Blog ad questions or "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life?"

Hmm... Donuts

last week I finished off an article for The Georgia Straight about local bloggers.  I'm not quite sure when the article is meant to go in, their tech section is fairly well booked currently so there's a bit of lag between when I hand a story and when it hits the street.  One of the things that two of the interviews brought up, but that did not make the cut in the article, was advertising on blogs and it's a subject that I've been struggling with on this site for sometime with no real resolution.

00000016_2 Raul who runs his own personal blog [h604] was for advertising, though in what he termed a "sustainable" way that had to be both transparent and social conscious.  His model for the model of monetization of blogs is clearly Rebecca's [m604] who is one of the few local bloggers to really make a go of making a living through blogging. Rebecca's site isn't loading right now, so I can't confirm this, but she's mostly using Google ads with some specific product mentions and promotions from local companies.

I could be wrong about the Google Ads.

On the other side of the coin is Jeannette Ordas who runs the food blog Everybody Likes Sandwiches [els], a local food blog which Lydia reads and has a much more national and even global readership than a lot of the local blogs that focus on hyper-local events.  Ordas has a strong policy of not taking ads on her blog and is part of an "Ad Free Blog" movement [afb].

Noting the bit about blogging that she didn't really like she Ordas said:

It’s sort of the business side of blogging, and there does seem to be a businessy side and I’m not interested in that. I guess just for me it’s an outlet for me because I enjoy writing about food and I enjoy taking pictures of food so for me it’s just for me. My zine was about me, and this is about me. Me and food.

Comic by Jeff Weston [pmh][anm]. More after the jump.

I'm sort of torn between both positions.  On one hand I used to read Adbusters, I am concerned about how companies can find ways to slap labels onto pretty much anything.  Having done a Matchstick promotion where local bloggers were given a Nokia cell phone, I'm well aware of the trouble it brings [mbv] and the ethical questions it raises. 

Plus for the most part the options for advertising on blogs is shit.  Google Ads pay so little that most bloggers won't ever reach the minimum amount required to even get a single check.  I think I've made like maybe $7 over the five years of running this blog, and again I'm nowhere near that minimum.

Yet on the other hand, I write for publications that are not shy about selling ads.  In fact even in the university press where you have idealistic student journalists launching ad boycotts against the military, non-vegans and pretty much anything else that trampled on some perceived interest of the left, they accepted that ads were necessary.

So if it's accepted in print, why not blogging?

Well a few things are different.  Any decent publication has a policy on how reviews work.  Cheaper things like CDs and movies are generally ignored, you review it you keep it sort of thing, but anything larger than what you'd get paid for writing the article and there's a procedure.  People who review computers, don't get to keep the computers.  There might be the option to purchase the computer instead of returning it once the review is filed, but keeping it isn't an option. 

Blogging though is sort of a new ground, and since it's a lot of people who have not really dealt with this before the marketing companies are trying to set new rules.  I'll admit I took part in it.  I figured I got a new cell phone, so what's the harm.  It wasn't presented as, "You need to blog positively about this Nokia."  I simply had to write about it.  But while I know I can trust myself to be objective, you don't and I don't know if I can trust other bloggers.

Trust isn't the right word, but free stuff makes people more prone to being kind to a product.  The GizmoX that you don't pay for is better than the GizmoX that you do pay for.

Which is kind of off topic, and I've rambled quite a bit.  At the end of the day though being able to have the blog pay for itself, around $300 a year, would be nice.  Yet throwing on ads that just annoy people and yet make no money is stupid. 

So I'm undecided.  I might try a few things.  As you can see I'm clearly of two minds on the question of ads.  Can they be done without being awful?