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Bloggers can make money, but most keep day jobs

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A little more than $1 billion, or one-fourth of all advertising online, went to Google's AdSense program in the third quarter of 2006. Of that, Google shared $780 million with those running AdSense. Approximately 3 million blogs now use AdSense, according to the blog-tracking site Technorati.

What isn't known is how that $780 million was distributed over those roughly 3 million blogs. But anecdotal evidence suggests that there's a majority making nothing, a sizable minority bringing in at least $100 a month, and a few making serious money.

This past November, a survey by of 732 self-selected respondents found that of the 625 bloggers using AdSense, 45 percent were making at least $100 a month. Another survey of 104 bloggers at a blogger summit last week in New York found roughly a third making that money, not necessarily with AdSense.

Nearly one-sixth in both surveys made at least $1,000 a month. These samples, of course, skew heavily toward the more committed and successful bloggers.

"The vast majority of people are being read by the writer and his mother, or in some cases not even by his mother," quips Sree Sreenivasan, who runs the new-media program at Columbia University.But for some, he says, new opportunities are emerging that are different from the original Web bubble.

The anecdotal numbers suggest an economic shift based on what Don Tapscott, co-author of "Wikinomics," calls the democratization of the creation of content.

"People can participate in the economy in ways that were once unimaginable. Not just moonlighting, but serious money," says Mr. Tapscott. In the past, writers, musicians, and videomakers needed to prove themselves as "home-run hitters" in order to get distributed and earn significant money. "Now, bunters and single-hitters have a chance to make a living," he says.

The AdSense system allows advertisers to bid on how much they'll pay – in cents per click – to appear on sites with certain keywords. In the case of "Charlie on the MBTA," Vahey has seen ads show up from bus companies – not surprising since he mentions buses frequently. He makes money each time someone clicks on the ads.

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