Every once in a while, I feel the need to write an opinion piece, or go on a bit of a rant. Fair warning: this is one of those times.
It’s been an interesting week in the world of opinion pieces. There was this great on in the HuffPo about Instagram and the algorithm, which I really loved, and then there was this piece in the New Yorker about the death of the Personal Essay.
I’m feeling compelled the days to write one of my own, simply to get it off my chest.
Truthfully: I’m sad. I’m a blogger. I’ve been a blogger for 10 years. A decade or so ago, I went through some really big life changes, and those changes led me to make some tough decisions. One of those decisions was to give up (at least temporarily) my main form of creative expression, which was acting. I had been having a mad love affair with the theatre for the past 20 years, but circumstances in my life lead me to take a hiatus.
I needed an outlet for my creativity, and writing was where I found it. And then I just never stopped. Week after week, year after year, I have just continued to pump out content. Maybe I should have abandoned ship a long time ago, but here I still am.
I do it for love. Mostly. This blog, in particular, I started as a way to market my new arts marketing business, and it has been spectacularly successful. This blog allowed me to be in the right places at the right times, and lead to lots of freelance gigs.
My cooking blog, on the other hand, was just for me. I honestly never cared if I made a cent off it or not, but it has, interestingly enough, lead to some pretty lucrative gigs as well; including a cookbook contract. Not too shabby.
But I wonder–is blogging dead? Am I just hanging on out of a sense of stubbornness? When I look around me at the blogosphere, I see lots of blogs out there still. But what I’m seeing a lot of is bloggers whose number one priority is clearly making money.
Now, don’t get me wrong–I’m all for bloggers making money. In fact, I could use to be more conscientious in that particular area myself. But I’m noticing a lot of blogs that feature nothing but sponsored content, and that’s the thing that’s bugging me.
Running nothing but sponsored content raises some issues for me. First off, if you do nothing but sponsored content all the time, that’s a lot to keep up with. It means making sure that you have sales all the time, so that you don’t have any gaps in content calendar. That is a lot of pressure. Or, alternatively, it means your blog will be hit-and-miss in terms of content, with gaps in time.
Secondly, and this is kind of the seedy underbelly of the blogging world, creating sponsored content is a lot of pressure. Way more than if you are just writing your blog for yourself. Whenever I get a sponsored post, I want it to be perfect; I put a lot of time and energy into making it great, and then I also put way more energy into marketing it, because I want to have good results to show the client. It’s fine–I’m getting paid to do it–but honestly, there are time when it feels so good to just write what I want and not have to worry about results or numbers.
Finally, there’s the seduction of big money. It’s hard to say no if someone offers you something that’s worth a pile of dough. But if it doesn’t fit in with your personal brand, then saying no is what you should do. It’s tough, though–I’ve definitely been tempted by situations like this. But you have to choose the long-term results over the short-term gain.
I work on both sides of this equation. I am both a blogger and also someone who works with bloggers. When I go to someone’s site, I like to see a mix of content. Nothing but sponsored content is like watching a channel that’s all commercials, all the time. And that’s kinda boring.
I also think, and this is coming from both sides; that it’s okay to prove that you can do sponsored content. I don’t actually mind doing one for swag at first, because it can lead to paid opportunities.
What do you think? Is blogging for love dead? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
I think truly blogging for love is now a rare breed as too many may keep at it in the hopes that it will pay off….that they will be the next Jenny Lawson or something.I think the majority of people blog with a purpose or goal in the back of their minds. Otherwise you would just keep a journal. No? Most blogging these days is the same as Instagram…no one is taking photos for the joy of it……It is all strategic and planned. The majority of people who are starting to blog now are doing it for the hopes of free stuff or $….is that too harsh a judgment? I haven’t met anyone who asked me recently about how to start a blog because they loved writing and had a story to tell. The new yorker bit focuses on the trend that spun off from blogging when all the magazine figured out how they could get on the blogging band wagon and pull back some readers. It worked for a bit but most are seeing that the interest is waning and while that might not be the death nell for bloggers…I think the book deals will be harder and fewer to find for many as well as all the fun free stuff that everyone has enjoyed.
I’m not against people having goals or making money. For me the issue comes up when that’s ALL it is… I think love is an important ingredient of blogging, and that it may be lost.
There are blogs written for love, but they’re harder to find. Unfortunately that “love” might be twisted by ulterior motives which is also hard to detect. Maybe I’m also jaded by Medium or LinkedIn “posts” where the last line or paragraph seems to point to hiring a person or generating a lead.
I think it’s done.
In blogging for love the return is engagement on the ideas.
There’s SO much content that getting more than a couple of eyeballs is a ton of effort. And engagement happens elsewhere.
I definitely have seen a drop in comments on my blog over the last 5 years. Those conversations are still happening, but they’re happening off of the blog, on social.
I wonder if this is topic specific. For example, I follow a lot of genealogy blogs. A few people make some money doing that, but probably not much. Their real earnings come from speaking engagements and their professional services. However, it seems to me that the vast majority of genealogy bloggers are still doing it for the love of it.
This is just my own observation and I’ve done no measuring, but it strikes me that the for-profit blogs are concentrated in those areas that garner lots of eyeballs and might get more traffic – like cooking. You see lots of cooking shows with guest stars and judges who started as bloggers. There are way fewer genealogy shows, and few, if any, feature people who broke into it by blogging. Usually the blogs follow success as a genealogist.
Something *I* love? Your blogs. And I have been thrilled to watch where your blogging has taken you over the years. <3
Awww. Thanks. Big hearts.