A New Trend: Celebrity Bloggers Go Full-Time Professional
Jang Du-hyun, in box, is among a growing list of people quitting their day jobs to blog for a living. His blog, Bloggertip (bloggertip.com) has more than 2,600 regular readers. / Korea Times File
By Kim Tong-hyung
Only a few have their dream jobs. The rest of us wither away in the cubicles, digging through hordes of paperwork under buzzing fluorescent lights while dreadfully counting down to the weekend.
Jang Du-hyun is among those who have escaped the cycle of the mundane workweek by joining a select group of people representing the latest breed of entrepreneurs ― professional bloggers.
It's hard to describe blogs merely as personal Internet dairies when they provide the main source of income for keyboard celebrities garnering a big-enough following
``It started during the early days of my blog, when I earned 300,000 won to 400,000 won per month by placing contextual advertisements provided by Google AdSense, although I later pulled down the ads due to reader complaints,'' said Jang, perhaps better known by his Internet penname, Zet.
Jang now has more than 2,600 regular subscribers to his blog, Bloggertip (bloggertip.com), which provides insight for creating and managing successful blogs, to a wide range of audiences, including individual bloggers and marketing officials at companies.
He earns around 3 million won per month, mostly through consulting, copyright revenue and lectures for corporate and government clients, which include the Gwangju Metropolitan Government.
``The advantage of blogging platforms is that it provides an easy way to upload text, image and video and allows the quick distribution of content through RSS readers,'' said Jang.
``Meta blogs allow blogging content to be promoted more broadly, and the interconnection of blogs through links strengthen their combined influence. If you produce quality content for your blog, and gain the attention of a larger audience, the money comes around naturally,'' he said.
Jang says the evolving ecosystem of the Internet is now transforming the top echelon of bloggers as ``one-man enterprises,'' who secure sustainable income by generating enough traffic on their blog pages.
South Korea represents one of the world's largest Internet economies, based on an absurdly high broadband penetration rate, and the blogosphere has been growing quickly too.
According to the National Internet Development Agency (NIDA), about 13.5 million Koreans currently own at least one blog page, which accounts for one-fourth of the country's 34 million plus Internet users.
And the explosion of the blogging population resulted in an increasing number of bloggers motivated by money more or less, including those willing to ditch their day jobs to go pro, or the less-ambitious users looking to generate mouse clicks on the advertisements placed on their blog pages.
Companies are also taking a closer look at the potential of blogs as a marketing tool. Electronics makers like Samsung and LG are providing bloggers their newest products in exchange for reviews, while Egloos (www.egloos.com), a blog service provider, is having its subscribers review the latest releases from book publishers.
``There are a lot of individual bloggers looking to earn money, while companies aren't usually interested in generating direct revenue from blogging, but using it to promote its new products, improve its corporate image, and identify potential customers,'' said Jang.
Blog Stardom Pays
Jang is among a growing list of full-time bloggers that include Kim Tae-woo, a former Samsung SDS employee and creator of English tech blog, Techno Kimchi (www.technokimchi.com), Jeon Woe-sook of Hobak Toon (www.hobaktoon.com), a famed Web cartoonist and budding television personality, and popular food writer Moon Sung-sil of Moonsungsil.com (www.moonsungsil.com).
Stock columnist Park Gyeong-cheol and tech writer Choi Pil-sik of Chitsol.com (www.chitsol.com) are among those who successfully leveraged their online reputation for profit in other areas including publication and broadcasting.
There are also a growing number of bloggers who are paid regularly to write for ``team blogs,'' or online magazines published in blog format, and corporate blogs listing product reviews.
Although star bloggers rarely reveal how much they earn, it is believed that the ``A-listers'' get anywhere between 2 million won to 10 million won (about $6,600) per month.
Journalism is another area where blogs are stretching their presence. Lee Jeong-hwan, a business writer, is considered one of the country's more influential journalists, and his reputation is mostly based on his Web site, Leejeonghwan.com (www.leejeonghwan.com).
Lee is not a full-time blogger ― he is also the business editor of peer-review newspaper, Media Today. However, he doesn't hesitate to call his job in the print media a ``side job.''
``The blogging platform has allowed me to develop new perspectives and write news stories in a way never done before,'' said Lee, who points out that reporters hired by companies often struggle to stay independent from corporate interests.
``We live at a time when anyone could become an owner of a media outlet and have a stronger part in the shaping of public opinion,'' he said.
Lee sees a possibility of creating a revenue model through his Web site that would allow him to convert to a professional blogger. The popularity of Leejeonghwan.com has him busy with lectures and contributions to other news outlets, and he sees a potential for revenue in reselling his Web content in print.
Lee is also discussing with other bloggers for collaboration on an online business magazine.
Realities of a Dream Job
Although the thought of earning paychecks through blogging might sound intriguing to the average daydreamer, the reality is that most of them would fare better staying in their cramped office.
To put it bluntly, sticking some advertisements next to clever words, fancy photos and bizarre video clips won't come close to cutting it. Despite all the talk about Google's AdSense and other ad-sharing models provided by Internet companies, Jang points out that most full-time bloggers generate most of their income through offline activities.
``The revenue from text and banner advertisements account for a very small part of your income, especially more so with AdSense lowering its payment rates, and it's dangerous to think it would be possible to earn a living directly through blogs,'' said Jang.
``A full-time blogger may be a tougher job than a company employee, as he must constantly challenge himself with come up with new ideas and improve his knowledge, manage his own blog and market it to corporate clients. The successful professional bloggers are always the people with the abilities to be successful in the offline world as well,'' he said.
With blogs becoming the main source of user-generated content, they have also become the focal point of competition between Korean Internet companies.
Google Korea (www.google.co.kr), which has been getting serious about the Korean market, acquired Tatter and Company (TNC), a local company specializing in developing blogging platforms and tools.
Combining TNC's technology with Google's current blogging platform, Blogger.com (www.blogger.com), the company plans to unveil a new blogging service next year.
Daum (www.daum.net), the country's No. 2 portal behind Naver (www.naver.com), is gathering a significant following for its ``Tistory'' blog services, which also allows subscribers to earn from advertisements through its ``ad clicks'' revenue-sharing program.
Although the company is declining to go into details, the top Tistory bloggers are believed to be earning around 1 million won to 2 million won through advertisements.
Naver, the country's biggest blogging service provider, is also considering allowing users to attach advertisements to their blog pages.