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My personal rules for advertising and sponsorship on blogs (plus a tangentially related rant about fashion and consumption)

Jesse.anne.o. was talking about advertising on blogs recently, and I thought I would add my thoughts, mainly to see where I actually stand on the whole thing.

I personally don’t have advertising, I don’t have sponsors, I’ve never done a sponsored post, or been given anything whatsoever for free on account of having a blog. There are a number of reasons for this:

* My blog is personal. It’s about what I wear, make and like. I like that I can talk about whatever I want, when I want it, without having to answer to anyone. This is not to say that I don’t feel in some way accountable to the people who are kind enough to read my blog, and wouldn’t consider making changes if my readership demanded it, but it’s just that. I would consider making changes if they also made sense to me. I would not want to be in a relationship with a sponsor or an advertiser where money had changed hands and I felt obligated to post about certain things.

* I don’t need to, moneywise. Unlike many others, I have no desire whatsoever to make a living out of blogging, or use it as anything other than a personal creative outlet. If I started making money from the blog, I would probably start thinking of it as a business, would put pressure on myself to grow that business and it would become just another job.

* So far, noone has offered me anything I am even remotely tempted by. I get offers for all sorts of random stuff, by people who have obviously blanket emailed anyone they could find. If anyone approached me with a personal message, promoting a product that is high quality and fits with the aesthetics and values of this blog, I would absolutely consider it. But instead it’s things like promise rings. Seriously, I have been approached by three different companies selling promise rings and it’s beginning to get disconcerting. So please take note, dear promise ring sellers: I am 28 years old. I am not a virgin. In fact, I slept with my boyfriend on our first date. We have been ‘living in sin’ for more than eight years. So really, I am not your target audience.

But although I have decided not to have adverts/sponsorship/sponsored posts on my own blog, I don’t really have a problem with advertising on others, if it is done right. Fashion blogging is so closely bound up with consumption, that it really is quite a natural thing for us to be marketed to. Now before you go: consumption, me? I don’t mean that we are all constantly buying things. But I do think most of us fashion bloggers are always looking for new things, when we aren’t buying, we are coveting, weighing up options, considering. Even those of us of a thrifty or crafty persuasion are always on the look out for the next amazing score or the next project.

We all process masses of information all the time, and pick out those bits and pieces that speak to us personally, that fit in with our personal styles, that are recognisably ‘us’. That’s how we get a personal style in the first place. And commercial material (whether from big corporations, high end designers, etsy shops, or craft supplies) is another source in the flow of information that makes up all the raw material from which we filter. I’d hazard a guess that most of us would describe ourselves as fairly literate consumers, and able to distinguish between advertising and other material, and judge it accordingly. I don’t generally buy into these black and white good/evil ways of seeing anything, and while I recognise that there are many many issues with the way everyone bombarded with adverts every waking minute, particularly children, I don’t want to ban it all. I just want it to be regulated, and handled responsibly.

Oops, I appear to have gone off on a bit of a tangent here! And I do apologise for the overuse of ‘we’ and ‘us’ like I’m some sort of politician. Maybe I’ll work on these ideas a bit more for a future post, but for now I’ll just leave them in this stream of consciousness state.

Back to the advertising on blogs though: I said above that I think advertising on blogs is fine if done right. These are my personal rules for what I mean by done right:

* The product is appropriate to the blog in question. A vintage blog adverting a vintage etsy seller? No problem! A fat-positive blog promoting plus size clothing? Fine! But I’ve seen fashion blogs doing sponsored posts about deodorant, shampoo and bottled water and I really don’t think that’s appropriate.

* The type of post is appropriate to the blog. If the blog never reviews anything, and then suddenly there’s a sponsored review of whatever product it puts me off.

* Sponsored posts must be labelled as such at the earliest opportunity. I just think that’s common courtesy to let people know they are being marketed to so that they can choose not to read on if that is something they disagree with.

* The ratio of sponsored posts to normal posts should be pretty low. I think a sponsored post every couple of week on a blog that is updated daily is fine. But when the blog is only updated once a week, and every second post is a sponsored one, I’ll stop visiting pretty quickly.

* This relates to another point, which isn’t a rule, more of an observation: advertising raises expectations. If I see that a blog has tons of sponsors and adverts and does sponsored blogs regularly, I will judge it on completely different criteria that a blog that is just a girl with a point and shoot camera talking about her life. I’ll expect at least daily posts, and/or posts of substance. I do wonder about some of the big hitters, who describe themselves as professional bloggers, and then all they do is repost vogue editorials without commentary, and the occasional outfit shot. I’m really not trying to have a go at anyone here, but I do expect something substantial from bloggers that make a lot of money out of the fact that I am there, looking at their adverts.

What do you think?

pictures by Neato Coolville., Mirage Bookmark and Suzee Que.

P.s. I’m closing comment on this as of August 2010, since this post has attracted no end of spam telling me about the best way to make money off my blog. Seriously!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • La Historiadora de Moda 22 February 2010, 5:39 pm

    I'm not really interested in making money off my blog either. I am however interested in teaming up with companies that have products that I like and labor policies that I approve of to have giveaways for my readers.

  • Retro Chick 22 February 2010, 6:52 pm

    Excellent points and very well made.

    I do think the most important thing is that most people these days are incredibly literate in the language of advertising and marketing and know when they are being sold to and not offered a genuine opinion. You should never patronise or lie to your readers or they'll stop reading.

    (*note, I did a sponsored post on bottled water! It was in a a Paul Smith designed bottle though, and I drink bottled water, so I thought long and hard, and checked out the ethical side of the company, before I accepted it ;o) *)

  • Pearl Westwood 22 February 2010, 7:53 pm

    Some really well thought out points that I have to agree with, and seriously what is it with the random junk people try and get you to promote, some of the offers I ve had are just hillarious!

  • Eyeliah 22 February 2010, 8:55 pm

    uhoh, I started doing reviews when companies offered to send me products but that was more because I never thought to do a review before. But obviously I reviewed products I was interested in only (this has included hair and body products). I don't want my blog to straight up style so I like how it adds to the varity.

    I definitely agree with you about discontinuing reading the blogs that are full of sponsored posts and copy and pasted editorials. They are not inspiring.

    And I do have blog sponsors, I occasionally purchase items for giveaways and I have my own domain and that costs money, so it's nice to have these things covered by the sponsors.

  • Style Eyes 22 February 2010, 9:21 pm

    Interesting post. I do advertise on my site but don't do sponsored posts as I kind of feel that this devalues the content that is made up of my own opinion. I will happily do reviews, but these are in my own word and exactly what I think.

    I was interested to see that while you don't sell advertising, you do link to your Etsy/ Folksy stores so you are advertising your own products in away. I guess if I used my blog in this way, I would be less inclined to sell advertising on my blog.

  • What Would a Nerd Wear 22 February 2010, 9:36 pm

    yes, i hear you!
    i also like to be clear about what is sponsored and what isn't, but most people are really good about that from the get-go.
    on the other hand, i wouldn't mind being sent free stuff, especially if i liked it, but i would DEFINITELY want honesty in any sponsored posts or reviews i saw.

  • jesse.anne.o 22 February 2010, 10:59 pm

    I absolutely agree with all of this! We have a similarity in that we don't do blogs for the prospect of making money off of them and that they're personal blogs.

    But I think you made good points with products that are relative to blogs' content, ratio and the fact that advertising raises expectations.

  • The Small Fabric Of My Life 23 February 2010, 11:16 am

    An interesting post as it is a subject that is on my mind.

  • The Waves 24 February 2010, 5:16 pm

    I pretty much agree with you on everything you wrote. I have decided to leave my blog free of ads of all kinds, and I intend to keep it like that. Ads on other people's blogs don't really disturb me unless they are completely out of place, inappropriate and/or too much.

    I, too, get so frustrated with the blanket emails telling me to promote "fashion-forward contact lenses" and whatever else! So far no one has contacted me about promise-rings though! 🙂

  • Lenne 26 February 2010, 5:57 pm

    I love your honesty! Very valid points raised. I really enjoyed reading this 😀

  • Diana 1 March 2010, 4:21 am

    I agree with your view, although, I do take sponsors on my blog. The price is so low, it's a little ridiculous but the small amount does help in my supplies for my etsy shop. However, when I see bloggers who have less readership than me charging A LOT i'm a little saddened by the quality of the blog. I understand the idea of trying to make a few dollars, but then I feel like I'm being ripped off, even just reading it!

    I also want ads on my blogs from friends with a business, or a business I would personally shop at.

  • Erin 1 March 2010, 7:00 pm

    this entry was somewhat hilarious and very well put. it is tempting to think about having advertising money to spend. but,for example a very prominent blog (the first fashion blog i started reading) has quickly evolved into an ad space lately, and it makes me not want to read her blog.it actually makes me dislike the author a bit. is that wrong?

  • Racheallee 2 March 2010, 10:54 am

    It's interesting reading everyones responses. I still don't do paid advertising on my blog however since I am in a small market I was asked by local small boutiques if I was ever going to do so considering the cost of advertising. Which I am still contemplating…

    However, doing sponsored giveaways I love to collab with for exposure. I believe if you have content that relates to your post then the advertising could be permissible, however I hate my formatting as it is and I am still figuring out this whole blogspot thing let alone flood my page with unnecessary ads.

    However, I would too rather link other blog sites to mine for correspondence and support of one another.