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Can you REALLY Make Money Blogging?

Posted By Darren Rowse 3rd of December 2008 Blogging for Dollars 0 Comments

Every now and again I get an email from a ProBlogger reader excitedly telling me that they’re about quit their jobs to become full time bloggers. More often than not they are new bloggers who for one reason or another have it in their minds that blogging for money is a quick and easy thing to do.

This post is yet another attempt (I’ve done this 2-3 times a year since 2004) to help bloggers thinking about blogging for money to get a realistic picture of what is possible.

I always struggle a little with responding to these emails. On the one hand I love the enthusiasm that new bloggers often have and don’t want to be responsible for squashing it and leaving them despondent.

Blogging is an exciting medium, it is filled with many possibilities (one of which is profit), it is a lot of fun and it is possible to make a full time living from doing it. In fact it’s possible to go beyond making a living from blogging – (stories like this one about a 1 man blog being sold for $15 million illustrate this).


The reality is that most bloggers never sell their blog for millions…. in fact most bloggers don’t even come close to a full time living from blogging. Every time I’ve surveyed my readers on how much they earn the majority report that they’re earning less than $100 a month with most of those earning less than $10 a month.

Can you REALLY Make Money Blogging?

The simple answer to this question is – yes.

It is possible to make money blogging. In fact it’s quite likely that if you try to make money blogging and stick with it for the long haul that you will make at least some money blogging – however ‘some’ money is different to ‘much’ money.

Can you Make MUCH Money Blogging?

Again – the simple answer is yes. You can make a lot of money blogging. The example of the $15m blogger above is one example. My own experience is less spectacular but is another story of a blogger making a good living from the medium (I’ve been earning well into the ‘six figures’ range for a number of years now.

It is possible – but every statistic I’ve ever read shows that it’s not likely, at least for the majority of bloggers, to make ALOT of money blogging.

As mentioned above – I’ve surveyed my readers a number of times on their earnings. One of these surveys was back in May 2006 (I did one with very similar results in November 2007 and things seem similar in the current poll I’m running on this same topic) where I found that my readers were earning a large spread of income levels from blogging:


While 7% reported earning over $15,000 a month (I suspect this is a little inflated – some people tend to pick extreme results in polls just because) 57% report earning less than $100 a month. 30% reported earning less than 30 cents a day.

I don’t know about you – but that chart is both sobering and inspiring all in one. It shows quite clearly that most bloggers are not making much – but does also seem to indicate that there are some bloggers out there who are at least making at least a part time supplementary income from blogging.

Getting Your Expectations about Earning Money from Blogging Right

OK – some of you are possibly quite depressed by this stage. Should you give up on your dreams of making a living from blogging? Is it all too hard? Is it worth it?

Don’t give up but be Realistic.

My encouragement to all bloggers with the dream of building a blog that makes money is simple. Get into the game – but do so with realistic expectations. A few thoughts and tips to help you get those expectations right:

Aim for the sky but set your sights on the next step

There’s nothing wrong with having big dreams. Very early on in my own blogging for money story I began to see the possibilities of earning a good living from blogs. Dreams are great for motivating and inspiring you – but they can also be a distraction and set you up for disappointment. Allow yourself time to think about ‘what could be’ but then get yourself focused upon the next step you need to take to take yourself in the direction you want to end up.

For me this was about setting realistic goals of what I could achieve in the next month. Each month I had the goal of increasing monthly traffic to my blogs by 10% on the previous month. This meant that over time I would see exponential growth to my blogs. With a goal of 10% growth in mind I then set myself ‘tasks’ – concrete things that I could do to achieve the goal (writing certain amounts of posts, networking with other bloggers etc).

Don’t give up your day job

There may one day come a time when you can give up that job and focus upon blogging full time – but that time is not likely to be now for most people reading this. My own experience of this (I share an extended version of my story of taking blogging from a hobby to a full time thing in the ProBlogger book by the way) was that I worked a number of part time jobs and was studying part time in my early days of blogging. As my blog income grew I slowly decreased the time I was working other jobs.

I actually was working a part time job even after I was earning a full time income from blogging. I wanted to have a backup in case things went pear shaped (in fact this was smart because at one point Google reindexed my blogs and my blogging income largely disappeared for a couple of months).

It’s really important to be responsible with cutting off other income sources in order to ‘go Pro’ as a blogger – particularly if you have a family relying upon your as the main income earner. I’ve seen a number of very sad stories of people taking this drastic action only to leave their family without income.

I’ve previously written about this in a post about Monkey Bar Blogging.

Take a Long Term View

Most successful blogs take years to build to their potential. It takes up time to:

  • build a large enough archive of posts
  • to build up loyal readers and subscriber numbers
  • to become known in your niche, to ‘get blogging’
  • to find your voice
  • to get authority in the eyes of the search engines…. etc

None of this just happens. It takes years to grow a blog.

It’s NOT Passive Income

Another common misconception about blogging for money is that it becomes ‘passive income’ – that you can sit back and let your blog earn you big dollars while you enjoy your lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong – there are a few ‘passive’ elements to the income that a blog can generate. For example:

  • I could go away for a week today and not post anything on my blog and it would still earn me money
  • posts that I wrote 4 years ago continue to generate income for me

Yes it could be argued on these fronts that the income is somewhat passive. However blogging for money is a lot of hard work. Most bloggers whose blogs make it big time put a lot of time and energy into building their blogs. Most that I’ve met have worked beyond full time hours on their blogs over years.

This isn’t to say that it’s not fun – one of the things I’ve discovered in the last few years is that hard work can be a lot of fun (who would have thought) – but there are days when it is very time consuming and challenging work.

Not all Blogs are Created Equal

I am often asked – ‘how many visitors a month do I need to earn $XXX?’

While I’d love to be able to give people a formula for working out the answer to this question the reality is that every blog is so different from every other blog. I’ve worked with hundreds of bloggers over the years and each time I do I relearn the lesson that no two blogs are alike.

Blogs vary from niche to niche (ie a finance blog will earn differently to a craft blog which will earn differently to a tech blog) – but even within niches they will perform very differently (I’ve had two photography blogs over the years and they couldn’t be more different).

I bring this up because quite often I come across bloggers who model their blogs after other blogs – sometimes to the point of copying every aspect of them. Unfortunately this isn’t a great way forward. Most successful blogs cut new ground, have their own voice, blog in their own style and tackle a topic with their own perspective. As a result they grow differently, attract their own audience and monetize differently.

Do learn from other blogs and bloggers – but also attempt to find your own way.

Further Reading:

I’ve talked about these issues numerous times in the past here at ProBlogger. One post that you might want to look at if you’d like a few tips on how to build a blog is a post I wrote some time ago outlining 18 Lessons I’ve learned about Blogging.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I would like to say that this is true. I make almost no income from blogging. I want to learn how to do it by experience because once I figure out a way that works for me. This is the way to become a true “pro”. I would never quite my job until I was certain the income was stable enough.

    If someone emails you about quitting their job before they have the income then they truly do not know what they are doing.

  2. My blog made me almost $30 this month. That’s not a lot when I put it up against my expenses, but it’s definitely nice to have!

    I’m working constantly on improving my blog and better connecting with my readers. However, I feel that quitting my job a couple months ago was a bad idea. Fortunantly, I had $1,000 saved up so I had something to fall back on. I’m going back to the work force and blog on the side until I can make a stable living from my blogging.

  3. I would have to say I’m with Barbara Linq above. You have to be an Internet Marketer first (SEO, SEM) and then you can make $$ blogging. i quit my job in 2006 to trade stocks. Now I am out of work and out of money. Meanwhile, lots of people make $$ trading stocks, but it is a ruthless and humbling business. Since I am close to Social Security, I hope blogging can fill in the income gaps, but I am not naive about the work involved.

  4. Darren, what you alluded to about diversity is very important – don’t pin all your hopes on just one source of income. You have other business interests and blogs besides this one, which people may not always realise. This is important to avoid replicating your experience of being nailed by the Google update – some things are best learned through the experience of others!

  5. I have a BIG PLAN about money blogging. Hopefully starting next month with a partner!

  6. When I first began blogging a couple of years ago (with a now defunct blog), I had the attitude that if I build it, everyone would realize how great it is and would naturally click on all the google ads I had and such.

    Man, was I ever wrong.

    Like Darren said, it does take time and commitment- not to mention great content- to even have a chance of properly monetizing your blog.

    All the bloggers making a full-time income started out with just one post on a blog no one knew about- just like us. Cheers for the inspiring post, Darren!

    The Geek Entrepreneur

  7. Now , it is three months since i started my blog . it is developping gradually and it makes about 150 $ a month . Good so far .

  8. I have a goal that by July 31st, 2009, my goals will replace my income. Of couse, I only earn $200 a week so that goal is quite feasible :)

    I started blogging in June last year but stopped after I had a nervous breakdown. Despite suffering from severe anxiety for most of 2008, I spent my good days sketching out my blogging plans and taking the year to really ascertain my blogging goals.

    I realized that due to the severity of my anxiety, I may never be able to handle full time work outside of the house. That shattered me as prior to my illness, I was a successful student with a promising career in front of her.

    During that time, there was a number of things that I did which I think will increase my chances:
    – I spent a lot of time networking. As I didn’t have a complete website to show, networking was down to form real friendships. This has been successful with a small group of people.
    – I was able to sketch out the goals for my blogs over the next 5 years. This includes video content and potential monetization options once I read traffic goals.
    – I had the time to ascertain how I wanted to develop my personal brand.

    These three things give me an advantage over newer bloggers. Additionally, I was able to make a lot of my mistakes in private. That helped!

    My health team and I have decided that I wont look for formal employment for around 12 months to give me the necessary time for recovery. I intend to use this time to create a viable online business. My goal for 2009 is to replace the financial support I receive from the government. Within 2 years, I want to be earning $5000 AUD a month.

    My current plan is to keep my sites relatively private over the next 6-7 months, until I ‘develop’ them into great resources. I want to focus solely on writing quality content that can be shared across multiple mediums. I want to experiment and join the conversation, so that I can find my voice.

    I don’t want to have to worry about branding, competition and consistency until my sites are ready.

    So –

    I believe that very feasible to make a full time income online. I intend to do so. I believe that many people are unprepared or unwilling to really do what it takes. I know I was.

  9. I had an online publishing business for 10 years and it was a very difficult job to maintain it, to continuously grow it and to make it profitable.

    Recently I made a successful exit from that business and focused on blogging / consulting. I know for sure that I will be making money out of blogging (too), but I also know from experience that it will take time, patience and hard work.

    Thanks for being honest and transparent about blogging. It’s one of the most affordable business you can start – it takes little or no money investment for a while – but this is exactly what makes it difficult, the higher degree of competition.

    Everybody can have a blog mens you will have to compete with virtually anybody. It might not need upfront a lot of money to succeed, but it will surely require a lot of work.

  10. I have read somewhere in here that it takes at least 2 years for a blog to get through a developing stage. I feel a bit lucky because I was still in school and haven’t thought of becoming a full-time blogger yet (well, at least I am not disgruntled at my job yet simple because I didn’t have one…yet). It will be nice if I earn some income for the next 3 years from blogging so I can pay some of the enormous student loan I have accumulated.

  11. Hmm..
    This is a very realistic post.
    Well, for a student, everything more than 100$ is good enough ;)

  12. It definitely takes time before you can abandon every other source of income and live off of your blog. For me, the key was to find other jobs that allowed me a lot of time to work on my blog while still getting paid. Another option was to do freelance work on the side so I could still enjoy the comforts of working from home.

    The key is to stick with it, and eventually it will take its path. It took me a good year before I quit my office job to focus on online income.

  13. Hi Darren! Great post!

    I think you’re right – money from blogging doesn’t come easily. I have been actively blogging for almost 2 years now and I hardly make anything from it.

    But for me it doesn’t matter because I love blogging! I love what I blog about (literature and writing), and any money I make is just a nice bonus.

    I’m currently trying to grow my blog’s readership, but it still goes back to the same thing – I do it because I love it, not because of money.

  14. Interesting post! Maybe a disillusion for some new bloggers.

    I am new to blogging but I’m not new to Internet marketing. When I stood with my back against the wall I started up my own Internet business and this is my only source of income. No, I don’t have a website that tells others how to make money on the Internet. I could do that, but there are already so many site’s that do the job very well and its not really my passion to teach it. I make Google AdWords campaigns for airlines, postorder businesses a.s.o. and get commissions out of it.

    The warning I always read in posts about earning money is ‘don’t quit your day job’. Let met tell you this: ‘If I hadn’t lose my day job I think I would never have been able to make something on-line. Just because getting fired took me out of my comfort zone and urged me to take action. Something very different. You guess, that I don’t share this warning. Even though I know that panic isn’t a good adviser, I know for sure that your comfort zone can be your biggest enemy in your attempt to proceed.

    Back to blogging: I love to blog and to build my blog. I also love to look at the statistics so now and then. When I started in the end of september my Alexa-rank was 22 million and something, today it is 1.8 million and something. Pretty good, I think.

    But is this making money for me? Not really, but that is not yet the important thing. I know it will make money, but before you get something, you have to give something. That is where passion for what you’re doing and your commitment comes in play. Just like you described in your post.

    The only thing I can advise is: don’t start blogging just for money. It’s like writing a book just for money. Do you really think that Harry Potter would have been such a big success if J.K. Rowling just had money in her mind whilst writing? I don’t think so. She was focused on her subject, and so should you. Otherwise I would tend to warn you and say: ‘Don’t quit your day job.’ (lol)

    See you!

  15. Wow, yeah, reality check. I have been blogging for 6 months, making little little money and I have come to the conclusion that bloggers do not make money by throwing up a few google ads on one website. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I’m thinking, more than one blog, other ventures, books, freelancing etc.

  16. This is a good call, Darren. Unfortunately, I gave up my job two months ago and went on to be a full time blogger. I decided so because employment these days in the Philippines is really declining. I accepted the offer of my previous employer for an early retirement program. And I am glad I did, as I heard the company is now preparing to close it. If I waited for that, I will receive a lesser amount. Now, we are using the money to start a small business. This means that blogging is not our sole source of income.

    Anyway, this post is very true. Having a target is the most important. Although there are many ways to make money online and all of them are effective one way or the other, not all of them are applicable to all of us.

    We must know our capabilities, and focus on it. Furthermore, traffic is nonsense if we cannot convert it to money. This can only happen if we study the art of advertising, and convincing our readers to buy from us.

    By the way, I can’t help but be excited to receive your book – Problogger Book which I recently won in a contest. I am sure it will be a great help to achieve my goal, especially now that you mentioned here that it has an extension of your blogging history.

    Thanks for choosing me as the winner, Darren. I take it as a great inspiration.

  17. Don’t quit your day job is a great point, but also don’t get discouraged when blogging isn’t going too far, keep it up and work hard at your blog and it will eventually pick up.

    I’ve seen way too many bloggers go from posting everyday to posting 3-4 times a month. You just gotta keep blogging, and try to keep it at an qual pace.


  18. It would be a little more difficult to do but I’d like to see an extra question added to the poll along the lines of “and on a scale of 1 – 10, how hard are you trying to make money on your blog?”.

    It would then be interesting to correlate the income to time spent.

    Admittedly, it’s a subjective question.

  19. This is a good reality check, Darren. Right now I am blogging mostly for fun and as an experiment. It hasn’t taken me too long to discover how hard it will be to make real money. That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible of course, but it certainly isn’t easy! Thanks for the encouragement nonetheless.

  20. I think the answer for me too is definitely Yes. But not quite so that I can leave my day job and make blogging my full time job. But I’m quite positive about blogging and will be blogging more too often.

  21. Great post. But, as I was reading it, I wondered how your survey would compare to (1) the US census of incomes, (2) pageviews, (3) blog age, (4) monetization methods, (5) country, and (6) time involved. I’m most interested in pageviews or traffic as they compare to income. If 95% of your readers have brand-new blogs and they’re earning $10 a week, that isn’t so bad.

  22. Great post. This is a lesson that I had to learn the hard way.

    Adding to this post I suggest that people don’t get too excited when they get a big break. Big break being front page of stumble, an interview or a guest post on a high traffic site.
    These things definitely help but they won’t make your career.

  23. I think of all the good points above, the fact that it is NOT passive income needs to be hammered into peoples heads. I only recently started blogging – I am lucky to be able to buy a cup of coffee everyday off of my blog “profits.” Keep on plugging away I think is the key along with continually trying to improve the quality and focus of your content.

  24. Darren…..thanks for great inspiration, I am optimism…..to reach big income …..making my dreams come true……..let’s struggle..

  25. Posts like this one are why I ALWAYS send everyone who asks me how to make money to YOU!

    And I also tell them what you just said. I feel bad having to sound pessimistic to them about the earning potential for blogging. But it is far kinder to be honest with them. Blogging is HARD work and boy is it hard to earn!

    Susan (my twin sister and co-blogger) and I work WAY more than full time hours on our blog and online stores. While we do earn now, we also have such huge work loads that we have to use those beautiful, long awaited profits to pay staff! (and pay for childcare!) LOL

  26. That should reveal the situation to many people out there with the wrong impression.
    One needs to put in a lot of hardwork if one is to establish oneself in this already booming medium. One needs to explore the unexplored to be successful.

  27. Starting out on the road myself but I’m definitely going to set myself achievable targets, first month I’m going to try and get 1000 hits :D

  28. Another good reminder Darren, and I know you feel some frustration about being stereotyped as a cheerleader for blogs-not-jobs by people who haven’t read your previous warning posts in this vein.

    I think the problem comes down to ‘possible’ versus ‘likely’. As human beings not computers, we all struggle with evaluating the difference.

    In the comments thread to a post on my blog I did about blogging for money, I compared it to winning the lottery:

    If I was to post that the chances are extremely high you’ll never win the lottery, so play for fun, not for money, there are thousands of lottery winners around the world who could chime in to say “yes it does work for some!” But that is *thousands* of winners from many years, versus the *multimillions* who buy lottery tickets around the world each week.

    It’s exactly the same with blogging. We all see the thousand or so winners, and do bad maths.

    There are plenty of reasons to blog, but an *expectation* of serious money isn’t one of them.

    For those interested in more:

  29. Good news.

    I love the post, I love the poll showing how much other people are making.

    Thank God my blogging income is growing, and that it’s something I love to do each day.

    I agree on the “don’t quit your day job yet” advice.

    What’s the best hosting company you recommend right now?

    I’m looking to expand on my next group of websites.


  30. Very interesting. Yes, that 7% figure is most definitely inflated.

    My average monthly income from blogging is just under the $15K mark, but that said, I get the question all the time (just last night yet again, in fact) exactly HOW you make money by blogging. My experience is that you make money by SELLING things.

    Pro blogging is a lot more than just writing and hitting the “Publish” button. Ultimately, making good money means you need to market and sell things. Your blog is a means to an end, when you take this stuff seriously.

  31. Good advice Darren.

    The only thing I’d add is that another way to make your blog pay is to have it bring you money for your business.

    I have no idea how much money I make from business I get because of my website. I know it’s a lot, but I don’t ask people how they found me so I don’t really know how much it is.

    Adsense income and e-book sales – that’s easy. Not enough to live on, but more than enough to pay the mortgage and a car payment.

    But if that were all it was – if I weren’t driving business with that site – I wouldn’t put in half the effort that I do now.

  32. It takes year to get more links and readers. Most people don’t keep at it long enough and quit.

  33. You’re right on about this. you have to have priorities and depending where you are in life will depend on how much you can risk. if you’re young and living at home…RIsk big…if you have a family….then not so much.

    Most people get the wrong idea b/c they see a blogger just show up making the big bucks when the fact of the matter is that they have been building a foundation for quite sometime.

  34. This is a great post, and really put things into perspective for someone just starting out in blogging, especially for profit. Thanks for reiterating the fact the we really need to be passionate about our blogging niches, as it will be a hobby long before it becomes a significant income source. “Aim for the sky but set your sights on the next step” .. couldn’t have been said any better!

  35. Darren,

    I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your honesty in regards to having realistic expectations about making money with blogs.

    In my short time blogging I have for sure experienced some newbie frustration about my traffic levels. I find myself obsessively checking my stats. I’m now realizing I need to focus on writing quality content instead of being so concerned about bringing in the masses at this point.

    Thanks for all you do as I have found ProBlogger to be one of my most referenced websites while beginning my blogging adventure.

  36. I do not own a blog but I run a website and I receive emails all the time from people that have run across one of those get rich quick site’s and have tried for a few months to make money online and failed. I tell them first of all those type of sites are scams and there are ways to make money online but you need time, patience and hard work. Making cash online takes commitment and if you are willing to put the time in it will pay off.

  37. One piece of advice I can give based upon experience, and hearing the experiences of others, is that tech/programming blogs are the most difficult revenue generators. I have been at it for almost 3 years, the frequency and content varying slightly, but all technical in nature. I have yet to find a legit method for making a significant amount of money in this niche.

    You are competing with the likes of TechCrunch and Gizmodo, and you also have sites like Digg, Hacker News, Reddit, DZone and Slashdot pushing traffic to millions of other destinations. Writing tutorials takes a lot of time and energy, and the content must be extremely sticky. However, putting together business consulting or marketing advice, micro-blogging tips, and writing about “timeless” topics is much easier, and can generate long-lasting traffic.

    Technology changes so fast, it is difficult to keep up, which means more work in order to get the bang for your buck. If you are just starting out, stick to those timeless topics. If you can get creative with them, then you can make a good deal of money. Unfortunately, most of those topics bore me to tears… if I’m going to be an entrepreneur, it will be doing something I love.

  38. I think like any entrepreneurial endeavour, when you decided to develop a blogging or other online related business you need to respect how difficult it can be to start something from scratch. I’m sure a large majority of the people who give up on making a living or any income online, are people who didn’t have the discipline required.

  39. i wll never give up and will try my best. I know the road is long and difficult. But i will try my best.

  40. And even when you finally are making money, there is no guarantee that it will continue. Another lesson it takes time to learn. Dropping the ball at that point is not an option.

  41. Yeh, your comment about no two blogs being the same is spot on.

    @stephan miller: Yes, a blogger does not have the option to go on vacation. All it takes is a brief lapse in activity for weeks or months of hard work to be undone.

  42. Hey I found your blog in the book “blogging for dummies” very cool! I can see why you were mentioned, you seem to have very well written and useful blogs. I’m new to blogging but finding it to be a great hobby! The idea of making from blogging looks like something that would be fun to try out one day. I’ll have to get people finding my blog first lol

  43. Nice points, but there is still a point where you think, blogging is not meant for you. I mean there was a guy in digital point forum who got his first adsense check of $100 after 2 years, and i was simply amazed by the sheer patience of that guy.

  44. This is blogging at its truest.

    Thanks for the info, really really appreciate and admire honest people like you.

  45. When I first start blogging last year and it seems you make a lot of money online. After so much work has been done. I am getting skeptical. The bottom line is: is it worthy it to make a few hundreds by spending 2 h a day? For some people who make less than 2K a month, it could worthy it. But for people who make a lot in day job, may be it i better to enjoy life after work.

  46. I think bloggers need to take time for their blogs to grow and make money, being an established blogger requires a lot of effort. Also another sure thing is that more traffic = more money so effort,time and traffic are the keywords here and also bloggers should do a lot of research on every aspect of blogging I really thank Darren for enlightening newbies

  47. I think it’s good to remain realistic but at the same time I’m a dreamer. It just depends on how bad you want to do something. A couple years ago I was told microstock photography would never provide but maybe a $100 payout a few times a year but I kept at it and now I own a full time studio with 2000 sq ft of atmosphere, a lot of killer camera toys and it is all 100% paid for with my monthly microstock payouts. I can turn a profit even without any clients walking in the door … so with that said … I’m going to do the same blogging. :) LOL

  48. This is a really neat blog with some good info, thanks guys…

  49. Cliff says: 01/06/2009 at 1:39 am

    Thanks for sharing.
    I am eager to start blogging. My passion is writing and touching lives. I believe money will come along as well.
    So how do I start? Get my own domain? Because I understand that I can’t make money if I use one of the blogging sites. And what is this about Google not allowing us to get paid from ads?
    I want to place a daily picture too, and sell that pic.
    Thanking you in advance.

  50. Wow, good stuff. But it is oh so difficult. Back here in South Africa, blogging is just taking off. Not many big money makers. A lot of the big blogs are corporate or media owned, with a list of bloggers on the payroll. Granted my blog is still very young, but it does seem like a lot of hrd work with very little return, at this stage.

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