An Interview With Passionfruit’s Most Passionate Spokesperson

(MAKE SURE YOU READ ALL THE WAY TO THE BOTTOM FOR A SPECIAL GIVEAWAY!)

Back in March, I posted a review (non-paid) of an online ad-serving tool called PassionFruit, and gave it a rousing, ringing endorsement. I know a lot of you signed up for the site and also took advantage (thanks!) of my offer to post free blog-related ads on my site.

The offer still stands, by the way. Click here for my full dashboard and look for the one marked SWAP.

Since then, PassionFruit has changed its pricing structure, addressed by the team in several posts:

After looking through the documentation, the feature upgrades and having a few really conversations with Jason from PassionFruit, I decided to sign up for the paid plan, and as an existing member, paid the $50 annual fee (after September 1, the fee goes up to $9/month, which you pay whether or not you have any active ads running).

For me, it’s a no-brainer. I make money through the ads served by PassionFruit, I love the ability to offer free spots to bloggers AND the new dashboard is really spectacular.

PassionFruit Ads

The checkout process is also super simple for brands and advertisers, and the ability to integrate it into my existing site sends it leaps and bounds above other services.

PassionFruit Ads

(Again, just to be clear. I paid for the service. I have gotten no special discounts or pricing, and I share all of this because I think for many bloggers, PassionFruit will continue to be a great tool.)

But there has been some backlash from people who wonder why PassionFruit felt compelled to make the change, why the service doesn’t cut smaller bloggers a break and why the fees are required even when an account is inactive.

So, I asked Jason from PassionFruit to answer a few questions. Not only did he eagerly respond to even some challenging queries from me, he asked if I’d be willing to give away FIVE PassionFruit memberships.

So, make sure you read all the way to the bottom to see how you can enter.

Q&A WITH JASON LYNES OF PASSIONFRUIT ADS

1) It must be an exciting and challenging time for you and your business. What should bloggers and potential clients know about YOU (and not the press release stuff). What are your work hours? What exactly is your job? How did you come up with PassionFruit 2.0 and what did it take to launch it? Let us into your world!

Running PF is quite fun and it’s all I’ve been doing for about two years. I quit my corporate job two summers ago and dove into testing some long-held thoughts about how to improve advertising. I run Passionfruit myself these days, from a home office outside of Atlanta. I’m 35, married and have four kids, aged 5-11, including 11 year old twin boys. We’re also homeschoolers, so we have a busy house most days, but we love it and wouldn’t have it any differently.

I designed and built Passionfruit myself, and I answer all the customer support emails and texts. Yes my cell phone is on the website and I answer all the texts myself. I’m constantly working, either answering questions or building and planning new features. My typical day starts around 10am in my office, usually in PJ’s, answering the emails from our European and Australian customers. I work until 6pm, break for family time until around 10pm, and then I’m back in my office from 10 until 4am or so. Some days all I do is answer emails, but usually I’m improving the system, working on marketing, or sketching new ideas. I keep about 3-4 months of new features planned and designed, so there’s always something to work on.

I launched Passionfruit in March of 2012 with basically the barest bones version of the idea, just to make sure it worked and was a viable idea. Passionfruit 2.0, with all the expanded capabilities, is a little closer to what I originally planned. Leading up to the launch, I worked well over 14 hours a day for several months.

I think this is what I want customers and clients and partners to know about Passionfruit. It’s not some faceless corporation, it’s a real dude who’s putting in some serious effort to help bloggers make a living from their passions.

2) As always happens when a free or freemium service changes its pricing, you’ve had some feedback…some backlash, even. Why did you make the decision to change your business plan and why do you think website owners will benefit?

We actually started with a different pricing model: a flat 10% of every sale made through PF. But it felt weird to charge one blog $10 for something another blog paid $0.50 for. So about a month after I launched, I did something insane and changed to $1 per ad sold. All of my competitors still charge a percentage. It’s greedy and kind of the default way of working with ads. And I decided we were better than that.

But over the next year I realized there were two problems. A lot of brand new or very small blogs were using our services with no intention or ability to sell ads. The barrier to entry was maybe too low. A lot of these blogs had fewer than a dozen posts under their belts before they started dreaming of getting rich with ads. The other problem was those small blogs who did use us only used us for trading banners. The way our system works, all the ads cost the same to run, regardless of price, so the free ads were starting to cost us a lot of money. A lot a lot of money. So we had to change again.

I decided the easiest, most fair price for everyone was a low monthly flat price. Subscription model, under $10 a month, that would cover the costs of our 30 servers and also help filter out bloggers not ready to sell ads. The truth is, if you don’t have much traffic, you’re too small to sell ads. We love small bloggers, but this is an advertising company and yes I’m saying smaller blogs shouldn’t be using our platform. Small bloggers shouldn’t sell ads yet! It’s bad for the blogs and readers and all of us.

My hope is that the new changes will pull some of my energy and focus from brand new bloggers and supporting all the free traded banners and into selling ads. The next step for us, now that we’ve automated all the dirty work of ads, is to make selling them easier. We’ve got some tricks and ideas and this new pricing model helps us get to that next step.

3) One of the things you’ve shared with me is that the act of building and supporting profiles for bloggers who only wanted to use the swaps function or who never came back is hard. What have you learned on your development journey and what would you advise others who may be developing their own businesses now?

One really important question I keep asking myself is, “who is my customer?” With an advertising agency, the default answer is the advertisers. Passionfruit is evolving to be less of an ad agency and more of a software company, which is putting bloggers more in front. In fact one of my favorite things of this new pricing change is my customer is very clear: bloggers. After all, the advertisers are the bloggers’ customers. Knowing who’s paying you and who you’re serving is incredibly clarifying when you’re deciding what direction to go with your business.

The Free model was difficult because of this, too. The majority of our usage was not advertising at all, it was banner swapping, which turned PF into glorified image hosting. So by the usage numbers, my biggest customers were bloggers who weren’t selling ads. All of my time and resources was being spent on a segment of my customers who weren’t paying for anything. In fact, when I announced the change, someone said, “It’s like you’re saying you have to be selling ads to use Passionfruit.” Yes! Recognizing this disconnect helped to clarify the changes we needed to make.

4) I’ve found in talking to most small business owners that the projects started because they saw a need and wanted to fix it. What do you think the future of blogging/website sales is and if you could look into a crystal ball, what do you think PassionFruit 3.0 will be?

Passionfruit was built to solve a very specific need, but it was made with a much larger goal in mind: to make advertising less scummy. Traditionally publishers have close to no control over the relationship, and we’re starting to change that a little.

But advertising still has a lot of changing to do. I’m sketching and planning some new types of ads and sponsorships opportunities that bloggers will be able to take advantage of, which will put bloggers in the driver’s seat. Brands and passions are so closely tied together, and I think advertising — especially on blogs — can really become more human and personally tied to what we love and do.

***

Jason will be monitoring this post to answer any questions you have and you can follow him on Twitter (@jasonlynes, @passionfruitads). In the meantime, I am thrilled to be giving away FREE annual PassionFruit memberships to five readers.

HOW TO ENTER: 

Leave a comment either 1) asking Jason a question about PassionFruit, 2) sharing with me a little known fact about your own job OR 3) telling me which business leader you’d interview if you had the chance.

I’ll select five commenters at random for the memberships after 5 p.m. on Friday, August 30th (when this giveaway will end).

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    Great interview, Katy! I’m still on the fence, but on my to-do list this week is to make it official with Passionfruit :)

    Jason, just for fun, what’s the coolest interaction you’ve had thanks to Passionfruit?

    • 2

      says

      Megan: I’ve built PF largely by myself, holed up in my office with way too much Red Bull. After I launched, I offered to sponsor a blogger meetup that happened to be not far from where I lived. I drove over there and delivered some goodies to this group of Passionfruit users, and met this whole group of local bloggers who used and loved this thing I built. It felt amazing, and humbling and really unlike anything I’d ever felt. I’ve since felt similarly at Alt Summit and our own Mixers.. It’s really fulfilling to meet people who love something you’ve built.

    • 6

      says

      Thanks Glenneth! With 4 homeschooled kids, the house gets pretty crazy. The biggest challenge is definitely the ability to focus and zone in on my work. I find a locking door to be the only thing that will provide a little sanity. I also try to work from a coffee shop once a week just to get out of the house and make sure I don’t forget what people look like.

    • 8

      says

      Katrina, I usually pick a code name or pet name for my projects so I can refer to them before they’re named officially. I picked Passionfruit for my advertising idea because I was setting out to help people see a little fruit from the passions they were working so hard on. And it just stuck. It turned out to be a fun little brand to work with and it’s turned out pretty well!

  2. 9

    says

    What an AMAZING giveaway!
    Umm, let’s talk about my job: I’m a stay at home mom that blogs on the side. It’s not really a job but it so is. Being a stay at home mom is EXHAUSTING! And I currently have a cold so I feel like everything is 10x worse today! Haha.

    • 12

      says

      Hi Katie! I decided to start Passionfruit after a series of interviews with bloggers about advertising and how they were making money. I realized they were jumping through hoops to manage their ads and all because they were frustrated with the other advertising options out there. So I set to work on making it easier.

  3. 13

    Rebecca says

    I’d love to interview any of the people involved in Disney or Pixar if given the chance. Their creativity is amazing and I’d love to pick their brains.

  4. 14

    says

    This was a great interview! I am very new to the blogging world and just bought my first two sponsorships through PassionFruit yesterday. Once I build up more of a “presence” I plan on using PassionFruit to manage my sponsorships as well.

    My question for Jason is how did you decide that this was the business you would focus on – bloggers’ ad management? I find it fascinating that these little niches exist and make a good profit. This is a great service, and I look forward to using it more in the very near future.

    • 15

      says

      Hi Megan! I’ve been interested in advertising for quite a while, and almost majored in it in college. Blogging, too, has been a hobby and interest since it became a thing. A few years ago I picked a few bloggers to interview about an idea I had, and discovered they had already solved a lot of the problems I saw with online ads, but they were doing a terrible amount of work managing it themselves. Invoicing and uploading and coding and calendaring. So I decided to fix it!

    • 18

      says

      Hey Alex! I was feeling pretty itchy as a corporate stooge for a year or two before I quit. A few things happened at work while I was planning my exit and I ended up quitting about a year before I intended to. I had built probably half of Passionfruit when I quit, and found a small contract job to help pay the bills before the site was ready. Looking back, it’s amazing I didn’t go completely broke. It was risky and maybe reckless but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s been over two years now and I’ve never doubted it.

    • 20

      says

      Hi Fiona, that’s a hard one. I can’t really say there was anything I wish I would have known before hand, but there are plenty of things you have to learn really quickly. How to set your own schedule, how to plan and make sure you have a goal you’re working toward, setting priorities. At a job, there are people managing you and planning the company. On your own, that’s all you. You eventually figure out all the nitty gritty of running the show, but knowing what to do next? What’s more important to work on? Did you do a good job on something? Those things aren’t very clear, and sometimes you’ll never know if you made the right decision.

  5. 21

    says

    About my job – I’m actually a full time grad student right now! I quit my full time job in Nashville at the beginning of August, packed up all my stuff and moved to Indianapolis where I got accepted into a master’s pathologists’ assistant program. There are only 8 schools in the US that offer this program and IUPUI only accepted 4 students this year! I will be learning to complete autopsies and further my training on dissection of surgical specimens. Definitely not a job for everyone!!

  6. 22

    says

    Great Interview! I loved hearing that Jason has twin boys and is part of a homeschooling family. I have twin girls and homeschool myself, lol, so it’s always fun to hear about others who are on a similar path. My question for Jason would be: Is there anything that you created on PF that was inspired by your children and family?
    Sending *HUGS* and thanks!

    • 23

      says

      Hey Randi! Awesome you have twins and homeschool too :) There aren’t any specific PF features that were inspired by them, but our family philosophy is all over it. I believe in authenticity and genuineness in blogging, which doesn’t really fit with most advertising, but it’s part of what I hope to influence. Genuine relationships, honesty, and integrity in what you write and represent. One of the big reasons we homeschool and work at home is to foster a “choose your own path” mentality, and one of my big goals for Passionfruit to help others do the same with their passions.

    • 25

      says

      Hey Ashley! Little known fact: my middle name is Ashley! It’s an old southern boy’s name, too :)

      My least favorite part is all of the boring administrative parts. Banking, taxes, receipts, record keeping, lawyers. All of those things are necessary but man are they boring. I try to group them together on one day a week so I can get them all knocked out together and so it doesn’t bother me the other days.

      My favorite part is the relationships. I’ve met some amazing people through this project and it’s really amazing to find real friends and friendships through the computer but it happens and it’s really fun. It shows me we’re all really similar in our goals and aspirations and it’s fun to work together on them a little.

    • 27

      says

      Hi Kim, I’ve been interested in advertising for a long while, from high school days. Advertising led me to journalism which led me to the web, which led me to web design and software development. Seeing how sad most advertising was led me to start sketching some ideas for a better way to do ads online, which led me to interview some bloggers on how they do their ads. I met several bloggers who had fixed a lot of the problems I was trying to solve (they approved each ad, worked with small businesses, supported their sponsors).. but the management and administrative headaches of running these ads was a huge pain. Lightbulb.

    • 29

      says

      Hi Rachel, this is a great question. I think we need to. Something as a nice stepping stone to Passionfruit proper but that won’t run me out of business like the last one almost did :)

      I’m still planning on a whole set of classes and tutorials and posts aimed at growing your blog and selling ads. So even if you’re not continuing with us on a paid plan I hope you’ll hang around and come back when your traffic is a little higher.

      And I’ve got some ideas rattling around for how to help even the smallest blogs sell ads. More on that to come.

    • 31

      says

      Hi Steph! I’ve seen all sorts of crazy things with PF: blogs with 250k views not selling ads, and blogs with 1k views who sell out. It’s all about how you blog and how you approach people that really sells people.

      On average, I start seeing success once you have around 20,000 views a month. That seems to be a sweet spot where people can start selling ads reliably and offering something worthwhile to brands and shops.

      That said, your posting frequency, your commenting frequency, your twitter and facebook and instagramming frequency, shows your sponsors more than flat numbers do. I find the really engaged and active bloggers outsell the more reserved ones by far.

  7. 32

    says

    This is so fun! Thanks so much for the Q&A!

    For Jason: from concept to start, how much time did it take to put all the pieces of Passionfruit together before you were ready to launch? I’m so curious about all the setup time and infrastructure involved.

    Thanks!
    xo
    Carly

    • 33

      says

      Hi Carly! It actually took much longer to sketch and refine the idea. I spent the better part of a year, several nights a week around my other jobs, sketching and testing the ideas, drawing the flow of how the thing should work. Once I knew what I was building, it took about 3 months of design and programming work to get it functional.

      Overall, my first sketches were made in early 2011, and I shipped 1.0 in March 2012. I had a full time job for half that year, and a freelance contract for the 2nd half. I started 2012 with no other jobs at all and really started putting gasoline on the fire.

      If you’re interested in specific infrastructure or tech details I’ll be happy to go into more detail!

      • 34

        says

        Thank you for your answer, Jason! I’m always amazed at all the tech-based startups that have blossomed in the last couple years that are solely being built online from a good idea and recognizing a gap in the marketplace. Ever since I started selling ad space back in 2009 I was wishing I could hire somebody to do all the managing work of the ads – and Passionfruit does just that! So glad you took the initiative and had the tech know-how to get over the initial startup hump and on to success. Thanks!

  8. 35

    says

    I was 100% sold on getting in on the $50 deal with Passionfruit, and now I’m seriously wavering – I love Jason’s honesty about it not being for small blogs and since that lightbulb came, I’m not sure I should be stepping into the ad game quite yet. I love the idea of the blog swap, so that’s a big reason to keep up with an account. Gah! Is it time to flip a coin?!

    Interesting thing about my job? I transcribe reality TV interviews all.day.long. And since I started working on a couple of dating shows, I’ve learned that people are crazier than what I’d like to think they are – people are way too quick to hurt/murder people if they get mad at them for random things. I find out way more about law enforcement and lawyers than I’d ever want to know.

    • 36

      says

      Kelly, I still think $9 (or $4) is worth the many hours of time it saves you even if you’re only swapping. But I think you should keep it to swapping until your blog is bigger. I really think jumping into ads too early can damage your blog and momentum, so be careful!

      • 37

        says

        I totally agree! I wasn’t trying to say it was negative in the least bit – and you’re definitely right $4/month is nothing to keep the swaps going. Thanks again :)

  9. 38

    says

    Wow I didn’t know much about this before but now I feel like I need this! :) Katy, you really have most helpful content on your blog, thank you!

    Jason, you seem very passionate and it’s so inspiring that you created this business on your own. (It’s my dream to do the same!) I definitely am going to do some more research on PassionFruit today…although, I’m not sure my blog is “big enough” at the point. I’m working hard on getting it there though, so here’s hoping!

    Katy, to answer one of your questions…I would love to interview Kristi Dosh…she is a huge inspiration for women in the sports industry (which I work in!) and recently published a book about college sports.

  10. 43

    says

    Love this! I’m not sure about keeping my passionfruit account, but love all the info. My current job as an executive assistant isn’t super interesting, but my past job as a child/adolescent social worker was constantly crazy! Interesting fact from that job most of the children that struggled hugely with behavioral and social issues (at school and home) when asked their favorite show was Family Guy. Coincidence? Maybe… ;)

  11. 44

    says

    I’ll answer all three…
    For Jason… why the name passionfruit?
    Little known fact about my job… Even though I only shoot weddings on weekends I don’t only work 1 or 2 days a week. My relationship with my wedding clients starts usually a year before their wedding and goes till a few months after their wedding. It’s a very involved process that is much more in depth than just 1 day a week. And it actually slightly offends me when people assume I just work 1 day a week.
    Who’d I interview… I’d want to interview Annie Leibovitz. She’s an INCREDIBLE editorial and fashion photographer but I’d actually want to ask her more about her library of personal work. She shot it all on film, a lot of it is black and white and it’s her family and those she loves. I’d want to ask her about her conviction for telling that story and if she took any specific angle or had a goal in mind for it.

    • 45

      says

      Hey Becka, I answered this one above, but it was originally a code name I gave the project that just stuck. It’s not associated with anything else so there was less possibility of confusion. And I hate all the buzzwords surrounding advertising so I knew it had to be something more fun and human.

  12. 46

    says

    I really appreciate Jason’s honesty in pointing out that he is running a business, not a free hosting and swapping company, and that his service is not for everyone. I think when we all start out in any kind of business, even the blogging business, we think our greatest success will come from trying to appeal to everyone and have tons of customers. In fact, I have found the opposite to be true. Concentrate harder on a smaller niche or customer/reader base for the greatest success.
    An interesting fact about my job – I’m a full-time blogger! I write at So-Sew-Easy.com and at Moms-Make-Money.com. Two entirely different subjects and both aimed at a small niche.

  13. 48

    says

    Jason is pretty awesome and he has a good thing going :) It’s pretty awesome. Something I’ve always wanted to do but never could.

    I think if I could interview a business owner, it would be the owner of Iplehouse.Com. They have such a wonderful, beautiful product and I’d wanna know all there is to know about them and their dolls. ♥

  14. 51

    says

    Wow I just learned so much about Passion Fruit! I’m definitely interested in this!

    Jason– it’s free to buy an ad slot on PassionFruit right? Like I just bought one for my blog on FitFluential. I wanted to make sure there isn’t a membership fee for that. It’s my first time doing any of this stuff so I’m definitely learning as I go! haha

  15. 54

    says

    Hi Jason! It was really interesting to read this and I appreciate your answers. It helps to understand the reasons for the new system, and I think I’m a fan now. I’ll be signing up if I don’t get lucky enough to win one first :-)

    Anyways, my husband and I are starting our own business, and I’m also looking to become a more serious blogger. Our biggest challenge is finding the right balance between work and family (we have a 17 month old and a baby coming in January). We don’t want to hire too much outside help but it’s hard to fully concentrate on work for enough hours in the day! I realize that your kids are a little older, but how do you do it? What’s the easiest way to balance things in practice so that we get the most work done in the most efficient amount of time?

    • 55

      says

      Kendra, I couldn’t have done it without a wife who is totally devoted to the family. I offload a lot of it to her, and there’s a bit of a separation of responsibilities we have going. But I also am religious about eating dinner and doing bedtimes together, and weekends are also sacred. So I kick total butt during the week and am pretty much off limits until 6pm, and then work all night until the weekends. I also find extra ways to be with the kids, like I coach little league teams or come on field trips.

      The biggest advice I could give is to just be super organized and intentional during the times you do have to work. Even if it’s only an hour a day, make sure that hour isn’t wasted. I know I could work 50 hours a day if I had that time, but we don’t so I have to stay organized and motivated with the 8 or 12 or 14 hours I’m working each day.

      • 56

        says

        Thanks so much for your reply! Shared your answer with my husband and it’s opened up some great conversation on how we can make this work. :-)

  16. 57

    says

    I know that you take care of all the customer service end of thing as well as the business portion. Are you also doing all the development of the site? Also, since you’re pretty much a one man show, with Passionfruit growing as quickly as it is do you have plans to expand?

    • 58

      says

      Hey Katrina, I do it all yep! I’m a software designer and developer by trade, but also really enjoy people and writing and marketing, so this gig is kindof perfect. Everything you see on PF is my doing, which is maybe kindof sad?

      I’ve hired a few people here and there, and they’ve contributed heavily in some cases (hi Heather!), and I’m sure we’ll expand a little again soon. But I’m sure to keep the team small and lean, as I’m bad at delegating and somewhat of a control freak..

  17. 59

    says

    Jason — I have been using PassionFruit for a few months now and as a former programmer can appreciate the work that has gone into the development and the amazing ease of use. The $50 was an easy choice. My question is, are there plans for being able to track clicks as well as views for active ads or other types of information for advertisers to evaluate the “value” of their ad on our blog?

    • 60

      says

      Thanks Gwen! The development is always so much harder than even we programmers can estimate.

      Yes on the stats, the clicks are something I wanted to get right, and I’m still working the bugs out of the views. This has actually been the hardest thing to solve, tracking the activities of millions of ads a day. But we’ll get there soon. I hope to have a full suite of analytics for advertisers and bloggers both to evaluate their value.

  18. 61

    says

    Thanks for the opportunity! I’m still on the fence about PF since my blogs don’t generate a ton of ad revenue, but I’m working hard at trying to increase it! I would really love to continue working with PF since they have done so much for me already.

    My question to Jason is – how do you do it? It seems like you are “everywhere” and helping everyone at once. With working full time and running four blogs, got any time management tips for me? ;)

    • 62

      says

      Hey Mindy, the secret is a bit of smoke and mirrors and a little bit of cheating. The sad truth of running a business, but also one of the most fun parts for me, is you do have to be available all the time. Waiting until tomorrow to answer someone’s urgent message can mean losing a customer. And making someone’s day can mean 1000 new customers.

      So I’m always checking in. I have alerts set up for all sorts of activities, so I know first when the site is down. I have email and twitter alerts set up, and I’ve been known to wake up at 5am to check my phone and make sure no one is struggling without help. I also check frequently even when I’m with family, cheating a bit by checking behind my back or out of the corner of my eye so I’m still with the fam but just peeking over at PF.

      The other secret is to prioritize like mad. Is it more important to answer emails or post another blog? For me, email. For you, maybe it’s blogging! I am constantly prioritizing and making sure my time is spent on the most pressing issue. There are parts of PF right now that make me cry they’re so ugly. But they’re less important so they don’t get the love. Make sure you’re giving love to the highly visible, most valuable tasks and you’ll appear as if you’re doing more than you are.

  19. 63

    says

    Great post! Love Passionfruit!

    I’d definitely interview the gals over at Better Homes & Gardens. I live pretty close to their headquarters so thinking about running into an editor at the grocery store or out for dinner fascinates me. I’d love to know how they got into the business!

  20. 64

    says

    Looking in the comments all my questions for Jason have been answered!
    Little known fact about my job…well, I am SURPRISED at the amount of people that don’t know this I guess..but I am a travel agent and a lot of ppl don’t realize it’s FREE to use me, that I get paid from a supplier, so why not have ME do all the hard work for you at no charge?

    • 65

      says

      Haha, that’s exactly how I feel about being a travel agent! Although I get that some people like being in control of their plans … but if you’re not that type, just use an agent. It’s free for you!

  21. 66

    says

    I’m not sure if my first comment went through so I’m trying again …. I’d ask Jason how he has the time to do it all? It seems like he’s “everywhere” and always answering our questions. With a full time job and four blogs, I’d love some time management advice. ;)

  22. 67

    says

    my question for jason would be – what’s the optimal number of followers or minimum monthly pageviews a blogger should have in order to make signing up for passionfruits worthwhile?

    • 68

      says

      Jackie, the easy answer is “about 20k views a month”. But it’s trickier than that. In my experience so far I see the most benefit and success when a blog has 20k+ views a month. Until that point, you won’t have much success selling ads and honestly you can run the swaps yourself until you start making some money.

      When you’re starting out or still in growth mode, you shouldn’t worry about ads at all. Worry about posting every day. Worry about posting 50 comments on different blogs every day. Worry about following and replying on Twitter. Worry about everything else and when you start getting emails about sponsors and can we send you products, then call us! Before then, it’s just a distraction.

  23. 69

    says

    I’m very lucky to have the job I have! Three days a week I stay at home with my little ones, and two days a week I work for my father’s company…at my parents’ house…while my mom watches my kids for free! It’s a very nice setup. Oh and I blog. And I would love to win a PassionFruit membership! ;)

  24. 70

    says

    I would say I would interview the CEO or Target on the success of the company. How do the “little guys” get paired to such a large store?

  25. 71

    says

    Jason, you’re just phenomenal. At first, when I heard about 2.0, I was upset too. But it really makes so much sense. And you’re right, blogs that can’t bring in that much in ad sales shouldn’t be selling ads at all! I appreciate your company so much and the real-human personality you bring to it. I could just rave over and over about how great your customer service is–I’ve never seen anything like it! That said, bloggers understand when you have to take a little time to yourself. We have lives too (just very well-documented lives)! Passionfruit is a business that I can stand behind! x

    Allie // callmesassafras.com

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    I do have a question and love the chance to enter. I was actually about to sign up for PassionFruit Ads when the pricing change happened. In terms of page views, or visitors, what type of blog will find PassionFruit Ads worth the $50/year? I hate to sign up and find out I don’t have enough traffic. Some real numbers for your typical client’s trafifc would help me a lot in making this decision. Thanks!

    • 74

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      Hey Holly, just answered a similar question above, but I’ll elaborate a bit more.

      The short answer is you have to have enough traffic to make it worth while to pay you for the exposure you create. That number seems to be around 20,000 views a month. Of course the more the better.

      The long answer is, it takes effort and I have several sites above 200k views who can’t sell ads, and a lot under 20k who do. It takes hustle. Passionfruit doesn’t have sales people, we’re just the ad management part. Think of us as the cupcake shop. You still have to make the cupcakes and sell ‘em.

      The number one indicator I look for as an advertiser and I see work with bloggers is engagement. How active are you on your own site? Do you blog every day? Do you reply to comments? Do you have a community of readers who trust you? Do you post to IG and Pinterest and Twitter and Facebook? Do people like your taste? These are much better indicators of influence than traffic numbers.

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    So this was so informative! :) I have been working with PF for a little bit now, but didn’t know all of this about you, Jason! I will admit, when I first started using PF it was just for trades, but now I am a somewhat “bigger” blogger. ;) I actually have sponsors who have been with me 3-4 months now, so I must be doing something right. And PF has made it SO easy. I love all the new sponsorship options as well. One thing I am curious about, Jason is how to best use PF to say request sponsorships from brands/companies to help pay the way for a blogger such as myself to attend her first in-person blogging conference in the next year or so? Thanks!

    • 76

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      Ah thanks Carrie you’re too kind. I love your kind of success stories, and we should document them more for those on the path behind you.

      With our new Spot types on Passionfruit, you can make a Sponsorship type of ad you sell. This is perfect for your conference stuff. Use the Spot description to describe what they’ll get in return, which of course includes ads and posts and such. Then they can get all of it and check out with one click.

      Personally though I’m not sure I like sponsoring attendees. I do like doing it out of kindness or charity rather than to buy influence there. You’re there to learn, not promote a company. I’d be careful promising promotion at the event, or giving out their cards or anything like that. Get more innovative perhaps. Sell a year of site sponsorship, maybe wear their jewelry or shirts or lanyard. Maybe you promote them heavily in your wrapup posts. But be careful overpromising on what you’ll do at the event — it’ll go by faster than you’re prepared for and you’ll be too busy learning and meeting people that you’ll forget you’re there representing someone else.

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    Great post! Jason, I’d love to know if you have any advice for pricing structures! I know it varies a ton person to person, but I’m an emerging craft/food blogger (www.withlovely.com) w/ a little over 20k/mo pageviews and growing and I have no idea where to start! What have you seen as typical (successful) rates for a blog this size? What happens if my pageviews are up to 50k in a couple months – can I change my rates? Thanks!

    • 78

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      Kia, awesome question. Pricing is so tricky! 20k is a great place to start thinking about ads (see the many comments above to that effect), and so here’s what I’d suggest. Take this as my opinion though, and adjust to fit your instincts:

      Start with 2 or 3 ad options. One big exclusive one (one sold per month), and 2 smaller sizes (5-6 showing each per month).

      Price the big one at $50-75. Price the smaller ones at half that much each, so $25-35 and $10-15.

      Then, before you announce anything, approach some friends, shops you love, and small businesses you want to represent and invite them to sponsor you. “Hi my name is Kia I write a successful blog about crafting that I think would be a really great fit with your company” or “and I would love to include your products in our recipes” or something really genuine and not toothpaste-commercial-y. Even include a promo. “The first month is on me, I just want to work with you and show you how good a fit we are together.”

      Once you do announce on your site, run a promotion. Half off the first month. See how the reception is, and adjust pricing accordingly. If you book up, raise! If you don’t get any bites, bump the price down or offer larger discounts until you find a sweet spot. You can change prices anytime with Passionfruit, so it’s really easy to adjust to demand.

      Also I’d suggest not being too over eager with your promotion of your ads. Don’t tweet it out every hour. Don’t beg. Just be chill about it and the opportunities will find you.

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    If I could interview any business leader, I’d interview Jenna Lyons (creative director of J. Crew) on how she balances both serving long-time loyal customers with staying relevant to and bringing in new consumers.

  30. 80

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    My question for Jason is…how much coffee does it take to run Passionfruit? ;) But seriously, you’ve done a superb job in creating, managing, and improving Passionfruit as a whole…it’s clear that you love what you do and as a customer, I appreciate the hands-on approach that you’ve taken.

    • 81

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      Sara, I literally have an agreement with Amazon to deliver cases of Red Bull to my door monthly. And thanks for the kind words! I do love it and I’m glad it comes across like that.

  31. 82

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    I admit… I’ve been on the fence. It’s not that I only want to swap ads, I think everything that Passionfruit is doing is worth the price… I just can’t figure out how to get enough advertisers to warrant the cost. But I’m 90% in favor of just bucking up and paying the $50. And just hearing a little more about Jason and how the company works helps, you realize that you’re not just giving it off to some giant conglomerate!

    If I were to interview a business leader, it’s going to sound cheesy but I’d almost want to interview YOU Katy… Because I seriously don’t know how you do everything. I had a baby a few months before you, I work full-time as well… but I telecommute so I can look like a slob while I work. I can’t fathom how you have time to get ready for work, exercise, be a parent, do a full-time job AND blog in such a productive way, etc. It’s overwhelming to me!

  32. 85

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    This was a great interview! I can’t believe Jason works from 10am-4am! Actually I kind of can because he is ALWAYS available and ready to help. I’ve already subscribed for the yearly package and couldn’t be happier with PF. This interview was a really interesting look into the company though and everything that goes into it. We only see the outside and finished result, but there is truly so much more.

  33. 87

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    Love this Q&A! I was going to ask if you’re a fan of tea or coffee to keep you awake during those long hours, but the answer seems to be Red Bull :)

    So instead I’ll ask, what does your workspace look like – do you like a minimalist, empty desk or do you thrive in a heap of papers and cups and pens and general clutter… or somewhere in between?

    • 95

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      Not as many are coming to the Marketplace as we want. It’s making the rounds quite nicely in our circles but we always want more. I’m working on this pretty intently.. and the 3.0 I teased above is going to be all about bringing more brands to the table.

  34. 96

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    What an amazing giveaway. All my questions for Jason seem to be posted already, so job fun fact. Prior to being a SAHM I was a teacher, and I taught 8th grade, I loved it, I really had a lot of fun, but I didn’t expect to have to deal with so many hygiene issues/have to talk to the girls about proper menstrual care. Woah.

  35. 97

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    Great interview. I know passion fruit has been getting a lot of heat to start having people pay for their system, but Jason is right they are a advertising company and with small bloggers they really aren’t ready yet for this kind of system. As a blog designer, when I get new bloggers I always tell them the other options they can have with being a small blogger and explain to them why they aren’t really ready for passion fruit yet. So I will now also be sharing this post with them too in the future.

  36. 99

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    I am a big fan of Passionfruit, and think it’s a wonderful system and easy to use for swapping/selling ads. I feel a lot better about the new fees after reading this post, so thank you for providing the interview Katy, and insight, Josh!

    Josh – For smaller blogs, why do you think selling ads early is detrimental? Is there a good way to price your ads based off of pageviews?

    • 100

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      Alysia, I think it sends the wrong message. If you have a few hundred followers or even less, and you’re “monetizing” and every other post is a review or sponsored post, and you’re promoting ads and banners everywhere, I think people aren’t going to take you seriously and you’re not blogging for the right reasons. Blogging is a really hard way to make money. If you’re out for cash there’s a thousand easier ways. But if you’re blogging with purpose and you love it and it’s a passion for you, don’t be so quick to squeeze money out of it. That time will come. Focus on building a great community around your topics and passions and the right time will be clear down the road (which may be a year or more).

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    Hey girl! Thanks for sharing this. Now that I’ve finally migrated all of my websites to one “hub”, I think I may give this a shot. I may use your exact ad options from your Passionfruit profile and setup for my profile to see what works and what doesn’t for my audience/potential advertisers! :)

  38. 104

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    Little known fact about my job? Well, maybe not so “little known”, but incredibly important: people say they become doctors to help heal the ill. Turns out, it’s the nurses that do almost all of the {hands on} healing, and the doctors spend 240 seconds a day with each patient, then leave to write the orders for the nurses.

    And on a related note, you can’t shower in a hospital unless you have a doctor’s order. That’s your fun fact for the day!

  39. 105

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    A little known fact about my job: marketing and communications work is not nearly as glamorous as some people think. I do a LOT of copy editing for some really poor writers!

  40. 106

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    this is kind of a goofy question, but hey, sometimes you can’t help what you wonder about. the blogging world seems to be a very female-driven place, at least in my experience over the past couple of years. I guess I’m just curious what Jason’s perspective on the situation would be, as this sort of “outsider”. has he also encountered a largely female population of bloggers using his service?

    • 107

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      Hey Kaity, it’s definitely female-driven. I used to follow all sorts of male-written blogs but a lot of those writers moved to Twitter and never went back to blogging. I still love it and hope we see a resurgence in the tech and design blogs soon. I never intended Passionfruit to be female focused, and have tried to keep it flirty and fun for both sexes, despite our heavy female population..

    • 109

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      Kimberly, great question. I hinted at it above, but there’s two big areas I want to take PF. The first is making the selling part easier. It still takes a lot of effort to make the connections with brands. And the second is more blogging tools, the first of which may come this year even..

  41. 111

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    I started using Passionfruit after you first wrote about on here, Katy. I think that it’s a wonderful system, and I just love how simple and easy it is to use! My husband is a software developer, so I have somewhat of an idea just how much time and effort goes into building these systems. The new charge is totally understandable, and worth it because it makes the whole process so easy for those using it.

  42. 115

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    Hi Jason … loved hearing about your bio and how you developed Passionfruit!

    Our blog and website has developed and grown since we started it a few years back. It is education-based, and one our of BIGGEST concerns with running ads on the site was we only wanted ads that would be useful for our readers. Passionfruit definitely helps us do that — but we are not marketing gurus and don’t really know HOW to go about finding advertisers related to our field.

    QUESTION: Any suggestions for how we go about finding advertisers – (and not the spammy ones)! We would like to have the website support itself through advertising, but we haven’t figured out quite how to do that yet. Would love your thoughts!

  43. 116

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    I am an interior designer turned stay at home mom, and a funny thing about being an interior designer is, your home is never done! I don’t mean you just keep on changing it, I mean you have so many thoughts and ideas, that it’s hard to pick one, and so it just gets put off for foreeevvver!

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