For a while now I've been giving a lot of thought to the future of my blog. Maybe too much thought. For the past couple of days, I have been going cross-eyed reading various explanatory articles and defensive exhortations regarding how bloggers and users of social media earn payment for their work. I've been perusing articles which outline the lists of rules and regulations regarding "disclosure," how bloggers and "influencers" (so-called) must let their readers know whether or not they are compensated for their content, by whom, and what form that compensation takes. And it has seriously put me off the business of blogging.
Not that I intend to stop writing a blog, just that I have decided to shelve, for the moment at least, the idea that I might just possibly consider the possibility of maybe monetising. Ha. Well, as long as I'm certain, eh?
|Why am I up at this hour? Too much thinking.|
All this started when I decided to upgrade my blog, change the format and get some professional technical help. Ergo, for the first time, I'll be spending money on my blog. And a germ of an idea began to form that if I could get some small compensation for the blog in lieu of my outlay that would be good. I explored this idea a couple of years ago and shelved it.
So I've been doing my research this week. I read a few interesting and informative articles on a site called Smart Blogger, including one called Affiliate Marketing for Beginners. That article appealed to me because I think affiliate links would be the only way to go for me, if I decide to monetise at all. I imagined placing links to sites where readers could buy books, for instance, which I'd read and enjoyed. And if they clicked on the link and bought a book, I'd be compensated in some way.
I've no interest in becoming a "full-time blogger." Mostly because I retired from full-time employment over five years ago, and I don't want to disrupt my life to go back to work, so to speak. Plus the very idea of managing a blog that is intended to make money just makes me tired. And bores me stiff. As I've said before on other posts, I want to write what I want to write, and not worry about the money.
Let me make a disclaimer here before I go on. I read (and admire) several high quality blogs which make money for their creators. I read them because of their content, and am not put off by the fact that the blogs provide an income for their creators. That's Not My Age, Une Femme d'une Certain Âge, and Not Dressed as Lamb are three examples. I know from reading Catherine Summers' posts about blogging, how much goes on in the background to allow her to make an income from Not Dressed As Lamb. Promoting a blog, obtaining sponsorship, chasing brands for the money they promised, and keeping track of that side of things is a lot of work. And if bloggers can produce high quality content, love their work, and make an income from it, then more power to them.
Over the years, I've learned a lot from Catherine's very generous posts about blogging. Including recently a post about the new-ish disclosure guidelines for bloggers and those who use social media to promote goods and services. You can read Catherine's post here if you're interested. And you should because she clearly outlines the rules, and what she will be doing in her posts to notify her readers. Although Catherine refers in her post to the guidelines for bloggers and Instagram-ers who live in the UK, I checked, and there are very similar guidelines for Canadian and American bloggers as well. These guidelines are all about transparency and clarity, and those who are compensated for content, whether through gifted merchandise or payment, have to let their readers know that this is the case. And the disclosure has to be clear and appear early in the post, not buried in the small print at the end of a blog post, or in a long line of hashtags at the end of an IG post. And according to the guidelines mentioning the name of the brand is not transparent enough, and doesn't necessarily imply a compensatory relationship.
Okay. That sounds fair to me. As a reader of blogs and a follower of lots of people on IG who post sponsored content, I want to know which posts are sponsored/provided with some sort of compensation, and which aren't.
I follow a number of blogs on Bloglovin'. Each day I get an e-mail which includes a thumbnail of the latest posts for blogs I follow, as well as the latest "most popular" posts, most of which are for blogs I don't follow. So, this morning, just for interest's sake, I clicked on every one of the thirteen featured "most popular" posts. I spent some considerable time scrolling through each post, looking for any indication that the post had been sponsored, whether the items had been gifted, or whether there was an affiliate relationship between the blogger and a brand. One blogger had a clear notification that the products she was reviewing had been gifted. One out of thirteen. That's not good.
I went back a second time to some of the more glitzy, obviously professionally photographed posts, and tried to find any indication anywhere on the blog that they had brand relationships... with anyone. No luck. I scrolled back through older posts just in case the latest one was an anomaly. Same result. I found a section on most of the blogs which asks brands and advertisers to contact them if they want to collaborate, but no real information for their readers or followers about which post is sponsored and by whom. I mean, I guess I could draw conclusions from the "shop the post" list of product links which are included in many posts, but I shouldn't have to. What's wrong with just being upfront and clear from the outset? One of these very popular blogs included, at the bottom, a link to their "parent company" which I clicked. Turns out Clique Media owns several blogs and according to an endorsement below its header it specialises in "parlaying fashion advice into retail gold." Uh, okay.
Now, I am highly unlikely to purchase anything found through a link on any of these blogs. So why would I be upset at the fact that brand relationships aren't clearly disclosed? Live and let live, right? Well... yeah. Except when I mentioned to Hubby a critical comment which had appeared on my own blog a while ago, he shrugged and replied, "You made the choice to put yourself out there, Suz." Yep. He's right; I did. And I'm a grown up. I accept responsibility for my choices. And if bloggers are going to be grown-ups about it, they have to accept that if they're going to play the game, they should play by the rules. Just make the declaration. How hard is that?
So then, because I am a sucker for punishment, this afternoon while I was on my exercise bike, I scrolled through my IG feed, and I didn't see any of the early and easy to notice "transparent" disclosures that are supposed to be happening according to the new-ish guidelines. I saw all kinds of people on Instagram posting outfits followed by a reference to something called #LikeToKnowIt which apparently is an ap that followers can download, and which will send the follower an e-mail with all the necessary links to purchase whatever the IG "influencer" is wearing. It's pitched as a "service" with all the links in one easy and convenient place. Ha. Okay. The brand gets a sale and the content creator who featured the item in their post gets a commission. Nothing wrong with that... except... who knew? Not me.
I had to Google the name "LikeToKnowIt" to find out what it is, and whether it is considered an "affiliate link." Turns out it is. And not to seem like a troll who gets all negative when someone is just trying to make a bit of money for their hard work, but tossing #LikeToKnowIt at the end of a post doesn't seem very transparent to me. Especially if followers, like me, don't know what it is.
In my research, I found several articles about "LikeToKnowIt", and about something called "Reward Style", a "monetisation platform" which requires bloggers and IG "influencers" to go through a screening process before they can join. This article in Forbes outlines just how lucrative these programs are for brands, and for "influencers." Now, if consumers are spending so very much of their money clicking on these links, then it's no wonder consumer protection agencies are looking for ways to make things more transparent.
Then, just for fun, and because my slight enthusiasm for monetising hadn't already been bashed on the head enough, I read a couple of blog posts which explain to newbies how to use "LikeToKnowIt" to their best advantage, how to "showcase" their work in order to get accepted by "Reward Style"... blah, yadda, yadda, blah. And amidst all the exhortations to fellow bloggers about the need to create "quality" posts, I'm sorry to say I kind of lost it. And I found myself shouting at my i-pad... "To hell with click-through stats, what about the writing? The comma rules? Ever hear of spell check? No, you can't use that word that way."
Then I stopped.
And for a few minutes I seriously felt as if I might just pack a bag and head for the hills.
|So peaceful back home in New Brunswick.|
photo courtesy of Krista Burpee-Buell
So, yeah, I've learned a lot about the world of blogging this week. Some of which has kind of disillusioned me, as naive as that sounds.
Like I said earlier, I don't plan to stop writing this blog. But I've put back on the shelf, for now, my idea of monetising. I also don't plan to stop reading and enjoying the blogs of others whose work I admire, monetised or not.
But, I have decided that I will "unfollow" on Bloglovin' and on Instagram those publications which don't follow the guidelines, whose creators, it seems to me, don't respect me as a follower or reader enough to let me know what's up with their posts.
Oh... and I definitely have to stop reading those blogs which make me all shouty. At least that's what Hubby says. Ha.
P.S. I hope you don't think that this post has been too negative. If you write a monetised blog and are offended by what I've been saying, then I'm sorry. And if you want to know more about the guidelines I've been talking about you can read more about the Canadian rules here, the American rules here and here, the UK rules here, and the Australian rules here. There are lots of further links in each of these posts as well.
Now it's your turn, my friends. Anything making you a bit shouty these days?
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