Why you should keep it clean – musings about blogs and advertising
If you’re a blogger (many of you are), the day will come when you’ll find a letter in your mail box from some company that suggests you a “partnership”.
It happens to all of us sooner or later; it’s just a matter of how persistency. If you keep blogging at a decent frequency, your Google rank will raise over time, and one day it will reach the level where it triggers the alert system for advertisers.
At first you’re probably a little flattered. Either we admit it or not, most bloggers thrive on getting attention from others. A link, a comment, a “like” or a new follower – we’re happy about whatever nod we get. As long as someone out there acknowledges our existence, we know that we’re not writing out in an empty space. So if one day a company turns up, praising our blog, claiming they want us as business partners, it sounds like a big deal and a validation of all the hours of work we’ve put into it.
Then you read the letter a second time, trying to figure out what this “cooperation” actually means. They want you to link to their place apparently. In return they offer you “guest posts”. But will you get rich? This is unclear. You’ll need to contact them to “sort out the details”.
So what are you going to do with this? Will you contact this company or will you throw their offer in the trash? My answer is simple: it goes straight to the trash bin together with every other shady offer I get.
Why I keep it clean
There are different opinions on this available out there. Some bloggers don’t think twice about publishing posts in “cooperation” with “partners”. Then there are others (the majority from what I can see) who accept ads on their blogs since it gives them a little bit of revenue, but who keep the ads well apart from the editorials, so there’s no question about what is what.
Then there are a few bloggers who have decided to keep their blog free from anything that smells of advertising. I’m one of those. That’s why it came as a shock when I a few months ago found out that WordPress sneaks in ads to blogs that use the free platform. I wasn’t aware of it before since it’s not viewable if you’re logged into your blog, which is the natural thing to be if you’re a blogger. The only way to get rid of them is to pay WordPress for the service, which I now do. I don’t want ads in any form of my blog – open or hidden.
So why this obsession with keeping it clean? After all it’s a blog and not a professional, subscribed magazine. It’s a hobby project and I’m free do whatever I like with it. It’s not as if I’ve sworn myself to follow any particular code of conduct. It’s in the nature of a blog to be opinionated and subjective, so what harm can a little bit of bias towards one or other product make?
Well I admit that my background probably plays into this a little. I’m a trained journalist and used to work as a reporter. It’s been a few years, so I can’t say if it’s changed since then, but in my time there were no blurred lines and mixing up between journalism and advertising. You never saw such a thing as a “sponsored editorial”.
The reputation of blogging
But what has this got to do with blogging? Blogging isn’t journalism anyway, so why bother about those self-imposed restrictions when I could earn a few bucks if I loosened up a bit?
My answer is that it’s true that blogging doesn’t enjoy the same respect as journalism has (or used to have, that’s changing too, sadly). In many people’s eyes it’s little better than “graffiti with punctuation”, as they called it in Contagion. However there’s no reason why we should settle with this and keep it this way!
I’m passionate about blogging. Most of the film criticism I read comes from blogs, not from newspapers. I think the blogosphere has a lot more to offer than people realize.
And this is why I plead to my fellow bloggers to never accept any shady offering. If you feel that you have to run ads on your blog, maybe to cover the cost for self-hosting, fine. I don’t hold it against you; I’ve got a fulltime job and don’t need the extra money, but some bloggers do and I understand this.
This said, you should never start crossing the lines. Don’t publish ads that are disguised as posts. The price you pay in form of lost credibility is enormous. It’s just not worth it.
Time has come for us to clean up the reputation of blogging. We’d better start with ourselves.