Wednesday, April 2, 2014
A Postscript on Monetizing
Dear readers, you have left me over three thousand words worth of comments on Monday's post on relationship capital and I am beyond honored. I have a post scheduled for next week about the audiences I imagine when I draft various types of posts but, in short, you are my ideal audience. My heart swelled every time I opened an email from Disqus with your thoughts and I had to scroll down on my phone to read the whole comment because you gave the topic so much time and energy. Thank you.
I will respond to all them them (on the post itself, so we can continue the discussion) as soon as I can, but please do indulge me in this postscript first! I was focused on writing about how relationships and monetization intersect that I didn't clarify something I should have: I have no problem with the monetization of blogs.
Many of the posts I've published over the past year or so on blogging have dealt with what I've called "hobby" bloggers; I don't know enough about the mechanisms of professional blogs to address them and, as I said on Monday, I have less of an emotional investment in them. However, it cannot be denied that hobby bloggers are, en masse, generating income from their blogs - and more power to them. Again, as I said on Monday, very few of us would turn down the opportunity to make money from doing something we love, something we'd be doing for free anyway, and many bloggers are discovering hidden skills that lead them to build their own small businesses.
However, as soon as a blogger makes the conscious decision to monetize, be it from sponsorship, with affiliate ads, or through media networks, she takes steps towards being a professional blogger and makes the concurrent decision to view me not just as a reader but as a consumer. That doesn't make me any less willing to support her, but it does mean that my pageviews and clicks directly contribute to the financial success of her blog and I think that does give me - and all other readers/consumers - the right to hold her to a higher standard. If a blogger monetizes in a strategic way, her blog becomes a business; it's therefore disrespectful to her readers/consumers to throw out "it's just a blog and I do it for myself" to explain amateur behavior online when she makes money from our interactions with her. We're all learning and growing in our own ways, everyone makes mistakes, and I love that the blogging community is so encouraging and flexible, but this isn't high school. When a blog generates income from its readers/consumers, the relationships change and the responsibilities are greater.
I occasionally scroll through a well-known lifestyle blog that included a post recently about why she blogs. It was a bit of a rant, really, against bloggers who blog for money. She writes for fun, she insisted, and that makes what she does pure; the money she makes is just an "added bonus" that doesn't affect her content. (Bonnie wrote a great response to that post, if you haven't seen it and want to read it.) All of this text, however, was next to a dozen sidebar sponsor buttons, a large branded ad, and announcement of her affiliation with BlogHer.
It's great that a blogger can make money from her blog, whether it's enough to reinvest in growing her blog, enough for occasional shopping splurges, or enough to quit her job and devote herself entirely to her blog and her blog-inspired small business. However, when a blogger begins making money from her blog by design rather than by accident, she becomes responsible to her readers/consumers and can no longer dismiss unprofessional conduct, whatever that may mean, with comments like "it's just a blog and I'm just a blogger."
I love supporting other bloggers, but, honestly, if a blogger makes money from my investment in her blog, I expect more than that. Based on your comments from Monday, I might be preaching to the choir: I think many of you do, too.