The Greatest Blog Ever Sold

by Eden on October 30, 2011

I think when most people start blogs the envision a place all to their own. A place where they can spew their anger or glee. Where unicorns and mimes can frolic freely without judgement.

Ok, maybe not that last part….

Anyhow, I few months ago, I dragged Mr. and Mrs. SmoothieGirl to a film called “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”.

Its basically how movies “sell out” to make some money by product placement and endorsements. After I saw the film, I thought,

“Gee, I sure see a lot of blogs doing that!”.

Indeed they do. And when their audience finds out about it, they turn bitter.

I’m not cool or popular enough to be approached by brands or ad agencies, but I’m sure I’d get a small taste of the euphoria if they did. It shows people want to work with me. It’s flattering. And fuck, lets be honest, I could totally use the money. Yes, I do have Foodbuzz ads, but per month, they don’t even cover to refill my gas tank.

But maybe there is a way to sell out tastefully? I thought I’d outline some ways I’d do it if I ever “sold out”.

1. Tell People That You’re Selling Out!

I think if I tried to hide it and say, “I just love the art of blogging!” the more people wouldn’t believe me. Come on!?  Who says “the art of blogging” anyhow? I’d do it the way I approach most things. Say it like it is:

“Hey readers of my blog!

Just wanted to give you guys a heads up that you’ll be seeing lots of new ads, product reviews, and pop ups soon as I am a “brand bitch” now. You should also know I’am being paid some serious cash to do so. Trust me, I wouldn’t pimp out half this shit if some cash wasn’t involved. I know, I know, I’m “selling out”. But I need to make rent and lord knows my culinary school and BA isn’t getting me very far!”

2. Embrace The Hate (Maybe Even Try To Elicit Some!)

Even if people tell you that you suck, it’s a good thing. As they say, all press is good press. Say something somewhat scandalous if you must so that your traffic will skyrocket!  I know this can be hard if you tend to unravel emotionally after every hateful comment.  But I say welcome the hate.

Even I will hug people I hate, and I won't even leave bite marks!

It drives up your price.

3. Come To Terms That You Will Piss People Off , But Don’t Blame Them

Yes, many readers will be peeved you’re selling out. I usually am when I find out a blogger I like does so. So I can’t really blame them. But that being said, I still read some of the bloggers that “sold out”. As much as I hate the Pioneer Woman show, I’m actually just jealous she’s making so much money. And I still visit her site once a week or so to look at what “ranch this” or “cowboy that” shes cooking up.

Relax, if people are so mad at you, they’ll go read something else.

MY Bottom Line: I write this blog because I enjoy writing and discharging my brain matter into the scary internet world. I can’t explain why, but it feels good. It would be cool to get substantial money for it, but I like being my own boss. I don’t want to write for hits or brands. Besides,  I love having an outlet to rip on people more successful than me (ahem Guy Fieri) cause it makes me feel better about my own  failures. I’m not sure that’s very “marketable”.

I like my writing raw, unlike my food. And I’ll always be loud, like my farts.

Ok, I might sell out to the National Fart Noise Society

And no brand will make me change that.

Do you think there are “better” ways to “sell out? How do you feel about bloggers suddenly “branding” and inserting lots of ads and trying to sell you things? Would you still read them?

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

cameo October 31, 2011 at 3:57 am

I don’t read enough of the big blogs to get too annoyed with ads. But when I do/did I was turned off by “Healthy Living Blogs” who advertised for food companies that are anything but healthy. It seems really wrong to me. Like, fundamentally.

I received an email awhile back about a “great opportunity” to “mutually benefit” one another and I never responded. Last thing I need is a bunch of crap plastered across my page for what I am sure adds up to a penance of reimbursement.

Who would you want to advertise for, Eden?

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Eden October 31, 2011 at 7:08 am

I dont read health living blogs (and I don’t even know what qualifies as one?). Big ones I do read are “Flark”, ” The Onion”, “The Bloggess”, and Pioneer Woman. All have ads but I dont think they are too “in your face”.

I wouldn’t really want to advertise for anybody, but if I had to chose, I’d advertise for weird stuff that NEVER gets advertised. Like for peaches or jicama. I mean, whens the last time you saw an ad for jicama?!

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Abby October 31, 2011 at 5:02 am

Unless you are huge and blogging is your full-time job–this is a very, very small number of people–I don’t really see the point of selling out. While I would never turn down an opportunity to make decent money, I don’t think a distracting ad here or there that brings in $5 a month is really worth it. The subtle ones are fine, but the flashing/roll-overs/ones that cause a site to take forever to load completely turn me off. I don’t read that many blogs anyway, but I find those a deal breaker.

But like I said, there are only a select few that actually make a living off their blogs. I feel like there are millions of blogs out there and everyone is shouting over each other to become one of those, and ads are a big part of that. Just my opinion, one that no one ever pays me for 😉

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Susan October 31, 2011 at 5:41 am

I’m not sure if there are other journalism grads out there like myself who will agree with this, but I think I was brainwashed in J-school to feel like pairing your writing with brands is just icky. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be trusted as a source of quality information and pimp out a product at the same time (especially when you’re not direct about the fact you’re being paid to do the pimping). It’s one thing to have ads on the side, or to say you like something you spend your own money on. But it’s another thing to dedicate posts to products, or slip in mention of things you got for free, simply because you got them for free. There should be some kind of blogger training on how to handle free samples, because the companies are the one benefiting from all the free publicity. Bloggers think it’s some great deal to get a package of free bars when I think they’re doing themselves a disservice by cheapening their content just for some free crap.

I could go on and on about this. Not even sure if this comment makes sense!

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Eden October 31, 2011 at 7:13 am

It makes perfect sense! It is icky when you have to compromise your writing to “sell” something. This is why I’ve never done a review on this blog. I just can’t.

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Stephanie October 31, 2011 at 6:23 am

I don’t get mad at blogs who shill a lot, but I do find them boring. Review posts are utterly boring and I almost always skip reading them. I also think that bloggers should differentiate whether they got free stuff or whether they also got paid in cash. Honestly…it takes me up to an hour to write a good blog post. I’ve never understood the draw of dedicating a post to a company just because they send you a free granola bar. My time is worth more than 2 bucks an hour.

(That said, blogging is just a hobby for me. I don’t ever expect to make money doing it. So what do I know?)

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Eden October 31, 2011 at 7:15 am

I don’t “get mad” and like you said, reading about some free swag they got bores me. Its cool to get money for a “hobby” but Im not sure its still a hobby once you rely on it to pay your bills.

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Lindsay @ Lindsay's list October 31, 2011 at 7:24 am

hmmm….I have mixed views on this..because I like free stuff. And if a company that I like wants to send me some free stuff in return for a short review, I’ll totally do it.
I’m not a foodbuzzer (was rejected actually) so I have a very small google ad that has made me $1.33 so far. I’m not in it for the money obviously. But I don’t mind doing reviews.

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Caroline @ Out of Liney October 31, 2011 at 7:29 am

Thanks for the advice! A few months ago FoodBuzz sent me a contract, but olympian procrastination has thus far prevented me from placing their ads on my site. I’m still completely without ads, blogging because I enjoy it, and damn it feels good to be free!

That said, I would consider hosting ads from local businesses, arts or culture-related, for a small fee. It’s also nice to get paid!

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Eden October 31, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Thats an excellent idea! But most of those “locals” wouldn’t really benefit since you don’t know if lots of locals are reading your blog…it is the “world wide web” 😉

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Christin October 31, 2011 at 7:30 am

this is totally unrelated to this post, but I saw this and thought of you…enjoy! (no seriously, it’s ridiculous and hilarious)

http://gawker.com/5852613/the-best-four-minutes-of-sandra-lees-ridiculous-halloween-special

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Eden October 31, 2011 at 5:47 pm

ha!

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Jamie @ FoodinRealLife October 31, 2011 at 7:46 am

I see both sides to this. I like having the opportunity to review products and sometimes get free stuff or small compensation to do so. I think it’s fun and hey, who couldn’t use a few extra bucks or some free granola bars.

If a reader thinks that those types of posts make the rest of what I write not worth reading, then I guess that is their loss.

For me it’s just important that when I review something, it is an honest review. If I say okay to trying something, I’m completely aware that I might hate it. And if I do, I need to tell my readers that it sucks. I also turn down offers too. Not everything makes sense to review, even if it does mean a free sample.

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Eden October 31, 2011 at 5:47 pm

I wasn’t particularly referring to reviews, more like when people give up their careers to “full time blog” or have lots and lots of ads and product linkage and stuff. But personally, I don’t like reading reviews for stuff like food or whatever, so I don’t bother writing them. I’d like it if more people reviewed movies!

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Kristina @ spabettie October 31, 2011 at 8:18 am

I have always naturally loved sharing my favorite products and fun stuff with others – I’ve been doing it long before blogging, and I’ll still do those from time to time, with product I have purchased with my own money.

I’ve scaled way back on accepting free product for review – the more offers I receive, the more I realize these companies are just exploiting bloggers, for nothing more than free product.

I like to do giveaways too – but only if it is something I use? When I get an offer I am interested in, I tell them up front I will not review it if I do not like it (instead of a bad review – far too many people Do Not Read, and I would not want someone skimming a bad review, seeing the photos and thinking I liked it). If companies are okay with this, great, send me the product and one for a giveaway. If they are not okay with it? Tells a lot about their product, and I probably wouldn’t buy it.

I’m with you – just be transparent about it. I see bloggers who say one thing and do another – label themselves as “vegan and gluten free” and half of their twice a week giveaways are anything but. Some people never say no.

My latest review offer? A sponsored post for exercise equipment. Sure, I work out, and WOW, I’d actually really enjoy that money they’d pay me AND that piece of equipment. But wouldn’t it seem weird for me to review this out of nowhere on my website, when I NEVER talk about anything remotely close to it?

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Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo) October 31, 2011 at 8:42 am

I have never once been sent anything for free ever. Ever. I’ve also never approached a company because I have no interest. I’m not really bothered by an ad or two on the side of someone’s blog, but I do get annoyed with whole posts devoted to reviewing something someone got for free and when the blogger gushes on and on to the point of a tongue colonoscopy with thanks over receiving the product… On the upside, I get to just skip that post and move on…read: time saver! (unless on the rare occasion it’s something i’d actually use).

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Cynthia (It All Changes) October 31, 2011 at 9:51 am

I see both sides of the coin on this. I love reviewing things if they fit in with something I would actually buy and use. Some of the things I’m offered I could never find where I live and love the opportunity to try them.

However there are other things people offer that I obviously can’t use/eat. I have no problem telling these people no. And those I do accept I state up front I won’t review it if I hate it. Like Kristina, if they don’t want to send it still then it’s not worth it.

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janetha October 31, 2011 at 11:59 am

there was a whoopie cushion at the party saturday! i thought of you.

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Candice October 31, 2011 at 12:10 pm

There are a lot of rules about disclosure from the FTC…I don’t think a lot of bloggers follow them, though. I think you are totally right about just acknowledging the fact to your readers that you are getting paid for placement or links or whatever. I think we have all seen blogs with totally obvious reviews with no note that they received the product for free and/or are being paid. I hope more bloggers follow your advice!

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Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) October 31, 2011 at 3:17 pm

I hate when blogs try to promote products/sell things, but one or two ads I don’t really notice or mind.

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jamey October 31, 2011 at 6:10 pm

I realllllly want the whole “blogging for a living” thing to implode and go away. I feel like most of those bloggers have lost touch with reality and most of the time phone it in and don’t offer anything valuable to the blogging universe. I understand being paid for producing quality material but lets face it–that seems to rarely be the case. Everyone’s hopping on the bandwagon because they think “hey I wanna make a ludicrous amount of money from blogging too!” When I see shilling going on I decide not to read anymore, or if I do it’s through Google Reader.

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Eden October 31, 2011 at 6:23 pm

I agree. They go tend to lose touch with reality. Or at least I feel they lose that edge they had that made them relatable.

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Shannon October 31, 2011 at 6:41 pm

I just started reading blogs a couple of weeks ago so I am new to all of this. But girl you have awesome eyebrows. I wish I could bring you with me to my next eyebrow appointment because they never understand how I want them!

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Eden October 31, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Thank you! The person who did my makeup for the header did my brows as well. She’s a magician.

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Michelle October 31, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I think it’s whatever if they talk about it. I’ll usually skim but don’t love those posts. What cracks me up and annoys me is when they’re like “Oh, this morning I had X Spread all over my bagel thin. It’s SOOOO goood.” and the name of the product is linked to a coupon or something. It’s like, your readers aren’t dumb. They get that you’re being paid most of the time and will begin to distrust your opinion. So when you actually love something and want to recommend it, they’re going to pay less attention.

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Eden October 31, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Yea, that is hilarious and precisely why I don’t review anything. In all honesty, I’m dumber than my readers.

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Amy October 31, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Honestly, I kind of think that the ads and companies are encouraging more and more bloggers to live in their fantasy blog world. The whole “im going to quit my job and post the shit out of my blog for a living” thing is so far from reality. Yes, I do think there are quality bloggers out there who can benefit financially from their blog. I also think that there are suck-ass blogs that get the same amount of revenue – which is where I have a problem.

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Rachel November 1, 2011 at 6:31 pm

I’ve done one sponsored post, and got paid (what I thought) was a crapload of money to shill some yogurt. We eat a lot of it in my house, and while we each have our favorite brands, I’m always willing to try a new one. I didn’t feel like I was really selling out in that case. However, that’s the only paid review I’ve done. Most of the other free stuff I’ve gotten (which hasn’t been much, especially since I left Foodbuzz) has been samples I’ve asked food companies for, or I’ve won off contests. Other than that, no one really seems interested in me, which sucks, because I like free stuff, and I wouldn’t mind being able to blog full time. However, I also don’t want to be completely dependent on reviews/selling products all the time.

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