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.
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.
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.’