It’s important I explain clearly my blog monetising position. I’ve been operating with a policy of “as much transparency as possible” and have trusted that only authentic opportunities and partnerships would come my way, and that readers would know my position just from joining me on my journey.
Please note: This post was updated a little February 14, 2018
That’s the thing about operating online: like attracts like. Authenticity attracts authenticity. And if you start to get sneaky and greedy and grimy, everyone will smell it immediately.
Play dirty and your stink wafts.
But I feel it’s a good time to spell things out as media – both old and new – are going through lots of changes and folk are getting caught out (note the Kangaroo Island social media brouhaha). I come from an old media newspaper background where the divide between “church and state” is instilled during our cadetship training. At newspapers, you develop a visceral fear of being found out on ABC’s Media Watch. Newspapers tend to have policies in place dictating that journos can’t accept “gifts” over a certain amount and must disclose where, say, a travel trip is paid for by a third party.
I then moved into the world of magazines, as editor of Cosmopolitan, where such boundaries are flouted in truly horrific ways. Radio is much the same (observe various cash-for-comment scandals over the years).
I’ve seen both sides of the old media equation and know which side I prefer to stand on. Now, firmly ensconced in new media, I’m seeing the importance of taking a stance on all this and owning the situation in a fitting way.
Online media is a free-for-all. No one controls what I do. I don’t have a structure above me that dictates cash-for-comment or advertorial parameters. And so I’m presented with a true opportunity: to define them for myself. And define them I must do. All bloggers must. In part because, as I say, your shit will stink very quickly if you don’t.
So. Two things:
1. My blog is not a community service
I devote all my energies to servicing this site and its related entities and I have to earn an income from it. It’s my commercial reality.
2. I’m not a packet of Tim Tams
What I mean is this: when we talk about my blog, we’re not talking about an abstract brand, like Tim Tams. We’re talking about me; my blog pivots around me as a person. So when I mention a certain type of moisturiser on my site, both my brand and myself are implicated (and, yes, I feel totally douchy calling myself a “brand”…but let’s move on). I’m effectively endorsing the moisturiser in a much more potent way than if my blog was an aggregated news site and some anonymous writer posted the moisturiser mention.
I’m aware of the responsibility this entails. Every blogger should be.
To these ends I’ll outline my current position. Of course it might change and I’ll be sure to alert you all if it does.
My recommendations are genuine
All recommendations and reviews across all my channels (blogs and social media) are my own, unless specified clearly at the top of a post/mention (eg: from time to time someone else might write the review). Most of the time I will share my own experience. From time to time a product/service is not appropriate for my personal consumption, but I might mention it if it can benefit my readers (eg: a product for kids).
I am not paid for reviews
However, from time to time I will receive a product/service for free. I am often sent products, or invited to experience services. I mention if this is the case in the post/mention. In many cases I am sent a product/service for free after I’ve paid for it myself and reviewed it… by way of thank you.
I actively discourage freebies
I’m vocal about my anti-consumption and anti-wastage beliefs. I ask publicity folk to observe the messaging on my blog, only send appropriate products and to check with me first before wasting stamps, carbon miles, packaging, the postman’s time etc. That said I’m always very grateful when care and consideration goes into sharing products/experiences with me.
I used to do sponsored posts/features
But only if I personally used the product/service or if the take-home for readers fits with my messaging, and only if the product/service helps the lives of readers who frequent this blog. I may do them again, if I can see broad worth.
I organised discounts for readers
You might have noticed I’ve promoted a bunch of products that I use and I get asked about. In each case, I sorted a discount for readers who might like the idea of having the research work done for them. I set up an affiliate scheme attached to these. The % I get covers the cost of posting the blog post.
In all cases, I’ve purchased the product first myself, used it, been asked by readers about it and only then do I engage the affiliates selling program. Also, as you’ll notice, I’m happy to be very honest about pros and cons when sharing an idea with you. So you know what you’re buying.
I don’t do fake Facebook posts
I don’t like the idea of paid Facebook shares, even on my Facebook Page (as opposed to my personal one). I get approached often to do them, but decline. It just feels grubby.
When something feels grubby, I don’t do it. That’s my barometer.
I do these very selectively. And pretty much never. I was once a spokesperson for a program called Target100, an initiative that shares sustainable meat eating and farming messages between consumers and farmers. I was paid to help share these Target 100 messages. Some government tourism bodies will support me on a camping or hiking trip. I’m never paid, but, um, they might cover my campground fee and the cost of hiring a car to get there. You can see these here.
I don’t accept display advertising
As above, I choose to be selective with the brands that I share with readers. I pulled display ads from IQuitSugar.com three years ago, too.
I hope this clarifies things. If you’re a blogger, you might like to do a little soul-selling mission statement yourself, so you and your readers are super clear. This issue – of branding, online monetisation and blogging journalistic standards – is only going to get more attention in coming months/years. Bloggers will be under extra scrutiny. Online media can no longer operate as the Wild West it once did and we all have to get off our galloping steads and set our own standards – with heads held high!