As of recent, the job title, “professional blogger,” has become an increasingly realistic and successful career path. It’s essentially professional selling, but without the annoyance of doing door to door business transactions trying to sell a product no one really needs. Blogging is selling yourself and your creativity to as massive of an audience as possible without entirely selling out. And the concept of selling out becomes a bit more of a blurred line when it comes to paid content or company sponsorship.
Food and lifestyle blogs have the most opportunities to partner up with a company without it seeming unnatural or unfit on the blog. Buzzfeed’s Tasty is constantly incorporating food brands’ sponsorships in its recipes but it doesn’t detract from the content of the videos. The Naughty Fork will often dine at a restaurant free of cost to her, just for the opportunity for said restaurant to be the featured geotag on her Instagram post, but it does give you ideas for new brunch spots in Miami. (P.S. her name is Sami, but it’s sadly not me.)
So, in this case, if I wanted to make money off of blogging, or eat meals for free with a mention in return, it wouldn’t necessarily be difficult. But the inherent nature of sponsored content is just slightly too inorganic for me. If I were serious about this blog – doing serious work and dedicating serious time – paid content is a really great option. However, it limits your opportunities to be truly free in your creativity.
When you have to disclose that a company is attached to your content, it comes off to me as “my opinions are being influenced.” While I think that with a completely neutral mindset, not as it being a bad thing or a good thing, that is still the label it comes with. David Weinberger said it best in his Harvard Business Review article:
The wall can be too thin. So, when the Edelman report compares paid co-creation to “a brand naming a baseball or football stadium,” I want to reply that when the Washington Redskins take to the field, they’re not deciding plays with a concern about offending Fedex.
A corporate sponsorship is different from a restaurant calling you up to come dine with them, while they give you the most popular and expensive items from its brunch menu, only to find out that when the bill comes, it’s on the house because they know you photographed every item put in front of you. You will very clearly be posting at least one Instagram photo and four different Snapchat stories of champagne flutes of bottomless mimosas clinking and a beautiful cheese pull from the first dive into your lobster mac and cheese.
Labeling your content very clearly as being paid and influenced is probably the most important factor of doing company partnerships, and so many people don’t. Being a good Internet citizen isn’t easy and it just doesn’t seem worth the effort when it’s just to put a few extra dollars in your wallet for the weekend, especially when I’m not serious enough for it. I like being able to voice my opinions and draw my own conclusions about restaurant experiences rather than having to create a post for the cash incentive. I would rather cook a dinner using ingredients of my choosing (or, more likely, whatever ingredients the recipe says to use, assuming it also wasn’t paid content) than choosing to cook something because a company will sponsor my content.
Overall, my feelings aren’t too polarized on the issue. If you’re pocketing money for every post, good on you. If you’re not, welcome to the club. One or the other doesn’t really discredit you or give you more credit because blogging, by nature, isn’t black or white.
My views are wishy-washy and I wouldn’t want to feel pressured to write something I don’t stand for. But, hey, if Threefold Cafe told me they’d give me free avocado toast for the rest of my life if I did a short post raving about it, that is a sponsorship I could get behind.