Not For Sale

not for sale All Saints

A recent encounter with Hunter Boots, and their generosity and flexibility in sending a pair of boots out for someone other than myself (to be covered in a post soon) brought me to a realisation – being able to treat the people I care about is one of my favourite things about blogging. My mum has always loved the Mulberry x LFW totes, and being able to send her them is a great feeling. Similarly, I love being able to help out friends and upcoming brands by sending some traffic their way. It’s for this reason that I’m writing about a couple of things that I’ve been struggling with lately.

Blog Advertising

blog advertising billboard

Before you freak out, I’m not talking about banner advertising on blogs. I’m fine with that, which should be clear because it’s something I do. What I’m referring to is the strange trend of beauty and fashion bloggers selling ad space to other bloggers for tiny sums like £2 per month. Is £2 really going to make THAT much of a difference to your bank account?

I know the Google isn’t a big fan of link swapping, but surely listing some blogs that you actually like on your blog (without charging them the price of a Euromillions ticket…) will result in some of them listing you back – this feels like a much nicer way to feature other bloggers on your page than charging them. To me, charging other up and coming bloggers for space on your own blog just doesn’t feel like it’s particularly in the spirit of sister/brother/whateverhood. But worse than that, it opens the door to other Big Bads*…

*Yup, Buffy reference.

Pay to Play

I think the reason I’m not a fan of charging other bloggers to appear on your blog is that it creates the impression that the blogosphere is for sale. The rise of shysters and scammers targeting bloggers is on the rise – I get emails from SEO ‘guru’s on an almost daily basis, and far too many of them make promises I know they can’t keep. However, I have no doubt that younger and/or more naive bloggers are falling for their tricks.

Unfortunately, even magazines which claim to have the best interests of bloggers at heart are not immune to the lure of bloggers with deep pockets. A friend forwarded me an email she’d received from Company Magazine about a plan to charge bloggers £100 to plug their blog in future issues.

Screen shot 2013-03-20 at 20.13.26

My friend also noted how cleverly this call-out to ‘their fave bloggers’ is tied to the upcoming awards. I’ve never trusted glossy magazine awards because of their voting system – although I’d love to make the claim that the choice of past winners has been influenced by whether or not they’ve previously paid for advertising space, I can’t. The lovely Stephanie (of Faiiint) was kind enough to scan some past advertising campaigns for me – none to date have featured bloggers. However, what about that mysterious voting system? Hundreds of blogs are nominated, then a shortlist is chosen. Voting then reopens to determine a final winner. But what gets you shortlisted? I know people who run hugely popular blogs, but have never made it through to the shortlist stage. Why is that?

I suspect, though can’t prove, that there is an element of favouritism and willingness to play along – I’d be interested to know how many shortlisted bloggers wrote something about the awards of featured them in some other meaningful way. And now paid advertising is involved? Well, I’ll be keeping a very close eye on how Company’s advertorial sections match up with their award shortlists.

Beyond the potential for foul play, I see at least two problems with charging bloggers to appear in print:

1) Appearing in print is lovely. It gives you something to tweet pictures of and proves to your mum that, actually, all that time you waste on Twitter does actually result in some kinda cool stuff. However, it simply doesn’t generate any traffic. Ok, it generates SOME traffic, but a small mention in an article reaches such a tiny percentage of a publication’s readership that expecting much more than 100 visits off the back of it is unrealistic. Do you really want to pay £1 per visit?

2) The scheme is totally backwards. By revamping to appeal to bloggers, Company has done a nice job of making a niche for itself and captivating a readership. They recently put out a ‘superblogger issue’ and one presumes that these bloggers were paid for their involvement for this. On the off chance they weren’t, that’s a heck of a lot of free labour the mag managed to get. If they WERE, the repercussions are just as damning. The message is clear – the magazine values traffic and how well established you are as far more important than the uniqueness of your voice or how compelling what you have to say is. In other words, they are perfectly willing to exploit their ‘fave bloggers’.

I’ve stood by, occasionally even partaking in them out of curiosity, and watched bloggers frantically try to generate enough votes for themselves to win an award from a glossy magazine. The ceremonies are ritzy (plus, y’know, free bar) enough, and the whole thing has seemed fairly harmless to date – the mags get traffic and the winners get a nice badge to put on the side of their blog. However, the idea of paying a magazine to play (and potentially to win) is a very ugly one.

I’m not one to tell people what to do – if bloggers want to sell ad space on their blogs to other bloggers and use the money to buy promotion from Company (it’ll only take them fifty months to earn enough!) instead of relying on their voice and their passion to build a following, that’s up to them. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we banded together, promoted the blogs we genuinely read, and said ‘actually, we’re not for sale.’

N.B. I know this post will be divisive, and I don’t mean to antagonise anyone for no reason. If you sell ad space on your blog to other bloggers, that’s fine – I know just as well as anyone that you gotta pay the bills. I feel like all of this needed to be said, and I suspect that I burned my bridges with Company – c.f. this post – a long time ago. To any other magazines (/editors, writers etc) reading, I promise I’m not always such a nightmare.

12 comments

  1. Danniella Josephine

    I totally hear you about the charging £2 for advertising – the idea seems to have come from other “big” bloggers who do rely on their blogs to pay the bills. I know some are charging about $100 to advertise… yikes!
    I’m always rather sceptical of magazines supporting bloggers as they always seem to pick whoever has the most followers, and not who they actually like personally? if that makes sense. Like if they read blogs as much as they say they do they should mention some smaller blogs and help them get noticed, rather than constantly going on about Bip Ling (just an example, got nothing against her!)

    x

  2. Joseph Kent

    Sneaky sneaky Company. What are they playing this time? Hopefully, I will be able to work my way into their ranks and learn of their scheming secrets. (Mwuhahahahahaha.)

    Being shortlisted for the Cosmo Blog Awards was a pretty good feeling, particularly because I was the only guy. It was good to see that this hugely popular women’s magazine did take notice of male bloggers. And while I do nominate myself for other awards on the off chance for extra recognition and back-links (I received several hundred visitors from Cosmo’s shortlisted bloggers webpage), I am not particularly fussed about winning an award. A blogger does not need a magazine to tell them they are a great blogger. A blogger’s readers are proof of that.

  3. Robyn

    This has surprised me! I find it a little odd though that they plan to charge each blogger £100, as surely that’s the equivalent of the £2 that bloggers get from ad space per month to them… (ie. pretty miniscule)?! Unless they plan to feature a stack of bloggers in each issue of course.
    Also, it concerns me how many bloggers got this email and how many have either not seen it as problematic it or stayed schtum. I know people don’t want to ‘expose’ big brands, partly for their own position in the blogosphere and also to avoid being attacked of whatever, but this indicates a worrying direction for magazines if this is genuinely going ahead. I’m glad someone forwarded the issue to you!
    I definitely agree about being in a magazine – it’s a cool experience, but it doesn’t equate to promo. It’s not clickable. 99% of readers aren’t going to bother with your url, or even care who you are.
    Might be worth saying, I was featured on Company’s website. Made no payment or anything, was just emailed to say I was on there by their team. So I’m guessing they’re quite literally valuing their print over their web content (seems mad to me! But as you said, bloggers might not realise that print doesn’t mean pageviews; that should be a saying haha! Although links don’t always mean pageviews either of course).
    I do read the magazine from time to time, so it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.

  4. Molly

    In fifty months you could build yourself a genuine fan base. Fuck paying for this shit. Excuse my french but if bloggers need to pay their bills so be it and it’s a pretty sweet profession to be in but count me out. I’m in this for the fun not the money. It’s interesting to read this, thanks for opening our eyes! I don’t really care if Bloggers are being paid or what ever as long as their open about it and it doesn’t compromise the content. Each to their own as they say. My dinners gone cold now boo! Molly x

  5. Kylie

    Thats interesting, I wonder how many bloggers they emailed and whether the bloggers they emailed will be the shortlisted. I have been in a couple of mags and I don’t think I got much traffic from it. Direct referral and the blog name wasn’t googled that much more. I love mag features though, more of a ‘trophy’ than anything else. I am yet to be shortlisted for a blogger award from the company or Cosmo ones. Haven’t heard of any others.

  6. Ceri

    Interesting post. I had assumed that magazines were featuring bloggers in a attempt to try and keep up with what is going on in the blogosphere and because they recognise that blogging and social media is the way things are going. So it seems strange or maybe even a little desperate that they want to charge bloggers (shouldn’t it be the other way round). They really must be struggling to get advertising revenue.

  7. Geekisnewchic

    Brilliant post.
    This year I took the decision to unfollow everyone who crossed my timeline (on Twitter, Facebook and G+) canvassing for nominations or votes in any bloggers awards. Current unfollow number 231. I feel cleansed.

    To touch on the superblogger issue you mentioned – this ties in with a post that I wrote today on the importance of disclosure. Were they paid or not? That relationship should be clearly disclosed so that questions like that don’t need to be asked. Of course non disclosure is also illegal but many bloggers seem to think that the law doesn’t apply to them.

  8. Meg

    Point number one is so true. My blog was mentioned in a national newspaper a couple of months ago in a feature about fashion & beauty websites which is lovely BUT it garnered me about 20 hits.

    Seriously. 20.

    Of course there is an added bonus of general exposure etc, and their website is behind a paywall – but it’s a fairly good reflection on the influence of print media in driving traffic to blogs. I’d estimate it’s at least 800% more (hello, made up stats) in the opposite directions. There is no way I’d pay for that in a million years, but if people are willing to it’s win, win…err…win for print media dabbling online.

  9. Lana

    This is such a great post, I’ve always wondered how some of the blogs which have a huge amount of followers never make it, I guess Company is now known for having “favourites”.
    Really enjoyed reading this.