Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Some Blogging Insights for Doctors

Nearly five years ago, I started this blog. As you can tell, I gave it a bit of a facelift yesterday. Over the years I have struggled with the question: should I have ads? Will they make my blog look cheezy? Am I less of a purist if I have ads?

So I started slow and tried to keep the blog as unencumbered by ads as possible, placing Google Adsense ads in the footer area of this blog. I made about $1-3 dollars per month with that approach. In essence - pretty worthless.

But recently I embarked on an Google Adsense experiment. I added one Google Adsense ad below my post of the day and to my RSS feed. That one move increased my ad revenue about 10-fold - not much, but a significant jump up. With my readership, that amount should just about over the cost of renting server space so my co-workers can see the images on my blog at work. (I appreciate my "Deep Throat" contributors at work who contribute ideas for new content here...)

Many wonder, why not just use Google's servers for your images?

Well, there's several reasons. The main reason is our workplace firewall. You see Google uses multiple servers on which it holds its images. While images might be easily retrieved using their picture manager software, Picasa, the server on which those images might be held might be held at very different internet addresses. This wreaks havoc on workplace firewalls - until I started using my own server (which my employer has approved), many of my images could not be seen by my co-workers.

The second reason is simply one of organization - I know where my images are and how they're organized. I can resize them or edit them as I need and place them on my own server for later use and recall. Just my preference.

But renting your own server space costs about $150 (or so) per year. (In contrast, Google offers about 5 Megabytes of server space for free - plenty for most - then charges a bit for more) So, to offset this server expense, I have placed some ads on this blog. No I can't quit my day job, but it appears these ads will help at least defray my server expenses.

Not to say that I don't market my ads in the sidebar for considerably more. The relative paucity of cardiology blogs out there makes that space valuable for some. But even when I place an ad there for a month or more, I find that the revenue generated will never serve as my day job. (Moral of the story: be nice to your employer - you need 'em). But more importantly, I have found that this blog has opened many entrepreneurial ventures that are much better drivers for revenue than advertising revenue. I'm betting most serious bloggers find this. (Quick definition: a "serious blogger" is anyone who is crazy enough to do this for over three years) Bottom line: Blogs, in and of themselves, are very poor ways to try to make a living, but can open doors.

I also have invested in liability insurance for this blog. It costs about $100-$300 per year, depending on the type of blog you have, but my one experience with defending a frivolous "cease and desist" letter that set me back about $14K in legal expenses makes this expense worth it to me. Learning point #2: Be careful, blogs can be risky.

There are tons of resources out there to help anyone who wants to start a blog and try to keep with it. Consider reading just about everything at, for instance. I completely understand the challenges for doctors maintaining a blog - it's damn hard work. But it also serves as a useful avenue for teaching, advocating, venting (when done professionally and with an appropriate amount of restraint) and fills a little creative void that I still enjoy.



The Happy Hospitalist said...

Welcome Dr Wes to your new blogging empire. I like what you've done with your design (for starters) I started my Happy Hospitalist blog after reading a book. Three years later I'm still at it, although one has to wonder what part will give as life changes. I have learned more about website design, HTML, CSS, endcoding, borders, SEO, keywords, page rank, page strength, inbound links, outbound links, how to place ads in post pages or front pages, how to make tables and borders, how to center images, how to add picture files (I pay about $20 a year on to host all my images with unlimited space), how to search opitimize titles, how to use Google analytics, what people like, what they don't. The list goes on and one.

While my blog will by no means replace my day job as a hospitalist, it is on track to generate somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000 this year.

Not bad for something that started with reading a book. Plus I get the benefit of a home business and all the tax benefits that come with that.

Hell, I should write my own ebook about how to start a blog. Now there's a thought...

And I agree, it does have the opportunity to open up other avenues...

DrV said...

Ditto on the concept that for most physicians blogs may not be the gateway to real alternate income but definitely a key door opener for derivative income effect.

The Happy Hospitalist said...

I forgot to add, it has allowed me to markedly increase my contributions to charity as well, which is always important, unless the government decides to take it all first.

rlbates said...

Thanks for your insights.

Nayana Somaratna said...

Hello Dr Wes,

It's really great to read the blog of another doctor.

I myself started blogging very recently and decided on using posterous because I just didn't have the time to setup and run my own server.

I guess that legal liability is a minefield which we all need to navigate. I'd be interested to learn about the exact circumstances of the 'cease and desist letter' though !

Stop smoking help said...

I have a blog and a website. I have numerous disclaimers on the website, but not the blog. Never really thought about that aspect before.

I struggle with ads too. Will it take away the credibility of the site? But, we all can use extra income, so the ads help. For me, I hope they will cover the cost of the hosting and then maybe get in the range of "the happy hospitalist".

I like your site and I don't get distracted. Keep the posts coming and all my best with your practice.

DrWes said...


Boy, there's nothing that I would like to disclose more than the circumstances surrounding the "cease and desist" letter I received, but I have been advised to bury it by my council.

Maybe if I write a book...

Dr Nayana Somaratna said...

After a fair amount of deliberation, I decided to add a legal disclaimer in my medical iPhone application (Prognosis : Your Diagnosis).

I've written a blog post about it and linked it to this one - as a an example of WHY it is necessary to do so.

Sometimes I wish that I was born 50 years ago, when medicine was more about Doctors taking care of their patients and less about defensive measures to prevent lawsuits.