9.17.2012

{on sponsorships}

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to have a monetized blog, and the pros and cons of opening up your blog to sponsorships and advertising. Maybe it was Blog Brunch a few weeks ago, or maybe it's just the controversy in the blogging community that keeps making me think about it, but I felt like I needed to say something. 

It seems like everyone has an opinion on it. Some are ardently against it, and take every opportunity to voice their displeasure at blogs that do decide to get paid for their writing, and some are just fine with it. Most are in between, I think, and don't mind when it isn't too conspicuous, but hate when bloggers only put content out there that they get paid for or complain when they don't get enough sponsors. Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject.

TIME IS MONEY

I can only speak for myself, but blogging does take up a significant amount of my time, at least twelve hours a week, at the bare minimum. That's a legit part time job right there! And yeah, I could potentially work part time somewhere else, at a store or waiting tables, but I don't want to. I feel like I have more to offer than that, and I love being able to share my voice and my opinions and my style with all of you. If I did have a part time job, I wouldn't be able to blog anymore, and that would suck. For me, at least. 

My time is valuable. It may sound arrogant, but when you own your own business and work full time, you have to come to terms with these things. I do not make a lot of money from my blog. I'm going to be really honest and say that at this point, I make maybe $200 a month from it, which may not sound like a lot. But it is $200 more a month that I can put toward my bills or clothes or into savings. And it means that I'm $200 a month closer to working for myself. That's a powerful thought right there, and I'm not sure why someone would want to take that away from me or anyone else. 

INFORMATION IS MONEY

Think about it. Most of the information that you consume has to be paid for in some way. Websites and TV shows and magazines are typically funded by advertisements. Some require that you pay to access the content and information, and some are funded by donations alone, like Wikipedia. 

This really comes down to the value that you as a consumer place on blogs. You may feel that they are for pure entertainment, but you pay to be entertained in a lot of other ways, whether it be by buying a book or paying to see a movie. And if you really feel that you get a lot out of blogs in other ways, and consider them to be a form of useful information, then that speaks for itself. If you feel like blogs are not, in any way, a form of useful content, then really? Why are you here?

I'm not going even going to try and put a value on the different types of content that bloggers put out there, because it's really subjective. Some people really find a lot of value in curated lists or posts that are based purely on things they found on Pinterest, and some only like those that offer some type of information or tutorials that improve their lives in some way. But your personal opinion on the matter shouldn't dictate whether someone else should monetize their own content, because it's up to you if you read it. If they can make money off of it, that means that someone else finds value in it, and that's what matters. 

Tips on sponsorships:

  • I’m of the mindset that you have to start small. Even if you think you don’t have a lot of readers, offer sponsor swaps or free spaces on your blog. Ad swaps are a great way to generate buzz about your own blog as well.
  • I also don’t feel that once you hit a certain number of pageviews, you’re automatically ready to start offering paid sponsorships on your blog. It’s a different experience for everyone, and you really need to evaluate where you are and whether or not you’re ready to monetize your blog. Start small, but don’t undervalue yourself.
  • Going along with the point above, you need to be careful with how little you charge when you start approaching companies and other potential sponsors. They won’t take you seriously if you aren’t charging what you’re worth.
  • Definitely approach people you’re interested in working with! But be genuine about it. Please don’t copy and paste emails, because it’s really obvious. Let them know why you like their products or services so much, and why they should work with you.
  • Create a media kit! I’ve spent quite a bit of time on my own media kit, and it’s definitely paid off. Here is a really great post about creating a media kit, and here is a good example. If you don’t know how to create one on your own, then definitely hire someone to help you out. And let me know if you’re interested in seeing mine.
  • Sponsorships are about relationships, and aren’t just one sided. I try to promote my sponsors not only on my blog, but on my social media sites as well. Also, I try to stay in touch with all of my sponsors and make sure that we get to know each other.
  • Only accept sponsorships for products or services that you honestly love. I think that’s one of the reasons why I actually like sponsorships on other blogs. I’ve found a lot of good Etsy shops and other small businesses that I really like.

What are your thoughts?

27 comments:

et-tu-tutu said...

Oh, this was super helpful. Thanks for sharing!


-Lindsey

Veronica Lee said...

Very helpful! Thank you! I'm still new to the blogging world and have been wondering about the whole sponsorship gig. Really appreciated this post!

Lindsay said...

I can tell you put so much through into this post, Joelle. I love it. I would also add that bloggers need to be mindful of the ROI for the sponsoring blogger or company. I'm surprised when I see bloggers who charge for ad space but don't post consistently or are constantly apologizing for being absent. It isn't fair to the people paying money to advertise on the blog. Although I am very proud of some of my writing on Trial By Sapphire, I still feel like I am refining my blog voice, and I genuinely want to post quality content. Not that I need a niche, per se, but I'm still figuring out what TBS is all about. When others ask what my blog is about, I still feel a little wishy-washy about how to answer the question -- which tells me that it would not be fair to charge someone money to advertise on my blog. :)


YOU, however, have such a great thing going, and this blog ties in with your business. I love Something Charming! You absolutely should be charging for ad space!


Great post, dear friend!

Joelle Duff said...

You're welcome Lindsey!

xoxo,
Joelle

Joelle Duff said...

I hope this clears things up a bit :) There are a lot of really great resources out there about sponsorships, if you're interested in learning more!

xoxo,
Joelle

Joelle Duff said...

Thank you so much for your sincere comment Lindsay! I definitely agree with you about bloggers being mindful about their sponsors when making decisions about breaks and consistency...I think that as soon as you start offering ad spots on your blog, you're making it a job and need to treat it like a job (i.e. actually putting in the effort and time to maintaining it).

I know what you mean about not really having a distinct voice yet, but I really do think that you have a fantastic blog Lindsay. I think a lot of people really would be interested in sponsoring you. But it's definitely a decision that you shouldn't take lightly, and I'm proud of you for waiting until you think you're ready :)

xoxo,
Joelle

ashley nicole catherine said...

what a fabulous post and great advice!! i was asked for a media kit for the first time last month and i had to google it. i would love to have sponsors, but because i do work full-time, i feel less of a pressure to and honestly, i'm overwhelmed with where to start. BUT, my blog is about to get a facelift and i'm asking the designer to help me think through creating a media kit - one that i can easily update as my blog grows. one question: do you ever check in with your sponsors? either by reading their blogs or promoting their products on social media sites?

Emma said...

Thanks for the input!


http://funandruins.blogspot.com/p/these-are-blogs-that-i-love-to-check.html

Anni said...

Great post. I totally agree with all of your points. I think sponsorships are only annoying when they're so unrelated or ridiculous. But I actually enjoy when blogs have well-curated sponsors, because if it's a blogger whose aesthetic I adore, I know I'm likely to adore that vendor as well. And I love what you wrote about relationships - I've advertised with blogs only to have next to no engagement from the blogger, and it was a huge turn-off to signing on again.

Joelle Duff said...

I'm glad that you agree with my tips! And I agree about both of your points as well. I try really hard to only accept sponsors that really match my message and my blog. And I know what you mean about bloggers not creating relationships with their sponsors, and I think it's really unfortunate. I try my hardest to make sure that my sponsors know how much I appreciate them (though I may fail sometimes), so it's disappointing when I never hear from those blogger who I'm sponsoring :(

Whitney McAbee said...

You make $200 a month on sponsorships?! HOLY CRAP! I would love to make that much!! I'm only making $5 like every other month. I've had a sponsorship program for the past few months and it hasn't been working like I thought it would. I've had a lot of people say that blogs shouldn't start having paid spots until they have at least 500 followers. Thoughts?

krystal/avillagetown.com said...

This is a great discussion on sponsorship! I always love hearing peoples opinions on the matter, both good and bad. I've dealt heavily with sponsors in the past when I was blogging 'full time' and had to end it for a time when I started working full time with another position. I'm just starting to get back in to it and so am thinking through the pros and cons all over again! I definitely agree with well curated sponsors - it's obvious to readers when something doesn't match with your taste. Also, it's always a delicate balance on when and how much to promote sponsors that is hard to navigate sometimes. I've never used a media kit but will look in to the resources your linked!

Joelle Duff said...

Thank you so much for your comment! Taking on sponsors is definitely a big decision, and it takes up more time than if you just blogged without the sponsorships, so I understand why you would feel as if you need to take a break when you get busier :)

Definitely take a look at the media kit resources I posted and let me know if you have any questions!

Joelle Duff said...

I guess I should have clarified that I make about $200 from both affiliate links (a whole other topic) and sponsors. Not all of my sponsors are ads either. I also charge to do sponsored posts, promotional guest posts, and giveaways, so it all adds up.

I don't think there is a magic number that you hit and sponsors just start getting interested in working with you. I think it's more of a process, and that you have to start small. You have ads on your blog already, which is definitely a start! I would suggest approaching small shops and offering inexpensive or free ads, just so you show that you do offer sponsorships for small businesses and not just blogs.

What isn't working for you with the sponsorships? I'd really like to hear, and see if there is any way to fix it :)

Michelle Bellamy said...

This is definitely my favorite post that I've read about sponsorship! It totally had me thinking about it differently. To be brutally honest, I've been totally turned off to sponsorships lately. I think I just got so frustrated with my google reader flooded with sponsored guest posts, giveaways, and people begging every day for sponsors. I decided to totally do away with ad swaps because it just didn't feel right to me, and it made blogging feel like a chore. I have no plans of sponsorship in the future, because I don't view my blog as a job, just as a fun hobby & outlet, but someday I may change my mind and I LOVE your tips. My favorite is only accepting sponsors from people who love or who have a similar voice. At the risk of sounding horrible, I just didn't want buttons on my sidebar for bloggers I barely know or blogs I didn't really love or connect with.


I love what Lindsay said about wanting to refine her "blog voice" and figure out what her blog is all about before charging for sponsorships. Just another reason why she's awesome! And I agree..right now my blog is just a fun hobby and it doesn't have a theme. I have no idea what it's about...I just write what I feel like writing and I like it that way. My blog growth may be way slower than people who sponsor, but that's totally fine with me. But anyway, I think you really nailed everything in this post.

Joelle Duff said...

Thank you so much Michelle! I definitely get frustrated with sponsored posts in my reader too :/ I think is to come up with a good schedule, and to make it clear what the type of post is from the beginning. I only do sponsored posts once a week, sometimes only once every other week, and it works for me. I think it's all about proportion really...if one of every three posts is sponsored, then there's a problem...

And you have every right to be picky about who you put up on your sidebar! I know I am! I really don't like putting up ads for blogs or products that I don't agree with or don't like very much. I think my readers appreciate that as well :)

Eliza St.Clair said...

I love how genuine this post is - you've obviously put a lot of thought into this topic and I'm really glad you shared your perspective. You always have great insight! I started Ad-Swapping this summer + I think I'm going to stop for a little while to reevaluate what I'm hoping to gain from it/what I'm willing to put into it... It's gotten to a point where I feel like I am getting so many emails to sponsor/ad swap/etc. that are just copy/pasted requests. I'm not a fan of that at all! Thanks for putting so much heart + soul + time into your blog for all of us :) xoxo!
P.S. Do you like Disqus? I've only heard about it recently, but it seems like people like it way more than Blogger's comment options. What do you think?

Kirsten Archer said...

Great post! As an avid blog reader I would add that just as sponsorships from products or services that the blogger loves make a big impression regarding niche and how that connects with the blogger's voice, it is also greatly impacts the visual aesthetics of the blog. I don't mind sponsorships at all, however, I do mind when it overwhelms the design template, making it impossible to distinguish the sponsorships from the blogger's content. Those blogs I won't read because I don't understand the message. (I think this blog is a perfect example of the exact opposite <3) As I think about starting a blog, this discussion has given me food for thought. Thanks!

Joelle Duff said...

I can't wait to see your blog facelift Ashley! And I definitely know what you mean about it being overwhelming...I highly suggest you start small (like I suggested) and asking the designer who is working on your blog to help with a media kit is a a great idea!


I do check in with my sponsors, and I follow all of their blogs and social media. I can only comment so often, but I try to retweet as often as I can and post about them on Facebook. It works well for me!

undomestic chica said...

Such a good post, I think this is one of my faves about sponsorship. I'd love to see your media kit, if you're willing.

victoria | vmac+cheese said...

Let's not forget one of the most important parts of sponsorship -- measurement. I find this is the part that most people forget about. It's great if you have a hugely trafficked blog, but if nobody clicks on your sidebar ads and you don't drive readers to the business, then I personally believe it's bad business to continue to accept a brand's hard earned advertising budget. Engagement in sidebar ads should tell you a lot about your community, and if it's that they're not interested, then what's the point? Ads (and any sponsored content, for that matter) should be a win-win-win and provide value for you, the brand, AND most importantly, your readers.


I would also argue that if you are doing a lot to promote a brand across other social media channels, that shouldn't come free. All those platforms have different audiences that can be leveraged for different things -- and that has additional value.

Great post, Joelle! (And thanks for linking over!)

victoria | vmac+cheese said...

Another thing to remember is that followers on Google Friend Connect are not a great metric of your total traffic or potential engagement from different types of sponsored content. Many, many people (most people!) do not follow blogs through GFC, and tracking stats like pageviews, uniques, and even comment engagement will give you a much better idea of the size and scope of your community.

Joelle Duff said...

Your comment really made me smile Eliza, thank you! And what you're talking about is definitely a downside to ad swapping. I'm glad you've gotten some experience with it, but take that time to evaluate what you're doing! And like I said in this post, don't undervalue yourself :) You have a right to say no to someone, especially if you feel as if they just copied and pasted a request. Not cool!

xoxo,
Joelle

Shannon Siriano Greenwood said...

This is a phenomenal post! I still haven't decided if I want to monetize by blog or not. I am just not sure if it is for me. I completely understand wanting to get something back from all the time I spend working on content and the beautification of the site. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Joelle Duff said...

Thank you Shannon! It's definitely a personal decision that only you can make :) I wish you the best!

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I love reading input about sponsorships, it is such a different experience for each and every person. The one thing I didn't realize going into it, is the amount of time you need to dedicate to it, especially if it is a paid gig.

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I had no idea that there was a way to track these comments! Blah, I'm sorry about that! I'm going to email you about this now!