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From blog to brand: Matthew Chan (NZ TechBlog)

NZ TechBlog Fold

A lot of people have been asking about me and my site: how I started up the site, how I got to review new tech products and vehicles, and if I make money on here or not. This blog post will attempt to answer those questions, in an interview-style blog post.

Firstly, this blog post was inspired by a Stoppress series of articles, which also has the same interview-style based articles.

On NZ TechBlog we publish the latest technology news, do reviews on tech products and on modern vehicles, showcase tech videos (either mine or is aggregated from other tech sites) and just general ‘tech-talk’.

What sets us apart from other sites/blogs and NZ mainstream tech media is that we like to give a consumer’s perspective on everyday technology and in easy-to-understand tech terms. This means that if you are no techie/geek but love technology as much as we do then this site is right for you to get all your geeky goodness!

We like to consider our tagline as: “With News, Reviews, Videos and Chat it is the all time tech-lover wonderland!”

How/when did you start up NZ TechBlog?

Matthew ChanI started my website back in April 2012 during the school term break holidays, when I was reading up on various technology sites (Geekzone was one of them).

While reading a review on a technology product (I forgot exactly what product this was, as there were a few!) it got me thinking how those technology sites manage to get heaps of tech products to review. Did they buy them all brand new? I mean, we’re taking about thousand-dollar PCs and TVs here! That got me researching more about how to start a blog and how to start reviewing technology products. It was then when I decided to bite the bullet and start up NZ TechBlog.

Do you have some readership stats?

We serve over 16,000 Unique Monthly Visitors, and get over 50,000 page views a month. Over 50% of our audience resides in New Zealand, with USA coming in second.

How has it changed since the early days?

It’s changed quite a bit I have to say! When I started up NZ TechBlog, I made my site on Blogger: Google’s free weblog publishing tool. This was all good as I had a free domain name ending with ‘.blogspot.co.nz’ and hosting, had a pretty easy dashboard system where I could write and manage all my future blog posts, and it had stats on how many people visited the site back then (it wasn’t many)! Back then I also had a pretty basic theme and it was pretty amateurish. After a while I decided to buy my current domain name from Google: nztechblog.net so I would have my own domain name. Back then domains from Google costed 10USD per year flat cost. After a few years they stopped that service and now have brought it back again with Google Domains. However, you now have to have a billing address in the USA to be able to purchase one for 12USD a year. Looks like it was a win back then!

Fast forward to the beginning of 2013, the blog was getting some decent page views and unique monthly visitors from NZ and from around the world, namely the USA. I also decided that this ‘amateurish’ theme wasn’t going to work anymore, and that I wanted more flexibility and the ability to customize, and make it more professional. So I again decided to bite the bullet and try out Wordpress hoping it wouldn’t be a bad decision. I am still using WordPress to date! This was also when I decided to buy my own hosting on Hostgator.

To date I think NZ TechBlog has a pretty easy-to-read/navigate, and responsive site, meaning mobile users can enjoy the site just as well as desktop users.

How do you go about financing your site? Do you make enough to live off your website?

We run display advertising on our site, and occasionally have companies working with us to produce some sponsored articles. We pride ourselves on our sponsored articles, as the opinion in them are still 100% ours and are no way influenced by our sponsors. We’ve had a couple of brands working with us on this such as BNZ and Australian internet marketing agency, Boom Video.

We are also involved with affiliate programmes such as Amazon. This means if you purchase any item on Amazon through our affiliate link, we receive a small commission for referring you to their site. And it also means we get a small reward for producing free articles for you to read too!

Display advertising revenue in general has started to decline in the blogging industry, mainly thanks to today’s modern ad blocking technology. Unless you have been in the blogging industry, you won’t know how much time, hard work and dedication goes into creating quality articles for readers just like you. Then there is more work in managing the site, managing the advertisers, and managing positive brand relationships to help the site grow.

For a seventeen year old, revenue from advertisements allows me to spend it on items I enjoy. However, since driving around in new cars is one of my favourite hobbies right now, most of my ad revenue goes towards paying for expensive fuel in New Zealand!

What type of advertising works best for your site?

While the trusty old display advertising banners does its job most of the time, I think the best type of advertising for a blog like ours, is sponsored articles. This is because it is real and direct from us. It can’t get better than real people mentioning real services and products, giving real feedback and opinion on them.

Has anyone ever offered to buy your site?

Yes. We had a media outlet wanting to buy our site a while back, but I declined because I still wanted full editorial control of NZ TechBlog, and I wanted it to be mine. I figured there were/are still opportunities to be made with NZ TechBlog.

Have you got any funny stories about running a site in New Zealand?

Dyson DC23 Vacuum Cleaner Video Review

I don’t know if I’d find it funny (well… I kinda do now!) but everyone loved making fun of my Dyson DC23 Vacuum Cleaner video review which I produced back in 2012 during my free time. I certainly did not expect it to climb up to 50,000 views within the two years! It is now sitting at 65,000 views and it was my first proper video that I made on that channel. Perhaps I should focus more of my time producing videos on YouTube too!

What advice would you give to newbies wanting to make it in the online industry?

You can totally do it if you know your stuff; if you know your niche market. Blogging/publishing is not an easy industry. You have to have a good plan and be committed to working really hard without reaping financial rewards in the beginning. People say I have the dream job, and while it does sound like I do, it still does require a lot of hard work. People don’t see what you do ‘behind the scenes’. They only see the ‘front of house’. I don’t own a house or anything, and am not rich. But I am definitely enjoying what I do right now, especially for a seventeen year old living out in West Auckland!