DearBlankPleaseBlank.com was started by Jared Wunsch and Hans Johnson as a hobby while the two were still in undergraduate school. What it has grown into is a collection of websites that also includes IWasteSoMuchTime.com, AttackoftheCute.com, and GrouchyRabbit.com. Collectively they see almost 45 million pageviews per month!

Lijit sat down with Jared Wunsch to find out some of his tricks of the trade. Read on to see what he has to say…

Q: What was your original goal for DearBlankPleaseBlank.com?
A: We were just two kids in college who liked technology and wanted to create stuff online for fun. We took an “if you build it, they will come” philosophy and because we didn’t build the site to make money, we designed it exactly how we wanted to without an ad-focused layout in mind. I think that’s part of why we’ve been able to build such an audience…because they see that we’re truly authentic.

Q: You started DearBlankPleaseBlank.com less than two years ago, and have now grown into four sites with a pretty impressive readership! How were you able to grow your traffic so quickly?
A: We listen to our readers. We spend a lot of time on our sites…learning who our users are, what their demographic is, and the kind of content they want to engage with. We get to know our users by actively participating in the conversation, providing comments, and taking feedback into account. We also try to keep things current based on what’s going on in the world. All of this has allowed us to build a pretty strong community that keeps coming back for more.

Q: How do you monetize your site?
A: We work with a handful of ad partners like Lijit who take care of the monetization piece for us. Because we didn’t have a lot of experience in online advertising, we’ve been lucky to find partners like Lijit that we trust who help walk us through the best ways to optimize our sites. We’ve learned a lot and right now we’re building our own ad platform so that we can control ad network optimization internally. We may layer direct sales on top of our business model someday but neither one of us really wants to go into sales!

Q: What are your goals for the future?
A: It’s funny because when we incorporated display advertising, it was really just to offset the cost of all the servers we needed to buy to support our traffic growth. We just wanted to keep our hobby going, but had no plans to turn this into our “career.” We now laugh about how we’ve been able to turn our hobby into a business and we hope to ride it out for as long as we can. I like to say that we’ll keep putting stuff up as long as people keep looking at it!

Q: What would you say is your biggest lesson learned?
A: Too often online publishers try to build a site around what they think will “sell” but people with that philosophy are doomed to failure. You have to publish content that you like and you’re personally drawn to, otherwise you’re just doing it wrong. Another thing I’ve found that’s pretty funny is you need to build things that people want to see even though sometimes they don’t know they want to see it until they do. We’re always trying out new things and building new sites to see how our readers respond and most of the time we’ve been lucky enough to get a great response.