Sunday, October 01, 2006

The blog ad debate

Originally published at Chaos Theory as part of the Blog Exchange; our assignment was to debate opposing sides of a topic with our partner. NB: If I had enough traffic to sell ads, I'd totally do it.

Why do you blog? For hits, for comments, for notoriety, for a steady stream of virtual pats on the back? If so, then bring on the ads. It’s a win-win: You’re even more motivated to bring in visitors, because they bring dollars with them. And your advertisers are happy, because you’re the ideal vehicle for their messages. They don’t care whether you’ve connected with your readers, whether you’ve helped someone by sharing your experiences, whether you’re a damn good writer. Just bring in the eyeballs, that’s all they ask.

But if you’re like most of us—if you blog out of a need to process what’s happening around you, or hone your writing skills, or keep some kind of a grip on your memories of what your children or pets or coworkers do all day—then what’s with the “buy-it-now” business? Yeah, I get that it’s nice to pick up a few bucks for doing something that you’ve been doing for free. I get the whole “If you’re paid to do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” But who are we kidding here? If you calculate the hourly rate, wouldn’t you be better off flipping burgers? Are blog ads any more of a moneymaker than those “make millions stuffing envelopes from home” scams?

Generating enough traffic to attract ads means blogging often, and well enough to convert at least some curious clickers into faithful visitors. And there’s no way I can argue against that. And sure, what’s the harm in a few extra text links, or a promo in your sidebar? Ads are everywhere these days, from eggs to airport luggage carousels; most of us are pretty savvy at tuning them out. No one’s forcing your readers to click. (Although you will have to find extra time to manage your advertising, lest you let slip an ad that you or your readers find insulting or offensive; make sure you factor that in to your net profit.)

But let’s forget the reader and focus on the writer. Because once you’ve taken that step, once you’ve crossed that line into commercialism, what you post is going to change. You will never again write without thinking “I wonder if this will be a popular entry… Is this going to turn off any of my readers? Maybe I should change the title or delete this paragraph or…”

And also: “I haven’t posted yet today. Gotta get something up or my stats will drop. There’s nothing I feel like writing about… I have to come up with something… What am I going to do?” And suddenly your fun hobby, your therapeutic outlet, your means of connecting with like and unlike minds around the world—suddenly it’s just another job.

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