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Saturday
Oct222011

Is Blogging your Santa Claus?



Years ago, a little girl asked the editor of the New York Sun an important question. Virginia wrote:
DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

The question and its answer is well known. It is one that is repeated year after year as children rightfully question what has been presented to them as the truth.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

I've been using social media since 1992 (1200 baud modem for the win!). Although I only started this blog in 2008, going online in search of connections both meaningful and superficial, deep and entertaining, supporting and challenging, is something I've been doing for a long time. In technology years, I guess I've been using and questioning social media for as long as the Virginias of the world have been questioning Santa Claus.

So when my friend Bon Stewart wrote a post called yes, Virgina there is an agenda about the state of social media today and how it has changed over the past few years, it got me thinking. It made me ask how Virginia and her Santa Claus may be different from the one that so many children know today. I wonder what Santa Claus brought to children back in Virginia's day. Did he bring larger than life doll houses, mega Lego sets, Playstations and trampolines? Or did he bring sugar plums and maybe a simple doll or wooden car? In short, I wonder whether the magic of Santa Claus used to outweigh the materialism and whether now the materialism outweighs the magic.

On the magic of social media, Bon wrote:

social media did some pretty crazy things for those of us out there participating. it flattened hierarchies by enabling and encouraging person-to-person connection and actual engagement. it foregrounded individual voices and relationships. and it represented a new way of relating to what had always been untouchable sacred cows: institutions, corporations. it gave us – often more theoretically than in everyday encounters – an agency we had not previously tended to consider possible.


But then at some point, that agency (the magic of social media) started coming with presents. When the Santa Claus of the blogging world checked his list and checked it twice, the kids who were on the "nice" list got presents. They were rewarded by businesses who wanted to put ads in their sidebar, to send them free stuff to be reviewed, to whisk them away on trips, and have them write on their corporate blogs. And then what happened? Those kids who were on the "nice" list became ambassadors and role models and peer influencers, showing the other kids that if they could just play nicely, that Santa would bring them presents too. It even attracted kids who had never believed in Santa Claus or anything like it because, hey, if there is something material to be gained, they could be convinced to be believers.

Ah yes, Bon said:
forget agency and voices and relationships. if you are using your network solely to sell the message of a corporate entity, what you are doing is NOT social media, no matter your platform. what you’re doing is at best a marketing job, and more likely something akin to Amway.

Has blogging, like Santa Claus, become nothing more than making a list of material desires and being as good as you need to be to ensure those desires are fulfilled come Christmas morning?

SCANDAL-CLICK-BONANZA


Unlike Virginia's Santa Claus who probably wanted little children to be seen and not heard, the Santa Claus of the blogging world wants us to be loud. Our Santa Claus likes eyeballs, page views, trackbacks and comments. In The Girl Who Was Too Cool for Birth Control, AV Flox wrote:

There is another aspect of digital properties that has recently come under fire, and that is the high incidence of opinion pieces on popular blog networks that are more about link-baiting than they are about offering a genuine opposing view of an issue.


Ah, yes. That is the phenomenon that Meredith Fein Lichtenberg, in her article called Mom on Mom, so aptly named SCANDAL-CLICK-BONANZA. Or, to quote her phrase in full:
And if you are inclined to be provocative online because you get paid only if you create a Scandal-Click-Bonanza, who's really being played?

AV Flox, using the example of a recent "unforgivably reckless" opinion piece on birth control, went on to talk about the responsibility of actors in the social media space. Her piece included a couple of key points:
1) There is a certain level of responsibility that comes with giving a platform to dissenting opinions that could harm others.

2) When you choose page views over self-respect, a fast erosion of credibility is inevitable.

What is important to remember, however, in the quest for page views, is that Santa Claus doesn't like it when you make the scandal about him. He may be less likely to shower you with nice gifts if you have bad things to say about those gifts. So bloggers trying to get on Santa Claus' "good" list with eyeballs, page views, trackbacks and comments, need to do so in a way that doesn't bite the hand that feeds them.

What does that leave those bloggers with? If they are trying to create SCANDAL-CLICK-BONANZA, but can't make the scandal about the brands that are flanking the article on all four sides, what can they do? Unfortunately, what is often left is that "unforgivable recklessness" that was mentioned previously. Insult someone or better yet, entire groups of people. State your opinion in an inflammatory way. Create content that is unnecessarily divisive, instead of content that creates community and connections. Dare people to judge you.

My Magic Machine


My blog is monetized. You see that through the ads in my sidebar and through the page telling potential advertisers of the opportunity to connect with my readers. But, I've been careful to monetize my blog in a way that preserves the magic and helps me stay on the "nice" list.

I'm in blogging for the magic. I'm here for the flattened hierarchies, the engagement, the ability to connect and to influence. I'm here to make a difference in the lives of individuals, to change society for the better, and for personal fulfillment. I won't lie and tell you that the page views don't matter. They do. When you are trying to help people, to change people's minds or actions, or to engage others in walking down a common path, numbers do matter.

Page views are a means to an end. For some people, page views are simply a means to MONEY. They are only in the connection game as long as it leads to presents. Bon has seen this and I've seen this and it is as concerning to me as the children for whom Christmas is only about the presents (oy, glass house here, as this is a battle I feel I am yet not winning with my kids). To me, however, page views are not simply a means to money. They are a means to meeting my own blogging goals, which are all about the ways that blogging can change the world. Page views are one measure of success. They tell me, to some extent, how many people I've reached or touched (along with other measures of course, like connections and achieving actual change).

As a side product, page views (and all the other things they represent -- like an engaged audience, good search ranking, and so on) are also a means to earning money with my blog. When I earn money with my blog, it allows me to spend less time on other income producing activities that may not always be as personally fulfilling. It allows me to spend more time on my blog in search of the magic.

But, and this is a big but, in order to preserve the magic, I need to work with brands that are closely aligned with my values. By not accepting money from companies whose values are not aligned with mine, I don't ever feel like I have a muzzle on or that I cannot speak out in support of the things that I think are true. While some people think that refusing certain types of ads is censorship, for me accepting certain types of ads would feel like censorship because I do not like to bite the hand that feeds me. As a side benefit, choosing to work with brands whose values are aligned with mine also helps me stay true to my values. I am less likely to go off course and do something unseemly if I think that it will tarnish or disappoint the people and organizations whose respect and support I value so much.

This blog, and my presence in social media overall, feels like my own personal magic machine. I have a platform, where I can connect and influence, which gets me the page views needed to be on Santa's "nice" list (...or at least the nice list of the Santa I believe in), which ultimately gives me even more opportunity to connect and influence. That, is magic. That is what social media is about for me.

...he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

But what makes our hearts glad? Is it the magic or the presents?

Image credit: rafeejewell on flickr
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Reader Comments (43)

...you did a beautiful job of distilling it, the distinction between the practices that contribute to the magic of social media for me, and those that kill it under a pile of cheap toys.

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBon

Great post. It makes my heart glad when an idea I share turns out to be meaningful, or helpful, to clients/students/readers (this last, most recently; blogging is new for me). To me, that feels like tikkun olam, which, in my faith, is perhaps something akin to what you mean by the magic or "Christmas spirit." But of course clicks/clients/money matter, for all the reasons you state and also because positive reinforcement totally helps you do the hard work of writing/thinking! I can't imagine a human being alive who wouldn't respond to the "they like it!" feeling of a click bonanza. And it's only a short, tempting step from there, to look for an easy way to get that again. So even if it's not just about money, ego can drive some of this, I think. Especially when the topic is motherhood, which is so famously thankless, and so frequently ignored as a serious, feminist project, the idea of being taken seriously for thinking about it is, perhaps, especially compelling.

I love the idea of social media as a way of building community. But money is a reality, too and there should be a decent way of combining them. I used to work as a lawyer in private practice and left, in part, because I wished I could get paid not for my ability to account for my time in 6 minute increments, but because I could help people come up with elegant solutions to their complicated problems. To me, then, when the focus of anyone’s writing becomes too much on getting eyeballs/making nice with a distasteful vendor or corporate blog so you can stay employed, it feels to me like -- look if you're gonna do that, go be a lawyer; you’ll at least get paid well. In this way, what’s really concerning to me is how little most bloggers earn given how hard they work.

I don't know the best solution. Doing good work ought to include making money. But I think it's something to be careful about, and that writers have some responsibility to their readers.

And I’m glad you wrote this, and laughing a little, because I almost took that sentence out of that “Mom on Mom” piece, thinking, “well, this is a whole ‘nother issue!”

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith

I'm so glad you kept that sentence in. Scandal-click-bonanza is now one of my favourite blogging terms. :)

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thanks Bon.

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Magic over presents.

But my family doesn't depend on my blogging/writing to put food on the table or pay the mortgage. I try and remind myself of this when I see bloggers take on sponsors that seem at odds with their message. As a reader I find myself skipping the sponsored posts for big brands. Even when the writing is great it just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

Monetization has always felt so tricky for me, but I've been incredibly lucky to find some responsible companies to help sponsor my site without having to muzzle myself. Whether or not they agree with what I say, they support my mission, and I support theirs. I'm not making a killing, but I AM paying the bills each month with blog money.

However, I've thought recently about taking on BlogHer ads because, with my traffic, it would just be financially dimwitted not to start operating on a CPM model. I could pay half the house payment with that kind of cash. But, I've sworn up and down that I'd only work with companies I love, and as we know, with BlogHer ads, things we do NOT love could creep right in to our sidebar.

But where must I draw the line? Is it okay for me to support my blog and pay my bills while accepting corporate money? Or, do I have to stay a starving artist to maintain my "street cred." Like you said, if I'm going to invest time into my blog - which has become a resource for so many - then shouldn't I pay myself? Researching and crafting posts takes a lot of time away from other income-generating activities. And just because I love what I do doesn't mean I should do it for free. That implies there's no value in my work, and I know there is.

I still don't have the answers, but I'm leaning toward the money. Does that make me a sell-out? Will it harm my credibility? We'll see.

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTheFeministBreeder

I used to have BlogHer ads. I do think that they are a great option for bloggers who are just starting out (and don't have enough traffic/clout to attract brands on their own) or who simply cannot be bothered with the day to day of administering ads. In your case, Gina, I think you would be better off raising your rates (if appropriate) and continuing to sell your own ads rather than going with BlogHer ads, both because of the type of ads that they have in the network and because they take a fairly substantial cut of the revenue. I don't think you need to be a starving artist, but I don't think that BlogHer ads is the best way for more established bloggers to pay the bills.

If you do go with BlogHer ads though, you can block certain categories (they have a category specifically for bloggers who want to be WHO compliant, for example) and also block specific ads (i.e. after you see something pop up that you don't agree with, you can ask to have it removed).

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

If I could figure out a way to put my sponsors on a CPM model, it might make more sense. But right now it's just straight up sponsorships with rates that don't fluctuate with the traffic, and while my traffic may have a huge spike, the money stays the same. And, if I raise my rates to what I'd be making from a CPM model, I price many of my small business advertisers right out. It's a conundrum.

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTheFeministBreeder

I base my rates on my average monthly page views over a longer period of time. While I don't benefit financially from spikes, my advertisers do (and I think that is great). Overall, however, charging a fair rate to my advertisers and cashing in 100% of that (versus giving a ton to someone else) works out to be financially more lucrative.

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

At my old job, a "cheap" product cost approximately a $9 cpm. The homepage ads: $35 cpm. If I were to charge only a $9 cpm, I would have had to charge my advertisers upwards of $700 last month, and I don't think a single small-business advertiser (that I know) could afford that. I don't charge that for a full year now. Even if I charged a "junk" ad network rate of $2 cpm, that would still cost them over $150 per month. Right now, I'm charging between 1/6 to 1/3 of that (depending on ad size.) So (perhaps you can help me with this): how do I balance a fair rate for me based on my traffic, with what these advertisers can actually afford? This is why I'm considering BlogHer ads. Those companies have bigger budgets and can put their money into a network that will spread their ad around, rather than focusing on only one blog.

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTheFeministBreeder

It has been a couple of years since I was in the BlogHer ad network, but I can tell you that you wouldn't be getting close to $9 CPM and definitely not $35 CPM. At BlogHer, they sell ads at a rate of (going by memory here -- someone correct me if I'm wrong) between $8 CPM and $13 CPM, of which they pay the blogger a little less than half.

Every time a visitor lands on your page, they would be served an ad from the BlogHer ad network. However, if they do not have enough paying ads in their inventory, then they serve up their house ads (ads for the BlogHer site), which pay next to nothing. Some months, if they've sold a lot of ads and your traffic is good, you might do well (December is generally a good month), but other months even if your traffic is high, you may not do well because they may not have sold enough ads in the network and you may be showing more BlogHer house ads than ads with a real CPM.

The BlogHer ads take up the space that is currently occupied by the top five of my twelve ad spots. My top ad spot costs the most, the bottom one costs the least and all others are on a sliding scale in between. So every company is generally able to find something that fits their budget within the range that I offer. The companies that are advertising on my blog would probably not be able to afford the BlogHer rates, but they can afford mine and I am making more money by working directly with those companies than I was when I was working with BlogHer. So it is a win-win for me and the companies that I work with.

Let's take this past September, which was the highest traffic I have ever had on my blog. Looking only at the top five ad spots (the ones that occupy the same space the BlogHer ad would have been in), I probably made two to three times as much selling my own ads as I would have if I'd had the BlogHer ad in that same space. Plus the ads were all from companies that I feel really good about having advertising next to my content.

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Rachel:

I'm not a fan of sponsored posts. On my blog, I feel it is important to keep the ads and the content strictly separate.

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Well said. Too many bloggers have "sold out" lately with sponsored posts that do not resonate with their overall blog style - no magic: just some guy in a beard.

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

What I appreciate most about your blog Annie is that you are an advocate and you educate and you do so respectfully and fairly and no matter what is said (irrespective of how inflammatory or just plain rude ) you play nicely (even if done tongue in cheek ) with the trolls. There are so many things I see that concern me; people who use their platform or voice to 'educate' in a manner that is bullying and divisive to the opposite end of the spectrum and the 'PR Friendly' blogs where opinions are bought and where un unbiased apprisal of a product is non-existent (or at most a complaint that something isn't offered in the colour blue). You have found the balance of remaining true to your values and what is important with you while also embracing monetization and partnerships with brands and companies that support issues that you believe in.

I think in a simpler time in bloggy land it was about the magic but once the corporations dipped their toes in it became about the presents. The magic is being snuffed out by the weight of freebies, stuff, and the greed for more, more, more.

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSara

I'm glad you wrote this. Seriously. I've been blogging for a few years but just started my first "monetizing" blog. There is a bit of marketing that needs to go into it—networking, really. But, if you don't truly have anything to say, what is the point? I think if you write what's truly aching to get out, it will eventually stand on its own. Your article was a reminder to keep it "in check" and make sure that I'm writing to share my perspective rather than solely to gain.

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBecky H

Oh yeah, I was in no way expecting $9 or $35 CPM in an ad network. I'm just trying to illustrate that I'm not even making a $2 CPM on my blog (highly targeted, highly engaged) blog now. In fact, I think I'm down to about a 50 cent CPM, and surely I'd make more on a network, even in a slow month.

I'm not sure how I feel about a sliding scale based on page position. In professional experience, the ads at the top are not always the ads that catch the most attention. In fact, the leaderboards across the top of most sites are usually the least trafficked ads. It usually comes down to how engaging the ad itself is, and what the content is doing to attract the reader to the area the ad appears in. Some ad spots are definitely more valuable than others, but it's not always a top-down equation. On blogs, readers tend to spend the most time near the comments section, not at the top.

For me to understand how my ads are performing, I'd really need to have embedded tracking pixels and solid ad metrics, but I don't have that technology. Right now my ads are hardcoded, and I haven't yet figured out how to track their performance other than simple page analytics. IF I could track that, and IF I could earn a straight $2 CPM, I could be persuaded not to explore other ways to monetize my traffic. But so far, a $2 CPM seems like Christmas.

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTheFeministBreeder

Great thread here on ad rates. Thanks for sharing this!

I was considering putting advertising on my blog and applied for the BlogHer ad network. Even after being accepted into the network I couldn't find any information on rates. There was a line saying you could earn 'substantially more than a cup of fancy coffee' per month if your page views were upwards of 15000. How vague.

My 2 cents: as a reader of both of your blogs I REALLY like reading, scrolling through and not being accosted by ads that don't jive with your message. Even more, and this is from a minimalist mom (!), I like seeing ads for products I would buy or recommend to friends. Every time I see the Pumpease ad here on PhD I think, what a great tool for pumping moms. I don't think, what a great product for the home when a favourite blogger is telling me about mornings with Bisquick and how special they make her family's pancakes. I do think, glad she is earning a pay cheque because she is a great writer. And I'm glad she is transparent in her writing because I can now skip any post with Bisquick in the title.

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

[...] blogging: Is Blogging your Santa Claus? If you haven’t read PhD in Parenting before this is a blog about parenting, feminism and [...]

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter- The Minimalist Mom

Very cool content. You are a good role model.

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Morelli

Here's a question for you, Rachel: If you knew the Bisquick ad in the sidebar helped Annie afford more time to write the posts you enjoy, would you put up with it then?

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTheFeministBreeder

I blogged for a number of years without ads, fell of the blogging wagon (started boring myself!) and am planning to jump back in the game with a new blog soon.

Phew, intro aside, I really like how you have parsed this topic. I love me some good writing but sponsored posts stop me dead in my tracks - they are too artificial no matter how skilled the writer. I am fine with ads - let everyone make a living if they can through their blogs. However, I don't read blogs for sponsored posts. I don't need someone flogging some product.

And as you put it, with the scandal-click-bonanza, some big name bloggers have become boring because I find it incredulous that they have that much drama or that much controversy in their lives. I just don't buy it. And again, the writing becomes artificial and forced and too structured and tidy, no matter what the topic.

Between sponsored posts and the scandal-click-bonanza, I don't enjoy seeing the wizard behind the curtains pulling the levers to either get me to buy something or to draw me into a straw-person argument about some issue.

Be real, be sincere, and try your best to do some good writing. Then you'll have me.

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSandra

For me, the answer is no. I've just recently stopped reading a blog that I've enjoyed for a long time because the ads and the sponsored posts don't align with my values or interests. I don't want to be a part of supporting companies I don't believe in. (Not that you asked me, but...)

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

Sara:

Do you see any way to stop that trend? Can we preserve the magic?

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

For me it's both - and they are separate. My blog is not monetized and it never will be. My blog, my twitter, my facebook, are all social for me - there is no agenda (as sarahcasm) beyond sharing my perspective and learning from others.

On the other hand, I have been able to earn money doing social media campaigns for non-profits. They are for issues I believe in, and though I may let my personal networks know what I am up to, I don't expect anything of them. It's a job and that's how I treat it.

I've been online as long as you have and have seen platforms and tools evolve. It wasn't called social media back then, but it, essentially, was. I've made long lasting friendships. Hell, I met my partner on Myspace (of all things). My life as I know it would not exist without the connections I made online. Without the social, it's just media. If you cut out the connections, you lose the magic.

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

MySpace. :)

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Right? We tend not to tell people that. Ha!

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

In the sidebar, yes. As long as it's not completely at odds with the writer's message and ideals I am fine with sidebar advertising.

And when I consider that it allows the writer more time to write, to create better more thoroughly researched articles that help me and allows her more time to answer comments and be a part of the following discussion, YES, I'm fine with those sidebar ads.

But the in-post advertising is turning me off a few great writers. Hopefully it's not turning everyone off of them and they can continue to grow their blog/business and, maybe, eventually decide to skip the in-post ads. Can I dare to dream that at some point people might say enough, I'm making a good living from this and I don't need to sell more, more and more?

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

I'm not sure. I think there will always be bloggers who are willing to accept nominal reimbursement for their 'opinions' and when they finally move on others will fill their place. I think education and dialogue about what accepting freebies and writing about them means for the blogging community and the actual return you're getting on your investment of time (how much time / money you end up spending to get something that is supposedly free and what it means for your voice and brand when it's diluted by by filling in blog posts sent from corporations with a few of your own sentences).

I think brands and businesses also need to better understand what they get by handing out their products. In the long run is it a good return on investment to distribute freebies and have X bloggers write the same piece about their product or is it a better investment to develop longer term relationships with a smaller number of influential bloggers who may not be considered 'PR friendly' but whose honesty and opinions are valued by the blogging community (and readers) and who are willing to work with brands at developing a real social media platform (reciprocal rather than a one-way flow of information). Is that even a possibility...

I would love an opportunity to attend a conference or workshop where the value of our voices, what we have to say, and what we write is the highlight. An opportunity to explore the value of blogging not directly related to monetization. Or alternatives to the product-pitch-click cycle that a lot of bloggers are currently engaged in.

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Hmmm, I really don't know where I fit in this. I started in social media for my business, but got so much more out of it than I expected. I do write sponsored blogs, and aside from my very first one which was awful, the rest have been fun and honest and from the heart. If I can't get behind a product/service I won't write about it. I've turned down a few. That means turning down $$$ and that hurts the pocketbook. Ultimately though I need to live with myself. I do write about whatever floats my boat for the most part and *ahem* from my google analytics you'd know there is no scandal-click-bonanza on Life in Pleasantville anyway. I have a larger audience with YMC but my most popular (and I use that term loosely) blogs have always caught me completely off guard. I love the magic of social media, I've made real, amazing friends through it. I learn and grow daily because of it. There are days though, when I could walk away from it all. Mostly because I see really hateful things thrown about. That kind of kills the magic for me. Not the advertising.

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

Alright...this was LONG and there was A LOT of big words and thank goodness I was sober when I read it...may have nodded off...BUT!!!

It was FABULOUS...and I LUV the MAGIC...I love reading someones words and falling into the ugly cry...or hysterical laughter...or getting PISSED off cus their opinion doesn't match mine...I love the WRITING...the INSPIRATION, MOTIVATION...

I LOVE SANTA CLAUS...especially when he shows up EMPTY handed...because then I know he is there for the RIGHT reasons...

Great (LONG) read Annie...

Cheers

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDee Brun

If he shows up empty handed, that means he's there for a drink, right? ;)

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

With blogging, as with life in general, I try to do as much as I can for the magic ;)

The world of blog monetization is still rather new in many ways, there's no one way of doing it it seems. I think what's important is that we remember it's our choice - because we own our blogs.

Learning to say 'no' is very important. And learning our own voice is equally important. We may stumble along the way, but the more we stick to what we love, what we know etc. the easier and better our blogs, and business choices, will be.

Keep the magic. Unwrapping the presents is always fun, but the magic gives us the warm fuzzy feelings.

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I can only say that for the long-term I hope that the magic will win out over the presents. I blog because I believe... I believe that blogs can educate, move people, change minds, open dialogue, cause change, promote sustainability and those good companies that are out there making a difference with their products. I may be naive.

I think it matters less about the presents and more about what you do with them that will matter in the end.

I like your bottom line statement is about being aligned values-wise with the organizations you who advertise in your space. Business isn't a dirty word, nor is advertising. You've found an excellent balance and I'm glad it's working for you.

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJodine Chase

This is a great piece. Something I didn't bring up in my piece which I think is relevant to the conversation of editors managing websites and writers is the issue of exploitation: how aware is an editor of a writer's personal take on things? Is inviting someone to blog as a "health critic" when they espouse a wildly unhealthy lifestyle a way of creating diversity or exploitation?

October 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAV Flox

[...] of PhDInParenting recently wrote a post about the state of blogging and social media and she used the term Scandal-Click-Bonanza, which is [...]

October 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJust because we all do it

I chose the magic but not idealistically. I think that my blog is a balance that errs on the side of my readers and writing as you have done on this site in your way.
I chose to be on the BlogHer ad network (and opting out of ads that don't fit personal ideals) because I don't want the additional work of pitching companies -- I'd rather just write. It's less money, but it's enough for me at this point. I really hate setting prices and finding companies that fit well and "proving" my blog's worth. I imagine this might change at some point when I have less "proving" to do? Maybe I'm just lazy.
Also, I've turned down sponsored posts that would make me more money in a single post than an entire month on my ad network because it doesn't fit with my readership -- even when the topic is not against my ideals. My readers just don't care about my ability to organize laundry (though I happen to be awesome at it) and I don't want to be told to write about it on a day that my readers don't expect something along those lines. Maybe I'm shooting myself in the foot but I started my blog so I could write stories and opinions and ideas. Magic!

October 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex@LateEnough

[...] reading some great post-conference posts from the likes of Alex from @Clippo, @BonStewart and Annie from @PhdinParenting, is that we here at Mom Nation are here for YOU. We will NEVER compromise our voices, our talents, [...]

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPlan, schman… Going with

I love: "I’m in blogging for the magic. I’m here for the flattened hierarchies, the engagement, the ability to connect and to influence." Yes yes yes!

This post resonated with me for so many reasons. After working on my yoga blog for 2+ years and building up a community and amazing readership, I've started to move towards monetization. I've kind of tentatively jumped in, and am still figuring out my policies, etc. The yoga blogging community is quite new and uncharted territory (despite the crass commercialization of yoga in general, bloggers haven't really figure out how to make money ~ and I think this is a good thing!), so I've been looking at the "mommy bloggers" for interesting models. I've been kind of shocked by what I've found: sponsored posts, trips, giveaways, intimate relationships with brands. And often, not a lot of interesting content.

What I appreciate about your blog is that you have meaningful, intelligent writing, and your advertising is curated and intentional. Your ads appear to me more of a resource, rather than a cash source, and it's refreshing.

I'm taking notes and hope to apply what I'm learning to my own blog. Thank you!

November 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterroseanne

[...] you also clicked on the ads of my great advertisers and checked out their products and services. I put a lot of care into working with the right types of companies and I hope you’ll continue to support them as they support [...]

[...] from reading some great post-conference posts from the likes of Alex from @Clippo, @BonStewart and Annie from @PhdinParenting, is that at Natural Urban Mamas, I am here for YOU. And I will NEVER compromise my voice, my [...]

[...] Is Blogging Your Santa Claus? [...]

Thanks for leading the way towards ethical blogging. Your passion and belief in the magic are inspiring! I hope you are still finding it as magical as when you wrote this.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJodine Chase

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