I know I’ve written on this subject before but the debate on whether bloggers should be paid just keeps raging on and I keep having more to say about it! Just flick away now to something pretty if you don’t want to hear it all over again!
Of course it is going to suit brands very nicely to argue against bloggers being paid and to have an expectation of free publicity. In fact, some brands have been more or less built by early adopter bloggers and haven’t even needed to take the advertising route, and that’s what bloggers are superbly good at – finding niche and exciting brands and spreading the word. Once the word spreads, those brands can look forward to a huge surge of attention and an upsurge in sales. Which is great on all counts – it allows the brand to grow and develop in a way that may have taken much longer had it not been for blogs, and for the bloggers it means more new products to talk about, rich content for the blog and a diversity of posts.
However, nowadays, the notion that blogs are niche is a very old one; they’re not niche anymore; blogs are very much mainstream. Some have stats that would make a magazine cry with envy and yet, brands are still very reluctant to realise that there is a huge value in placing revenue with blogs. I say brands, but of course, their strategies are planned by media agencies who’d rather farm out on-line advertising in bulk across several networks than engage with individual blogs. Their remit is on-line so on-line they go.. but it’s more than strange that they don’t tend to go with the places where there are literally thousands and thousands of beauty fans all one place for their beauty clients. These beauty lovers have actively sought out a beauty blog to follow – you don’t arrive there by accident – they’re hugely engaged and actually want (and don’t need persuading) to buy beauty. However, the idea that you might pay a blog where your core audience is present, willing and able, seems to be flying over their heads. What’s that all about? It’s the best advertising in the world because it’s not forced on irrelevant audiences who aren’t interested. The only reason to come to a beauty blog is because you’re interested in beauty. Duh.
If beauty blogs disappear because they’re not supported, then beauty brands are the ultimate losers. Collectively, we’re too big now not to make a gigantic hole in their revenue.
BBB readers know perfectly well that they can ignore any ads or countdowns or even sponsored posts and that my expectation of them is not to leap on ads like suckers – they’re a million miles more intelligent and discerning than that. But learning about new products, paid for or not, is always of interest. Always. I would love to run BBB ad free – I’d absolutely love it if there was no money involved anywhere down the line – but that isn’t real life. I don’t need to be a millionaire, or even wealthy, and certainly never started a blog with financial intent, but real life needs the mortgage paying and blogs aren’t kindly charities giving a down-at-heel sector a well needed push up the ladder.. the beauty sector is worth billions. It’s a very, very rich industry indeed. How do you think the Nail Index overtook the Lipstick Index? Nail bloggers, of course.
Ultimately, if the beauty industry wants all the fascination, feedback, engagement and attention, somewhere down the line they’re going to have to spread the love. It’s not possible to work on something full-time where you don’t get paid anything at all. Like I have said in the past, some brands have been very supportive to blogs (and to my blog in particular) and I have to be honest and recognise that were it not for them, I wouldn’t be able to do this as much as I do. They are literally keeping me blogging. And my figures are a very far cry from the early days.. they’re big because I work on them every single day.
So, what does working on figures mean? It means studying your stats til your eyes bleed so you can try and figure out what your readers most want to read about, it means finding new and interesting products (and the two do not go hand in hand) that constantly brings great content, it means negotiating with brands to let me show BBB readers products that they wouldn’t be able to see otherwise until they hit the shelves (a recent 36-long email chain is a good example of how long it takes to negotiate) and it means tweeting, networking, phone calls, letters even, to try and get the very best for my readers in an increasingly competitive place, all the while trying to convince brands that this is the right audience to see it up against others who would also like an exclusive. It means making constant judgements, being in constant contact and as far as I can work out, being 24/7 on-line. It is not easy.
It’s something I had never even considered when I first started blogging… how much readers bring to the whole blogging party. It’s not all about the blogger, it’s as much about their audience and readers as anything, and a wise blogger will recognise this. If you come to my blog, I want you to enjoy it, I want it to be a good experience and I’d love you to come back, because those that do make all of this a pleasure and very worthwhile.
Something has to give; it is no longer a question of over-ambitious entitlement or self-importance as was once levelled at bloggers who dared to ask for some product or payment. It’s a total twist in circumstances where brands now feel entitled to completely free exposure. Would they ask ITV to place free ads? Would they ask a magazine to place free ads? Would they ask a newspaper to place free ads? Would they ask a train-line to stick free ads up in the carriages? Would they ask a mail-shot company to send out for free? No, no, no, no and no. So, why are they asking me?
My ad/countdown/sponsored posts are ridiculously cheap in context with the size and purity of the audience, and yet I really have to hussle for quality ones. I could just advertise any old thing and I’d be fine, but there has to be a line somewhere otherwise I’d lose the self-imposed quality that I want for me and BBB readers.
So, the thorny issue of whether bloggers should be paid or not isn’t so spiky after all – if you want to keep beauty blogs and all that they bring to your brands, the mind-shift about their value has to be made and soon. As one beauty brand would say, it’s ‘because we’re worth it.’