I have been blogging for like, ever. So, when my readers get all up in my grill about something on my blog that enables me to make (part of a) living, I always have the urge to get defensive. I am a true blogger through and through. If the FTC took away ALL means of blogging for money, I would still be compelled to blog. Even though I live in a capitalist country and almost everything around me is designed to part people from their hard-earned cash, my readers hate it when I make money. Why are they so violently opposed to seeing someone they love succeed?
1. Well first of all, they don’t love you.
Readers don’t read your blog because they love you. Even if you’re Dooce or The Pioneer Woman, two bloggers who are A-Listers because of their personalities, your readers still come to your blog for one reason. Because they’re selfish. Because you give them something, like inspiration, entertainment, eye-candy, or even motivation. Once that thing you are giving them dries up, they will cease to come. If they think it might be drying up, they will come less often until they are reassured that that thing is still there.
2. They’re insecure. They think you love money and sponsors more than you love them (or your content).
Even though readers come to your blog because they’re selfish, they think that what you have with them is special. They have an emotional connection with your blog, that’s why they read it. They want to believe that you have an emotional connection with them back. When they smell money (and they always do! We are professional consumers… we always know when there’s money!), they feel betrayed. When a reader sees a new ad where there wasn’t one, or a disclosure where they’ve never seen one, they freak out just a little bit. They think you will no longer love them (the reader) as much as you did before.
What the reader doesn’t understand is that you love your blog more than they could ever love your blog. You gave birth to the blog, you feed it, you change all its virtual diapers. You are with that blog 24 hours a day. You think about it during all your waking hours, and even during your sleepless nights. Hopefully you won’t let a handful of sponsors or opportunities distract you from how much you love your blog. Sometimes what the reader needs is a little reassurance that you won’t let the money distract you from the best interests of your blog. An honest blog entry about why you are monetizing (like this one from Shannon at Madigan Made) is probably all you need to keep your followers loyal, and convert some haters into fans.
3. They want to believe you do it (only) for the love of your blog.
When readers learn that you are making money on your blog, a certain illusion is shattered. They don’t want to imagine you getting a modest check in exchange for your outrageous efforts. When a reader has to think about anything on your blog that distracts them from their selfish mission of being entertained, it annoys them. If they read a disclosure, it shocks them away from the content of your post and makes them think that you sold out to write the post. It kind of ruins the whole thing for them there right at the end. When money enters the picture “they feel like your content is then compromised,” Tweeted QueerieBradshaw.
Even if it’s not. It’s not compromised, right? You didn’t sell out to write a $10 sponsored post about Choconauts on your organic cooking blog, did you?
4. They have a finely-tuned sense of entitlement.
Why pay for the cow when the milk is free? Who cares if someone else is paying for the milk?! I want my milk free, dammit! It has always been free!
No, actually, it has never been free. someone always pays for the milk. Up until you started monetizing, YOU paid for the milk. With your time, your effort, and your own money. You paid your own money so someone else could read your blog. And now they’re complaining about the free resource you are giving them. At our very cores, we are all selfish beings. We have all become so spoiled with the glut of free information on the internet that we actually think we deserve to get it for free.
But someone always pays.
5. If too many Other People learn about your blog, it can’t be cool anymore.
Like Hipsters, your readers feel like they knew about you before you were cool. Once you start getting cool with more people, you’re not as, uh, cool to early adopters. You becoming cool to the masses means you’re no longer their special secret website.
Yeah Pinterest really effed that up for the Hipsters.
6. Because they really, really love your blog. Like it is.
Most people fear and loathe change. Even the ones who claim they like change don’t like it when change is on someone else’s terms. A certain percentage of people will always complain when you change something. They will complain when you change your logo, your site design, your focus, when you increase the number of posts (or decrease them), and they will especially complain when you start to make money.
Just remember, when people complain, it’s because they love you. If they didn’t love you, they wouldn’t even notice, and they certainly wouldn’t take time to comment.
And a certain percentage of complainers are just haters. Haters gonna hate.
And a certain percentage of those complainers and haters will leave you. Forever. That’s okay. Who wants the haters anyway? People will come and go over the course of your blog’s lifespan. Most readers are not forever fans. It’s okay if they leave, because as long as you are still providing the same great content and the same level of integrity to yourself, more fans will come.
And when it comes down to that, it’s okay if more fans don’t come. It’s okay.
7. They feel like marks.
Your fans have bought into you. They believe what you say, follow your advice, and have put you on a teeny bit of a pedestal. Like I said before, they believe they have a relationship with you. When they learn that you are making money on your blog, they feel somewhat betrayed. They think that your relationship is based on using them for their pageviews (or whatever), and it annoys them to think that.
8. They don’t enjoy the baggage that comes with a monetized blog (ads, sponsored posts, having stuff pushed on them).
Some parts of monetized blogs are just annoying. Ad are annoying. Flashing ads are more annoying. Popup, animated, video, and audio ads are the worst. Having your favorite blogger write about a sponsored topic can be annoying. Having them shill their latest e-book is annoying. It can all be a bit much, if you don’t do it right.
I’m not pretending to know what the “right way” to monetize is. It’s different for every person and every website. I am right this very minute annoying people at my blog with a rollover ad and a paid giveaway. I hope that the fact that I still provide the same amount of solid content (and even more great editorial conten than I used to before I got paid, actually), will keep my readers coming back.
9. Because most stuff in our society is mass-produced, people tend to undervalue other people’s time.
We usually think of people undervaluing others’ time as a makers’ problem. If you have an Etsy shop, you think about it all the time. How much is my time worth to someone else? If I spent 20 hours knitting this garment, will anyone pay $400 for it? Most likely, no. Not when they can get a similarly warm garment at Target for $20. And if they ARE willing to pay me $400, is it worth my time to knit for $20 an hour? And how much did those six skeins of Noro yarn cost, anyway?
Commoditizing your hobby is a very difficult exercise. People are happy to do their hobbies for free — they will do hours of backbreaking labor for the love of what they are doing. But when they learn that people wouldn’t pay them even $10 for that same 30 hour project, a bubble bursts. It devalues the work to the point where nobody wants to do it anymore. I personally would rather make crafts without getting paid and give them away than charge $2 for a tube of lip balm that took me half an hour to make. That’s why I started blogging in the first place! My blog is my product.
So back to my point. It takes a reader, what, five minutes to read your blog post? Because you’re good at what you do, you make it look easy. The reader has no idea that it takes you two hours of brainstorming, followed by a two hour shopping trip to get supplies, followed by a four hour trial-and-error process as you design your craft (meanwhile, you stop every two minutes to take a well-composed and beautifully lit photo), followed by an hour of photo-editing, followed by the writing process, which could take hours. At the end of that blog post that took Sally Reader five minutes to read, you have already spent 10 hours toiling (and $13 on the supplies). If she had to name a price she would pay you to read another one of your tutorials, the price she would name would be NOTHING.
10. They don’t know you well enough. If they did, they would just be happy for you.
If you are not a craft blogger, how did you feel when you read that last paragraph? Did you know it takes me 10 hours of various types of work to write a craft tutorial post? Until I told you, you just took that post that took you two seconds to gawk at on Pinterest for complete granted. And that’s fine. I don’t mind that you appreciate my work for two seconds and then move on. But don’t begrudge me the four bucks I made on ad revenue on that post.
Again, education must enter the picture. Readers don’t know because they don’t know. They have uneducated opinions all the time. It is up to you to tell your readers (if you decide to) more about yourself, even how much money you make or how you make your money, or how long it takes you to put together a post that they breeze through in a few minutes.
I usually err on the side of not saying anything. It’s hard for me to reveal too much about myself. Not because I’m afraid to reveal numbers, or ashamed at the ways I am making money off of my readers, but mostly because it is my blog. Even though a million pages are viewed on my website every month, it is still my blog, and at the heart of it all, I am selfish like everyone else, and I write my own blog for my own reasons. I don’t want to justify every move I make to my readers (even though I think they would eat that up like dessert… people LOVE transparency!)
11. They’re just not used to it.
As I mentioned before, change is hard. If something new happens, people don’t like the feelings they get in the face of that change. They want your blog to be old reliable, and change makes people unhappy. You are their happy place.
The good news is that people are adaptable. They will become used to anything (and fairly quickly). With repetition, people will enjoy a post despite the disclosure at the end, or forget that there was ever a time before that 300×250 ad box. The people who can’t get used to it will leave, and be replaced by people who accept the way you do things around here.
So fly free, little blogger. It’s okay to make money on your blog, even if you encounter snarky comments or other little discouragements. You will probably make a few mistakes in the process of monetizing your blog, but that’s okay. Mistakes equal experience points, and you can’t get experience without uh, experiencing things. I give you permission to make money with your blog!
p.s. This Monday’s #crafterminds Twitter Chat topic is “How to Get Paid to be a Blogger.” Please join us at 1pm Pacific/4pm E on Twitter!
photo: licensed via flickr & creative commons, by thenestor
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