The debate over passion vs profit for picking blogging topics

There are two camps when it comes to making money online with blogging. When it comes to the question of the best way of choosing a topic, the perennial debate is passion vs. profit.

On the one hand, there are the “do what you love and never work another day in your life” types; I call this school of thought “passion.” Then there are those who insist on finding high-paying keywords that are relatively easy to rank for; this group is “profit.” I think that perhaps both groups are a little bit right and a little bit wrong.

Passion

Personally, I hate the word passion. You could even say that I hate it with a passion. I find the word misleading for the concept that people are trying to describe. When something is a passion, there isn’t room for anything else. You live and breathe passion. I’ve met very few people that were truly passionate for something. I’m more interested in interest. A person can have many interests and sustain them over a long time without their friends wondering if the person is mildly crazy.

Passion bloggers believe that everybody has a topic they are passionate about and that if you are, so are others. No matter the topic, there is an audience for it somewhere just waiting to read your insights. The passion group knows that blogging is hard work. They know that blogging is more than simply writing a post. It takes networking with other bloggers to get your name out there. It may or may not require basic SEO knowledge. Success requires work, time, and a commitment to excellence. But at the end of the day, they fundamentally believe that the key to success is finding a topic they are passionate about, something that they will want to come back and write about day after day for years.

I see two pitfalls to this passion belief.

The first is that not every topic really has an audience. As a teenager, I collected keychains. It was a major pursuit of mine. Every new place I visited, I bought a keychain to commemorate the visit. Friends and family would give me keychains from places they visited as well. Free keychains at fairs, keychains with witty sayings, logos of my favorite companies. By the time I graduated high school, I had well over 50 that stretched out over 5 feet. My nickname was even “Keychains!”

The problem? I’ve never actually met another person that shares my copoclephilism. A search for “keychain collector” yields less than 1.4 million results. Lest that should actually sound like a thriving community, the top 5 results include two Angelfire websites. Looking at the AdWords Keyword Tool, I discovered that there are just 210 global monthly searches for that particular keyword.

The other pitfall? Just as not every topic has an audience, some topics are over-saturated. Aside from keychains (for which my interest has waned over the past decade and a half), my other great interests include reading and movies. Now there’s a HUGE demand for reviews of books and movies. The only problem is that there isn’t a demand for sites that review books and movies. Over the past 3 years, I have written 15 book reviews on EdwardAntrobus.com. As far as I can track, they have resulted in a total of one book sale.

Considering the size of Amazon and the number of reviews and even the number of semi-professional reviewers that the online bookstore has, not many people are interested in looking elsewhere. And those who do have to go no further than GoodReads.

For movies, the picture (excuse the pun) is even bleaker. Aside from reviews on Amazon, there is IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. The internet may be somewhat of a meritocracy, but these days a lone David will have trouble gaining traction against these goliaths.

Profit

Now to be fair, I’m not a big fan of focusing on the money either. I don’t have a problem with capitalism and would hardly advocate a socialist society. But, funny as it may seem from a personal finance blogger, I don’t believe in money for money’s sake. And, no offense if this describes you, but people who are always chasing after more money bore me. Come back when you want to talk keychains.

This other group chases after the almighty dollar. Using powerful tools to analyze Google searches and advertising rates, they seek out niches in which they can earn the most money with the least effort. Profit bloggers focus on concepts like cost per click, keyword competitiveness, niche sites, and keyword ranking. Metrics are the name of the game and interest in the topic is secondary to being able to make money with it.

Know when profit bloggers talk about profit blogging, they will generally include “passion” as a requirement for building a successful niche site. But then that advice is often thrown out the window when a new keyword is discovered. If someone has a niche site about weight-lifting but has never been to the gym, can they really claim that passion was any deciding factor?

I have a friend that is building a travel site for a specific niche. He has some vested interest in the topic as a member of that niche himself, but he doesn’t actually travel. For him, tourism isn’t an interest, but a way to make some money. He has the potential to build a very good authority site, but make no mistake about his motivation; he is in it for the money.

Now profit blogging is a lot more labor intensive than passion blogging. But hard work shouldn’t be a deterrent for anyone who is truly interested in being successful. I’m not afraid of rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty. I just haven’t bothered to learn the ins-and-outs of keyword research simply because that particular measure of success isn’t as interesting to me as simply being a helpful and informative resource. If I can help just one person, blah, blah. You know the line.

Coming at this topic as an outsider, I can’t provide an in-depth look at the pitfalls of blogging with money as your main motivation. But even when I’m writing a post that I’m less interested in, the writing takes longer and doesn’t flow as easily. You can probably see a change from the previous section to this one! I can’t imagine trying to do that every day just for a buck. Doing so on occasion is one thing, but I don’t see how people can actually make a career on writing about topics which simply don’t interest them.

Discussion Questions

Where do you fall in the passion vs. profit debate? Do you think that every topic truly has an audience? Can you sustain writing a topic in which you have little interest or experience based on research alone? How do bloggers write product review posts when it’s clear they have never used the product or all the products?