Before folks get their panties all wadded up, I want to give a little disclaimer. This post is NOT directed at anyone specifically. I see sponsored posts like the ones I’m talking about below all. the. time. in the sewing blogging world. So if you/your friend happened to post one today or yesterday or last week, don’t take it personally. If anything, I’m saying you should be making MORE for your hard work! And no, I don’t judge anyone for making money off their blogs. After all, I make money off of mine, too. I’m simply saying that advertisers should be paying for all our hard work. That is all.
This post WAS partially inspired by this post on Decor8.
I want to talk about something today that really irks me: underpaid (and often unrelated) sponsored posts.
But first, I want to take you back to 2007. In 2007, I was working as an account executive at a regional advertising agency making roughly $65K a year. I had great health insurance, a 401K, lots of paid lunches and other perks…you know, the works. I had a master’s degree in advertising management, and I was great at what I did. Of course, I worked with a team of talented people – graphic designers, developers, media planners, creative directors, research specialists and assistants who all worked to put together ad campaigns for our clients. My coworkers made anywhere from about $30K/year (as an assistant) to $150K+ (upper-level account supervisors and such).
And our clients? They were mostly medium-sized businesses that were well-known in the western U.S. – regional banks, multi-level marketing companies, medical device manufacturers, restaurant chains, etc. These were companies that were doing well but that weren’t in the Fortune 500. But they had tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on advertising every year. In fact, I was in charge of writing estimates for clients, and often just the planning portion of the process was in the tens of thousands of dollars. That’s not including money spent purchasing magazine ads, billboard space and radio airtime.
You got that? (Don’t worry; it will all make sense shortly.)
Now, let’s talk about how advertising cost is calculated. Usually, media is evaluated in terms of cost per thousand. For example, if a magazine ad costs $8,890 for a full page in four-color and reaches 83,000 people (numbers taken from Sew News Magazines 2014 Media Kit), it has a cost per thousand (or CPM) of about $107. Do the math – $8,890 divided by 83 thousands is $107.10.
Typically, television advertising has a high overall cost but a low CPM since it has the tendency to reach more people per dollar spent. Newspaper advertising, on the other hand, has both a low overall cost AND a low CPM since it’s relatively inexpensive and reaches a lot of people (well, it did in 2007…now, not so much).
Now, let’s get to the topic at hand: sponsored blog posts. I recently joined the blogger network of a media company (that shall remain unnamed since they seem like a good company and such) that hooks up bloggers with brands who are hoping to pay for reviews of their products. The idea is that the blogger pitches the company with a creative idea – a story if you will – that they will sort of create, photograph and write about on their blogs. The hope is that their loyal followers will become interested in the brand and purchase the product in the post.
In the case where a company contacts a blogger directly, the product is usually related to the blogger’s usual content – say, sewing blogger reviews fabric/iron/scissors/dress form/etc. But in the case of the media companies hooking up bloggers with brands, I usually see more general-interest products like popsicles or markers or…I dunno…air freshener spray.
For example, a granola bar company might work with the media group to find bloggers to create a mini-campaign for their product. The blogger submits her pitch to the media company, and if selected, she gets to work on the post. She is to purchase her own box of granola bars, stage the use of said granola bars in a creative way, photograph the use and then blog about it. Perhaps she writes a story about how her kids have swim practice every Thursday and are just STARVING at the end, and the granola bars save the day. Not very creative, I know, but you get my drift.
And how much does the blogger get paid for this? From what I’ve seen, it’s typically about $150-$200 per post. Using the same CPM calculation as before, if her post gets 2,000 views (and that’s REALLY conservative for most bigger bloggers), that’s a CPM of $100 at the upper end ($200 divided by 2 thousands = $100). (The brand also has to pay the media company that made the blogger/brand connection, but I’m simplifying this process a little for brevity.)
Hmmm…so that’s roughly the same CPM as a magazine ad, right? But wait…these companies are asking bloggers to be the creative director, photographer, graphic designer AND copywriter for these mini campaigns. Instead of just sending over camera-ready art (that’s the ad term for ads that are ready to be inserted into the magazine, usually in PDF format), these bloggers must create the whole campaign and execute on it.
Bloggers spend hours and hours putting together these ideas and creating the content for these posts – and that’s not even considering the YEARS of work they’ve done to build up their hundreds of thousands of pageviews per month (for the bigger bloggers). Think about all the tutorials, free patterns, linky parties, giveaways and other free content they’ve created over YEARS to build up an audience for these multi-national, Fortune 500 conglomerates to pay them a measly $150 to advertise their product. Yet bloggers doing the job of all those people in ad agencies that make respectable full-time salaries doing basically the same job. (See above.)
It’s highway robbery, y’all! And it seriously needs to change!
But you know what? If big companies can get away with it, they will. And no, I’m not blaming the media companies that hook up bloggers with brands. They are a necessary (and appreciated) part of the equation. Change starts with bloggers.
Now, I know what some of you are going to say: “But I’d kill to make $150 or $200 every month or two off my blog!” Well, I’m guessing that if that’s your attitude, you probably aren’t a big blogger anyway, and you probably aren’t getting selected for these types of campaigns. That’s just a fact. But even if you ARE a smaller blogger and are getting picked for these campaigns, YOU SHOULD BE DEMANDING MORE.
Sure, there are times when I/you are probably happy to write a review for free – you know, when you just love your iron and are happy to blog about how awesome it is even though you aren’t getting paid for it and even bought the iron with your own hard-earned dollar. But that’s different – that’s just you creating content. What I’m talking about is companies who actively seek out bloggers with which to “partner” and want you to deviate from your normal editorial content to write a post about them/their product. I can usually spot these posts from a mile away, and honestly, they usually seem a bit contrived (but hey, that’s just me, and that’s not the point of this post). You get my drift.
And there are other times when blogging for free makes sense in terms of building up credibility or working toward making OTHER, more lucrative partnerships. An example would be writing for a much larger blog or company that’s related to your own content (sewing machine companies, bigger sewing blogs, etc.).
Or hey, maybe you are just a hobby blogger who could care less about making money from your blog. But if that’s the case, I’m guessing you aren’t getting offers for these kinds of deals. And if you are…please, for the rest of us who ARE trying to profit from our content, PLEASE help us to set the compensation bar a little higher so everyone benefits. (And you can always use more fabric money, right?!)
But in the case of huge companies capitalizing on bloggers’ years of hard work and desire to make any money possible to help support their families, I am disgusted. (And you should be, too!)
So please, bloggers: Stop apologizing for wanting to make money off your YEARS of hard work. (I saw this over and over at SNAP Conference last year.) Stop feeling guilty for contributing to the family budget. And start asking for what you’re worth. Don’t accept a measly $150 (or even free product?!) to promote a brand that’s completely or only tangentially related to your blog. Demand that these companies pay for the services rendered, and learn to value yourself for all you have to offer. (Or just figure out a better, more authentic way to make money from your talents!)
These companies know how much you’re worth…so why don’t you?