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When I Endorse Things On My Blog…

July 26th, 2007

get rich while blogging?Warning: This is not about career management, rather, it’s a little transparency on whether I make money by pimping stuff on this blog. I hope I don’t bore you :)

A couple of weeks ago one of my best friends from high school came for a visit. He is the guy responsible for coming up with the name “JibberJobber,” getting me into computer stuff (I was just studying Spanish at the time), one of the first lifetime premium JibberJobber purchasers, a reader of this blog and much more. We have a really cool, open relationship.

So we were working in my office before going out to tour the city, he was doing e-mail stuff and I was doing my daily blog post. He asked a question that I know has been on the mind of many of my blog readers:

When you write about things… books, services, etc. Do you get paid for that?

The answer is, not really. I do have some affiliate relationships, which I’m going to put into an affiliate page, and some of my partners offer commissions if someone uses their services. But this hasn’t been a big deal in the past, and I do not blog on someone/something just because I might get $15 out of it. In fact, I won’t blog on something just because I might get $200 out of it.

I write my blog posts with the fire and passion that I got last year, when I was laid off for a dumb reason, out on the street, with no respect, not finding a job, having no luck. Working very hard, but very frustrated. I will never forget how I felt. I will never forget the stress on my family. I will never forget how lonely and depressing it can be.

Wendy Piersall - eMomAtHomeOne of my missions as a blogger is to share ideas, best practices and resources that can help people that are either in that situation, or might be in that situation soon. I’m not blogging for bucks, I’m blogging to share. I didn’t quite realize this until eMom blogger Wendy Piersall gave a presentation about her real missionit hit me right between the eyes and it gave me goosebumps. And I understood that my message is bigger than my blog, bigger than me.

Sounds kind of PollyAnna, right? Here’s the rest of the story.

  • I started blogging as a marketing complement… and it has turned out to be one of the best marketing things I’ve ever done. Yes, I do want people to know about JibberJobber, sign up for it, use it, promote it, etc. That’s no secret.
  • I have blogged about a number of books that I’ve read. I think it would be cool to make some money from promoting those books but I have not, even though I know many of you have bought some of them. I still think that every single person should read Never Eat Alone, Brag! and Career Distinction. I always promote those because they each helped me immensely – but here’s my dirty little secret – I rarely buy books… my local library is just too good and I read too many books to be able to afford them.
  • I personally think the Amazon affiliate program is lame, since I would only get something like 4% kickback on the books that you buy from them. I kind of signed up with them but am not pursuing it, and if I link to a book I like it’s usually to the author’s main page, or to their affiliate link. Yep, I’m leaving some money on the table.
  • I have signed up for a few other affiliate programs, and will eventually roll them out. I just want to do it “right,” I don’t want to jeopardize the quality and feel of this blog, and it hasn’t been the highest priority for me.
  • I used to have GoogleAds on the blog and in JibberJobber. But I never really liked their terms. And apparently they didn’t like me, I was kicked out of their system for something I had no control over.
  • Penelope Trunk is the Brazen CareeristI will begin to look for sponsors for this blog and the website. But right now I have other fish to fry… so I’m not ready to spend time there yet. When I do get sponsors I’m going to take the Penelope Trunk route and still keep my own flavor, AND not plaster the site with sponsorship ads. My blog and site are cluttered enough… and no one needs another website with a ton of ads all over the place.
  • I do get paid sometimes, when I include a small ad at the end of a post (like today’s post). I can choose what I put there, and usually it has nothing to do with the post. I only do it if I don’t think it’s a distraction. It has been sporadic and unconsequential, as far as money goes, and I haven’t even tallied up the totals. I think I do it more as an ego-trip so that I can think of myself as a paid blogger :p.
  • I have partners who are in a special relationship with JibberJobber. I promote their services more than usual, but I have no problem promoting them because I’ve met each of them, spent time on the phone, have continued relationships with them, and am indeed a believer of what they offer. However, there are non-partners that I have great relationships with and won’t hesitate to promote them either.

The bottom line is, I write to who I was a year ago… and won’t compromise on the quality of the message. I might take advantage of some monetizing opportunities but will never do it unless I can feel comfortable about the actual endorsement. In other words, if I don’t believe in the thing, I won’t endorse it. So here are two questions:

What do you think about this? Do you believe it (or are you skeptical about my intentions)? Is it honorable, or should I consider a different tactic? If I’m getting a kickback for a mention, do I need to mention that in the post?

If you are a blogger, how is this different from what you do?


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15 Comments »

15 responses to “When I Endorse Things On My Blog…”

  1. I enjoy reading your blog and if you make a kickback here and there, I believe you deserve it. Your blog is immensely helpful and the topics are never dull.

    So, if you are making some extra cash, that’s your business. In regards to mentioning that you are getting a kickback, I dont think it’s necessary. You just don’t seem like the type that would endorse something you wouldn’t use yourself.

  2. Chuck says:

    Hi, Jason,

    My thinking on this one is yes and no.

    -Chuck
    http://www.ihateyourjob.com

    Just kidding, there’s more to my answer than that. What I meant by that is that your readers probably trust you based on an established pattern of credibility. Even if you’re getting paid, they’ll expect that you wouldn’t have accepted the money if you didn’t want to plug the book or whatever authentically.

    This is what you said in closing, and I think that comes through.

    Disclosure isn’t a bad thing in that case either, though. You’re getting paid to say something, not being told what to say. Just remind the audience of your authenticity and thank the sponor for being generous enough to pay you for what you’d say anyway. That might be too Pollyanna of me : )

    -Chuck

  3. Jason,

    I thinks as a marketing tool, the blog serves as the conduit for your message. I believe in transparency, which in this case just focuses the message – which you convey in a constant manner and over time.

    Like Demetrius Pinder said, it’s your blog, and it’s your right to make some money of it if you choose. And as long as you feel (and the readers) the brand you present is not skewed by promotions, I’m all for it.

    Keep up the good work.

    Gil

  4. Daniel Sweet says:

    This has come up on a lot of blogs and I’ll tell you my general opinion:

    1) We live in a world where we’re surrounded by marketing. Tests show that we don’t even mind the marketing when it’s relevant and not a bunch of lies. I don’t think anyone expects to come to your blog and be surprised that you’re making money on it.

    2) As a guy with many, many fewer hours put into his “online presence” than you have into JibberJobber, I also know that you’re going to have to get a *whole* lot more paid promotions before you begin to get in the minimum wage area of pay.

    3) As long as you’re providing valuable content relevant to your audience, I don’t think it matters if you’re selling something, too. Just as long as it’s not a sub-standard something, everybody will be happy.

    Having gotten to know you a little bit, I don’t think that you could find a sponsor who would pay you enough to keep your mouth shut on important career-related issues or turn the other way while they try to prey on your readers.

    Feel free to make a buck. This *is* your job now, after all!

    Dan

  5. Pete Johnson says:

    Among the most interesting things about blogging to me is that you get to make it whatever you want it to be. I can do things one way and you can do them completely opposite and we can both be right. It all depends on what it is you are trying to get out of your blogging.

    On this specific point, I admit I’ve struggled with it myself a bit lately. I had some ads for awhile and ultimately felt like they were taking more away from my site than they were adding. For someone else, though, that could be the right thing to do.

    Similarly, I don’t think its a big deal to have Amazon Associates links, but Jason has a different opinion.

    Ultimately, you have to ask yourself: Why am I doing this?

    David Allen and other GTD gurus would say that’s actually the first question you should ask yourself before embarking on a project. Decide on what the purpose is and that will guide the rest of your decision making. If your goal is to become a professional blogger, it’s probably a bad idea not to have ads. If you are using blogs for marketing something else or personal networking, they seem less important to those goals.

    Plus, those goals don’t have to be mutually exclusive (it’s a gradient, not a switch) and that creates as many ways of doing things as there are bloggers. That’s kinda the cool part, you can’t be wrong.

    Pete Johnson
    HP.com Chief Architect
    Personal blog: http://nerdguru.net

  6. Ryan Smith says:

    I wouldn’t have a problem with you making a few bucks whilst blogging. It’s quite obvious that this blog is not all about making money pimping things that you don’t believe in.
    People deserve some financial gains for their hard work. This blog is very nice for exposure to alternative employment ideas.

    Hire Ryan Smith!
    http://hireryansmith.blogspot.com

  7. anil atluri says:

    If you have a few partners or few affiliate programs that you believe in and would like your readers to try them in the process of reading your blogs which is great for the content that it provides, there is nothing wrong there.

    Now to answer your questions:

    If you ask, do you believe in what I say here, the answer is, it is so. If not, one wouldn’t be visiting it?

    It is definitely honorable and not otherwise.

    It would be good to mention that you are having an understanding there, but that is not evil. It is up to you. Most of folks do understand that.

    As a conscientious blogger, would cherish certain ideals and hold them dear to her heart and there is nothing wrong when those ideals get a little bit more impetus through the blog. Of course, ideals always not necessarily bring in money. If you are clear that you do not want to make money, promoting something..then do not do it. Meant the money, not the ideal :)

  8. Jason,

    As a reader, I have no problem that you might make money from some of the services/sites that you promote in a post. However, plain and simple: I think you must disclose this every time that you do, unless it’s obvious in the form of an ad.

    So, if you’re writing about a site, and oh by the way the owner of that site is a client of yours or sponsor of the JibberJobber blog, then just disclose it. Quick and painless to do, and you maintain your integrity.

    Great comments here!

  9. Jason Alba says:

    Okay guys, I think it’s pretty clear. No one objects to it, especially if I state when there might be a special relationship (ie, sponsorship, etc.). Sounds cool and I’ll incorporate – thanks a ton for the feedback!

  10. Scott Allen says:

    Anyone who’s ever tried being a professional blogger knows that the little bit of money from affiliate programs and Google ads isn’t going to make you a living unless you’re an A+ list blogger or run multiple blogs. Darren Rowse of Problogger runs 3 or 4 different blogs and has no less than 9 different income streams from them.

    But people trust him. Why? 1) Content, and 2) history. Transparency, as several others have suggested, is extremely important.

    I myself am venturing off into a new experiment with this. I soft-launched a new project yesterday, Revenue River, based around the idea of promotion with 100% transpareny. I detest all the hype that’s out there about internet marketing and network marketing, and yet I know first-hand that there are many valid, ethical, respectful ways to make money online. I can write about some of them on my other blogs, i.e., my About.com blog, but because of the strict conflict of interest policies, I can’t use my own affiliate links when I tell people about some of these products and tools.

    I’m not complaining about that — in that context I understand it completely. On the other hand, I think it’s perfectly fair and reasonable for me to be able to monetize those things a little better. I also think (hope) that with the reputation I’ve built up, combined with the 100% transparency, I can do this in a way that not only doesn’t damage my reputation, but actually enhances it.

    For example, the first post I wrote on Revenue River was about What Penn & Teller Did For Magic. In it, I link to several Penn & Teller videos that I set up on Flixya. Flixya allows you to make Google Adsense money by posting embedded videos on their site. So yes, there’s the potential that I could make a little bit of money because of the fact that I pointed people to Flixya rather than, say, YouTube or Metacafe.

    But check out the disclaimer at the bottom of the post:

    “Disclosure: I potentially derive ad revenue from the videos linked to in this post. Learn how you too can make money by sharing videos.”

    I then link that to another post explaining exactly how Flixya works and how others can make money by sharing videos.

    Is this going to hurt my reputation? You know, there are going to be a few people who think I’m “selling out” or “whoring myself”. So be it. Based on the conversations I’ve had with people, there are many more people who appreciate the transparency and honesty, and are glad to get this information from someone they feel they can trust.

    You know, the reality is that everybody has biases. Every blogger has an agenda of some kind (and those who tell you they don’t are either lying or lost). When you read anything from a blogger, how are you going to know whether what they’re saying is because they’re promoting their own agenda or promoting a product? And does it matter which it is?

    You develop trust in bloggers both by what they say and how they say it, over time. And frankly, any reader who’s really bothered by the fact that I make a little money off my blog — or even a lot of money — doesn’t bother me. They can go somewhere else. Why would anyone ever begrudge anybody making money from blogging? That’s about the pettiest kind of envy there is.

  11. Scott Allen says:

    Sorry for the overly long comment — didn’t quite realize how long it was til it was posted!

    But just one more thought…

    People read bloggers because they want bias. If you want impartial, go read a newspaper (and skip the op-ed page).

  12. I have done a blog on issues of energy and environment for over a year. Although I would like to eventually gain some career-type benefit from it, I refuse to do ANY advertisements or sponsorship at the blog.

    Where companies or commercial outfits are doing projects that I cover in the context of a story, I happily link to them – but NOT for PAY.

    My blog covers a topic that is somewhat controversial – nuclear energy. The first thing the opponents scream is that the supporters are “paid.” That is simply NOT TRUE.

    This is the reason that, at my blog, I refuse to run any sorts of ads.

    I happen to believe that ethics is quite important in blogging, along with, of course, one’s viewpoint and editorial stance. I would recommend those here who want to use their blogs as a tool to properly promote their careers to engage with the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.

  13. Scott Allen says:

    Ruth – I really think it’s contextual. It depends on what your career is and what your blog is about. In your case, I understand completely why you made that decision. On the other hand, for example, my namesake K. Scott Allen writes the blog Ode to Code, mostly about .NET development. I don’t think it takes away a single drop of his credibility to be running those Google ads in his sidebar.

    Another thing I think is important to consider when we’re discussing these ethical topics, particularly with regard to career, is this… would you want to work for anyone who was bothered by it? This is the argument I hear from a lot of young people about having pictures of themselves in “compromising situations” being out there and public. The most common response to suggestions that they might not want those to be public because it might affect future employment is this: “I wouldn’t want to work for someone who wouldn’t hire me because I partied in college.”

    And I think many people would have the same feeling regarding the issue of blog advertising — I frankly don’t really care if some people think it taints my credibility because I run ads on my site. There’s a time and a place where I think that absolute neutrality is essential, e.g., Consumer Reports, but for the most part, I don’t think personal professional blogs are one of them. I think most people will judge people’s credibility by their content and their actions, not the presence or absence of ads.

    Scott Allen
    Coauthor, The Virtual Handshake
    My latest project:
    Revenue River – Multiple streams of internet income . . . without the hype

  14. […] JibberJobber Blog » Blog Archive » When I Endorse Things On My Blog… I comment on Jason Alba’s post about endorsing products/services/site on his blog, noting that disclosure is essential. (tags: commented transparency PR) […]

  15. […] Jason makes me think, but not too hard. I like thinking, but after a long, hard day, heavy intellectual conversation is just exhausting. But that doesn’t mean I want to veg out in front of the TV either. Take a look at Jason’s post on endorsing things on his blog to see what I mean. […]