My Take on the DMMA Blogger Debate
I have nothing but respect for international and local bloggers who’ve made good and can successfully live off the fruits of their seated labour. In fact, some of my best friends are bloggers.
And if you too, like 80% of internet users, have spent the 5 minutes it takes setting up a blog, you are, congratulations, part of the mysterious ‘blogosphere’ . Yes, even if you’ve never posted anything and you still have that annoying, generic ‘Welcome’ message on your front page.
As such , you are also at the heart of the DMMA blogger debate being held in Quirk’s offices in Cape Town today. According to 2oceansvibe, “the closed event, taking place at the Quirk offices in Cape Town, will aim to define the rules of engagement between bloggers, PR professionals and Ad Agency MDs.”
Advertiser or Artist?
Perhaps it’s because I’m just as likely to spend 3 hours staring at my spinach plants as I am researching the progression of South Africa’s blogging population, but I don’t understand the upset. Should bloggers get paid for brand-pushing posts? If they’ve signed a contract which entitles them to, absolutely they should. In the absence of any kind of prior agreement with the brand they’re pushing, no. It’s as easy as that. In my freelance work, I agree to a price for the piece of work, deliver it and get paid (most of the time). If I choose to write SEO copy for Coca Cola in the hopes that they might give me the chance to work on their account, are they responsible in any way for my wasted time and effort? Seriously though, are they, because I have some great slogans sitting in Google docs that I’d like to invoice for.
Want to get paid for blogging? Okay, then present your proposal to your targeted clients, show them the ROI on paying you to blog for them, put together a strategy to show how you propose to escalate the content and engagement over time. Or fuck off. If you want to sell advertising, then you need to sell like an advertiser.
We do everything in life for love or money, sometimes, rarely, both. But if you’re cantering to what you think are the whims of budget-laden brand managers in the hopes that you’ll be ‘discovered’ and sponsored is, to me at least, the online equivalent of working Baker Street in your high, high heels and offering passers-by a good time.
On the other side of the coin, agencies or brands expecting bloggers to alter content or ‘tone down’ posts to stay in-line with their mission and values should also get real. The days of celebrity endorsements are, one sincerely hopes, coming to a well-deserved and embarrassingly sticky end (ooh, speaking of which could someone let the cosmetics industry know, please?). Hence expecting a popular blogger to suddenly start creating the kind of content you want will be seen by the super savvy online public for exactly what it is- blatant puppetry.
The social age is one that has heralded the kind honest, open, two-way communication consumers and customers have always wanted from the companies they give their money to. But there is always the understanding that in visiting a Nescafe’s Facebook page, I’m never going to see a status update that reads, “Our new hazelnut flavoured instant coffee takes like puppy bums! Sorry!” The medium is tailored for message, as it has been since the first woodcut posters once happily lauded the slimming benefits of tapeworms and medicinal cocaine.
So should sponsored posts be labelled ‘sponsored posts’? Sure, but do you really think your readers wouldn’t notice anyway?*
Writing for Money
There is no shame in writing for money, I do it all the time. And having a blog for your brand is one of the best ways to convey interesting, useful or entertaining information about whatever it is you sell, and should form a pillar of your social connection with your customers.
If you are one of the lucky bloggers (or bastards, as I like to call you), who have had your internet musings recognised by a benevolent benefactor, then that’s genuinely wonderful. May you continue to fill the world wide web with your opinions, thoughts, pictures, word-art or whatever other, worthy activity you choose to utilise your slice of the web for.
However if, like me, you are still waiting for your golden ticket, then ask yourself if you are still writing for yourself or for the brands you are trying to woo through your SEO heavy punting posts. Both might get you paid, but the former will make you a better, more interesting human being while the latter sucks your soul out through your typing fingers with every love-less sentence you pound out on the keys. It is possible to get paid for what you love, but it’s very hard to love something just because you’re getting paid.
Similarly, if you are a brand manager, isn’t it worth finding a blogger or an unpaid freelance writer (practically the same thing) who is truly aligned to your brand, your industry and your interests as opposed to a wildcard writer- I’ve always wanted to be called a ‘wildcard’- who will only comply for the carrot at the end of your stick? Eventually, as they say, you’re going to need a bigger carrot.
Whether your a blogger or a brand, just remember, people don’t like it when you pimp out your passion or compromise on your standards. Don’t do what’s popular or profitable- do what’s right and you might just achieve both with your soul intact.
*This is not a sponsored blog post. But it could be if you pay me.