I’m a bit confused when I hear about readers disappointed or unhappy that a blogger has written a sponsored post. Amongst many great writers I know online, you’d never know a post was sponsored if not for the fact they disclosed it. Why this bothers readers, I can’t be sure. We fill our lives with the work of paid writers all day – be it in print, online or on TV.
When an article comes out discussing what bloggers make or the “perks” they receive, it furthers the misunderstanding of what bloggers are expected to be.
There are several reasons for this, but a huge one is that the umbrella term “blogger” covers a wide range of things – from personal diary to big business. And I’m starting to think that to call oneself a blogger gets lost in translation. That it’s too simple a term.
A chef works in a kitchen, but we wouldn’t call them a kitchener. A blog is a medium, and the blogger makes something out of it. (The Kitchener Chronicles will continue – this has been on my mind some time now.) If they can make a living doing it – chef or blogger – that’s fabulous.
To monetize or not to monetize a blog – there is no wrong answer. And to judge one as better than the other doesn’t seem right.
I see blogs that declare they are ad-free, and I think what they are trying to say, what I believe they mean, is that they want readers to know their content will not be controlled or compromised by anyone. That they have integrity.
The web needs integrity, no doubt about it. But I don’t think it’s all or nothing.
Most bloggers are advertising all the time, even when they’re not.
I write for a living. I take photos for a living. I talk about those things on my blog. I also talk about books my friends write, movies made by friends and family – it’s just me talking. I have no ads.
But I’m advertising myself (and my family/friends) all the time, right?
I don’t have sponsors or brands I work with, but I’m always open to what might develop. I may monetize my blog over time, and I have no intention of letting that change my voice. That’s important to me. I’m an Amazon affiliate – if I were to link a book or film, it would something I had already written about in the post. The link would be an afterthought. I write a lot about books. I quote them regularly. If I ever included affiliate links, it would be made clear. Still the same old me.
Whether a blogger makes enough through advertising and sponsors to call it a living or simply enough to break even on web hosting, that’s a great thing. It’s honest work. There should be no need to justify it. But I think it sometimes needs explaining because it can be misunderstood.
FACT: The FTC requires a level of transparency from bloggers very different from a print publication. All bloggers must disclose affiliate links and sponsored posts and goods and services provided to them. By law.
And yet, flip through the latest issue of your favorite magazine and the bag or perfume they’re raving about is probably something they are being paid to promote. A lot of money to promote. (Look in the issue for the ads. Possibly by their parent company, not the specific brand.)
And that’s OK. That’s business. That sort of product placement is seen everywhere except online, where bloggers must place neon signs pointed at products or face legal consequences.
The silver lining? Bloggers should be trusted for the very fact the have to be on the level.
If a blogger could take an all expenses paid trip and simply share the great details of the getaway, like a print journalist would, readers would realize just how much they they read and watch that is sponsored, advertiser-driven content that is hidden in the guise of travel or updating your wardrobe or redecorating.
Are there unethical bloggers out there? Sure. But on the whole, the level of trust between blogger and reader is a powerful one because of this honesty.
Because of their integrity.
If you’re a blogger – with or without ads – and need help with a disclosure policy, this is a great FREE resource I’ve included in the IEP Blogging Tools: DisclosurePolicy.org. It’s like those Choose Your Own Adventure books we had as kids. Just pick what works for you and it will generate a policy you can use as is or tailor it to fit your needs.
Piece of cake. Peace of mind.