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“If you had a Gun against your Head to Double your Readership in Two Weeks, What Would you Do?” – An Interview with Tim Ferriss

Posted By Darren Rowse 25th of July 2007 Pro Blogger Interviews 0 Comments

Tim FerrissTwo of the most popular posts on ProBlogger over the last couple of months were an interview that I conducted in April with author Timothy Ferriss who wrote the best selling book The 4-Hour work Week. Tim’s also been developing a blog as part of his 4-Hour Work Week site and has seen some amazing traffic growth over the last few months.

I thought that it might be time for a follow up interview to see how the book launch has gone and what Tim has been learning about blogging. I hope you enjoy this chat with Tim.

How’s the 4 Hour Work Week Launch Going?

The books is screaming along. It’s been an unexpected and incredible ride thus far. From hitting #1 on the Wall Street Journal list and nailing the NY Times, it’s been a string of firsts for me. I was #2 on the NY Times business bestseller list for June, and the #1 slot was a political book. Very odd. So I’m hoping to move some mountains this week and hit #1 there, which would be a lifelong dream fulfilled. Fun stuff, to be sure.

Congratulations on that – How long have you been blogging now?

My current “real” blog has been up since early April in earnest, so about 3-4 months. I did play with another WordPress blog for a few months before that, but it was mostly to get comfortable with the tools vs. building a reader base. I would say 3-4 months of serious traffic creation and real posts.

Why did you start your 4 hour work week blog and have your reasons for doing it changed since you started?

I started it to create a community, a sense of belonging for not only others… but for myself. I wanted to attract like minded folk to discuss cool topics. More recently, this has moved towards having fun but also catalyzing some serious world change. It sounds ridiculously naive, but I used the blog to help get http://www.donorschoose.org, an educational non-profit, into the finals for American Express’s competition for $1-5 million in funding. There is some serious power in numbers and proactive readers.

I’m also beginning to realize that you can monetize a blog without bastardizing your vision, sacrificing editorial purity, or otherwise “selling out.” There’s no need to sacrifice on either end.

Tell us a little more about how you think this is possible – ie” monetize a blog without bastardizing your vision”

Step one is understanding your readers. by this, i mean defining them psychographically and demographically. What would they buy? Then, it’s a simple matter of finding advertisers who would pay for “sponsor”-level access to this market. Choose someone who belongs to an industry that you’ll likely never write about. Problem solved.

There are certainly other avenues — affiliate programs, Amazon Associates, etc. — that add additional revenue with marginal additional effort. Last, and few bloggers consider this, is launching and offering your own products to your audience. I get hundreds of emails per week requesting the same types of help. There will be online educational modules or other products on the way to help these readers, and I will launch them on the blog.

The aforementioned sources of income would be “direct” income sources from the blog. “Indirect” income sources — those that result from the credibility your blog creates — are much broader and can be even more profitable and fun: speaking gigs for $10-30K, corporate training in foreign countries, etc.

I’ve been watching your alexa ranking and you’ve seen some nice growth (over 10000) – what’s behind it?

It’s just direct response advertising meets PR.

Study the top stories at Digg or MSN.com and you’ll notice a pattern: the top stories all polarize people. Do not try to appeal to everyone. Instead, take a strong stance and polarize people: make some love you and some hate you. Hate is an extreme, but here’s the gist: what you write, in order to create the highest pass-along value, needs to be “remarkable”. Is it something that is worth remarking upon?

If you make it threaten people’s 3 Bs — behavior, belief, or belongings — you get a huge virus-like dispersion. Most of my explosive posts, which have brought in 1000s of new Feedburner subscribers, have nothing to do with my book. “Geek to Freak” is about how I gained 34 lbs. of muscle in 4 weeks. “How to Travel the World with 10 lbs. or Less” is obviously not (though a great case study in how to use Amazon Associates naturally).


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 love this guy. Recently Read his book, he is definitely leading the way among us younger entrepreneurs. Great stuff!

  2. Darren & Tim, Great interview…

    I could use some clarification on one of the points you make though. You say “Just ask yourself: would my mom, dad, best friend, or co-workers try and give me advice on this? If not, you’ll miss a lot of comments.” I’m a little unclear on what you mean. Can you provide an example or further explain? I appreciate it.

  3. Here’s a travel-related interview with Tim Ferriss I did a while back on the World’s Cheapest Destinations site. Something tells me he’s working more than 4 hours a day with all this success, but lots of great advice in the above interview. Good stuff!

  4. It is encouraging to see some external validation of a sparser posting frequency. I myself post very “rarely” by most standards, but I try to make them longer and more interesting posts. Basically, I write when I have something to say, as Tim suggests.

    Great interview Darren. Even though he sticks to tried-and-true basics, Tim gives you plenty to think about and reevaluate about blogging.

  5. @Brad – I think the thought here is try to write on stuff that people think they can offer advice on. This idea is explained further, “…Explore topics where people think — often mistakenly — that they have some real expertise”, for instance…When I had my kid, I took him to my grandmother’s house and she basically just started spewing opinions, most of which were contrary to what our pediatrician was saying.

    Again, get people to start talking by asking for advice on something that most people think they can help with.

    @Darren – Pretty serious typo in your link out…”“How to Travel the Worth with 10 lbs. or Less” Should be “How to Travel the WORLD…” at least per the link URL.

    Great post, I think this one is really going to do wonders for my site. (#):)

  6. Brad, I think that Tim was suggesting to write on topics that every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a strong opinion on, in order to get a lot of comments. For example, even though he’s interested in educational reform, most people wouldn’t want to comment on it. But many people would be able to comment on posts about exercise or travel.

  7. I wouldn’t judge any type of success on Alexa ranking.. That being said, good interview.

    Tim has some really great stuff in his book. I’ve only finished half of it, due to my 80 hour work week :)

  8. Good stuff Darren,

    that was a real eye opener for me. I think my favourite line was when Tim said, “I want at least one person to call me a liar per post or I don’t feel I’m pushing the envelope enough.”

    It’s time for me to start pushing the enevelope….

    Tim, thanks for the inspiration!

    Stephen Martile
    Personal Development with NLP

  9. Richard B says: 07/25/2007 at 8:07 am

    Tim’s book was the best $13 I ever spent.

  10. I’m loving Tim Ferriss! I think it’s cool that he is into the societal benefits that he can have as he creates his incredible lifestyle. I think that is changing the tide of young entrepreneurs. we feel more social responsibility, what’d’ya think?

  11. Thanks Tim and Darren.

    The guys I refer to the most when I need to fill my business motivation bucket.

    Donovan G

  12. fantastic post. Thorougly enjoyed it :)

  13. Great, great interview. I really like the challenge of the question, got me thinking already.

  14. This post is great! Thanks guys. I’m gonna read it a few times. :)

  15. Mr. Ferris is doubtlessly a very smart man. It especially shows when he makes statements like this: “If you make it threaten people’s 3 Bs — behavior, belief, or belongings — you get a huge virus-like dispersion.” Definitely true.

    That said, a higher level of transparency both on his blog and in his book would be nice. As I go to the links suggested in his book, I continuously find myself thinking, “How much did they pay him to put this link in here?”. He is definitely a brilliant marketer, and the book is well worth reading for the insights into this world alone. As far as being someone I’d trust to advise me about how to make money, well, I’m not too sure about that. Perhaps it is better to do what he does, rather than what he says. That is, if you feel comfortable with that approach.

  16. What an interesting guy. I liked all the advice about headlines and writing in a way that you will at least have people love you and hate you, and not just bored and wanting to click the x.

  17. Tim… he wasn’t that crazy pale guy from the Da Vinci Code who whipped himself, right?

  18. Great interview. It has got me thinking about a lot of things. I will see if they ever come to anything or not…

  19. marquis says: 07/25/2007 at 10:04 am

    This was a very good read.


  20. Agreed, very interesting read. Thanks.

  21. Great read man.

  22. Great interview. I really enjoyed reading this and felt like I came away with alot of good advice. I’ve been working on starting my own blog and progress has been slow going – most likely because of my perfectionistic nature which I’m discovering is a reall disadvantage in blogging. Tim helped to put things into perspective for me, especially the concept that it’s actually good to take time between posts (posting frequency has been a huge weight on my mind). Anyways, thanks for the interview, and keep them coming.

  23. Great interview. I loved the book. The funny thing is, I didn’t realise how young Tim was until I got to the end of the book. If I had, it would probably have put me off reading it, which would have been a shame. It made a great change from the many business books around that encourage you to put yourself into an early grave to be “successful”.

  24. Smart interview, smart interviewer, smart interviewee, smart ideas and very smart strategies!

    What I’m going to do: (1) Buy his book; (2) Read his blog; (3) Rethink my strategies accordingly.

    Thanks both!

  25. I’ve just started seriously reading ProBlogger in the last two days or so…But I think its already time to add you to my blogroll – I love this stuff!

  26. I too was initially attracted to Tim Ferriss–especially the romantic notion of his book’s title. That said, I think this interview summarized exactly what Tim is good at–headlines. Substance is seriously lacking in much of his book, his posts, and his interviews. It’s typical of business and “lifestyle” books. For some reason, there’s some sixth sense I get about Tim Ferriss that makes me think we’re onto another James Frey. Indeed, in a couple of sections, Mr. Ferriss’ own book serves as a bit of a handbook on how to establish yourself as an “expert” even if your not.

    From a macro level and from a conceptual level, I believe there’s a lot to be learned from the “4 Hour Work Week” but it fails to fully deliver the mail in my opinion. YMMV

  27. Thanks Darren, I’ll put his book on my list!

  28. Those are great tips from personal experience. However, I cannot help but wonder if the success of his blog is tied to his fame from his books, which makes it not so relevant for many bloggers starting out from scratch. Many bloggers, though following all these tips, will certainly not be able to replicate his success …..

  29. Yeah here here.

    Certainly enjoyed this post – amazing this guy has done so much in 29 years. Made me feel a little inadequate at the same age!

    Good motivation tho!

  30. Thanks for the insights. It’s always good to get some feedback from those with hands on experience, and success.

  31. I like reading the guys blog. I also like the way he gives you a trackback link if you link to him automatically. I received a dozen readers from his blog from the link. I must say, he is a classy guy. Thanks Tim!

  32. Well, hardly anyone’s called Tim a liar in this post (basically written by him) – kind of defeats it’s own purpose… Or not?

  33. great interview. “If you make it threaten people’s 3 Bs — behavior, belief, or belongings” is a really good piece of advice. That’s pretty much what plasters the front page of sites like digg, mostly being political. Another thing I’ve noticed pops up on the front page of those sites are outrageous new stories that everyone can agree on and can get angry about or really happy about (such as iphone news).

  34. “If you had a gun against your head to double your readership in two weeks, what would you do? I’m serious. If you absolutely had to, what would you do?”

    I like people like this. Most of us have the grind mentality. We just assume “long hard work”. We don’t seriously think about getting the most for the least. Life flies by. What the hell are we waiting for?

    Cool post.

  35. Loved the interview. That last part really got me thinking. Thanks Darren.

  36. Sorry, but I don’t love this guy nor do I believe in his “system.” He reminds me of too many televangelists.

  37. The headline doesn’t even need to describe the article or post. It has just one purpose: to get them to read the next sentence.

    This is a good point which I gotta pay attention to. Thanks, Tim.

  38. I really enjoyed reading this inspirational interview. Lots of great ideas and encouraging tips. I’m still very new to the blogging world but topics like this are a fantastic way to bring about awareness. Thanks for shortening the learning curve. :-)

  39. Good stuff.Clarity of the topic is evident in the answers.It is a responsible and clear explanation.

  40. I love that thought, one good blog post can change the world.

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