"While writers always appreciate getting a cheque in the mail, is the selling of blogs good for blogging? Maybe not. When you believe in a blog it is because you are convinced the writer is passionate about a topic and a credible source. But if that blog is about, say, pet care and nutrition, will your faith be diminished when a pitch for Purina appears alongside?"
That was one of the insights in the May - June 2007 issue of Backbone Magazine in the Editor's Letter titled, Blogging For Dollars: Market Maturity Or Death Knell?
I quite like Backbone Magazine and make a point of grabbing the latest issue every time I'm in the Air Canada Lounge, but it's statements like that which make me "pffff" on one hand and roll my eyes on the other.
How can you write a comment like that in a magazine where on the page adjacent to your personal insights and wisdom is a full page ad? I mean really, what's the difference here?
Let's be brutally honest (and I can do this because, for a time, I was the publisher of three magazines): advertising pays the bills. How is an ad for the iPhone running on Engadget any different than a print ad for iPhone running in Backbone Magazine? They're both valid places for advertisers to notify consumers about new product offerings and, in my humble opinion, I like that. I don't just read Backbone for the content - I also read it to see new ads in the technology space. One of the reasons I like Google Reader is because I am able to see when TechCrunch is updated, but I enjoy clicking over to see the post on the original site (and not just read it in Google Reader) in hopes that I'll catch a glimpse of some other cool stuff (advertising or otherwise).
Bringing revenues into Blogs is a good idea on many levels. One, the more money a Blogger can make, the more free time they should have to craft their postings and deliver better content. Readers of the Blog won't stick around for long if they feel like the author is just "taking the money and running" and the core values behind a channel like Blogging is based on the trust economy. Meaning: if you write crappy and pump your Blog full of ads, you won't have much of a readership to grow your presence or much of a conversation going on in your comments.
You can also bring on the advertising in Blogs because there is so much choice that if one Blog is not fulfilling your content needs, there are probably fifty like-minded ones that will. And, if there aren't, hang tight, because either you can create it or someone else will.
You see, we put up with ads in magazines because they inform us and we know that that's how the writers get paid. Why should Blogs be any different? That being said, the "type" of advertising that can be done on Blogs (beyond banners and Google AdWords) is a whole other discussion. As long as the honesty and integrity of Editorial versus Advertising is maintained and it works, I say, "bring it on."
Here's another gem from Backbone Magazine's Editor's Letter:
"But when the mighty dollar comes into play, it changes the rules of the game. The very fact that someone is willing to pay for a thing tends to be a pointed to some level of quality. ("Tends" because, after all, Tom Cruise is a star). So perhaps we will become so overwhelmed with content that we will need to rely on a paid arbiter to tell us what is worthwhile, and the commercial sites will be become the new publishing houses."
What do you think? Will Bloggers change their content based on driving advertising or will advertisers have to scope out the Blogs that speak to their consumers?
You see, I don't see the growing number of Blogs as an issue, or one that will create some kind of filter driven by advertising or paying for premium content. I do see it as a chance to find many niche audiences and communicate with exactly the right crowd in a flowing conversation that is not relegated by editorial boards, distribution chains and the need to hustle to retail for your latest fix once every two months. If anything I can see the power of - let's say - a Backbone Blog in keeping consumers engaged with additional brand time spent while the Editors formulate the next issue.
People who read Blogs are smart (for the most part). Because there is so much content, our self editors are firing on all pistons and we're quick to subscribe (or unsubscribe) based on the smallest of details. Nobody owns this new media press - and that's what's freaking out traditional publishers. Traditional publishing is still about mediating ("we are credible sources"). Blogging is about disintermediation ("what do you think"). Readers can tell the difference - mostly because these readers are Bloggers as well.
Adding advertising, money, sponsorship, etc_ to Blogs won't change that. If anything it's going to force Bloggers to improve their content in hopes of building audience and community. It's a positive outcome.
You can read the full Editor's Letter here: Backbone Magazine - Blogging For Dollars: Market Maturity Or Death Knell?