Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Exclusive Interview with Jim Wang - Founder of the Bargaineering.com Blog

Readers who are interested in starting up their own blog should pay attention. The following interview was graciously provided by Jim Wang, founder of Bargaineering.com which he started initially to keep track of financial information for himself and eventually ended up selling the blog for millions, according to SEC filings. He now shows others how to be successful bloggers through his latest blog, Microblogger.com.

1. What made you decide to write your Bargaineering blog in the first place and when was your first post?

I just started working my first job after graduating college and I felt like I needed a better understanding of personal finance. It was about the time Wordpress was getting popular and so I felt like I could use it to keep an online journal of everything I learned. My first post was in January of 2005 and my goals with the site were to write down the things that I learned as I was learning them - a riff on the idea that you truly understand a subject if you're able to teach it.

2. How was your Bargaineering blog '"hosted"? Blogger? Wordpress? How did you make that decision?

It was a self-hosted Wordpress installation, I think that's the best option that gives you the most flexibility. Blogger and hosted platforms are convenient but I prefer having complete control, even if it means a little more work. Also, there are some sexy plugins that really provide a lot of extra functionality.

3. How many articles did you write each month and how much time did you spend writing each article?

At the peak I was writing three a day on every weekday with just one "Your Take" type of community conversation post on Friday. I probably spent an hour or so on each post. I type quickly. :)

4. Did you ever use "ghostwriters" for your articles? If so, how did you find them and how costly were they?

I never used ghostwriters. Around the time I sold the site, I hired a few freelancers who write articles but never hired ghostwriters. I wanted the freelancers to provide a different voice, give the site more breadth, but I feel like my name should only go on my own writing.

5. In the last couple years, I noticed that there have been several other writers for your blog. When and how did that begin?

I sought them out for a different voice. Interestingly enough they have all been women, which was inadvertent, but it makes sense - it's a different voice and perspective.

6. Would you say that Bargaineering has a target audience, and did you have a target audience in mind when you first started blogging? I never set out with a target market in mind but I always wrote about subjects that interested me. So by default my target demographic was young professional and slowly morphed to not as young and starting a family, buying a house, etc.

7. As a follow-up to that question, how did you decide what to write about for each new article?

It matched what I was interested in so it's hard to distill how I decided what I'd write about. Sometimes I would do some research on why subjects were popular but with 3 articles a day, I relied on my gut.

8. When did you start having ads on your blog and how did you determine what type of ads you should run?

I started putting them on early, probably earlier than I needed to, but I was just learning the space and trying everything at least once. I used Adsense.

9. Talk about the logo. Did you design it, or did you have someone else create it, and how important do you think a unique logo is?

The cartoon logo didn't appear for several years and I hired a cartoonist to make it, with my vision in mind. I think a logo is important for branding purposes but the site was successful before we had a logo (before the logo it was just text that said Bargaineering).

10. How about pictures? Do you think they are necessary for every blog post? Did you buy them, get free ones, or take your own?

I like pictures because they catch the eye. Walls of text are difficult for me to read and just having a picture at the top can really make a post stand out. I used Flickr and images that are allowed on commercial sites.

11. Now, a couple of questions about blog management. Are you concerned about losing viewers by having several outbound links in your articles that direct readers to other websites?

Not at all, I link to resources that add value to the article and I'm not stingy about linking out. Readers aren't prisoners, they can always leave by closing the browser.

12. How do you deal with spam comments, such as the ones that say "You have such a wonderful blog and check out my website at ….com"?

Mark as spam and move on, usually Akismet catches those value-less comments so I rarely have to deal with it.

13. Can you give us an idea of your growth of visitors over the years?

At the site's peak it was serving 600,000+ unique visitors a month and that was approximately 5 years into the site's existence.

14. In regards to the sale of your blog, did you approach them or did they approach you?

I worked with an investment bank to seek out potential buyers but there were a lot of companies poking around in the space. Before Bargaineering, several blogs had been acquired by several businesses.

15. Is there anything else you are allowed to say or feel comfortable about saying about the sale of Bargaineering.com, other than what readers can see in SEC filings?

I'm afraid I can't go into those details.

16. Tell us a little about your latest blog, Microblogger.com, what it covers and what your goals are for it.

I spent 8.5 years building Bargaineering and in that time I've learned a lot. I've also met a ton of great people and I often answer the same questions about blogging, how to grow a site, how to generate income, how to this, that, and the other thing. I thought it would be fun to build a resource for bloggers that would answer those questions, and more, while still being a creative outlet for me. More importantly, I think there's value in another blog about blogging, especially when it's written by someone who has had a successful exit. My goal is to have fun, help people, and earn some income if that's in the cards.

Thank you Jim for your time and your willingness to provide this enlightening information to potential and current bloggers.

No investment recommendation nor any investment promotion is expressed or implied by either the publisher, the interviewer, the interviewee, or any of the above mentioned websites.