There seems to be an unwritten rule in social media: “You don’t attempt to make money off the content you create via social media.”
I’m not sure who created this rule, but every time a content creator attempts to monetize their efforts, there is almost always a level of backlash. Chris Brogan is probably the poster-boy for attempting to monetize his content, and today he announced that he was accepting ads on his blog. That’s not what got my attention, what struck me was the almost apologetic tone of his post. A few of Chris’ readers picked up on this tone as well, and commented on it.
I’ve never completely understood why this is an issue for some people. To me, this is a win-win. If the content creator can earn some money from the content they create, then they can afford to spend more time creating that content. If I enjoy the content that the person is creating, then obviously, that’s a big WIN for me.
Still, some people are going to be upset by this. When I announced back in October that I was going to start taking sponsorships for up to 1 #Blogchat a month, I had a few regular participants say they were leaving and never coming back. I assured them that the #Blogchat experience would be almost exactly the same, that I would only accept sponsors that would make #Blogchat better, and that I was taking the sponsors so that I could afford to spend more time on expanding the offerings of #Blogchat so everyone benefited. Still, people left, and that’s their choice.
Let’s clear the air right now: No one is going to get rich monetizing their social media content.
Seriously, every time Blogger X attempts to monetize their efforts, there are wild rumors about how this blogger is suddenly making ‘big money’. Yes, everyone hears the same rumors, and they are so detached from reality in most cases that it’s laughable. In fact, that’s one of the only things I dislike about this space, the wild rumors, and most of them are associated with what people make.
But the unfortunate side affect of all this backlash and rumor-mongering is that we are sending the message to ‘new’ bloggers that attempting to monetize their content is a distasteful act. It isn’t. In fact, that’s how we all learn to improve our own efforts, by studying what is working for others. Have you noticed what Jason Falls is doing with Exploring Social Media? I love that, and it’s giving me a ton of ideas for expanding the educational element of #Blogchat, and possibly extending the live experience into a classroom setting.
What do you think about bloggers monetizing their content?
Does this bother you? If one of your favorite bloggers announced that they were taking ads or sponsors on their blog, would that be enough to make you stop reading that blog? If you monetize your blog content, what have been your results? Have your readers voiced their displeasure over this?
ABC Dragoo says
Jesus, everytime I promote a job I have worked on (ie show examples of what people pay me to make) I have at least 1 person unsubscribe from my blog.
I’ve never added adverts to my site because I felt like the amount of money I’d make would not be enough to justify the hassle of the time and energy it takes to organize it.
This entire blog wold fosters a mindset that it should all be free-and that is doing a disservice to everyone! If people backlash on your blog for promoting your services once in a while – what’s the point?
Mack Collier says
I agree, and besides that, the only way we can improve existing monetization efforts (most of which DO suck) is through experimentation. But if we nail every blogger to the wall that attempts to monetize, then the overall efforts will never improve.
Steve Woodruff says
For some folks, blogs and business can’t go together. For the rest of us, they can, do, and will. The first group will never be happy about that, so….why worrry? In a utopian world, no-one would have to make money. Send me the Google Map coordinates when you find that world…! :>}
Mack Collier says
Steve it’s easy to say not to worry, but how can you not? We all want to be liked, and if you decide to monetize and suddenly some of your readers lash back at you, it can make you think YOU have done something wrong. When in reality, it could be that these people are simply opposed to anyone wanting to make money off social media.
I don’t think we should apologize for trying to put food on the table, but I can absolutely understand why a blogger like Chris would care what his readers think. Hell we all do.
Steve Woodruff says
We all care about what our readers think and feel – but there will always be a percentage that would like to exercise veto power over other bloggers according to their own predilections. Maybe I’m just an independent Yankee cuss, but I say let that group walk, and do what you believe is most responsible. If you’re truly providing value and building a relationship with your core audience, they’ll stick with you as long as you’re not being deceptive or ridiculous.
Laura Townshend says
Wow! This got me going – why in the heck, first of all, is it anyone’s business how I run my business?
Second, of course the majority of bloggers and other people online are doing it for money. I’m passionate about my work, but in the end, it’s not free. It’s may be a labor of love at times, but I’m in it to run a business and to make money.
Ugh! This mindset sends an awful message to both new and old bloggers. I don’t get the premise of needing to apologize for how I work. When you set up any other kind of business, you don’t apologize, so why do it with online content? Am I missing something?
I’ve heard this before, and watched other bloggers/site owners apologize as they monetized their sites – and it’s happened since the inception of blogging. It’s not new, but it’s definitely disturbing. If some people are offended because I’m finding ways to run a successful business and feed my family, I wonder what those people would do if they were asked to work for free?
So what if someone is making “big money.” I congratulate that person for having business savvy and putting food on the table. Good for them!
ABC Dragoo says
I think in my world of blogs: weddings/interiors/design that many are ‘swapping tiles’ to make it appear as though they are monetizing their blogs. When actually, it’s a whole lot of smoke and mirrors. What do you think of this practice? I know it happens a lot and I feel like it is a little shady – since it is giving other potential advertisers the thought that others believe in the blog and should try advertising with them too.
What comes from blogging is a gained trust from your potential clients. They begin to relate to you, feel comfortable and then (hopefully) hire you. If people think it’s just about getting “free” ideas – that is a shame.
Most of us do this to support our businesses – a part of it has to somehow promote it.
Mack Collier says
I agree, if they are purposely making it appear that they have more advertisers than they do, that definitely seems ‘shady’. It’s FAR better to be upfront and honest, especially in this fishbowl where everyone talks 😉
Tad Dunville says
Mack, it’s funny you ask this as I’m at this exact point in “Atlas Shrugged”. Really, there are two important concepts in play here. The main theme behind Atlas Shrugged and a famous law case involving newspapers copyrighting the news. I don’t remember the name of the case, maybe somebody who paid more attention in Property Law can bring it up.
1. Content is just words. Content is also one of two things: opinion or fact. Opinion is “your two cents”. Fact is like news – it’s observable by everybody. In other words, content is your feelings about the game last night, or a recollection of a car crash.
2. Following that logic, one news service started copying another news service’s content, about 100 years ago. The Copied sued the Copier. The Copier posited the argument in #1 above, that the Copier was just re-reporting public news and not actually stealing. The Copied posited that the collection, editing, layout, and distribution (the “Process”) added immense value. The Process cost was what the Copier was stealing from the Copied. The courts agreed. The same holds true for online content. The Process is what costs us, not jotting down thoughts. The public doesn’t understand that content generation is a strategy-intensive and labor-intensive task done correctly.
3. If you’ve read Atlas Shrugged, you know it’s about Group A choosing to “Go Galt”, or quit working at their potential, as brilliant metallurgists, railroad builders, symphony composers, etc. They do this because they perceive that Group B is expropriating A’s work because B are too lazy to do their own work. Sound like the news services in #2? In the end, John Galt gives a 100+ page monologue about how the country was perverted because, in the book, it’s morally wrong not to share your work, and it’s morally wrong to expect anything other than peanuts in remuneration for your work. Society, in the book, has become a place where a person fears the person economically below him or her, and envies/hates the person economically above him or her. Ergo, Group A “goes Galt” and retires to the mountains of Colorado rather than see their hard work be stolen for peanuts.
How does this apply to content creation? It shows us that it’s not the content, but the Process of content creation. The paying SEO client wants more for less. The blog reader wants it all for free. Thing is, good client takes time, intelligence, Process, criticism… The important thing is to strike the right balance. Is it right for everything to be free? Is it right for everything to be behind a pay wall? No to both.
It is up to the content creator to communicate how he or she adds value. Discuss the Process. Discuss the education and preparation, the years spent fixing computers for minimum wage before the blogger got the amazing gig blogging at TechCrunch. The content is worth a number at the nexus of a price the market will bear and a price that pays the creator’s bills. We can’t change what the market will bear for a specific quality/unit of content, but we can change their perception of the quality/unit of our content.
Kind of long but I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Good post.
Laura Townshend says
Well said. You’ve hit it on the head, Tad. 🙂
Mack Collier says
Tad those are great thoughts. I think one element of this argument is that some people believe if a blogger starts accepting money as a result of the content creation process, that the content creation process from that point forward will be affected. That the blogger will change the content they create, based on trying to acquire new advertisers/sponsors, or placating existing ones. Or both.
And I think that’s a valid concern, but we shouldn’t act as if bloggers that aren’t monetizing their content aren’t guilty of the same thing. I would hazard a guess that we all alter our content to some degree based on wanting to get someone’s attention. Maybe it’s a potential sponsor, maybe we are hoping to get a comment from a blogger we respect. We all do it.
The idea of monetizing social media isn’t going away, so we can either gnash our teeth about it, or we can accept it, and work together so that we can ALL improve the process so that we ALL benefit.
ABC Dragoo says
All very well stated, and I absolutely nodded my head “yes” in agreement when you wrote about going Galt-I have threatened that idea more than once recently!
Emil A. Georgiev says
Tad, I guess you refer to the case of INS v. AP, don’t you?
Christa M. Miller says
I feel this post. I specialize in a niche that places very high value on free resources — professionals who give tons of quality information away because, well, they’re employed full-time! For me, monetizing would mean targeted ads from sponsors in this niche — I don’t have the traffic to attract them. Or information products — I don’t consider myself enough of a “coach” to do workbooks and videocasts, like other bloggers who monetize content.
I realize I’m limiting myself by not blogging daily or 3x/week (yes Mack I know how you feel about lots of posting 🙂 ) and by not stretching out of my “comfort zone.” On the other hand, I also have two little kids and lots of client business, so everything is a trade-off, and after the roller coaster of the last 2 years I’d rather stick with what I know than trade on something that doesn’t feel like a good fit.
And I guess that’s really what I’m wondering the most: to what extent should a blogger’s personality figure into efforts to monetize/experiment? How might we explore options that fit us better than others? Should it be based on how we fundamentally define ourselves — journalists vs. coaches, client team members vs. outside consultants? To what extent should we try to stretch past those definitions?
(BTW, I’m working with a great colleague right now on an info product that is more research-based than coach-like, so assuming it works the way we want it to, I think that will be a good option for me. Still, the question of fitting ourselves to the solution vs. fitting the solutions to ourselves is one that I think deserves more attention.)
Mack Collier says
Hi Christa, love your thoughts here. I think in order for the monetization efforts to work all THREE parties need to have a clear benefit: 1 – The advertiser/sponsor, 2 – The content creator, and 3 – The blogger’s readership. The blogger’s readership is the group that often doesn’t get as much focus as the other two, and that’s why many monetization efforts fall flat. There needs to be a clear benefit to the readership, that they can understand. Otherwise, the monetization efforts won’t be nearly as effective.
If you’re putting the least bit of time and effort into your blog, then I feel that you should reap the rewards — unfortunately, they are oftentimes few and far in between if you’re a blogger.
Personally, the “free mentality” or “shame on you for trying to make money from your blog” is a little sickening at times. One great article I enjoyed is: “How did the web lose faith in charging for stuff?” by 37signals. I think it’s an interesting read — and despite being a few years old, it is still very much relevant. You can read it here: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/1615-how-did-the-web-lose-faith-in-charging-for-stuff
Ray Ortega says
This is an easy one to understand. It’s all based in the roots of what blogging, and in my case podcasting, is all about. Enthusiastic sharing.
People in general, especially the successful ones, don’t start a blog or a podcast for the sole purpose of making money. The beauty of the Internet is the ability to share your thoughts, ideas and passions with others who have the same interests. We dive in head first without much thought to money, the future, or any other limits. We share our content because we love it.
In turn, we build community. A rich, interactive community who loves what we do and is trained to receive our content generally uncluttered with the perceived bias of ads, editors, and any other filters that make traditional media less genuine. Oh and it’s free!
Many of us who have been on the web since it’s early days and have enjoyed the rise of social media platforms such as blogging and podcasting have a natural resistance to seeing ads, hearing commercials or going though a pay-wall. It goes against how we’ve been trained to consume online content and at times feels as if the content will somehow suffer if these more traditional media models are allowed to creep into online media.
However, most of us also “get it.” We understand and appreciate the enormous amount of time it takes to produce quality content and maintain a blog or podcast over a period of years. Some however, will resist openly because it’s in their digital DNA. Words like ads, sponsorship and premium subscription produce a virtual gag reflex that sometimes spills out into comments or reactionary tweets. But most still “get it.”
So the question is less about why some people react this way or more about how much it matters? It matters only in that you address your audience’s concerns when you decide to change your model. Explain why you are changing and lay out clearly your monetization ethics. That you only take sponsorships from products you use, trust and believe in. That the context of the content will remain the same and that the audience is always priority number one.
Those who have come to value your content will move with you and encourage you to keep moving forward because they know and understand that in order to keep producing content that they love, money keeps the lights (aka power for the computer) on.
Mack Collier says
Very well stated Ray, and I have nothing to add. Thank you.
Lou Mongello - WDWRadio says
Great post, Mack, and I agree with you as well, Ray.
As a former attorney who started podcasting about his passion (Disney) in 2005, it was never the intent, or even conscious decision, to try and earn money from it – and I certainly had no expectations to do what I love full time (which I do). But as my hobby turned into my business, it not only made sense, but was necessary to continue to spend the time, money and resources to produce a show week after week. I was careful and conscious about who I partnered with and took sponsorship from, and always made sure that the integrity of my product never could be called into question. The sponsors I worked with brought value to my show, and to my audience. If one doesn’t have other ways of monetizing their content (e.g. speaking, creating products, etc.), then accepting advertisers may be the best (or only) way to try and at least break even – podcasting for a profit is another ballgame.
For some, being able to purse your passion and do it for a living is the ultimate dream. Who wouldn’t want to blog or podcast every day and feed their families from it? For others, I’m not always sure where the animosity comes from. It is envy? We as content creators do not charge to read our blogs, listen to our shows, or even anything to mitigate our expenses for doing so (hosting, bandwidth, etc.). No one complains when their favorite TV or radio talk show breaks for an ad (often unrelated to the content itself), so why should a blogger or podcaster who inserts and ad, or does a live read, etc. become an issue?
“New” media isn’t new anymore. It’s THE media. Beyond being considered “legitimate” (an issue for many bloggers and podcasters oh so many years ago), much of the content that is consumed is now created by other consumers. And in many cases, it’s not free to do. At the very least, there is a great deal of “sweat equity” invested.
If you really enjoy the content that is being created by your favorite blogger or podcaster, you should WANT them to make money, feed their families, and yes, even do it full time. Why? Because without the “distraction” of a “real job” which pays those bills, that person can instead focus all of their time, attention and resources to delivering you, the audience, the best content, even more often than before. I don’t necessarily think that you have to preemptively explain what you’re doing, but by the same token, you must be completely honest in your disclosures and relationships.
You must always be conscious and considerate of your audience, and certainly take their constructive feedback and learn from it. But hopefully you should never have to explain why you’re doing what you do. If they like you, and what you create, they will hopefully be happy that you’re able to continue doing it by monetizing your content. The goal should also be bringing value TO your audience with the partners and sponsors you work with.
If your audience truly supports you, they will (hopefully) support your ability and desire to follow the dream of doing what you love, for and with them… or at least not lose money in the process 🙂
Emil A. Georgiev says
you have started a very interesting discussion here and so have been the most of the comments displayed!
While I would not go installing some add-displaying software programme, I would attempt to convert readers into clients paying me for consultancy. I am still working on finding the precise formula and I am convinced that blogging will support my business activities. Having said this, I am certain that just very few bloggers blog out of pure altruism.
After all, earning money is nothing bad.
Thus, I do not support the view that the idea to monetise a blog should make that blog’s owner/author feel inconvenient or even apologise to the world at large.
Jocelyn Wilhelm says
Here’s my 2 cents on the subject! HAH! 🙂
Love what you do and do what you love and everything else will fall into place. We don’t need to make excuses. If people don’t understand why we choose to do it a certain way, they never will and will always look for excuses to contradict you. Every one has a certain price tag, however. So if you have an article you want to write (for free) and someone calls you to do a social engagement that’s paying you $$$ for an appearance…..which would you choose to do? 😉
Love your article. Keep writing!
Mack Collier says
Jocelyn it’s interesting how certain forms of monetization seem to be ‘ok’ or more acceptable. If the average blogger puts ads on his blog, some readers might balk, but if that same blogger announced that he had gotten a great job as a result of his blog, all his readers would likely be thrilled for him. Then again I guess that goes back to does the monetization impact the experience for the reader, or maybe they squawk if they believe it could?
Chris Brogan says
For the first time in forever, I actually don’t mind when people complain when I make money. I definitely had a tentative tone when I talked about ads, but they’re staying. Believe me, if people want to volunteer to pay for my mortgage, I’ll take that in lieu of advertising. : )
I never apologize about making money these days. Instead, I feel bad when I do something to upset my core community.
Charity Hisle says
If the same content is available elsewhere for no-fee, then I will not pay for it. That is the bottom line, and that is why subscription models will not work for online content. More power to our mutual friend Jason, but no thanks. There is too much information online available to me for free.
Leo Widrich says
Totally see where you are coming from with your post and I enjoyed reading it a lot. Hmm, maybe a problem is that no one wants to be the one selling all the time. So we try to do it not very prominently, which sometimes turns out to be apologetic and awkward.
Finding the right feel of selling soft, yet in a very convinced tone is something quite hard to pick up I believe, at least for me :). Maybe not for you I take it from this post?
It is my first time here and I plan on coming back more often Mack. You write some great stuff here, I even wrote a post about your post:
6 Brilliant Twitter Resources You Can’t Miss http://j.mp/heMdSA
Hope to speak more soon. Let me Buffer this post for sure 🙂
As several folks have asked in their comments here, why NOT try to monetize value you create through an investment in providing informative, authoritative content?
In general, a single blog post is educational but not an education (I’m sure exceptions exist). Even as a whole, a blog that provides great value may lack the focus of a curriculum. But clearly, a person who truly invests in creating useful information can educate. Seems like monetization of this (or a service or product) is what makes the world go around.
And what if my product or service precedes my blog, and my objective for blogging is to capture search traffic relevant to my pre-existing offering? Is this so different than monetizing content you create via social media?
Angela Beasley says
YAY! I love this post..
I hear the phrase, “Love what you do and do what you love and everything else will fall into place” all the time and I have to disagree with it. People will allow you to work for them for absolutely nothing if you allow them the opportunity. Sometimes you have to put your foot down.
Blogging is a tremendous, time-consuming responsibility. And just because you like what you do that doesn’t mean it isn’t work and you shouldn’t reap monetary benefits from it. I may be wrong, but I believe most NBA players love playing basketball but I don’t see any of them willing to do it for free. Long story short, don’t apologize.
Making some money to pay for hosting, templates, bandwidth and stock photos on your blog doesn’t take away from your quality content. If people unsubscribe because you made a small profit from the quality (read: priceless) knowledge you’re giving them, then they don’t value what you’re providing. Bloggers share what they know, open a platform for discussion and give infinitely more than they receive. I think it’s perfectly fine to monetize as long as you don’t try to sell me an advertorial as content.
Gabriele Maidecchi says
I never got bothered by people trying to earn out of their passion and skill, heck I wouldn’t run a business if I had. What bothers me is people trying too hard. If you start blogging now, you can’t realistically expect to earn anything any time soon, I think we all agree on this. Things should be done step by step, gradually. Chris Brogan put ads on his blog now after years, no?
Keenan Dijon says
I’m with you on that. The art of monetizing social media content and creating a business around your blog is a beautiful thing. And @Gabriele you are right, you shouldn’t try to hard. Take your time in monetizing and focus more on adding value. The cash will come more frequently as a result of becoming more valuable as a blogger.
Brittany Rubinstein says
When I first started my blog, I put ads up on it right away and honestly, felt a little guilty about it. I’d be lying if I said that making money isn’t a huge incentive to blog, but it surely isn’t the only reason. It will be pretty obvious to your readers if you’re only blogging for money. I figure, as long as the content remains good, what’s the problem?