Helping hands: Vintage zinc glove molds at the bi-annual brocante and ham fair at Chatou, France.
When I started blogging in January, 2006 any blog that proved successful produced original content, driven by a clear personal voice. Over the past eight-and-a-half years, blogging sadly has evolved into a more commercially-propelled platform. Advertisers ferret out blogs that receive a bit of traffic and hope to monetize that blog's readership.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not against blog advertising per se. I have a handful of blog sponsors' ads in my sidebar. These ads cover annual costs of my domain name and blog host. But I am opposed to advertising-sponsored content that infiltrates blog posts, suppressing a blogger's own unique voice.
Several times a week, I receive messages from sponsored-content traffickers. I file them in an email folder entitled "Hapless content-sellers." Two recent examples:
"My name is Danny Thomson and I am a writer at TheOutreachers.com, a relatively new social media agency.
"I was just wondering if you would be interested in us contributing a guest post for your site?
"We've done many before, and can provide examples of published work if desired.
"Looking forward to hearing from you! :)
This one's from a company called SpecialistAuthors.com:
"I have just been on tarabradford.com. Love the style of your content - you have a truly defined style to your site and I would love to contribute in a similar vein!
"I am writing to you today to see if you would be interested in accepting an article for your website. I am working for specialist authors for a period of time to hone my writing skills before I hopefully move into full onto a journalism job and I need to get as much content under my belt as possible.
"I would love to collaborate with you on topic and style. This service is completely free if we could include one hyperlink in the article. This would be from a relevant partner and would be in the (sic) completely in context with the content. The pieces I have had accepted so far were around 500 words in length and some people like to be involved others just like me to suprise them!
"The content will be compelling and I am sure your visitors and social followers will love to read it!
"Please let me know what you think, I look forward to hearing from you soon!
"Thanks & Kind Regards
Note the above writer claims he wants to "hone" his writing skills to "hopefully move into full onto a journalism job (sic)" and get "as much content under my belt as possible."(Fat chance! He didn't even proofread his letter). Despite his stated inexperience, he supposedly is the company's editorial manager. And the SpecialistAuthors.com site for which he works claims "...experts are standing by!"
Such messages not only are vague and impersonal, the authors haven't bothered to do any research before approaching me. If the advertisers read my About page - the absolute minimum one should do before approaching a blogger - they'd learn that I do not accept paid, sponsored or guest posts. I clearly state that all advertising on my site is paid on a yearly basis. Further, If these content-mill employees read even a handful of blog posts, they would discover my antipathy towards sponsored blog content.
But content-mill employees - who consider blogging strictly as a commodity - haven't done their homework before approaching potential targets; they're simply too lazy. Instead, apparently they consider if they send enough queries to enough bloggers, sooner or later, someone will bite.
In my view, if a blog doesn't maintain its original voice, there's no point reading it. I think that sponsored posts - rightly or wrongly - undermine bloggers' credibility. Over the past year, I've been disappointed to find a few of my favourite bloggers repeatedly embracing sponsored content, with their own lively voices tempered to satisfy fickle advertisers' wishes.
To me, blogging and advertising should emulate the separation of church and state. While these entities may at times cooperate, neither requires interference - or influence - from the other.
What's your view of blog posts consisting of paid, sponsored content?
No classes required!
Here's another thing about blogging: You don't need to take a class to learn to blog. Truly. It astonishes me that so many people offer online classes advising newbie bloggers how to be "successful."
But there are no secrets; just write from your heart! Write about your experiences; about what interests you; about your hopes and challenges. Use your unique creative talents; don't let someone else try to meld your originality to a passing fad or trend. And don't allow advertisers to hijack your blog, replacing your bright ideas with "cookie cutter" content - not-so-cleverly disguised to sell products or services! Just be you.