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#281: How Will AI Impact Blogging, Traffic, and Ad Revenue?

Welcome to the Blogger Genius podcast! In this episode, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Clyman, the Executive VP of Engineering at Raptive (formerly known as AdThrive).

We had a fascinating conversation about the impact of AI on blogging, traffic, and ad revenue.

We delved into the potential benefits and risks of AI, and how it can help bloggers create better content and reach a wider audience. However, we also discussed the importance of building trust with readers and diversifying revenue streams beyond ads.

As bloggers, it’s crucial to stay informed and adaptable in the face of technological changes, while also staying true to our brands and expertise.

Overall, this episode provides valuable insights for anyone interested in the future of online content creation. So, tune in and join me for an enlightening conversation!

How Will AI Impact Blogging, Traffic, and Ad Revenue? | The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie

Show Notes:

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Intro (00:00:03) – Welcome to the Blogger Genius Podcast, brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.

Jillian Leslie (00:00:11) – Hello my friends. Welcome back to the Blogger Genius Podcast. I am your host, Jillian Leslie. I am a blogger and a serial entrepreneur. I started building businesses on the internet with my husband in 2009 when we launched Catch My Party. 

And since then we’ve grown it into the largest party idea site on the web. And then we built our pop-up app to grow our social media followers for Catch My Party. And because it worked, we rolled it out for you guys and many of you use it to grow.

You install it on your blog and you can grow your social media followers on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and your email subscribers. It plays super well with Google and your ad network. 

So, if you’re interested in that, just head to milotree.com and you can learn more and you get your first 30 days free.

Selling digital products with MiloTreeCart 

Jillian Leslie (00:01:06) – Now we’ve launched MiloTreeCart, which is the simplest way to sell digital products and services without the headache. And we built it for people who hate technology. 

This week was really fun because I helped a bunch of you set up paid memberships and you were all so excited because of how easy they are to set up on MiloTreeCart to configure your membership sales pages to get sales, and ultimately how easy they are to run. 

All you need is MiloTreeCard for payments and to manage your members, Zoom to host your group, and then something like an email service provider. My favorite is MailerLite. You could use MailChimp or Convert Kit, we integrate with them seamlessly. 

And then you need a place to store your video so people can access them if they can’t be there live. It was so cool watching people’s light bulb moments when they realized, oh my God, I’ve been wanting to do this for so long, I didn’t know how.

Jillian Leslie (00:02:15) – I see how, and I see the possibility and I see the endless growth and community. For all of you guys, thank you. That was fun for me too. And here’s a very cool announcement with MiloTreeCart, you can now offer what are called upsells. 

Think about it this way, you’re at Best Buy, you buy the refrigerator and they upsell you on the warranty, the extended warranty because the warranty relates to the refrigerator. Same idea with MiloTreeCart. 

Remember a customer who has purchased from you, so they’ve bought the refrigerator, they’re very valuable. And if you can then sell them on some other related product, you can increase what’s called your average order value. This is how you make more money. 

If this sounds interesting to you, whether you want to set up a membership, sell digital downloads, set up a paid workshop, anything digital you can sell with MiloTreeCart.

Jillian Leslie (00:03:18) – Plus, if you join now, you get a free coaching call with me where I will help you in any way possible. Head to milotreecart.com.

For today’s episode I have John Clyman on the show, and John is the Executive VP of Engineering at RIV, which used to be Adri. RIV is an ad network that people use to put ads on their blog. 

We use RIV for Catch My Party. All of our ads are served by Raptor. And because it’s all about monetizing your traffic, I wanted to have somebody from RIV come on the podcast to talk about AI and what we can expect going forward, whether it be changes in traffic, changes in ad revenue. 

I wanted somebody with a perspective on Google and how they’re thinking about this. And remember, nobody knows anything except there are certain trends that people are starting to notice. 

And John has some wonderful interesting insights. So, without further delay, here is my interview with John Clyman. 

John, welcome to the Blogger Genius Podcast.

John Clyman (00:04:44) – Thank you Jillian. I’m really delighted to be here today. 

Jillian Leslie (00:04:47) – We’ve been talking both about our obsession with AI, so that’s really what we’re going to get into. 

Before we start, would you just briefly share who you are, what you do, how you got to be where you are so my audience has a way to say, “Ooh, I have to listen to this guy.”

John Clyman (00:05:05) – . You bet. My name is John Clyman and I lead a team called Product Engineering at RIV, which you may have formally known as Adri. We recently rebranded there. 

And our team is really focused on helping empower creators with a lot of innovative new tools to power their growth in areas like SEO and audience development and in terms of generative AI.

We are really looking at building tools that can accelerate the people’s ability to produce amazing content that attracts great audiences. This topic is very much top of mind for us and for me personally. 

My history is, I’ve had a career of living in the overlap of content and technology. I’ve got a computer programming background. I was an editor at print magazines before the web really started to take off in about 1995. And I switched my focus to that world. 

And so, I’ve had this good fortune of being able to look at areas like AI and technology and content and how they all fit together for quite a while. And I’m really delighted to talk to you today. 

Jillian Leslie (00:06:17) – Oh, that’s wonderful. And just so you know, we are with Adri for Catch My Party, which is our party ideas site. We’ve been with Adri, I want to say since 2017 or 2016, somewhere around there. 

And we really love you guys and I am using all of the SEO tools that you guys provide so that we can continue to optimize our content. So I want to say thank you for all of that.

John Clyman (00:06:41) – You’re welcome. And we love to hear that people are using the tools and of course we love feedback as well.

Jillian Leslie (00:06:46) – So, anybody out there without AdThrive got feedback. John is your guy. 

John Clyman – (00:06:51) – That’s right.

Jillian Leslie (00:06:51) – So, I reached out to you because all I am hearing about and I’m very interested in is this whole AI revolution. 

And I was sharing with you, I feel like there are the people who are embracing it and the people who are digging their heels in and going, “Oh no, this, I don’t want to even know about this.” As creators though, I feel like the more knowledge we have, the better. 

And I’m noticing people starting to say, “Oh no, what, what is this going to mean? The bots are coming for me, coming for my content.” And it was nice getting on this call with you because you were like, “I’m super excited about this too.”

You are not sitting here saying, the sky is falling. Now I recognize that we really don’t know anything yet. We don’t know how this is going to play out and what it’s going to be like. 

I wanted to pick your brain because I feel like you’re at the cutting edge of looking at these new technologies and supporting real people, real creators making content on the internet.

How Will AI Impact Blogging, Traffic, and Ad Revenue? | The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie

The AI Revolution

John Clyman (00:07:55) – I think you’re absolutely right. This is an exciting time. It’s a little bit of a scary time for some folks as well. Uncertainty unknowns can definitely be scary. 

One of the things I’d recommend people do, whether they think that AI is poised to change the world or not, is if you haven’t already tried it out, just dive in and try it out a little bit. Play with it. Really literally use it as a toy. 

Sign up for ChatGPT or for the Bard, which is Google’s similar product. Get on the waitlist, get through the waitlist and start playing with it and experience it for yourself. I think it takes away a lot of the uncertainty and helps you understand what some of the potential is and what some of the limitations are. 

And at least then maybe, it may or may not change you into being excited about it, but at least you have a little bit of exposure to what everyone is talking about and what you can be a little bit more informed in.

In your planning for acting to leverage it in ways that benefit your site or to defend yourself if you think that’s what is ultimately necessary.

Impact of Chat GPT on Bloggers

Jillian Leslie (00:09:06) – For me, the big moment, the big wake up call was my mom is in her eighties and it was over Christmas and my stepfather introduced her to ChatGPT, and she used it to write thank you cards for Christmas. 

And I thought, oh my God, if my mother, who is not a technophile, is using ChatGPT and figured it out and said, “Hey, can you give me a thank you message?” And it gave her one. And she’s like, well, I kind of edited it, which is yeah, but that she was able to immediately get it and use it. And it was helpful.

I said to my husband, who’s my partner, “We have to really pay attention to this.” So, I like your advice. Get in there and you’ll see it’s more intuitive than you might initially think.

John Clyman (00:10:01) – I think that’s a big part of it is, it really is super easy to get started and there’s no real commitment. It’s not like you have to install some complicated piece of software or pay a bunch of money.

You go to the site and you get a chance to start playing with it and just get your hands on it and see what you think. And it does not require a lot of technical savvy. And I love that story because it’s amazing. 

One of the things that’s amazing to me about watching the peripheral proliferation of this technology is that people are using it in ways that I just wouldn’t have imagined.

I can think about all the things that I might do in my own life or my own day-to-day work that could take advantage of this kind of capability. But people are doing all kinds of creative things with it. And that’s so fun. 

Like I said, it’s very low difficulty getting started. Just dive in and see what you think.

Jillian Leslie (00:10:59) – I feel like I have to get this question out of the way. How do you think ChatGPT or any of these tools are going to impact bloggers who might be predominantly monetizing with ads on their site?

Concerns about Chat GPT

John Clyman (00:11:18) – It’s a huge question as the elephant in the room. And I’m glad you asked, and I don’t have any perfect insight into this. What’s that Yogi Bear line? It’s like, predictions are hard, especially about the future . 

It seems certain that there will be impacts and nobody knows exactly what. But the concerns I hear fall mostly into two categories when I’m thinking about individual bloggers.

One is, if tools like ChatGPtg are making it vastly easier to create content, are we going to end up in a world of sort of spammy sites that are drowning out the human voices, the really high quality content? So that’s the first one. 

And then the second concern is about discovery and search engines. Most of the bloggers that we work with at wrap up form, and most of the bloggers that I know and talk to get a really substantial amount of their traffic from search engines, particularly Google.

What happens if Google becomes less of a search engine and more of an answer engine? And you go there and you say, I’d like to know X, Y, Z, and instead of linking you out to a bunch of independent sites, it just tries to keep you inside Google and answer your question right there without linking you out. 

And of course, Bing has already integrated some ChatGPT capabilities in there, so, it seems clear that this potentially could happen at some level. On the other hand, it’s not the first time that search engines have tried to provide zero click answers to inquiries. 

So I think, here’s a lot of questions about how both of those scenarios might play out, and I’m happy to dive as deep into those as you might like.

Jillian Leslie (00:13:03) – Will you go deeper?

John Clyman (00:13:06) – Absolutely. So, let’s start with the first question about being drowned out by spammy sites spammy content. So, in the short term, I would expect that there’s going to be a certain amount of this. 

People are going to be using ChatGPT in similar technology in ways that a lot of us might consider unethical or certainly not transparent, not forthright with their readers, and they may not care about their reader’s trust.

If they’re just here to make a quick buck, they might slap up all kinds of websites that really have no real value, but are competing with these like Labors of Love that so many bloggers are creating. 

Jillian Leslie (00:13:44) – Can I interrupt you for one second? I don’t think it’s a binary, meaning I don’t think that you are just creating spammy content that’s low quality. Now with ChatGPT, you might have content that is useful or is helpful.

John Clyman(00:14:01) – I totally agree.

Jillian Leslie (00:14:02) – And that it isn’t a labor of love. So, there’s that category, but it used to be kind of like, this is a labor of love. Somebody is putting a lot of attention into this, or hey, it’s just a link farm that you end up on and you feel like weight, you’re trying to spam it. 

And like you knew the difference. And my thought is ChatGPT can come in and answer a bunch of useful questions and be of service. It might not be personal, but in a weird way, when I’m talking to ChatGPT, it’s very easy for me to anthropomorphize that voice talking to me. 

I say things like, could you please give me five titles for this blog post? I weirdly think we’re in a relationship.

John Clyman (00:14:49) – I think that’s wonderful and exactly right. And to be honest, I was trying to start by articulating the worst case scenario, the death star fear that I’ve heard some people express. 

I really agree with you that I think there is a middle ground where ChatGPT and tools like that become aids that help bloggers create more effective, more interactive, more engaging experiences for their readership and do it in a more efficient way. 

So, I actually do think there is a possibility to use this technology in really creative, innovative ways that are additive, that aren’t just taking us into that spam trap.

Jillian Leslie (00:15:37) – I’m worried that you’ve got the labor of love bloggers, and on the other end, you’ve got like click farms just click on these links. But somebody who’s really savvy could say, hey, I’m going to do a let’s say C+ job, but I’m going to do a thousand posts a day.

And so how, as that person who’s laboring over their content, maybe they’re using ChatGPT to help them come up with new ideas or write, help them outline, write it quickly. How does that person compete with this C+ work, where you can be creating useful content at scale?

Competing with Chat GPT

John Clyman (00:16:25) – I think that is a big challenge. And I’m not sure that you know, that there’s any universal prescription for how you deal with that scenario. 

I think it’s true of a lot of new technologies that they may open up alternatives in certain verticals or certain niches that are very difficult to compete with because they make things possible that weren’t possible before. 

And yet other niches might not be as much affected by that. So, if you think about the rise of the worldwide web, back in the nineties, newspapers were eviscerated.

Daily newspapers, local newspapers were eviscerated because they lost classified ads because it turns out it was much more efficient to have classified ads on the web in various ways. So, that business has fundamentally been alternate is likely not coming back.

On the other hand, there are still print media properties that are successful and there are still people that are not finding themselves being replaced by technology. And so, I think it’s hard to predict in a general way how any individual site owner might be able to react to this kind of technology. 

Certainly I do think it starts with getting familiar with it and understanding how you can use it effectively and how people that might be competing with you might be using it in ways that could put you on the defensive.

How Will AI Impact Blogging, Traffic, and Ad Revenue? | The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie

Trust and Transparency

Jillian Leslie (00:17:58) – Interesting. One thing that keeps coming up, and I’d love your take on this, is that trust becomes a big issue. Is this real content? Is there a real person behind this? Is there not a real person behind this? And how do we determine that? 

I was reading an article that said things like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal might benefit because at least if it has the stamp of the New York Times or the stamp of the Wall Street Journal, you’re going to say, oh, okay. They’re real people there. 

So, for this article comes from those established media properties, I’m going to take this more seriously than someplace where I’m getting information, but I don’t know if this is the right information.

John Clyman (00:18:44) – I think that’s an excellent point, and that is a huge opportunity for people to differentiate.

If you can build a relationship with your readership and you can convey that you are a human who is trustworthy, who has real experiences, and you’re not just generating C+ content that’s not necessarily grounded in the real world, that’s potentially powerful. 

If I’m reading a parenting blog, do I want parenting advice from someone who’s actually been through whatever challenges come from raising a family? Or do I want something that’s AI generated mishmash of, who knows where it came from, who knows what people might have had, what philosophies about parenting that were behind that? 

Whereas I think in a scenario where you can know who the author truly is, and maybe they’re assisted by AI to express their opinions more clearly, I think that can be really powerful. 

And so, I think as a blogger, if you have an opportunity to lean into that, creating trust, being transparent about how you’re using AI, I think that can be very powerful.

Jillian Leslie (00:19:57) – And I completely agree. And in fact, I was coaching somebody yesterday and she lives in the Middle East and she travels alone in the Middle East. And we were talking about what makes, and she’s like, I don’t know, I want to talk about all these different topics. 

And I go, whoa, you’re a woman living in the Middle East and you travel alone. She’s like, I’m planning a trip to Pakistan. And I go, mm-hmm,  oh no. And I started to get worried for her and she’s like, no, no, no, it’s okay. I know it’s safe.

And I’m like, if you could put that out on the internet and show yourself in Pakistan having a great time, you do not know how valuable that is versus talking about mindset. So it was like, absolutely.

John Clyman (00:20:50) – Whoa.

The Value of Personal Experience 

Jillian Leslie (00:20:51) – I saw this app, it was so interesting and I said, “How comfortable do you feel taking photos of yourself and being on video?” And she’s like, “I don’t.” And I go, “Guess what you’re going to do? You’re going to get good at that.” 

John Clyman (00:21:04) – Interesting.

Jillian Leslie (00:21:05) – Because no bot can compete with you. No bot can go, hey, what is the food like in Pakistan? Or how is it as a woman traveling alone? Or what should you pack? Or all these details that nobody else could. 

And then she’s like, well, I want to travel in general. And I go, oh no, you right now travel in the Middle East, a woman traveling alone that is like, you own that.

John Clyman (00:21:32) – That’s a really powerful voice. I think that’s absolutely true and when it comes to trust, a major issue with a lot of these AI tech generation systems is they make stuff up, it’s technically called hallucination. 

My wife the other day she’s taken to using ChatGPT and Bard to ask all kinds of queries, just to see how it responds. And she’s constantly sending me examples of things that she asked for a good Malaysian restaurant here in Seattle where we live. 

And it gave her five recommendations and it took excerpts from reviews and it said, this restaurant has great street food from this particular region of Malaysia. And it sounded fantastic except for the fact that four of those five restaurants did not exist.

Jillian Leslie (00:22:23) – Exactly. My husband does the same thing. So, he uses code a lot and he’ll ask it coding questions, and it said to him, you shouldn’t use this version of the code, you should use this version. 

And it gave him a chart of the pros and cons of each one, and it went down this rabbit hole for him mm-hmm. And he thought to himself, this doesn’t sound right. And then eventually goes, I don’t think this version of code even exists. 

And then ChatGPT, I think it’s humid, goes, “Oh, you are right. It doesn’t exist.” 

John Clyman (00:22:57) – Sorry, I made a mark. I’m sorry.

Jillian Leslie (00:22:57) – And it was just so funny because not only did it recommend it, it gave him charts and shortcuts and the whole thing, and it was all a hallucination.

John Clyman (00:23:11) – Exactly. And this is a real risk. And so, I think this is one of the reasons it’s really valuable to get hands-on experience with these tools because you’ll build a visceral understanding of some of these cases where it will make things up. 

And at the same time, that’s not at all to say, don’t ever trust it, don’t ever use it because it can be a phenomenal tool for ideation or for helping you tweak things. Or for giving you leads that you can follow up on your own and check the facts behind synthesizing all kinds of knowledge.

It’s really helpful, but it is not an omniscient system, that is, it will make all kinds of mistakes. And sometimes they’re laughable ones.

I remember another example where asking who’s for the source of a recipe ChatGPT provided, or maybe it was barred, it said,”Oh, I’ve cooked this many times myself and it’s delicious.” And, we said, “Wait a second, you’re an AI, what do you mean?”

And you said, it said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. You’re right. I’ve never actually cooked this recipe. I just read that up. It’s very polite.” 

Jillian Leslie (00:24:24) – Polite. Yes. And I go, “Oh, it’s ok.” I can feel myself responding like, “Oh, no, don’t worry, everybody makes mistakes.” Here’s a question. Can you get into the mindset of Google in that this might be a hard question. 

Google makes a lot of money serving up ads on people’s blogs, and if they go to this world where you go to search and there’s a box, like a chatbox, like a bot, and you can just ask it questions, I feel like Google then is fighting itself and its own monetization strategy.

Google’s Internal Conflict

John Clyman (00:25:03) –  I think you’re right, and you raise a point  that is often missed by people as they think about this. 

And I don’t have any privileged insight into what Google will or won’t do with this technology, but everything I hear is that there is a lot of confusion and dissent internally precisely because there are so many different parts of the ecosystem where Google is a critical player. 

Yes, of course it wants to serve you ads within the search engine, but it also does make gigantic amounts of money putting ads on third party websites.

Jillian Leslie (00:25:41) – I’m not sure people even understand that, but for example, with Adri, can you share where Google plays a role in that? Or now wrapped it? Well, there are a couple.

John Clyman (00:25:52) – . Absolutely. So, there are a couple places. Google has a DSP or Demand Side Platform that is one of the biggest sources of programmatic ad revenue on third party websites. So, that was like a lot of blog jargon. Blog Yeah. Of blogs. Yes. 

So, imagine you have a blog and you have ads appearing on your blog. There is a significant fraction of those ads that are actually coming, that are placed through platforms that Google controls and makes money on. 

And of course, many people are familiar with also just directly placing Google ads on their blogs through their, I think they’ve changed the neighborhood, but it used to be called AdSense,

So, Google has, if I’m not mistaken, tens of billions of dollars a year in revenue that come from these off Google ad experiences.

The Future of Search 

John Clyman (00:26:55) – And that means that they have at least some incentive to think about the implications for independent websites and blogs before making radical changes. 

What I think is interesting is that Bing and Microsoft, because they have such a tiny market share, they’re the underdogs and maybe willing to be more radical in how they approach this. Because they have nothing to lose. 

Depending on whose numbers you believe they might have 3%, 4% or 5% of the search market. 

Jillian Leslie (00:27:29) – I’m going to stop you there. Who in this audience, do you ever go to Bing to search? I never do. I don’t even think about it. So I completely agree with what you’re saying.

John Clyman (00:27:39) – Absolutely. Although I admit I now use Bing to search a lot as a kind of test case because they have integrated this ChatGPT functionality.

And so what I’ve started doing when I’m searching for things is instead of just going to Google and typing something in and seeing where it leads, I’ll try it on Google, I’ll try it on Bing, I’ll ask CatGPT, I’ll try a variety of different approaches to see how they compare to each other. 

Fundamentally, I think the strategic implications are very different for Google than they are for Microsoft. 

And so, again, I don’t know for sure what Google is going to do, but if I imagine myself in their shoes, I think they’re going to be at least somewhat conservative about making changes that could disrupt their own business in unknown ways.

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Jillian Leslie – Yes, but I do recommend everybody go search on Bing. Now you have to have whatever edge, which is like a browser.

John Clyman (00:29:25) – They’ve been changing the requirements. I think you can install the Bing app. You can use their edge browser.

Jillian Leslie (00:29:34) – Which is like Chrome, which is owned by Google. So, it’s like their version. But it is worth it. I agree with you going through the Bing experience is very different than searching on Google in that it has your box to ask questions right there with search results. And I found that a little threatening.

John Clyman (00:29:57) –  I think that goes to the second point we were talking about earlier about what happens if referrals from search engines to blogs start to dry up. Now Bing  is experimenting with putting links into those search results as well. Those texts AI generated search results. 

Will those have the same clickthrough rates as search results today? You know, organically do, who knows? There’s a lot of uncertainty there. 

I certainly think it’s worth looking at. But this big question about what happens, what’s the future of search, that is one of the big unknowns and one of the big challenges.

It’s certainly not entirely new that Google and others for years have been trying to answer more and more queries right on the page without having you leave to go to a different site. 

So you could argue  this is an extension of that, but it could be a pretty radical extension and so I think it’s good to get familiar with that and  see what you might be up against.

Jillian Leslie (00:31:05) – I have two questions. One, given that you work at RIV formally AdThrive, does that keep you up at night? That’s my first question.

Third-Party Cookies and AI

John Clyman (00:31:17) – I would say it is, it is certainly something that we are tracking closely and thinking about and working to make sure we help the creators we work with stay ahead of the extent that they can. 

You mentioned earlier, I think third party cookies and some of the concerns about the demise of third party cookies and how that could change ad monetization and I think a lot of people’s concern has shifted away from third party cookies. 

Jillian Leslie (00:31:47) – Before we started recording, I said before this I would hear from bloggers they were upset because this idea of third party cookies, which is how sites track you, it’s like privacy issues. 

And if an advertiser can know who you are, then Adri or Raptor can charge more because, oh, I know you are a middle-aged mom who likes to shop at Target. So, if I give you a Target ad you might be more apt to click. 

I don’t know, I’m somebody who hates Target or never even thinks about Target. So, that was the issue. The issue was ad rates would drop if you couldn’t identify me then that was this whole issue. 

Third party cookies are going away because people are worried about privacy. So as a blogger, I don’t want third party cookies to go away as a consumer. I wouldn’t mind if they went away, but now I feel like people have shifted away from talking about that and now it’s all AI as we discussed before I press record. 

So what are your thoughts, is third party cookies still a worry or do you guys think about that?

John Clyman (00:32:59) – I think it is still a concern for a lot of folks. It is something we think about. I think in general we’re always trying to look for things that could disrupt existing businesses of the creators that we work with or be opportunities to grow into new areas. 

And so, I think we see both third party cookies and even more so AI as one of these potentially revolutionary changes that will in some ways present challenges. But it also may open up new opportunities for creators to connect with their readership in different ways. 

And I can’t predict what those things might be but I also think back to the early days of the web, it wasn’t on day one that we realized blogging would be a thing.

When the web first took off it was big companies, big media companies, big brands really, there were little people just putting up their personal homepages and things like that. 

But blogging as a phenomenon took a few years to really develop and pick up and become something that people could make a living at or be a side business or whatever. So I think it’s still very early. 

It’s amazing to think that ChatGPT was only publicly released I want to say about November or November something. So, it’s been a very short time and things are still moving very quickly. 

We’re really committed to working with our creators at RIV to understand what’s going on and to help them figure out where the opportunities are so that they can continue to grow.

Jillian Leslie (00:34:52) – If you remember, I had two questions for you. The second question, could you see a scenario where my blog traffic goes down, but my ad revenue could be offset by that because now all of a sudden I might have this better audience or that advertisers like Nordstrom are willing to pay more?

Connecting with Audiences

John Clyman (00:35:16) – I think that’s something that we definitely are exploring. So, in a sea of AI generated content, going back to that scenario we were talking about earlier, perhaps, really trusted human-generated, high quality content is worth a lot.

I think premium means always gets a premium. I think there is always going to be an opportunity if you can connect with an audience. 

There will always be marketers that value that ability to get the attention of that same audience and the exact mechanics of that change in different media and in different eras. But I think there is still a need for all these connections to happen. 

And so, I do think there is an opportunity for people who can make those authentic human connections with their audiences to potentially see a future of growth.

Monetizing Sites in Ways Other than Ads

It’s not all bad news. The other thing I think that’s really important is there may be opportunities to monetize sites in ways other than ads that can help diversify revenue. One of the classic ones of course is affiliate commerce.

If you can write really high quality product reviews for example, and leverage that expertise and authority and trustworthiness that you have.

And get people to buy products directly, not because you’re shilling them, but because they’re genuinely good products that you believe in and that your audience would like, that has value too. 

And there are opportunities with things like physical merchandise and there are all kinds of opportunities.

Jillian Leslie (00:37:11) – This is why we’ve built MiloTreeCart because what I continue to see of creators using it to sell their own products to their audiences, the people who are having the most success are people who are showing up for their audiences. 

Like, you trust me, great. Join my membership. Come to my workshop, let’s get on a coaching call. Here are my digital downloads, here is my checklist exactly of me, hopefully you trust me and therefore you will buy from me. 

That is really why we built MiloTreeCart and that’s why I say, it goes hand in hand with blogging. Yes, people might buy your affiliate product, but what if it’s your product that you can sell? And one of the easiest things is coaching. 

This woman who is a single woman traveling in the Middle East. I want to go to Pakistan. Maybe I will book a call with her so that I can get her insights and her tips. Again, it’s scary for me. So, maybe she could calm me down for my trip to Pakistan and give me those insights.

John Clyman (00:38:22) – I think that’s absolutely the case and it makes a huge amount of sense. 

It’s also something we at RIV are really looking to increasingly support with the creators, the bloggers and so on that we work with because there is a risk in relying on all your monetization or all your traffic to come from any one source. 

And so, it’s always prudent to think about ways to diversify that, especially at a time like now.

Jillian Leslie (00:38:47) – And I hear this again. We’re like OG bloggers, we started Catch My Party in 2009. We have seen so much and I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people go, oh my God, the Facebook algorithm changed and my business went away. 

Even Google updated, we one time got hit by a Google algorithm update. And we were not doing anything wrong, it just so happened that Google did an update, saw our site differently, and we got pummeled.

John Clyman (00:39:23) – Absolutely. I don’t know if there are any bloggers that haven’t had that experience at one point or another.

Jillian Leslie (00:39:28) – So, it’s that feeling of you being the target it is out of our control. So, I guess this is good, so one question. Do you feel like certain niches might be more protected than other niches? Because I know at RIV you guys look at a lot of different niches. I know you probably have a lot of food bloggers, for example.

John Clyman (00:39:53) – Yes, we do. But we do have a very broad base of bloggers and all kinds of different verticals. It’s hard to predict. I think which ones may or may not be highly affected because there are so many factors that go into it.

Like you mentioned with the past Google algorithm changes, would you have predicted that your site would’ve been caught up in one of those? There’s no reason to think it might have been. 

So with all this stuff, I think it’s hard to know because it’s not just how does Google or Microsoft react, but also how do other bloggers react. 

Maybe there’s a niche that looks really promising, but everyone sees that it looks really promising and they all flood there and so suddenly the competition is really intense. So there’s no easy answer to this. 

I do think it goes back a lot to this notion we were talking about a minute ago of this human connection.

If you are able to connect in a really profound way with your readers and they want to hear from you and they trust you and they’re coming back, I think regardless of the vertical you’re in, that’s going to be really powerful. It’s just the fundamentals of this kind of work.

Jillian Leslie (00:41:09) – And the thing that I keep hearing, you can tell me your thoughts on this, is if you’re a DIYer, you put the actual, like you are fixing a toilet. Like, this is your time to get out your phone and start taking photos of the steps of you fixing the toilet with you in the photos. 

Maybe a video, something like that’s, when I look at this, I go, these are not stock photos of a toilet. That’s somebody getting their hands in the toilet.

Importance of Personalization and Human Connection

John Clyman (00:41:39) – Exactly. And who are you going to trust when it comes to trying to figure out what’s wrong with your own toilet? Is it going to be the thing that looks like it was  generically written by an AI or for that matter by somebody sitting on an airplane nowhere near a toilet, but they’re just saying, yeah, last time I had to fix my toilet, this is what I did.

Where’s the demonstrated, hands-on experience and the expertise there? Personalizing that kind of stuff I think can be really, really powerful. 

Jillian Leslie (00:42:09) – I would say one recommendation to anybody listening to this, get yourself out there in front of your blog as a person who people can connect to or relate to. A lot of bloggers I think are introverts and like working at home. 

I think people try blogging and go, “Oh my God, this is so solitary.” And the ones who do really well at it probably are more introverted and therefore it’s easy to go, “Hey, I’ll just work on my SEO and I’ll just work on my writing and they might not be as likely to go, “Here’s me.”

And I’m one of those people, by the way, and I have to push myself to go, no, no, no, I’m a real person. Trust me or hopefully you might connect with my vibe, but I need to put my vibe out there in a different way or in a more overt way than just, “Hey, I’m going to give you some high quality content.”

Balancing Authenticity and Pushing Comfort Zones

John Clyman (00:43:05) – Yes, I think that’s a really interesting point. And at the same time, do you find that people also need to be authentic to themselves? 

If someone is genuine with themselves, if someone is really not comfortable, being out in public or taking photos of themselves, I’m curious whether you found that it makes sense to try to help get them out of their comfort zone in that respect, or whether it’s more powerful to actually lean in and say, that’s genuinely who you are. 

That’s interesting. Try to convey, it’s okay to be a traveler who’s an introvert. Maybe most of the travelers you meet are extroverts, but I can tell you how to travel as an introvert and I don’t necessarily need to be walking around with my selfie stick everywhere. You know, I would, I’m curious.

Jillian Leslie (00:44:05) – I would say there’s a way to split the difference. For example, you can be creating content, not putting your face on the screen, but hear your voice. So yes, there are definite ways. 

If this is freaking you out, you’re listening to this and this is freaking you out, please know that there are compromises. And that could be your brand. I’m the introverted traveler. I bet you there are a lot of introverted travelers. 

However, if you can push your edge and get yourself uncomfortable even a little bit, I would say those are muscles to work on. I’m talking to this woman yesterday, and she’s like, “Well, I have.” 

She said to me, I have all these interests and I looked at her blog and it had a whole host of things that she was talking about.

The coolest I thought was this idea. She lives in the Middle East and she travels, but she wants to talk about mindset, she wants to talk about other kinds of traveling, she wants to talk about working overseas. 

And I said to her, I feel you’re wanderlust. I know that you don’t want to be boxed in and that you are fighting that. I can look at your blog and I can feel that fight and you’re an introvert because I don’t see any photos of you. 

I said, here is the truth. You could be building a business or you could be expressing yourself and chances are you can’t do both. 

John Clyman – Interesting. 

Jillian Leslie – So you have to decide which one you want to do. Because to be honest with you, building a business is not all puppies and rainbows.

Building a Business is not all Puppies and Rainbows

John Clyman (00:45:42) – I think that makes a huge amount of sense when you’re talking about building a business. There are things you have to do that are uncomfortable. And are often not related to you’re a great cook at home and you make the best cakes in the world. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean you want to be running a bakery. It’s a very different kind of thing to be doing, to be dealing with suppliers and customers and taxes and payroll and all those kinds of things. 

It’s not your actual passion, it might only be the kernel of what you have to build that business around. 

Jillian Leslie (00:46:18) – Like I say, online business blogging is hard.

John Clyman (00:46:21) – No, definitely. And of course, it’s very competitive as well. Anything that’s easy, and this is not easy attracts millions of people who want the easy button. 

And that means you’re then going to have to differentiate yourself and get search traffic when you’re competing with those millions of people. I think the tactics and the hard work is really essential to growing just about any business. 

There’s the old Thomas Edison saying, or at least what distributed to him is “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration bring an idea to fruition.” And I think that’s absolutely true. And if you’ve built a business there is a lot of grinding that goes into it. 

Jillian Leslie (00:47:05) – A good word. That is a good word. It can be a grind. Question for you, what is RIV formally AdThrive doing thinking about in terms of AI to optimize your business?

Raptive’s AI-driven content optimization and SEO tools 

John Clyman (00:47:21) – So, we’re thinking about it really comprehensively and trying to understand every way in which it could touch our business and our creators’ businesses. And there is lots of stuff we’re thinking about, not necessarily a lot of stuff we’ve announced yet.

One of the key things that I’d point out is that we have provided AI-driven content optimization and SEO tools to our creators since 2021 when we  acquired a company called Topic that had some really fantastic content optimization technology. 

We’ve been building around that for a few years now, and we’re really excited to be offering these capabilities to people to help identify things like what kinds of new content can they profitably write about, what posts of theirs could benefit from an update.

How can we help with tuning content and ideation to remove some of the writer’s blog and to make it easier for you to compete effectively. So, we have capabilities in our product platform today that people can use to take advantage of this technology. 

Also, we’re thinking very broadly internally about all the different ways that this could potentially change the business, change the industry, and again change what we do for creators. So, I would just say stay tuned. We’re going to be doing a lot more here.

Jillian Leslie (00:48:54) – Wonderful. John, if somebody is listening to this and they have a question about Ad networks, AdThrive, AI, all that, how should they reach out to you? Should they reach out to RIV? What’s the best way?

John Clyman (00:49:10) – I think a couple of things. One is definitely come check out riv@riv.com. I have been writing some blog posts about AI and potential impact on the industry on our site. So, those are available there. 

That’s a way to get a little bit of consolidated information. And of course, folks want to reach out to me directly with something, probably LinkedIn is the easiest place to do that.

Jillian Leslie (00:49:36) – And your name again?

John Clyman (00:49:37) – John Clyman. That’s C-L-Y-M-A-N. And I’m with Rap.

Jillian Leslie (00:49:41) – Wonderful. Well, John, I’d love to check in with you in a couple months to see how you’re thinking about this and to nerd out on AI in the world of online business and advertising. So, I would love to have you back.

John Clyman (00:49:58) – Thank you. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve really enjoyed it and I’d welcome a chance to talk again. 

Jillian Leslie (00:50:02) – Awesome. I just have to say thank you so much for coming on the show.

John Clyman (00:50:07) – It’s my pleasure, Jillian.

The Importance of Being Open to Pivoting and Turning on New Income Streams

Jillian Leslie (00:50:09) – I hope you guys like this episode. What’s so interesting is when I have guests on to talk about AI, I’m always taking their temperature to see if they’re positive or more negative. And I would say John is definitely positive and excited. 

My biggest takeaways are things like the importance, more so even today of showing up as an authentic human being who wants to connect with their audiences, being trustworthy and also being open to pivoting and turning on new income streams and staying flexible. 

I was just at a conference the last two days here in Austin, and of course AI was a big topic and somebody gave this piece of advice, which I thought was good. It is this idea that nobody knows anything, but to start getting your feet wet, just start using it. Just start getting familiar with it. 

And for example, for us with MiloTreeCart, we’re going to be incorporating AI into our fill in the blank sales pages.

So, wow, right now I say you can fill it out 10 minutes. Maybe with AI you can fill one out in five minutes, but because this is the beginning of a whole new revolution, you just want to be comfortable. 

So again, if you’re not playing around, I recommend you do, and I’d love any insights that you are having or how you’re using ChatGPT or AI in your business. I think we’re entering some interesting times. 

You have any questions about MiloTreeCart or selling digital products, please reach out to me at jillian@milotree.com. If you’re ready to jump in, start selling, just go to milotreecart.com and I will see you here again next week.

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