the gap / January 17, 2017

The Music Blogger Generating $10,000 Per Week, Charging Customers $1

This monetisation angle is simply genius

They say the best website ideas are those that solve a problem or “scratch your own itch”.

Today’s gap in the market showcases a real problem that myself and thousands of others have which is just begging for a solution.

As with all Gaps reports, I’ll start by showing an incredible success story, and then get into opportunities to use that same business model in slightly different ways and industries, while still having great potential to make money.

Spoiler: I’m willing to send a lot of traffic to whoever builds today’s Gap.

It all started with a music blog…

In 2011, Jason Grishkoff founded the music blog, Indie Shuffle. It was his first foray into the world of building and marketing websites.

It was only ever supposed to be a side project, but just a few years later that blog would become the main focus of his life.

Jason's website, Indie Shuffle

Jason’s website, Indie Shuffle

As his traffic grew, Jason struggled with the exact thing I and thousands of other bloggers receive on a daily basis: Pitches.

Unlike the usual scenario, people weren’t pitching Jason so they could write content for his blog and get a backlink.

Instead, he was being pitched by artists, record labels and publicists who wanted him to put their music in front of his audience.

Like me, Jason eventually started ignoring these flood of emails.

Unlike me, he decided to create a solution to tackle this problem head on, and streamline the barrage of requests he received.

At the time he was also interested in learning some programming languages, so built the website SubmitHub to “scratch his itch” and hopefully create a solution to his problem.

As he states on an interview with IndieHackers,

The idea was simple: interested parties could send their songs (SoundCloud or YouTube) to Indie Shuffle on SubmitHub. We would then receive the submissions in a consistent feed from which we could either give it a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” β€” the former meant that we were planning to blog it; the latter meant that we weren’t interested.

He kept the idea in the back of his mind that if SubmitHub ever took off, he would potentially be able to charge a few dollars by explaining to people why their music wasn’t being promoted.

He figures that telling people things like “You can’t sing in tune” (his words) would be better than not getting a response at all.

Now, instead of ignoring people who wanted to get in front of his readers, Jason started pointing everyone who pitched him directly to the new site. Due to already having an established brand, word started to spread.

Thanks to SubmitHub, instead of people pitching music and not knowing whether or not it would be featured, those in the music industry now at least got some kind of response (even if it was just a thumbs down).

Jason found that other blogs started reaching out to him after learning of his system, hoping to implement something similar on their own websites.

This led him to thinking how he could expand the concept further, and finally monetise the project.

This is where it gets really interesting…

Jason’s plan to monetise the site was both incredibly simple and incredibly smart.

Jason decided to charge people $1 every time they wanted him to consider their music to be featured on his site.

Of course, he couldn’t feature everyone who paid the $1, but he did guarantee that all submissions would:

  • Receive a quick response
  • Know whether it was good enough to be shared
  • Know why it wasn’t being shared, if that was the case

If a submission didn’t get these three guarantees, Jason would send back their dollar.

To increase his earnings potential (and potential reach for music artists), Jason implemented a credits system so you could submit your music to more than just his website.

submithub

You could then pay $1 to get the feedback of just his blog, or you could pay $10 to get feedback (and potential promotion) from ten blogs.

The other blogs that were part of the network each have 48 hours to respond to a pitch. If they don’t respond in time, then they don’t get their cut ($0.50 on every dollar Jason receives).

Just eight months after launching this system, Jason now has 135 blogs and 90 record labels on-board for people to submit their music to.

In the time of his most recent interview, 17,000 credits had been spent just in the past week, paying out over $8,500 to bloggers and labels.

To see how things were progressing since then, I reached out to Jason personally.

The first thing Jason said to me was…

“First up, we’re making more than $10,000 per week now.”

I was definitely intrigued to learn more, so asked him questions on how the site is doing, how he manages so many payments and what he sees the risks of this business potentially being.

SubmitHub took off thanks to the success of Indie Shuffle. How did you grow Indie Shuffle in the first place?

My mantra has always been to focus on two things:

1) constantly improving the product

2) constantly creating and sharing good content.

Over the years (almost 8 of them now), that focus has continued to build and build and build such that even today — at a time when streaming services are dominating the market — Indie Shuffle still has nearly 300k unique monthly viewers (many who return daily).

Did you do any outreach at all to get new blogs on board or was it all purely word of mouth?

There was a *ton* of outreach that went into it!

Throughout the course of 2016 I probably hand-tailored roughly 1,000 emails to bloggers.

Ironically, barely any of them responded because their inboxes are so flooded with submissions. Even today, myself and Dylan (employee #1) are constantly reaching out to introduce the product to curators.

And what about for record labels? I imagine that was more difficult…

That was actually way easier — most of them were already using the platform to send to blogs, and loved the idea that they could kill two birds with one stone.

They could:

1) manage their demo submission process

2) earn free credits to use on blogs.

All we had to do was tap into the existing user-base; I think we had more than 50 signed up before we even started.

How often do you send payouts to the blogs and labels? Do PayPal fees hurt with all the different places you have to send money?

Roughly 10 times a day.

They can make a request for cashout as soon as they’ve got a balance of $10. For a while I was making all the payments manually, which had one major pro (they paid all the fees) and one major con (a lot of manual work).

Roughly two months ago I decided to use PayPal’s mass payments feature to automate the whole thing. Implementing that effectively flipped the pros and cons: I now pay a ~2% fee, but all I have to do is click a button to issue the payment.

What revenue figures do you typically do in a month? Is the business growing?

More than $50,000 per month and yes, it’s growing.

If something were to hurt your business in the future, what would that be? People moving to FB Ads instead of you, etc?

I think the main “threat” to the business right now is the balance of supply and demand. It’s important that the curators using the platform don’t feel overwhelmed with submissions — there’s a very real risk of burnout. Fortunately we’ve been able to organically balance supply and demand.

What does a typical day look like in terms of the work for you growing and running this business?

I typically wake up to ~5 customer support tickets, and receive an additional ~10 throughout the day. The volume is actually really low and manageable — largely due to a decently-formatted FAQ and an earnest effort to try and “pre-empt” any questions that might come up during the user’s navigation of the site.

I then go for a run, eat some breakfast, and head into the office. From there, Dylan typically handles the ~5 label/blog applications that have come in that day, while I knuckle down and focus on whatever coding task comes my way.

Somewhere in the middle we both clear the “queue” for Indie Shuffle, which receives roughly ~100 submissions daily. That usually takes us a couple hours, and then I get back to coding and he focuses on outreach.

In a good day, I find myself coding for around 10 hours which makes me pretty damned happy πŸ™‚

A $50,000/m gap in the market

Gaps was created to share ideas I love (and often need) but don’t personally have time to build myself.

The main premise behind the site is to highlight opportunities that can take one successful angle and use it in another niche or to fix another problem.

In this case, after being inspired by what Jason has done, I know there’s a huge problem that needs to be (and can be) fixed: People pitching guest posts.

I genuinely think the people who build a great solution to this problem will have another $50,000/m business on their hands.

To highlight the problem more clearly, here’s a look at how many guest post requests I received for ViperChill alone in the month of December (where traffic to marketing blogs is typically much lower).

guest

They’re mostly automated, didn’t read anything about me and write as if my parents named me www.viperchill.com rather than Glen.

The most annoying part is that if I don’t reply to these emails, I get another email and then another email thanks to automated follow-up software.

The reasons people want to write content for another site (a guest post) typically include:

  • Links back to their site (for Google rankings)
  • Traffic back to their site
  • To boost their ‘authority’ in a niche

Although the marketing and music industry are worlds apart, the motive behind these pitches aren’t too different. People want to benefit themselves in some way, by offering something in return.

That’s why I think there’s an absolutely incredible opportunity here.

There needs to be a SubmitHub of the world not for music, but for guest post submissions.

Not just one site though, but many of them, for different niches.

If you try to create a site that receives guest post submissions for marketing, health and finance blogs all in one place, you’re going to struggle to get bloggers on board and be relevant enough for those submitting guest post articles.

While people genuinely do send me articles about the paleo diet for my marketing blog (I’m not joking), most people who want to write on my site only want to write on other marketing blogs.

Because the idea is to go niche with this solution, there are at least 20 opportunities here for Gaps readers.

Not only could you charge people for the chance to write for or get feedback from marketing blogs, you could also build that manages submissions for:

  • Personal development blogs
  • Fitness blogs
  • Finance blogs
  • Vegan blogs
  • Food blogs
  • Parenting blogs
  • Gaming blogs
  • Celebrity gossip blogs
  • Political blogs
  • DIY blogs

There’s ten alone. There are a lot more categories of blogs out there.

One interesting side-goal for this blog post is to see if I have the reach to clean up the most annoying industry in the world.

To rid every blogger of irrelevant, automated guest post emails that, when ignored, results in two to three more automated follow-ups.

I think everyone can get behind that.

Even better is when there’s a lot of money to be made in fixing the problem.

However, if you think you’re going to make money by creating the most simple website you possibly can and saying “Hey Glen, can you start sending me your guest post emails over here?” then you don’t deserve to make money with this and just like the guest posting emails, I’ll ignore yours too.

I’m not trying to be harsh; I just want to point out what it’s going to take to have success with this model.

First of all, pick an industry.

Be it marketing, personal finance, fitness or healthy cooking. Aim to become the “SubmitHub” of just one niche.

If you succeed in one niche and nobody else puts energy into this opportunity then you could potentially venture out into other industries, but to start with, just focus on one.

The next step is to get bloggers on board.

If you build the entire website just because you know I would send you leads then my own income potential goes down because you don’t have anyone else on board.

I’ll say that again: The more bloggers you get on board, the more money each blogger can make (because there are more people being directed to the site and more visibility for each brand). If you don’t put in the work to get a few dozen people on board, other people aren’t going to keep sending guest post outreach emails your way.

I don’t think you need to have a website online when you’re pitching bloggers about the opportunity, but you should be able to build one fast if you start getting some positive email replies.

You also need to be open and credible about who you are.

I’m not going to send money your way every few days if you’re hiding behind an anime profile image in Gmail or I have no idea who you are. If you want to remain totally anonymous online, this is not the project for you.

People have to trust that they’re going to get some $ back from the people that they send you.

Jason figured out that PayPal mass payments saves a lot of time so while sending a lot of payments each day is not ideal, sending a lot of payments is a great problem to have.

If you see the potential that I do in this idea, your next step is to go and study every aspect of SubmitHub and the blogs that are part of the network.

Then, create a brand, perfect your pitch, and don’t stop.

A six-figure gap in the market

I couldn’t just stop at one gap in the market. When I first read about Jason’s success my mind was racing.

This following idea has so much potential that I was literally seconds from buying a domain and building it myself.

I only hope I can convey it properly to help you see the huge potential here.

Guest posts are not the only thing I’m pitched constantly via ViperChill. I’m also constantly asked to be part of expert round-ups.

While they’re flattering, they often come from brand new blogs just hoping to get some traffic from the people featured in the post sharing it for them.

Here’s a small sampling of those emails.

expert-roundup

Note that I get pitched more frequently than once or twice per month. I just searched my inbox for emails with ‘expert’ in the subject line to give an example.

Unlike guest posts however, I have actually contributed to a number of these, which is why I see so much potential here.

Other “influencers” in the marketing space typically hate these emails as well, but they do still get involved on occasion.

My friend Bryan publicly hates these things, but even he takes part in them from time to time.

timetotime

Just a bit of fun. We love each other really

The main criteria I look for when actually taking part in an “expert round-up” is:

  • The question is asked up-front. Don’t ask “can I ask you?”
  • The question is short and not-generic i.e. not “Can you share your best blogging tip?”
  • The site has even just a little bit of credibility, and wasn’t just started in the last few weeks

I still might even ignore requests that fit those criteria, but I’ll at least consider them.

“So just build a SubmitHub for Expert Round-ups?” No.

Sadly, even if you could make money from these requests, it wouldn’t change the fact that the resulting articles are typically awful.

There’s an expectation that I’m going to read the same answers from the same people and won’t click on any of these headlines.

Some people are up to three requests per day, which I imagine makes them avoid these types of articles more than I do.

requests-doubled

Instead of just thinking of some way to make money from expert round-ups, you have to think about what questions people are more likely to respond to, and what would result in the best content (so more people are asking to be involved).

The best ideas typically come from something you would pay for yourself, so here goes: I would happily pay to have ‘influencers’ relevant to my niche contribute their thoughts for an article I’m working on.

I don’t mean people I could email and that would normally respond, but people in the SEO world I have no connection with.

Their addition would make my content better.

Make me perceived to be more of an influencer and have better connections

And possibly increase my reach by those quoted for the article sharing it as well.

Just think, what if I was writing an article on podcasting and I wanted to get the thoughts of some top podcasters on iTunes? How great would it be to have it guaranteed that some of the top podcasters in a certain category would see my question?

Even if they didn’t respond, it would be good to know why they didn’t and why my outreach wasn’t working.

I have been online long enough to try to refrain from being hypey with anything I write, but the potential scale of this project – done properly – could be one of the next IPO’s in tech.

I said I would struggle to convey what I’m thinking here, but bear with me.

Think about how many people there are in every single industry who are seen as the ‘top voices’ for that particular niche.

I’m talking tens or even hundreds of thousands of people that bloggers, reporters, podcasters and email marketers would love to include the thoughts of in their next update.

I imagine a website similar to HelpaReporterOut a.k.a HARO (which makes millions per year) but with a much better conversion rate for both those who want thoughts from influencers and those who give their thoughts. There are 100X more bloggers and podcasters than their are news organisations on HARO.

I see this new website being a mix of Quora (the question and answer site) and Clarity.fm (where you pay per minute to talk with experts).

Just like SubmitHub, I would target and group people into particular packs. So reach out to the top influencers in SEO, cooking, DIY and every other field you can think of (literally tens of thousands of people).

Explain the concept to them and how they can earn money by answering questions from their audience, even if they say no to answering.

Like SubmitHub you would have to show the average response rate of certain people to make sure everyone isn’t trying to get quotes from Tim Ferriss when he doesn’t respond to anyone.

The marketing will literally take care of itself.

That’s another reason why I think there’s so much value in this concept. The marketing is usually the hard part.

Any time someone receives a question from their audience about an expert round-up or similar, they just direct people to their profile on this new site where it costs $1 for the question to be asked, or more if they can ask multiple people.

If people are adverse to accepting some money for answering a question – which I could see happening for millionaires or people who dont want the money – then there could be an option to donate all of your earnings to charity.

I would totally direct people to this new project if my answers could send $0.50 – $1 to charity every time I replied (or even ignored) a request.

The reason I think this would take off incredibly quickly is because everyone who reaches out to people for quotes, expert round-ups or feedback would now start being redirected to this new site. Word would spread incredibly fast.

It would only take a few prominent people on board to get the ball rolling and grow the platform.

You could start it very niche, like Clarify.fm (which is primarily for business advice), or go for every industry like Quora. Keep in mind that Quora really grew because the dominated the startup scene first.

Of course, just like the guest posting opportunity, you’re not going to succeed with this by whipping up the bear minimum of a website. You must focus on building a real brand like the aforementioned Quora, HARO, Clarity FM, etc.

I know this sounds egotistical but I am in love with this idea. I truly hope somebody gives it the attention it deserves, because I know the potential upside is huge.

There’s so much more we can do with this…

One of my favourite aspects of running this website is finding an incredible case study like Jason’s and then discussing it with the other people who work here on all of the potential gaps in the market there are.

Just to briefly throw a few more ideas into the ring from our discussions, here’s some others we came up with…

A site for models where they can submit pictures and get feedback from industry professionals

The world of modelling is absolutely huge. There are over 100,000 fashion models in the US alone who are looking for work.

Sadly, as with many industries, there is simply far more supply than there is demand.

While I admittedly don’t know much about the modelling world, models could certainly learn from feedback of those more experienced in the industry.

You could bring on board:

  • Designers
  • Fashion brands
  • Photographers

And then have models pay for the chance for people to review their portfolio and get feedback on what’s working for them and what isn’t.

Painters connecting with masters of the skill

If you’re new to painting or drawing or illustrating (like I am) I know it would be great to get feedback from people who are in art school or cartoonists or have worked on some incredible marketing campaigns with their work.

Just on the angle of ‘art’ alone there are a lot of sub-industries you could delve into.

A place to submit press releases that are guaranteed to be looked at

This could be huge, so I’ve saved this “additional one” as the best till last.

Journalists get pitched press releases all of the time. I’m talking hundreds per day.

Even the good pitches often don’t receive a response.

Not long ago I pitched a news story to dozens of journalists and didn’t get a single reply.

this-is-huge

My pitch was personal, relevant to what they write about and wouldn’t even benefit me in any way if they went with the story.

You can see from the screenshot above that nobody got back to me.

I would have happily paid $10-$20 just to get these people to even acknowledge that they saw the pitch but weren’t interested.

It actually made me dislike some of the journalists I contacted because they couldn’t even say “Sorry, not interested”.

Like the guest blogging opportunity, I think it would work better to branch this out into particular niches rather than starting one big site (at least to get the ball rolling).

If you do build any of the ideas featured here today, you can always email us at insights@gaps.com. We would love to see some (finished) solutions!

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