When I began blogging in 1996 (before there was the term “blogging), everything I wrote and created online was hand-coded. There was no “publish” button to make things easy, no archiving system. There wasn’t any other blogs out there so linking and building community wasn’t really easy. But I believed in writing and putting things out there so I kept going.
In 2001 when I left my 9-5 gig to freelance, there wasn’t other artists blogging about freelancing, creating, dealing with the day-to-day struggles so I decided I would. I wanted to share information to help someone who might be in the same position as I but, like myself, could not find the info.
Now, in 2007, blogs are everywhere. Everyone and their mama has one (my 63 year old mother just signed up for one!). It’s now become acceptable to blog and, in some areas, weird not to. There’s some blogs we’ve come to depend on for information or entertainment; we check these blogs daily, wanting more updates – quicker, faster, more! Because blogging has become a way to reach a large audience, advertisers are wanting to get in on the action. Having a “sponsor” never used to be an option but I’m actually glad it’s become one. For someone who wrote for years and years without receiving a direct financial benefit (I reference direct as in being paid for each visitor to the site. I’ve made a living indirectly from this site by landing jobs), it’s nice to be financially recognised for the work that I have and continue to put in.
And for some bloggers, blogging has turned into a full-time job because there’s an audience that craves their words. And for those bloggers, advertising is how they are paid for those jobs. After all, don’t most of us work to be paid? How many people go to work, come home and then say “man, so nice that I put in all that effort and received nothing!”
You might think for the people/sites that update a lot, ads might be OK but you might still hold prejudice against smaller blogs or sites that advertise. You might think it interferes with content that the author “sold out,” that the ads are ugly, that it removes the legitimacy of the blog. I believe these are ridiculous reasons and usually have less to do with the actual advertisement and more to do with personal beliefs and judgments.
I don’t believe advertising interferes with content. Can it? Yes. Does it sometimes? Sure. But having a point of view can also interfere with content. Very seldom do we read anything in the news or on a personal blog that is not slanted by the writers’ viewpoint. That viewpoint therefore is already interfering with content. It is up to you, the reader, to judge the content; whether you accept it, believe it, or disagree. You need to be responsible for what you read – you always have been. To be so upset that an advertiser can heavily influence content is a bit naive – content is always influenced. And I don’t think it happens as much as ad-haters claim.
When I work with ads, I am very upfront about the fact I will not change what I believe in or what I like for any advertiser that comes on the site. At the same time, I must believe in the advertiser that I choose to work with. Which leads me to the second point of people who have ads on their blogs are “sell outs” leaving those without ads as “authentic bloggers who believe in the true purpose of the medium.” I believe in order to sell out, you have to have bought in in the first place. I don’t buy into a lot of companies or advertising so when I work with advertising, it’s a win-win. It’s not evil.
Ads can be ugly – especially web ads. I can’t argue too much with that. But there is a way to incorporate ads into a site so that it’s not an eyesore. And I think we’ve all seen blogs that have done so which is great – your eye gets trained where to look or not look. You don’t like ads but like a site? You know where to focus. I actually like some advertising, especially in magazines. Some of the most creative, beautiful work I’ve seen outside of museums that hang Van Gogh or Matisse is magazine advertisements. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from them. If done right, they can be a work of art just as much as any blog article can be.
And lastly, for those who run ads to be seen as illegitimate bloggers, it goes back to the idea of a sell-out. It goes back to the idea that “indy” is best and “Corporate” is evil. Not so. People are behind both so it’s up to the reader to look at the person(s) behind the sites and decide what their intent and purpose is. Is it to be paid for the amount of work being put into their blog (especially when we demand daily updates from them)? Is it to be compensated in some way for 10 years of online idea-sharing that perhaps you might have found useful even just once?
Holly at Decor8.com said this when speaking to the advantage of advertising:
… advertising assists bloggers like me to keep going, daily, without let up. It’s also a huge push to blog on days when I’m sick or have work or family business to take care of.
How many freelancers do you know that have health insurance or get paid time off? Not many I assure you. What if their revenue from advertising helps them take a day off, helps them take a trip that they write about that inspires you, helps them write about the process of something so that you can leap out on your own?
So many people have had issues with Dooce making money from her site from “ugly corporate advertising.” I don’t read her site but not because of advertising (just not my area of interest) but I’ve seen it, and it’s pretty easy to just focus your eye in the middle and read her words or better yet, sign up for her RSS feed. But what is the real issue with her making money from her site? What do people have a personal problem with it? Because let me tell you, if I could make the money she makes from just writing a post every day, I would do it. Actually, I would probably get bored after awhile but I’d welcome the ability to test it out! So, are people angry at the ads or angry that they don’t have that opportunity?
People have asked me how I feel about the “ad free blog” thing that’s been posted on people’s sites here and there and I think it’s a bit judgmental – especially for those participants who are self-employed. It doesn’t make one better to not have advertising just as having advertising with a big company make one superior. But, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with making money for work that you do. And if you happen to blog and can receive money for this, I think that’s a good thing.
I don’t think sneaky advertising is a good thing; when bloggers are paid money to pretend to like something. It’s like those radio commercials where the announcers say they love so and so and it sounds like a personal endorsement instead of a paid advertisement. I have never – and would never – do that kind of advertising. I believe in saying, “here’s an ad – read it or leave it” instead of being sly and putting it into a paragraph. But at the same time, that idea comes back to it being the readers’ responsibility to discern what is truthful or useful to them, isn’t it? Because if they read a sneaky ad and bought X product just because and then was angry because X product sucked, you can’t blame the sneaky ad writer, can you?
I run several sites and some sites I have advertising and some I don’t. Personal sites, no advertising because it’s just for personal entertainment of sorts. But business sites, I’m all about advertising. I’d like to be paid for work I’m putting out. I’d also like to be able to offer friends or small businesses an inexpensive way of advertising (I’ve actually had a lot of my friends post beautiful ads for free on my sites to help them gain exposure. Is this evil?)
I think what it comes down to in some regards is do people think making money as an artist is bad. This perhaps sounds like a ridiculous question but there is a huge belief that artists must suffer or true artists aren’t about the money but about the art. I don’t see why you can’t be about both. I know I bring up money a lot but it’s because I truly believe you can be an artist, say what you really need to say and still make money. The more money I make, the more I can help other artists get their voices heard because I’m more in a position of power. If I’m struggling, I can’t hire a writer, an artist, or designer – I have to look out for me. But if I’m doing work that I love (whether it’s blogging, writing in a magazine, creating a book, selling a painting, working on a film set) and being paid for that, then I can help others to do the same.
And if advertisements on my blogs can help that, then I’m all for it. And if ads can help you, then I’m all for that, too. And if you don’t want to make any money or have any influence on your site, than I totally believe in that as well. I just don’t believe in saying one is right and one is wrong or being judgmental about who has or does not have advertising.