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Bloggers Mean Business

Rebel

Here we go again. Another week, another “revolution”, another “rebel” stirrs things up.

To paraphrase a line from a movie …

“He’s not a rebel, he is a very naughty boy.”

Ideas should be free, says the latest link-bait, attack-post, call-to-arms, etc. Whatever.

It seems even in 2010 there are still people out there who think that bloggers should not profit from their content. Somehow they have come to the conclusion that even advertisements and affiliate links are unethical. We are, they think, bound to some “journalistic” standard.

Bull hockey.

Ethics in Blogging

The people who last are people who share the good stuff. They have their audience foremost in their minds.

Unethical is when you implant spyware onto a users computer, or use high pressure sales tactics to sell crap. Telling people about something you genuinely believe in and might be a great solution then allowing the reader to make up their own mind is just, well, helpful.

It’s a fair exchange.

We give lots of stuff away, and nobody has to read it. People have won contracts from using my free content, they tell me this all the time. No, I don’t ask for a percentage :)

Bloggers as Journalists

I am not a journalist and have never wanted to be. While I have nothing against journalists, and in fact have a great deal of respect for people who persue the standards and ideals of a true journalist, that is not something I have any interest in following myself. It’s not for me.

You can tell that the life of a journalist is not for me by the way I mangle the English language each week on this site. Sometimes I get through an entire post without a typo or grammar error, but not often.

I wouldn’t call myself a “reporter” either, which is a name Chris Brogan has used (in addition to “typist”) because I very rarely talk about the news or stuff that has happened, I don’t feel I “report”.

Why We Blog

You might want to spread ideas, talk to family, record your thoughts, win business, or you might want to make money directly. There is no right or wrong way so long as you are doing it for the best of intentions, whatever motivates you is all good.

It could be you do not set out to make money but have ads and affiliate links in order to support your hobby. Nothing wrong with that either. Monetization is not a dirty word (an ugly word, but not a dirty one). Someone paying for the content somehow helps keep content free for the reader.

Why hold new media to a higher standard than any other media? If Simon Cowell holds up a Coke branded cup on American Idol that certainly isn’t going to be the thing that makes me switch channels, and I am not going to write to my member of parliment about it.

My blogging is about giving people tips, ideas, stories that either make you think, understand something in a new way, or know how to do something useful. That’s not leadership, it’s just trying to be of value. Can’t recall ever describing myself as a thought-leader, even in jest.

My Awesome Business Model

Expertly Illustrated Business Workflow FTW

You could describe me as a blogger, perhaps a Pro Blogger, even though my writing is not all that professional. Or a writer. Maybe. I have, after all, got my name in print a few times (somehow).

It took me a while to agree with Liz Strauss when she called me a teacher and I do struggle with labels, but if anything I am a teacher. My goal with clients is often to put myself out of work. Instead of doing the commodity implementation I teach them how to do stuff internally so they don’t need external contractors for every little thing.

As a business I train people and I am a marketing consultant. It says that right on this page. My site is subtitled “The business of blogging and new media” after all.

With that in mind you should not be surprised that my goal is not entirely altruistic. I co-authored a book about writing for money. It kind of means I picked a side in this debate.

I create what I hope is valuable in order to fairly earn from this value. If I do enough of a good job then you might consider buying either one of my own products or services, or one of the products I support and recommend and get a commission for. Or maybe you will tell someone else about my awesomeness.

If you don’t want to that’s fine too. People seem to imply that a blogger writing with the intention of earning an income is somehow unethical and not trustworthy. This seems odd to me. Does the fact that Seth Godin sells books discount his ideas? Uh, heck no.

Could my business continue without this blog? Sure. But I don’t want to.

I’m not going to give up a great marketing channel that is fun to work on because some other blogger has hallucinated what is the right way to do it. I will keep this blog going as long as enough people find it useful and a few people each month are willing to shell out dollars for extra stuff. If things continue positively I will be able to continue paying my mortgage (and now in addition to my mortgage, my rent!) and put food on the table. Glamourous stuff like that.

My business is sustained by me finding people with a challenge I can help with, and demonstrating my expertise and knowledge, to the point where people are willing to trust me to take the next step. I call it Authority Blogging but it happens just as much offline as it does on. The tactics change but the strategy remains.

It’s a nice business and it works. Customers are happy and I am happy. Why change?

Bottom Line

It’s actually a good thing when people disagree, it helps us clarify our own thoughts. If they don’t like you and unsubscribe they are doing you a favour because you won’t waste any time on them in future.

Unfortunately we do give the bad unfluences energy and attention because they are talented at getting noticed. The people telling you “You’re doing it wrong” the loudest don’t have your interests at heart. By feeding the trolls and linking to them we just give them more juice to distract people from what is really important.

Remember what you are doing this for. What is more important? Some angry stranger off the internets or persuing your goals while giving people genuinely valuable content? Thought so.

Keep doing what works, makes you happy, and helps people. Ignore the critics.

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Comments

  1. You can shy away from titles all you like, it shows your humility. So long as others are giving you the title, it’s deserved – if you go around touting it yourself, there’s very little chance you’re as deserving of it as you might think.

    Rest assured yours is a voice of honest, clear and understandable wisdom – one that many quite enjoy listening to and learning from. (And by voice I mean your online one – don’t know about the accent :P )

    Feeding trolls is sometimes a lot of fun but is usually ill-advised. I love how you’ve not linked this person in but have still written about them. This post will get attention for you and the situation but not the instigator, I love it!

    I wouldn’t worry about this ranty reply – it was certainly entertaining for me on my lonely Friday evening while my wife is half a world away in New York City!

    • Thanks, I am glad you liked it. My philosophy is to criticize behaviour, not people. I don’t like it when individuals are made examples of at the best of times but when I suspect it is just to draw publicity and links … grrrr …

      I’m not sure about my accent either – I am going to practice hard to adopt the Canadian accent I should have had in the first place .. eh? ;)

      • Yeah, calling someone out is a shitty thing to do in public, no matter how many people you do it in front of.

        Dude, don’t sweat the accent, yours is quite mild ;) I’m just thankful I didn’t inherit my grandfather’s Welsh accent…then you’d be teasing me :P

  2. I think ideas should be free. But the application of those ideas it is legitimate to charge for. It is payment for the time used making the application.

    One of the things I like about blogging is how much of it is a gift economy. This presumes that the people who originate the ideas are credited – the blogging economy is based on credibility (or we could say authority), so it is essential that the originators of ideas as well as their application are given credit.

    • I encourage people to give away ideas but I don’t think it is our place to say must/should/ought for others.

      To give you an example when I have felt burned by “free ideas”. When I worked for advertising/marketing agencies we would do pitches and over and over clients would take our ideas and designs then go to low-paid local contractors to implement. Essentially getting free consulting and design then ripping us off on the execution. Now some might think “good for them! ha ha suckers!” but this lead directly to several rounds of lay offs and people losing jobs. It meant I vowed to never pitch or do unpaid proposals again.

      In my view “ideas” are plentiful and free, but specifics and tailor made advice/designs/solutions/brain storming has value and that value should be recognised. It’s not just “doing” that has value, to say that would be devaluing a lot of good work from a great many people.

  3. Great article Chris, and I share your honestly given opinions too.

    Our weekly radio show “The Business Hub” (broadcast to around 2 million listeners in East Anglia) is also released as a podcast every week. The purpose of the show is “To help everyone in business succeed” and is funded entirely through the sponsorship and commercials we run – In fact we don’t make any money through this at all.

    Everything we get is invested back into producing, distributing and promoting the show for the benefit of our audience. We interview some of the most amazing business people, who eagerly share their knowledge and know-how for the benefit of our listeners, and none of this would be possible without the funding.

    My personal belief is that people should never be judged by their titles as these literally mean nothing these days. I find it’s far better to measure and judge people by the quality and content their output.

    I just love what you’re doing, I find it thought provoking and inspiring – so please keep up the good work!
    (And let’s see if we can arrange to get you on our show soon too :-))

  4. So who’s the hater(s) Chris? I must have missed this linkbait.

    You do great work, no doubt put a lot of hours in and get rewarded according to how much value you provide.

    All bloggers want something back from others, whether money, attention, dialogue etc.

    • It’s a good thing you missed the discussion – I think it started with one blog post but soon spread to forums and emails so that is why I was drawn to write about the ideas (not the individuals).

      I agree with you, we all want some kind of reward, and some are better hidden or less concious than others, but they are there :)

  5. Chris,
    Thank you for this straightforward, no-BS post on a topic that keeps rearing its ugly head like a mutant hydra with many more than seven heads.

    Although I make my living as a marketer, I consider myself first and foremost a writer and second a teaacher. Not unlike you, my ultimate goal for my clients is that they outgrow me – either learning how to do for themselves, or getting successful enough that they require the support of a full-service agency (a place I hope never to go, btw).

    What I find so attractive about blogging is its combination of independence and interdependence. On the one hand, it’s my blog & I can write whatever I want. On the other hand, if my idea of success is a strong and loyal following, I have to be mindful of how I interact with and serve my readers. It’s a nice give and take. Best case scenario, everyone learns something & we all have fun along the way.

    ;)

    • “Best case scenario, everyone learns something & we all have fun along the way.” – exactly :)

      People look at where some bloggers, me included, are now – they never seem to consider the years of writing into a vacuum but continuing with fewer if any rewards. Why would we do this for so long without making a penny or having more than a handful of subscribers?

      Because there is more to it than just $$$ :)

      • I hear you.
        Though some blogs start out as a labor of love, and others may intentionally remain in that category, there’s nothing wrong with working to get your blog to a place where it’s supporting you.

        I think a big part of the challenge of converting from straight content to content + commerce is that when you start out giving everything away (as most of us do), it requires a pretty major mindset shift (for us and our readers) to adjust to the idea of premium content. BUT … if the blog and blogger are to remain viable, it’s an adjustment that must be made.
        (Unless, of course, you land some kind of dream book deall or someone decides to make a movie about you or something like that. ;)

  6. Making money is not a bad thing, after all we all need to make a living. If a customer is willing to pay for a product or service, than both the seller and benefit benefit. It is win-win.

    However, I think there is enormous pressure to act less than ethically. Do people promote affiliate programs or other bloggers out a genuine desire to help or out of self interest? How many ebooks or services do bloggers promote where there is no direct monetary benefit?

    In every niche there is a top group of popular bloggers that promote each other’s programs. Getting into that top group is the key to success because you will access a huge audience of followers. This is not necessarily bad, it is just part of the game. You need to promote and support all the top people in your niche if you want their support in return. It is not about who is selling the best product because all are very similar.

    You are one of the good guys, but I think many bloggers recommend products on the basis of how much money they can earn, not how good it is for readers.

    • There are people out there with poor ethical standards, no doubt about it. My feeling though is our relationship with our audience is too precious to risk on short term gain.

      The people who are willing to be sold to the highest bidder (be that $ or favors) is essentially saying “this immediate reward is worth more to me than long term loyalty”. In my experience those folks don’t last very long, they either drift into obscurity or the law catches up with them.

  7. Honest, Real, and from the Heart ! Thanks for sharing. Bill

  8. Ooh, I love this: Keep doing what works, makes you happy, and helps people.

    I also like the word typist. I’m not one for labels, because I think your work should be so good it’s obvious what you are, but I think I might start using this one. Thanks :)

  9. You are an idea sharer and developer who seeks to help others discover and pursue their passion so that they can live a life like the one you have found!

    IMO

    :D

  10. This old thing rearing it’s ugly head again!

    I share your frustration about the issue. It seems to be wedded very much to the “blogging” space where somehow people have this strange belief that everyone should be doing it for the love of it and spreading their ideas and goodness around for free.

    As soon as you move into other spaces, it doesn’t seem to be such a problem. Our travel blog is quite heavily monetized (I hate that word too!) but that has meant we have the income for a team of people to write 4 or 5 posts a day, the time to answer emails and questions, the ability to afford professional design and hosting and to pay to go on all the trips and things our readers want to find out about.

    There’s no question that the quality of our output (and therefore our ability to share tons of great free content) would be seriously compromised if we weren’t earning a decent income through affiliate links, advertising, a member’s area and our books.

    • Yeah, it seems every few months someone has this bright idea “hey folks, wouldn’t it be great if all the people who earned money from their blogs got, like, ‘real jobs’ – then the world would be all rainbows and unicorns!!11″ ;)

      … Maybe I am exaggerating just a touch …

  11. Stay the course Chris G!

    There is a solid reason for the rising numbers of your merry band of followers, who benefit far more from your writing and teaching than we realize. And yes, you are altruistic at your core, even though your modesty may deny any accolade.

    An honest workman is well worthy of his wages and never needs to be ashamed -of that fact. It’s an immutable biblical principle. One must have the means after all, to provide basic human physical and spiritual needs for his family and self, even before he can effectively ‘minister’ to others.

    Chances are high, that this idealistic but cheapskate critic of yours is not only quite lazy to do any of his own thinking and research (work!) but considers what is yours by your labors, is also his – It’s the classic liberals neo-socialist philosophy; albeit a very dead end one. Pay no mind, ignore and turn such away.

    Incidentally Chris, I am so envious of your graphic “Awesome Business Model” drawing – if I could get even half that far in life reality of making a practical living , I’ll be doing well indeed.

    Cheers.

  12. Duke Snyder says:

    Am only now beginning a niche blog regarding my own passion, shopping local with independently owned business people and no chain stores.
    Years experienc as a journalist/newscaster obviously brings a “slant” into my writing with an attempt to clarify that which is my own viewpoint and that which is known fact.
    Call it transparency or ethics or whatever but the value of openness speaks for itself in any blogger’s product. This in itself is the reason for saluting Chris and his posting today…he is “my type of horse if he never won a race.” And again I offer my favorite alltime quote, Abraham Lincoln’s “Honesty, it confuses your friends and befuddles your enemies.”
    In today’s world so many are expecting to find a manipulative vein in everyone and everything and in their own paranoia misread honest writing.

    • You are a journalist/newscaster so I salute you sir :) I really don’t know how you do it – it seems one of those professions where you are damned whatever you do. Far easier for folks like me to chuck out whatever is going on in our heads! :)

  13. In one of my niches I’ve had people react with surprise and outrage that I would dare release a paid e-book or e-course.

    In contrast, if I wrote a 1000+ page technical book (in the dead tree sense) in that niche that would sell for $90+ I would be applauded and gain respect from those same people.

    I mean really, its just ridiculous. So I ignore them now.

    • Ha, yes I see that a lot – a guy wrote an ebook about comics but was attacked by another comic guy for it even though this other guy had a print book on Amazon (ie. print books are ok but ebooks are EVIL) :)

      People eh? Glad I am not one.

  14. Great post Chris.. :) It’s sort of the same line of thinking of the post I did the other day, regarding Eminem and taking a stand..lol.. the other side of that is tuning out the haters and focusing your time on the folks who matter, who believe in what you do, and who find value in what you have to say.

    As to monetization, it’s something I struggle with too..I really haven’t monetized BGB all that much as yet, and it’s something I plan to work on because to put it bluntly… a girl’s gotta eat..especially one with kids! :)

    I love blogging, but I started my blog with a purpose.. as a platform to utilize and reach people and help folks learn… but also to launch business ideas and projects from, showcase my writing skills, and use as a marketing and branding tool.

    I see nothing unethical in that, and while I try to provide a lot of great content and value for free, I also have to balance that with my time that is not free… and I don’t feel bad about that at all.

    My time is my own, and how I spend it is up to me…whether I give it away by writing insanely useful stuff on BGB or whether I charge a premium for it to write for others or consult or what have you.

    And if I happen to throw in a recommendation of product I know my readers could gain a lot from, then of course I will use my affiliate link and make a few bucks on it..because my readers know I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t believe it was useful to them.

    So to people who think bloggers making money off their blogs is unethical, I’m sorry but just like everyone else, blogger or not I deserve to be compensated for my time.

    The difference is I don’t always expect nor want to be compensated, and I’m often not. But ultimately… that choice is up to me, not the rest of the world.

    Warmest
    C

    • Thankfully you can and do get to choose. While some folks would like to set their dream of everything being free as law, it is unrealistic at best :)

      One of the people thinks that “thought leaders” especially should not be compensated … but if a thought leader does not test their ideas in reality (which in many cases means making $), doesn’t that take away from their leadership rather than support it?

      • Agreed… if they are considered a thought leader, then I’d hope it’s because they have come up with creative ideas and tested them out in the real world.. and if that’s the case, as you said that means making cash in a lot of instances. If they are untested ideas, well then all they are really is ideas, and not useful to anyone actually. Kind of like useless knick knacks on a shelf. lol :)

        And as to some people thinking everything be free as a law…pssht. This country would tank faster than it already is, lol if that were the case! The US was built on the premise of free enterprise.

        People need to realize there is nothing wrong with a smart, creative person making money using their talents in an ethical manner. Key word being ethical. Provide value, and the folks who really matter won’t complain about spending some hard won cash on your services or products. They’ll consider it money well spent!

        At least that’s my view. :D

  15. Great post Chris, The way I view blogs is just like walking into a departmental store. You automatically know whether the content is up your street, if not you walk out.

    If it is up your street you browse the stuff you like and ignore the bits you don’t, but eh! it is a free world and no asks you to pay to step into the store.

    People who love your content will eventually reward you in the short term or the long term, directly or indirectly.

    • I agree. In all the years I have been reading blogs, yes I have bought through recommendations but not every day. It’s not like there is a $$$ check out process before you read :)

  16. This reminds me of when I put together my first WP blog. I took an existing theme and played around with it to make it look the way I wanted — it was for a golf blog that I was hoping to get rich and famous for 8=)

    Anyway, I posted a link to it in the WordPress forum for showcasing your new blog to get some feedback and ideas. I got a few comments, but the one that stood out was the guy that said he figured he would probably enjoy the blog based on the description I gave, but as soon as he saw the AdSense ads he stopped looking and never plans to be back.

    I think I was polite in my reply, but I basically told him that he obviously wasn’t my target audience and that I wouldn’t miss him 8=)

    It’s not like ads cost you anything as a reader and the writer has to feed his/her family in addition to paying for the server that your free content is on.

    • Exactly. The only ads that stop me visiting are either offensive/NSFW/full screen/loud/flashing etc – IE. that take away from the experience so much that you can’t think of returning.

  17. I like this Chris. I bump into this mess of an outlook everyday.

    People are so stuck in the blogging feel of 5-10 yrs ago where it was all about sharing.

    Blogging is a business. blogging is a way to earn a living, how ever you wanna say it.

    As Mike said above.. making money with my blog, frees me up to write even better content at a more frequent rate. So if you like what I share, then why be so against me trying to do things that let me share even more?

    Silly.

    • Fact is that most readers do not even know they are looking at a blog, let alone care how the writer gets compensated. As long as they get what they are looking for they don’t give much thought further than that. I have seen much more unethical stuff on tourist review sites, business directories and on eBay than I have in blogs. Heck, if people want to fix problems in ethics I would say the banking system and the political arena would be better places to start :)

  18. Dear Chris:

    Thanks for this
    “but if anything I am a teacher. My goal with clients is often to put myself out of work. Instead of doing the commodity implementation I teach them how to do stuff internally so they don’t need external contractors for every little thing.”

    It completely sums up the reason I do what I do. And YOU ARE a teacher. I’m grateful for what you’ve taught me!

  19. I guess the only positive about negative comments is that someone out there is reading and responding. If they actually take the time to comment negatively, the jealousy or whatever feelings or ideas motivate them must be pretty intense. Blogging is such a great way to reach out and find others with similar ideas or interests, and to find others with very different views that you can accept, reject, and move on with a click of the mouse. Different models are welcome. What angers me are blogs and websites with ulterior motives that you are initially aware of. Similar to restaurant owners writing reviews of their own restaurants ‘incognito’.

    • Yeah we have seen a lot of sneaky stuff on review sites and classified sites when we have been researching and planning our move. Most bloggers on the other hand are not out for the quick buck, they want to protect their reputation and are aware of the power of word of mouth.

  20. As long as you’re providing quality content and have the good intentions of helping your readers, I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to make money out of blogging.

    Why would some people want to sell their own paintings? Sure, those paintings can be used for decoration, but they also want to make money from their hard work.

    Why would an author publish a fiction novel? Well, the author could just as easily provide each book for free. If the writer then wants to reach a larger audience by getting the book published and selling it through book stores, is that then wrong? I don’t think so.

    Blogging is much the same. You may really enjoy blogging and genuinely want to help readers. Is, then, making money off of doing something that you love the wrong way to go about it? If anything, I’d rather profit from something that I love than work a 9 to 5 job that I abhor. What’s the harm in selling readers quality services and products that will benefit their lives? After all, you put the hard work into your blog. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a little profit from it.

    Christina

    • I can’t imagine what world people imagine we live in where we wouldn’t *have* to profit from what we do. We don’t all have generous benefactors who fund us while we create art for arts sake. If I didn’t support my family through products and services sold from this blog, or other blog-related income streams, I would have to get a job and therefore I wouldn’t have time to blog quite as much.

      I’m wondering about the actual outcome some of these folks want – rather than bring everyone up to their high ethical standards (*cough*) they just want to dirty or eliminate the competition …

  21. Appreciated two things specifically— you admitted the typos, grammar errors happen and obviously you don’t feel it is the end of the world when that happens. Secondly, you noted you are not an expert on the subjects you write just giving your perspective. Very real..thanks.

  22. Looks to me you come down totally on the right side of this, Chris. Bloggers who put in all the effort and go out of their way to provide their readers with tons of value absolutely deserve to make money from what they’re doing. And the people who buy the products or services do so completely voluntarily, nobody’s holding a gun to their heads.

    • It’s not like people don’t have a choice of blogs to read either. Although if Google and Firefox wanted to include my blog for each user by default I would be cool with that ;)

  23. This all makes me feel very new and naive in my blogging efforts; thanks for giving me something to think about and aspire to.
    Tha’s movin’ t’Canada friv Yorkshire? Tha must be a reet barm pot,lad, but ah wish thee well…

  24. I have only just popped onto your site, but even by just reading your article, I get the impression that your title of teacher is probably the most accurate. You have a way with words which is easy to follow and comprehend, something that those who are good at teaching have.
    I would like to say that while it can be bad to have people who disagree, it can be valuable. If you debate with someone of the other viewpoint, you both have a chance to present your views. If the debate is civil, both of you can learn something from it, possibly changing your vies, possibly reinforcing your current viewpoint. Either way, the possibility is there.

  25. Hello,

    That made great reading, thank you.

    As someone who is just starting out, the more research I do, the more I am re-assured that some of the people in the top spots have good intentions and are not adverse to parting with useful information.

    Thanks again,
    Matt