk out and move on to the next attraction, it is unlikely that you’ll come back to buy something. At the very least, if you return, you’re probably only going to pick up something specific, like a single small item for a nephew that’s interested in pirates. You aren’t going to make emotional purchases.

The Blog Gift Shop Dump

You might be wondering why I’m going on and on about Disney gift shops, but those of you who have been reading my posts for a few months now know that I always have a point, even if I take a long, rambling road to get there. Today, the destination I hope you’ve realized by now is this: If you excite your readers with content first and then try to sell them a product then and there, they’ll be more likely to buy.

Essentially, you should be dumping your readers in a gift shop of sorts on your own blog.

People are already doing this, in some cases, without realizing it. Think about the last time you posted a review on your blog, especially for something you really liked. At the end, you likely gave the reader links to purchase the product or service, and hopefully you are an affiliate so that you make a cut on that money. You weren’t psychoanalyzing your readers to find out when they’d be most emotionally invested in the potential to buy – you just did what makes logical sense. You read how much I liked this product. Here’s a link to go buy it.

Let’s say you posted a review and then posted a separate link to buy a few days later. Even people who read your review initially won’t be as enticed to buy as they were immediately after reading the review. You could have converted sales, but by not dumping your readers into a gift shop when they were most excited, they got distracted and lost interest or spent their money elsewhere.

If you’ve ever attended a free webinar, you’ve probably noticed the same gift shop dump mentality. People with a product to sell will spend an hour or two getting you excited, and then they’ll whip out the “buy it right now” hard sale at the very end. And you know what? People buy. They need the product more then they’ll ever actually need it ever again, even when they have it. It’s the emotional response we have as human beings.

So, in closing,

  1. Post something free that has a high value.
  2. Get your readers excited about the content
  3. Sell something immediately following the free content.

That’s the gift shop dump mentality. Disney uses it. Almost every successful six-figure blogger I know uses it (even if some don’t realize it). You can use it too.

Competition, Slush Piles and Cavemen: Converting Your Novel to ePub


To coin a phrase from a well known US insurance company campaign, converting books to Kindle or other epub formats is so easy a caveman could do it.

Well, that is once you’ve done all the hard work of laying it out in InDesign. That part’s not easy.

No doubt about it, digital books are here to stay and they’ll only continue to gain ground in popularity; not only among readers and fans, but among authors as well. Platforms like Kindle and Nook (Amazon and Barns & Noble respectively) and iPad offer an inexpensive alternative for reading your favorite novels without the clutter, and for authors, they offer a larger profit margin than actual print books.

The Age Old Debate
I’m still a book purist at heart. I love my books. Books are sacred and oh so very special. Nothing will ever replace the feel of the pages in my hands or spending hours roaming through bookstores. But…

The times they are a-changin’ and we must change with them if we’re going to keep moving forward and not go the way of the dinosaurs. This is a truth no matter how much of a purist you are.

With the pending deadline for our novel this fall I’ve been exploring our marketing options. For us, or any other up and coming novelist, to ignore the power of ePublishing would be foolish. In our on the go, mobile culture we’d be missing out on a large portion of our audience.
Another part of the Age Old Debate is authenticity. That part of my argument was neatly blown out of the water when I read an article on The Book Designer about major bestselling authors going right to digital with their novels.

How The Slush Pile Raises the Bar
In traditional publishing there’s a little something called “The Slush Pile”. The slush pile consists of all the manuscripts literally not fit to print. With self-publishing so easily available (providing you have the skills, tools and/or budget to do so) anyone can get published. The problem here is should everyone be published?

The cold hard answer? No. I have a set of sculpting tools somewhere, but does that make me the next Michelangelo? And I’m sure you’ve all seen a few potential American Idols that make you wonder what they were thinking.

The slush pile weeded out downright crap from the manuscripts that at least had some potential. For every diamond in the rough there are ten times as many lumps of coal.

With that said, what do you think is going to happen now that self-publishing is so accessible?

It’s a blessing and a curse, much in the same way web design and every other digital medium is. We will be flooded with every kind of book possible. The ranks will swell and competition will be harder. We won’t just be competing with the Kings and Rowlings of the world, we’ll all be clamoring for attention against anyone with the budget and the programs required to publish a book.

But I’ll tell you what; this will make better writers of us all. The ones who have the skills and talent will rise to the top simply because we’re the ones who take the time and put in the effort to deliver quality. Many of these fly by nights are only interested in cranking out something fast for an equally fast buck. The rest of us will strive for the best we can do regardless of the blood, sweat and capital simply because in the end our names and our companies’ reputations are on the line.

And, like everything else on the web, we’ll reach a point where it all levels out. The pioneers will become tomorrow’s superstars and life will go on. For the time being though, build that ark and build it well.

Bandwagon or Useful Tool?
Anyone who knows me, or who’s been reading me or following me for a while, knows that I’m not one to follow the rest of the herd. It took me a year before I got on Twitter, and even longer before Wendi sold me on Facebook. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be excited about getting Kindle, or even an iPad. I’m slow that way. Always have been.

However, I do a lot of quiet contemplation when it comes to something that may seem like a fad on the surface. Most of the time the products and programs that look like fads on the surface are really very useful tools when you take the time to learn how to use them. Twitter and Facebook may have started out for fun, but people found a way to use them to promote businesses. The same thing happened with blogs. What was once considered a geek’s personal diary/soapbox has turned into a tool that many companies – both large and small – use regularly to reach hundreds, if not thousands, of potential new clients every day.

ePub media is here to stay and since it’s still in its infancy we have yet to see how it will mature. I don’t think physical books will ever totally disappear. I hope not. If the whole world fell apart and we had no way of using all this technology, we’d have nothing but pretty blank screens and dead electronic toys to show for our existence here.

Talk about a slush pile.

I believe that if both print and digital are used hand in hand, and if people take the time to create quality work, the rewards will be nothing short of astounding.

Deb Dorchak is the co-owner and Lead Designer of Blue Sun Studio, Inc./Sirius Graphix. Deb has been a graphic designer for more than 25 years and an artist since she could hold a crayon. She’s worked in the graphics industry doing everything from newspaper and glossy magazine layout, to animation in Las Vegas’ largest and oldest sign company. Deb got her start in Illustration, and her passion for telling stories through images hasn’t wavered yet. She and her business partner, Wendi Kelly, have finished their first novel Bonds of Blood & Spirit: Loyalties; due to release late October 2010.

You can find more articles on design, writing, and publishing at Sirius Graphix, or follow her @SiriusGraphix on Twitter.

Image Credit: iStock Photo

How to Create a Media Kit For Your Blog


If you’re in search of direct advertisers as part of the monetization strategy for your blog, having a professional media kit goes a long way to providing facts, statistics, and testimonials about your blog.

Your blog media kit is a vital sales tool with the goal of getting potential advertisers excited about the prospect of advertising on your blog!

How to Create a Media Kit:
Most media kits are documents that can be downloaded from a link on your advertising page (or you can have them request the kit via email). You can create your media kit in an image or document software and then save it to a PDF for best viewing. Your kit should be laid out in an easy to read manner with headings and sub-headings, charts, images, and correct grammar and spelling. Remember, this is your first impression to potential advertisers. You don’t want it to be your last!

Your media kit will need to contain vital information, including:

  • Blog Topic/Profile
  • Contact Information
  • Advertising Rates & Acceptable Forms of Payment
  • Advertising Placement (you can include a screenshot that defines the different ad zones)
  • Traffic Information (Unique Visitors, Pages Per Visit, RSS Subscribers, E-Newsletter Subscribers, Social Media Followers, etc)
  • Demographic/Audience Details
  • News, Press Releases, and any Key Sites/Print Campaigns that have featured your site
  • Testimonials

Do you have a media kit you’d like to share with our readers? Post a link in the comments below!

Nikki Katz is the Managing Editor for the BlogWorld Blog. Feel free to follow her Twitter @nikki_blogworld and @katzni

Image Source: SXC

One Large Cup: How I Learned to Stop Losing Blogging Pennies


Every day, bloggers are losing money – and they don’t care. Why? Because we’re conditioned to brush off small sums, never realizing how they add up.

My first semester of college, I had an 8 a.m. class three times per week. Those of you who know me are giggling right now, possibly even to the point where you’ve snorted milk out of your noses. I’m not a morning person, and by “not a morning person,” I mean that I would rather stick my arm in a wood chipper a la Fargo than have to conform to a sleeping schedule that requires me to be awake at that hour. I’m a night owl, and always will be.

Needless to say, there were a lot of mornings where I rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth, and shuffled to class in my slippers. God bless the ability to wear your pajamas to class in college without looking out of place. Those who know me are giggling again, because you know how much it bothered me to look slumpy in public, and the mental image of me walking through campus in sweatpants and a hoodie is terrifying. In a contest of sleep versus fashion, though…well, sleep always wins for me.

I’m getting off-topic. Blame the lack of coffee in my system right now. Actually, that’s the point of my story: Coffee. On my way to class, I passed this little college-run coffee shop, and I would always stop to purchase a cup to help me stay alert during lectures. At my college, we got a swipe card with $100 that could be spent at non-cafeteria campus eating establishments as part of our overall meal plan, so I didn’t even have to carry cash. Swipe and go. I would usually grab a cup on my way back to class too, so I wouldn’t be tempted to go back to bed for a nap.

At least, until about half way through the semester. The particular coffee I got every morning was $2 a cup, and my $100 ran out well before finals week. $12 times a week seems like a small sum now, but as a broke college student, that’s money that can easily go to better places.

And then, I saw the light. The coffee lady convinced my to buy one of the college’s thermoses they sold for $10. It was about twice the size of my normal cup of coffee, but could be refilled for the same price – $2. That cut my costs in half, since I no longer needed to stop on my way home from class. Sure, there was an upfront investment, but I went from spending $180 a semester on coffee to spending $90 a semester. One $10 large cup of coffee saved me nine times as much over just three months. Continue Reading

Are Affiliate Programs Hurting Your Bottom Line?


Most bloggers I know are part of at least one affiliate program. You can be an affiliate for a specific event (like BlogWorld), you can be an affiliate for a friend’s product, or you can join a large multi-product affiliate program, such as Amazon. For each product your readers buy, you’ll get a percentage of the sales, so you can make a tidy sum if you’re promoting a product that’s popular among your readers.

But if you’re selling your own products as well, could affiliate promotion be hurting your bottom line?


I’m of the opinion that competition is a good thing in the blogging world. Readers are always looking for new, interesting opinions or advice on the same topic, and just because someone visits your competition doesn’t mean that they won’t also visit your website.

When you’re talking about dollars, though, you have to be careful that your affiliate programs aren’t stealing your readers’ money from you. Say you’re selling a product called “How to Grow Tomatoes Organically.” If you’re also promoting and affiliate product called “Organic Tomatoes 101,” your readers may not have enough money to buy both. If you’re heavily promoting your affiliate products, they might not even realize that you’ve actually written one of the items that’s for sale via your website. They’ll just pick the one that sounds most relevant, and you’ll end up with a percentage of the sales instead of the entire profit from your own product.

In other words, when you’re promoting your own product, promote affiliate programs that are complementary, but that aren’t so like your own product that readers feel like they should only buy one or the other. Continue Reading

Monetization Monday: Setting Advertisement Rates For Your Blog


When you have an established audience on your blog, you’re sure to want to dabble in selling advertising space to help with monetization … but how much should you charge? Setting advertisement rates for your blog is not an easy formula. There’s no set price, although there are definitely factors that will impact how much advertisers will pay.

First and foremost, advertisers want to see traffic – most specifically unique visits and page views. Many blogs will set their advertisement rates based on their CPM (cost per mille, or 1,000 page views).

Size of the Advertisement
The size of the advertisement is an important factor for setting the price. Is it a banner advertisement (728×90), a smaller square advertisement (125×125), or something inbetween? You’ll want to have different advertisement rates for different sizes.

Location of the Advertisement
Like the size of the advertisement, the location of the advertisement is important as well. Is it in the header or on the sidebar? Is it above or below the fold (the section visible without a reader scrolling down)? These advertisement locations will determine different ad rates too.

Blog Subject
The subject of your blog will directly impact your rates. Some advertisers will pay more or less based on the topic. It also dictates what advertisers you’ll be able to solicit.

Length of Advertisement Run
Most bloggers offer a discount for an advertiser who commits to a long-term advertisement. You may want to offer a tiered structure for weekly, monthly, 3 months, 6 months, and a year.

So where do you start? The best way is to look at your competitors. Find their advertising page and take a look at how much they charge. Then evaluate their site … do they have more pageviews than you? What is their Alexa rank?

For a new blog starting out, I’ve seen experts suggest starting your rate at $0.50 CPM (for a 125×125 above the fold in the sidebar) and increasing it from there. Others say to start even lower. Luckily, you can always adjust your rates!

If you sell advertising, how did you determine what to charge for your blog?

Nikki Katz is the Managing Editor for the BlogWorld Blog. Feel free to follow her Twitter @nikki_blogworld and @katzni

Image Credit: SXC

Monetization Monday: DOs and DON'Ts Affiliate Programs


If you’re monetizing your blog, chances are that you’ve considered or attempted affiliate programs. An affiliate program allows you to link to specific products or services, and get paid if a reader clicks through and buys from that site. But (like all monetization strategies) there are DOs and DON’Ts to follow:

DOs of Implementing Affiliate Programs:

  • Keep it Relevant. Some affiliate programs pay better than others, but it doesn’t mean you should use them. Keep your recommendations relevant to your topic, or you’ll risk upsetting your readers.
  • Link Within Your Post. Instead of putting together a list of affiliate or product links in your sidebar, link right in the body of your applicable blog post. Readers are much more apt to click through as they are reading.

  • Experiment. Test one or two programs at a time to see what products and services are selling for your audience!
  • Analyze. Keep track of your sales, analyze the click-through rate, and evaluate each ad individually!
  • Write Product Reviews. When you are promoting a product or service, try writing it up as a review. This lets your reader know why they should purchase the product themselves.

DON’Ts of Implementing Affiliate Programs:

  • Go Overboard. Do not put together a list of 100 products for your users to click to buy! It’s okay to put together a gift guide, but keep it to the top 10 products.
  • Expect to Make Money Overnight. Some posts and products will make money further down the road, when that page gets indexed and gains popularity. If a product is relevant and chosen wisely, it will eventually make money!
  • Promote Everything. Always disclose your affiliations. Your readers will appreciate your honesty, and will feel better about contributing to your earnings. Just because something will make you money, if it is a bad product you probably shouldn’t promote it.

Affiliate links can be a great alternative to advertising for a blog that has a smaller amount of traffic. Because the affiliate only pays out when they get paid, it often doesn’t matter what your monthly pageviews or uniques are!

What are your affiliate program DOs and DON’Ts?

Nikki Katz is the Managing Editor for the BlogWorld Blog. Feel free to follow her Twitter @nikki_blogworld and @katzni

Image Credit: SXC

Blog Hype and Ethics


When launching a new product, hype can account for a major percentage of your sales. Before the product is even in the hands of your readers, you want people to be buzzing about it as much as possible. Every time someone tweets or blogs about your upcoming launch, they are reaching readers who will potentially be putting dollars in your pocket.

And driving sales is a good thing – a very good thing…if you can create the hype ethically.

I’m part of a video game blog, and right now, one of the biggest shows in this black slim Xbox 360 industry is happening in L.A. – E3. It’s a press-only event with press conference from the three major players in the gaming industry, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. I just got done watching the Microsoft press conference, and it’s interesting how Twitter and other social networks are buzzing about the event.

Microsoft might not be a blog, but they are launching a product, too – a new Xbox 360, their flagship video game console. The new 360 is pretty cool, and they’re shipping it today…plus they gave one away to all the journalists who attended their event live.

The question many people are asking is this: Are these member of the press being bought with a free product? The console costs $299 in stores and isn’t even available until later this week, so it is a pretty major gift they’re giving away, conveniently to the people who will be writing their opinions about Microsoft over the next few days.

It’s a bit of a gray area, but I think as bloggers, there’s a lesson to be had here: If you do anything even a little unethical, people are going to call you on it, and the potential for that negativity to have a snowball effect is on your launch is very real.

This idea of being ethical can expand to blogging in general, not just product launches. Your readers can and will sniff out anything slimy that you’re doing. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make money from your blog. Blogging is a business, and you should absolutely use sales techniques to earn a living. Just be careful about how you’re doing it.

Some ethical hype tips:

  • Ask people for testimonials, not opinions. By providing a testimonial, they’re agreeing to recommend your product. Taking one positive remark from an email that was mostly constructive criticism and using it as a testimonial isn’t ethical. Everything has to be in context.
  • Deliver what you’re promising. If you’re selling a 100-page ebook and someone buys it only to discover that the book is in 48-pt font and every other page is just a giant stock photograph, that’s not going to sit well. Hype your product, but don’t stretch the truth to make it seem better than it is.
  • Stay true to your word about price increases. Is your product available to a certain group of people (like subscribers) for a lower price, or is it available at a lower price for a limited time? Make sure to increase the price how you promise. Otherwise, people who were convinced to purchase it because of the perceived discount will feel scammed.
  • Make great free samples, but an even better product. It’s a really good thing to give away valuable “samples” of your work through shorter ebooks, free videos, blog content, etc. However, people make a purchase of your product because they think they’re getting even more information. If everything in the product is available for free somewhere on your blog, they’ll wonder why they purchased it in the first place.
  • Never offer free products in exchange for a positive review. It’s just slimy. You can offer a free product in exchange for a review, but by it’s very nature, a review should be truthful. Be prepared for some people to not like the product you gave them.

In short…be honest and create products that deliver. This really isn’t rocket science, people. Which is a shame, because “rocket scientist” would look great on my resume.

To circle back to my original inspiration for this blog post – Microsoft giving away a ton of free Xbox 360s to game journalists. I do think that it created a lot of extra hype. People all over the world are tweeting and blogging about the giveaway, and that’s creating tons of buzz for the new product.

But do I think it is unethical? Not really. I don’t think they expect people to be more positive toward their press conference just because they got a big gift. People are still going to be opinionated, and there’s a lot of negative things to say about Microsoft. The giveaway was a publicity stunt, not a bribe, in my opinion, and that’s the kind of hype you want around your blog too.

Allison Boyer is a writer for BlogWorld Expo’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She thinks “blogger” looks awesome on her resume, too, so she’s not too sad about the rocket scientist thing.

Image Credit: Microsoft

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