Blogging isn’t traditional media, so treat it differently – Anna Spargo-Ryan

Blogging isn’t traditional media, so treat it differently

Blogging isn’t traditional media, so treat it differently

When talking about blogging and the monetisation of blogs, people have oft used “but journalists do it too” as an argument in its favour. For example, dude gets free tickets to a movie premiere and then reviews said movie for his newspaper.

Or, woman has a job at a large media conglomerate, as long as she speaks favourably about the mining tax. How does it relate to blogging?

Mainstream journalism in this country is, in a lot of ways, driven by advertising revenue and agendas that sometimes fit very loosely within the various publications’ codes of ethics. There is no requirement that journalists be “objective” – just that they are “fair”. Very different.

Traditional media

There are a number of bloggers across all genres who are former journalists, and they talk about the soul destroying nature of working in mainstream media. But others refer to mainstream media as a benchmark for what is okay and not okay in monetising blogging.

No blogger should be using Australian mainstream media as a model for their own publication. Does anyone really look to Rupert Murdoch and think “well look, his organisation does the kinds of things I’m doing, therefore I am ethically comfortable with it?” Mainstream media outlets (as corporations, not necessarily the individuals who work for them) would step over their dead mother’s body to make a buck.

And it’s not working!

These outlets are closing entire departments and sacking the equivalent of the population of Kyneton because┬áthis model doesn’t work anymore. Consumers are savvy people; they have the length and breadth of the internet to help them with their decision making. They are less and less likely to believe what they’re told. They are less patient with being “sold to”, and more aware of it when it’s happening.

What bloggers have an opportunity to now do is to change the way media generates revenue by actually adding value to readers and consumers. Rather than just copying the (failing) business model of traditional media outlets, bloggers can break new ground in the kind of content that they produce for their advertisers, the way it is integrated to provide value to the people they’re targeting and the motivation behind it.

New media is a place for innovation, but so many of its early adopters are falling into the same pattern as traditional media. And we’ve already seen how well that worked.

So, let’s talk about what we can do differently, instead of defending our decisions to make it exactly the same.

  • Zoey @ Good Googs

    July 4, 2012 at 8:59 am Reply

    The problem for me is when people have one set of expectations for niche bloggers (food, fashion, whatever) and entirely different set of ideas on what is ok for personal bloggers. Then it goes from useful conversation and debate into feeling like it’s just someone who objects to that form of blogging for whatever reason.

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      July 4, 2012 at 9:11 am Reply

      I totally agree Zoey, and I don’t think separating them out is productive at all.

      What I’ve said above isn’t specific to any one genre of blogging, and I don’t personally set up any barriers of differentiation between niche blogging and personal blogging. As with the other bit I wrote about the sustainability of blogging, I believe this needs to be addressed across the board, not just in “mummy blogging” or any other specific format of blogging.

      Blogs in general are headed in this direction, and I think it will be to their detriment. The mummy blogger conversation (and that’s a polite way of phrasing it) that’s taking place at the moment is just one of a number of symptoms of a format that isn’t fully fledged, and I’d like to look at how it could be done differently/better/more creatively so as to support the framework ongoing.

      There’s a HUGE opportunity to really set this kind of writing/journalism/opinion apart from traditional media, and I think that bloggers – as communities – should really think about how to do it before the opportunity is lost to the issues that plague traditional media.

      • Zoey @ Good Googs

        July 4, 2012 at 9:31 am Reply

        I think that most people would be really excited to find a revenue model that moved away from advertising/advertorial approach but I think until someone actually comes up with a concrete idea about how to do that things are pretty much going to stay as they are.

        • Anna Spargo-Ryan

          July 4, 2012 at 9:50 am Reply

          Then there are two options: 1. wait for someone else to find the low or no risk alternative, or 2. create a brain’s trust that will find the alternative :)

          • Sarah Moran

            July 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm

            I was waiting for the words “brains trust” to appear!

          • Anna Spargo-Ryan

            July 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm

            Oh stop it. :D

  • bigwords

    July 4, 2012 at 9:08 am Reply

    So true Anna. I think once everyone steps out of the attacker/victim mentality and stops to analyse the changes, encourage debate and put their creative minds together then this emerging media platform has so many exciting opportunities to grow and evolve.

  • Veronica

    July 4, 2012 at 9:08 am Reply

    My complaint isn’t that “mainstream media does this and gets away with it”, it’s that somehow, suddenly, personal and parenting bloggers are being singled out as somehow “unethical” for running advertising, or clearly marked advertorial. Lots of other blogging niche groups do exactly the same thing, so why the double standards?

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      July 4, 2012 at 9:14 am Reply

      Right at this minute they are, but the same argument has been made about other niche blogging groups in the past. I agree that the double standards are bollocks, but rather than just arguing about it, why don’t we see it as a chance to demonstrate how creatively we approach the whole process? What I’ve written here isn’t specific to one genre or niche, it just happened to be sparked by something I saw a mummy blogger comment on yesterday.

  • BloggerComms

    July 4, 2012 at 9:20 am Reply

    As someone who spent over six months writing just ad features for a country paper, I can attest to the soul destroying nature of some of the work. The small business owners who took out the ads felt they owned you and I doubt anyone read their advertorials or that they got real value from them. At one point we gave advertorial away for free it was so pathetic.

    • Nikki @ Styling You

      July 4, 2012 at 3:42 pm Reply

      Oh, I hear you! It was incredibly refreshing when I started doing sponsored posts for Nuffnang 18 months ago that they were clear in wanting the complete opposite of this. The result is actually useful, entertaining and interesting copy that works for the blogger, their readers and the client. I see sponsored posts as a challenge to achieve that so they actually take me a lot longer to produce than one of my regular posts.

  • Megan Blandford

    July 4, 2012 at 10:16 am Reply

    I agree with your post, Anna – there’s a big opportunity to do things differently. You know how I feel about women saying, ‘But men do this, so we should be able to as well’ – similar thing in my mind. We (bloggers) are looking to how things have always been (like with how men have always done things in, say, the corporate world) rather than how to create difference and use it to our advantage.

    But I disagree with some of the comments… I DO think it’s different for personal bloggers than other niches. I often refer to the time I played around with some of that stuff as my ‘selling out’ blogging period – not because I don’t think personal bloggers shouldn’t do that stuff, but because it was wrong for me and I let myself be lured in for the wrong reasons.

    What I mean is – when a fashion/food/travel/books/whatever blogger advertises or does a sponsored post, for example, it fits directly with what they do. When they talk about, say, make-up, it’s seamless for them to say what they recommend – as I guess an expert in their field. For a personal blogger it can (not always) have a feeling like I felt it gave my blog – that is, talking about life, issues, internal thoughts, and then stopping for an advertorial on what type of products you use… well, it feels weird sometimes.

    So I think it IS different for each niche – fashion bloggers will have different models to travel bloggers, personal bloggers will be different again. And difference doesn’t mean discrimination or that one is better than the other.

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      July 4, 2012 at 3:38 pm Reply

      Well said Megan – it’s definitely a personal choice. I don’t feel anything negative or positive about other people doing it – I would prefer that the sponsored nature of it was disclosed, and the very blatant spruiking of third-party products makes me a bit nauseous, but mostly I’d just like to see us use all of this hype and negative energy and channel it into something really excellent.

  • Cat

    July 4, 2012 at 10:33 am Reply

    I think you raise a valid point Anna. We do need a new model to make it work well. I’d love to see some kind of think tank put together to nut out some brilliant ideas. I wonder how that would even be possible to put together though?

    My own position on sp is still uncertain & the fact I can see the points raised by you & Zoey & also by Megan is testament to that.

    The thing I really don’t like is the attitude of, “you must be selling your soul” if you’re doing any kind of sponsorship. I have no doubt some do it for the wrong reasons but most people are just trying to earn a little money on the side and I trust that they are doing their reviews etc with honesty. In fact I trust a blogger’s review more than I would in picking up a glossy mag & seeing a clearly rehashed press release in review of a product.

  • Carli

    July 4, 2012 at 12:35 pm Reply

    I really enjoyed this article regarding journalism and blogging –

    As far as the debate surrounding personal narrative bloggers – it’s not black and white for me. I don’t think it’s entirely ethical for bloggers to endorse products that don’t align with the Australian medical fraternity’s viewpoints. Private cord blood banking and NSAIDS are two that come to mind. But as a parent I also understand the occasional sense of isolation that comes with the job and I appreciate that blogging events are so much more than a brand thing for many people.

    I think it’s important not to be critical to the point of silencing an already often aligned bunch of people but to also be wary of what things you choose to endorse, particularly if it involves children.

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      July 4, 2012 at 8:50 pm Reply

      Agreed Carli – it’s not black and white, but strive for balance anyway.

  • Carli

    July 4, 2012 at 12:48 pm Reply

    oops *maligned!

  • Kelly Exeter

    July 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm Reply

    Yes, yes, YES. As with your previous post – the bloggers who are doing ‘well’ right now are the one who are forging ahead, making their own rules and not trying to justify anything to anyone. There is ALWAYS going to some kind of rhetoric being thrown around … instead of fuelling the fire and extending the (pointless) debate, let’s just all get on with innovating. Because we are friggin clever people and we are all better than that!

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      July 4, 2012 at 8:51 pm Reply

      Precisely! There are lots of brains, surely we can smash them together and make something ridiculously awesome happen instead of talking in circles (which I am obviously also participating in here)?

  • Mrs Woog

    July 4, 2012 at 3:24 pm Reply

    Jeezuz – feel a bit scared hanging out here with all the smart gals, but here goes.

    I write sponsored posts. Am I weird because I like doing them? Maybe. But I really like the challenge that they bring. Of course I do not do every post that is offered to me. Maybe one in five? The ones that I can actually turn into content that I would be happy reading elsewhere.

    Sponsored posts are an art form, the best one I have seen lately is here. It is original, fun, charming and sells the brand in context. Hand on….. I will go find it……

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      July 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm Reply

      Silly Woog ;)

      I’m honestly a bit weary of having an opinion about sponsored posts, so what I’m really trying to say is that if sponsored posts are an issue (I think they’re an issue because of their sustainability; it’s not up to me to judge the ethics of others, AND I do sponsored posts on my breakfast blog), then we should see this time as a great opportunity to try other ways. Mummy bloggers in particular are in a period of high profile and influence, and that is the perfect time to do something crazy that will offer greater value and give the genre greater longevity.

      I’m kind of approaching it not as a personal or confessional blogger (which I obviously am) but as a digital marketer who is wondering how we could do this better, clearer and with more innovation. Is the distinction coming through? I’m not pointing fingers or telling anyone they should stop their bullshit ;D

  • Mrs Woog

    July 4, 2012 at 3:29 pm Reply

    It was on the top of my head all the time!

    Anyway, I think this a good example of being creative. Not just about re-writing a press release or fact sheet. Of course you need to ask “Would my readers be interested in this?” and go from there.

    Being a blogger, you are really a content producer and you need to get the mix right. You are not a journo and you have a far more intimate relationship with your readership that a magazine editor. AND if you WANT to “monetize” (is that even a real word?) your site, think outside the square that it is written on. The great thing about it is that it is all still so new and you can make your own rules up as you go. It is your blog.

    We live in interesting times. *scratches beard*

    • Kelly Exeter

      July 4, 2012 at 3:31 pm Reply

      Sponsored posts ARE an art form Mrs Woog and you do a great job of walking the fine line of making them entertaining for your readers while delivering a service to the business paying for it :)

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      July 4, 2012 at 3:33 pm Reply

      “Monetise” is one of those words that isn’t quite in the dictionary ;) Looks good on a buzzword bingo sheet.

      We do live in interesting times. We need to strike while the iron’s hot though.

      • Mrs Woog

        July 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm Reply

        Totally agree and it is thanks to professionals like yourself who share their knowledge that will help. So thank you for starting this conversation about innovation and creativity, one that is much needed and more positive. xx

    • Nikki @ Styling You

      July 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm Reply

      You are so wise and smart, Mrs Woog.

  • Kathryn

    July 4, 2012 at 6:26 pm Reply

    I find the biggest error, possibly, is we want to look at blogging through the same lens as print journalists. And yes, it is the written word, but I find the dynamic is far more like radio personalities. What is permissible, what works, what monetisation model is appropriate etc is far more dependent on the personality and profile of the blogger than the fact that it is a blog. And as in radio where you can have very different formats and models for different programs within the one station, and within those programs there can be different features which are sold (or not) differently, the same is true for blogs. There would be much opportunity to learn from the engaging old school radio tactics and apply those to the blogosphere, particularly given you are free from the stupid restrictions of cash-for-comment and other such limitations and disclosures.

    • Anna Spargo-Ryan

      July 4, 2012 at 6:36 pm Reply

      This is a really great analogy Kathryn, and much more applicable I think than the print media comparisons.

    • Sarah Moran

      July 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm Reply

      Brilliant comparison.

  • amelia

    July 4, 2012 at 6:48 pm Reply

    GREAT DISSCUSSION. Now i read nearly all of your guys blogs. And i blog but in different arena for different(ish) reasons. If an art company offered me art supplies to paint i’d do it in a heart beat but I’d sell my soul for some good paper and nice pens…. i digress. i think you guys should trust your audiances they can smell a sale a mile off and ones like me see that post and don’t read it and others are interested in new products and know the hypothetical blogger has frizzy hair like them so is interested in their solution….
    blogging has opened the breadth of oices available to us readers and we for the most part are Savvy: the old models are dying the savvy new ones will survive…. reinvent and create.
    one of the challenges i see all content producers needing to face is the idea of content entitlement in the audiance and i think a sort of user pays system will have to eventually arrise maybe with bloggers banding together under banners? other wise what other models are ther? i can only think of advertisement and subscription
    cheers Amelia

  • Jess

    July 5, 2012 at 11:05 am Reply

    Great discussion. No wise words of wisdom from me most of your comments have said what I feel. I like the idea of bloggers forging their own paths.

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