SPI 063: Monetizing a Hobby Blog and the “Magic” of Membership Sites

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In this session of The Smart Passive Income Podcast, I reminisce while having a chat with Douglas Linn from QuietSpeculation.com, a website and community that serves those who are interested in the popular card dueling game called Magic the Gathering, or MTG for short. More specifically, he and his partner’s site provide a platform and information for selling, trading and price forecasting of MTG cards used in the game.

A lot of you know I was (and forever will be) a marching band nerd ever since high school. Well, in addition to that, I was also a hardcore Magic the Gathering player throughout middle school and high school.

Now that I think about it, maybe that’s why I didn’t have my first girlfriend until my sophomore year of college…

Anyway, joking aside (sort of), MTG an awesome game and I’m not afraid to admit that I played. Over 12 million other people know where I’m coming from, and although this was a hobby for me, for some people it became so much more. Expert players have made a career out of it.

For Doug and his partner, the game has allowed them both to take a hobby they love and monetize it to earn some decent cash on the side. They each still have their full-time jobs, but the site is growing steadily and more than that, it allows them to get paid to do what they love and bring people together to share the experience.

When it comes to monetizing hobbies, we’ve already been inspired by people like Lain Ehmann (from Podcast Session #37) who is making an incredible 6-figures in the scrapbooking industry. Doug and Kelly’s monetization model, specifically for a hobby niche, is something we haven’t yet covered on the SPI podcast. Their shift from a free blogspot blog to what is now a self-hosted, membership website is extremely educational, and I think it’s useful to hear it from the vantage point of someone who still has a full time position elsewhere.

In this session you’ll discover:

  • How QuietSpeculation.com progressed from a blog with free information, to a membership site and how that affected readership.
  • How Doug and Kelly get their members to stay paying members for an average of 2.5 years!
  • Why a staff of writers is extremely important – for themselves as the owners, the community of paying members, and the writers too.
  • Analytics and calculations used to determine the health of their business.
  • Pricing strategies for old and new members for a hobby community.
  • Why Doug refuses to use exclamation points in his emails! <-hehe
  • How they botched an attempt to sell an eBook to their subscribers, and what they learned from the process.
  • Plus much more..

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Items mentioned in this podcast include:

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Thank you all for checking out this session of the SPI podcast!

If you enjoyed this session, please click the link below to show some love to Doug and thank him for taking the time to share on the SPI podcast:

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Thank you again for your support, and I wish you all the best!

Cheers! :)


Click Here to Download the Transcript for Session 63 (PDF)

  • Irina

    Pat, I haven’t even started to listen to the episode, but I am already so happy a new one is out! Yay! I am just in love with your podcast.

    • http://www.kangjum.com Kang Jum

      True Pat, you’re hypnotizing me with a good Podcat. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.quicklinksportal.com Phanindra

    Good Podcast Pat :) Guess you were singing in the begining . An additional talent :)
    I’m definitely way to start my own podcasts after getting motivated with your works which really do provide great information.

    Quiet Speculation introduced in this post looks very good :)


  • http://www.homelearningexperience.com Sibo

    Wow, I almost got the first position to leave a comment this time. I will download and listen to it this noon (1 hour from now). I will come back to leave me detailed feedback.



  • http://www.sparkindark.com Venkat

    This podcast is very inspiring as your other podcasts. Really you provide great and valuable information on your blog Pat.


  • Ryan@generationy

    Superb podcast as usual Pat.

    Doug and Kelly are two individuals I’ve been following for some time so it’s pretty awesome you decided to feature them. A huge inspiration like yourself.

    Thanks man,

  • http://www.onlinebizlist.com Brian

    Value, value, value…

    It’s great to see those outside of the MMO niche cash in on their online ventures.

    Too many interviews and case studies focus on those leading the herd of internet marketers and selling valueless products to keep this thirsty crowd from quenching their thirst.

    Another great choice of interviewees, always great to throw on an SPI podcast

  • http://fantasysportfans.com Richard Neckar

    Pretty cool because this is the same category that the site I’m working on is in, “Hobby Sites” except mine is in the fantasy football niche. As most people know passion for your hobby can run very very high. Also its funny how people will often make more impulse purchases if it relates to their hobby, where they may think it through on other things. I know I do. I will have to listen to the podcast in a bit because it won’t load for me right now, just says “buffering”

    Thanks again Pat

  • http://pokeflirt.com Michael Vera

    I personally found Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon a lot more fun.

  • http://www.becomeablogger.com Leslie Samuel

    I OBJECT to this podcast episode. I’m here chillin in a restaurant listening to the episode wearing a free T-shirt that I got at a conference, and I hear you guys saying something like “I mean, come on. Who REALLY wears those stupid free t-shirts that they get at conferences”. I DO! LOL.

    But on a serious note, great stuff. I love hearing these kinds of stories of people creating content, inspiring others, and changing the world. Even if they are hating on my Free T-shirts 😉

    • http://www.benefitsstrategy.org Lee Lewis

      Leslie, you are so funny! I just subscribed to your becomeablogger.com list and love getting your autoresponder emails. Found you in your interview with Pat.

  • http://beatthe9to5.com Robert Farrington

    I’m digging into this podcast right now, but I can say I’m super-stoked because I’m a huge MTG fan!

    I’ve been playing on my iPad for the last year and a half, and I’m excited for this resource for cards. Plus, I’m starting a membership site soon, so the tactics should be interesting!

  • http://www.homelearningexperience.com Sibo

    Hey Pat, this episode is great. I like it with all the following reasons:
    – You got children to listen to your podcast? That’s great. You are really the one who is changing the world. To me, you are a step further, to change the next generation. Good stuff! When mt boy is old enough, I will get him to listen to your podcast for sure.
    – I would like to join some meetup with you one day, but I know it will be a little hard as I am living in Canada.
    – I am really inspired by what Doug and Kelly are doing. I am selling hobby products on eBay. I truly believe that is something people can stick around. I wish I have some return customers for longer than 2 years.

    Can’t wait to listen to your next episode. I am looking forward to it.

    Keep up your great work!

  • http://www.incometreatment.com Hasan

    Hi Pat,
    Last night I watched your interview at The Rise To The Top. It was awesome, love it. And your podcust is always awesome.

  • http://credibleresearchsources.com Jimmy Stuart

    Always love your podcasts Pat! I’m telling you, every night I have you on while I work on the site I’ve learned to build from this blog.

    I think this episode really shows that as long as you figure out some way to provide value to a community, whether it be through your own skills/knowledge or by outsourcing valuable content, you can build a site people will pay for access to — monthly! WordPress isn’t very hard to figure out, and membership plugins abound, both free and paid. The trick is that ever-repeated word here on SPI: VALUE!

  • Norman

    This interview offers a lot of value, obviously.
    BUT: ‘I don’t really remember how he got 10K to 30K visitors per month?’

    Can you direct me to the “I TRULY started from zero” podcast?

    How many of your readers are dealing with the rare issue of having thirty thousand hits per month and trying to figure out how to monetize it?

    I’m not trying to instigate here. It’s a serious question that I wish more guru’s would address (without constantly turning to “guest posting”, which I’m grateful to you for addressing in a realistic sense).

    I’d love to hear from people who didn’t start out with a tech degree, or at the dawn of blogging or who just happen to have a few thousand readers lying around…

    Thank you for all your hard work, Pat.

    • Doug

      Hey, this it’s Doug from the interview. I am asking Kelly right now! He said that he posted on relevant Magic forums and had a compelling link to his site in his signature. He also appeared on some community podcasts. We were definitely nobodies when we started. Pat will back this strategy up, too. Find a community where you can add valuable content and make friends.

      • http://www.homelearningexperience.com Sibo

        I recently found this important point as well. Join a popular community can bring lots of like-minded people to your new site.

  • http://www.adamhunterpeck.com Adam Hunter Peck

    Pat, your podcast is one of my absolute favorites! I’ve been listening for a few months and I plan to go back and catch up on all the past episodes. Thank you for consistently providing such valuable insights and inspiration!

    What I really love is how genuine and humble and respectful you are. Making your podcast “clean” is just one example of your commitment to your audience, including the kids you talked about during this podcast.

    The reason I was compelled to comment (for the first time) was to tell you that there’s no need to be embarrassed about enjoying Magic cards or anything else geeky! Right before introducing your guest you said, “I must seem, like, so cool right now,” and “So, please… don’t… go…”, implying that you were afraid your audience would abandon you if they found you guilty of being “uncool”. Sarcastically saying “I must seem so cool right now” may have been a simple attempt to deflect judgment, but it kinda hurt, as though you were snubbing the geeks in your audience (and your guest) to affiliate with the “cool” crowd. Like I said, I like you because you seem like a humble and respectful person; that’s what’s actually cool!

    I know you include little fun facts about yourself at the beginning of every episode, which sometimes reveal things you might feel sheepish about, but I admire you for doing it anyway. You “let go”, in your own words.

    My advice would be to let go of your fear of your audience’s judgment. Haters gonna hate. If there’s anyone who would stop following you because they deemed you “uncool” for liking something geeky, then they were never a true fan in the first place. Forget those guys!

    You’re a great guy and you’ve succeeded because you care more about others’ success than about your own popularity. Keep doing what you’re doing, brother! And thanks again for all the time and love you invest into helping others.

  • http://www.bibledifferences.net Herman of bibledifferences.net

    Good day Pat,
    I always find your posts interesting.
    Have you ever done a post on how to monetize “stuff that is not for sale”
    I research the causes for the differences between older versions of the Bible like the KJV versus modern versions like the NIV and put the results on a blog, but of course this is not “trad-able” info. How could one at least cover the costs of keeping up this blog? Any suggestions?
    God bless.

    • http://OrthodoxBibleStudy.info Greg Patrick

      Hey Herman, I was on Pat’s site looking for the screen-recording software he recommends and just happened to stumble upon this post and your comment. I can give you one idea of how you could monetize your site: you can sell advertising space. For example, I’m not ready yet, but at some point in the next few months I’d probably be interested in testing to buy an ad space on your site to advertise a “Where did the Bible come from?” series of free lessons that I’m working on with a Bible scholar and New Testament college professor. Anyways, the idea is that if you have traffic to your site, then others in a similar industry (like me) may be interested in reaching your audience and willing to pay to do so. So you can sell ad space (in the form of a text or image ad) on either a CPM or monthly flat rate basis. Anyways, just an idea. — Greg

      P.S. I like your site — I’ll have to check it out more!

  • http://onlineincomeblogger.com Scott Voelker

    Thanks Pat!

    This was another great interview and shows that anyone can do this. I’m almost ready to start my own Podcast and hopefully be as valuable as yours.

    It’s funny. After I listen to your podcast I say…”That Was Great” and “I can do that”. I’ve been in the online space now for over 4 years and making a full time living supporting my family.

    I love what I do and just recently decided it was time to start teaching and sharing online…because of you. I’ve had those voices say “who’s gonna listen to me?”, but when I talk to friends and family they are always fascinated at what I do. They are always asking questions and wanting me to share how everything works.

    But…I’ve always had the fear of competition in the “Online Income Space”, but I know I could help people, like you are…and change someones life.

    You are a breath of fresh air compared to all the spammy Internet Marketers out there and are an inspiration to me and many.

    Thanks Man :-)


  • http://Unknownclothingbrands.com Rudy

    This comment is not relavent to this blogpost, but I did not know where else to put it. I wanted to thank you for all of your free information! It has inspired me to create my own website unknownclothingbrands.com. I am still developing this website but your blog has significantly reduced my learning curve and kept my overhead very low. I used to do direct sales to earn residual income, but building websites is such a smarter way to earn the same or even greater amount of money that is truly residual! Thanks again and I’m looking forward to learning more.

  • http://okkimonosblog.com Brendan

    I didn’t get to nerd out nearly enough for the podcast. I demand more MTG podcasts! Well done, guys!

  • http://www.omgtoplists.com Michael

    Great Podcast. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.benefitsstrategy.org Lee Lewis

    Pat, I loved this. Especially because I was a super nerd in high school (had every card in the Revised Edition) and always joke that there’s no real way to make money on my nerd passions, like video games and go karting. I have thus been proven wrong! Great addition to your podcast portfolio.

  • http://earninglife.com Sean

    Pat I too was a giant magic nerd in college so much so that I sold my magic collection for twenty thousand dollars. Sheesh. Just wanted to say I greatly enjoyed the podcast as you touched on both my love of a prior hobby and the reality of niche markets profitability. I’m personally hoping to monetize another niche hobby of mine in the near future and have been using advice from your blog to set the stage for it.

  • http://www.703m.blogspot.com 703m

    It all started from a hobby that makes us consistent and do not give up easily in blogging. And all the best in the capital ebergi and live for the moment.

  • http://www.mypersonalfinancejourney.com/ Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey

    It always excites me whenever I see a podcast published on your blog. This one is very informative and inspiring. I shall be waiting for your next podcast. Keep on posting!

  • http://techbuzzes.com Mohammed Siadath Ali

    wow great article on monetization of our person blog,
    for me monetization of a blog was like a wide see, i wouldn’t understand in simple words what it meant and how i would maintain it . but you have pinned it in such a wonderful way that a newbie would easily grasp on to the things on it.

  • Rob

    Hey Pat, loved this interview, takes me back to my MTG days as well. Interesting to hear about a membership site in a unique area. I might have to start playing mtg online again, lets duel!:)

  • http://thebeginnersbrew.com Max

    This was a particularly interesting podcast. It’s great to see someone who could take a hobby website (like my own) and monetize it. I currently have no ads, no monetization at all and purely focus on trying to build good content. This gives me hope for the future.

  • http://moviemodecamera.blogspot.com/ Urban Joe

    Is actually thing which difficult is moment for the embark first times Pat? and may I include that person. but at least there are pictures in your sharing in this blog. Thank you.

  • http://happy2013smswallpapers.blogspot.in/ Harry

    I have this query always in my head, how to retain my member to pay for the membership of my site. Awaiting for answer and once i get it i will be soon starting Membership site

  • http://morningtadka.com Joel

    Hey Patt Really Inspiring to hear that one can turn a hobby to a Complete Online Business Venture.I really love reading your articles

  • Ben Donahower

    I loved this podcast. What I appreciated about it is that the person you interviewed isn’t making six or seven figures on his business. It’s nice to hear from people at different stages in their business, because your readers might be completely new and are aspiring to this person’s level or at his level and happy to hear from someone else at a similar stage.

  • Daniel

    Very interesting episode, thanks Pat! Does anyone have any thoughts on how to monetize a website that is essentially a collection of user-uploaded information? The thought is that if enough users upload enough information, then the website will be a great resource that people would pay to have access to. On the flip side, I can see the argument that no one will want to be charged to have access to a website that they have helped populate with information.

    Any thoughts?

  • http://buyseoservice.biz SEO Guru

    Great information here. and a good idea too. never thought of monetizing this way

  • http://arwebzone.com Ahmad Raza

    Your posts always inspire me alot… Nice way of monetization..
    Thanks for sharing !

  • http://[email protected] Lenny

    Hi Pat, this is great! I have been casually following your blog for a while and this podcast is awesome. Really cool to hear from someone who is not an internet marketer and is still at a developing stage. My friend and I are currently at that stage of transitioning from a blogspot site to a paid domain site. Our site is based on giving free investing advice to people who are thinking of buying property in the US. Especially foreign investors (we are from Australia). The thing we are struggling with is removing random bots from posting comments and blurring the site visits data. Any advice? Also, is there a way to get Google Adsense on a free blogspot site? Our application keeps getting rejected

    • http://www.quietspeculation.com Doug

      It sounds like the next step for you should be a WordPress site. You’re looking at a small investment to get the whole thing going. I also think a domain and not a .blogspot address is a lot more legit. WordPress also has some really brutal anti-spam filters built in; the native Askismet works really well. QS regularly gets slammed with spammers but they never get through.

      • http://streamlineinvestingaustralia.blogspot.com.au/ Lenny

        Thanks Doug. Appreciate your advice. I think WordPress is probably the logical next step for us. Is it easier to get approval from Google to use Adsense on a WordPress site than it is on a free Blogspot site?

        • http://www.micronicheblueprint.com greg

          Lenny, Yes it is easier to get approved. I have tried both ways and I have never been turned down on any of my sites built on wordpress. You get your own domain name and its only like $8 per month for hosting (that includes your domain name too). Let me know if you need any help setting it up.Good luck!

  • http://streamlineinvestingaustralia.blogspot.com.au/ Lenny

    Trust me to forget to put our website in the right field!

  • http://write4kids.com Jon

    Excellent podcast. I run a membership with 4000 paid members, and it’s an awesome business model. They key? Building a personal connection of trust with your members and blowing them away with value. I give and give and give… and it pays off every month.

  • http://passivelyfree.com Tal Gur

    I like how they offer free membership to their writers. Great strategy for getting good writers in their niche. Valuable!

  • Johnny

    This is really great pat. Membership sites are always best to create a steady source of income.


  • Diane

    I just wanted to say thanks for the ability to read the transcript. I like listening but sometimes I just want to skim the content first!

  • http://www.way2earning.com Suresh

    Hi Pat,
    This is the first time I have come across your site. The podcast is pretty good and inspiring. I have just now downloaded the ‘transcript’ . I would like to share your transcript with my friends. Thanks. :)

  • http://teachtorun.com Mark Eichenlaub

    Great stuff Pat. Can you get on another guest, maybe Ryan Lee, to talk about the how-to’s for starting up a membership section of a website?

  • DeborahHenson-Conant

    I LOVED everything this session shared about what DOESN’T work. It was funny and illuminating – and saved me a lot of grief simply by pointing out some things to avoid doing. It was also a great confidence-builder by pointing out the value of mistakes, removing a sense of shame about them and making them seem more fun. Thank you!

  • DeborahHenson-Conant

    PLUS … you created a new point of connection between my stepson and me … suddenly all those evenings with cards strewn around the livingroom connected up with my own online world and I’m looking forward to sharing this podcast and site with him.

  • Kanini Jehna

    I’ll be talking about blog monetization tactics further on in the post but this is important.If we don’t value our time, productivity is usually one of the main things to suffer. That’s one thing that I noticed; as soon as I put a value on my time I noticed an instant change in my productivity.


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