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Is Sponsored Content Worth It?

When I was researching this post about the fees for sponsored content on blogs, I was struck by what Jessica Gottlieb said to me (via email). While discussing what she charges, she said, “I have very few sponsored posts because of that price point, and I’m okay with that because every time a blogger writes a sponsored post they lose readers. That’s just the reality of it.” (Emphasis is mine.)

I know in my own blog I’ve struggled with this; my readers dislike it when I write sponsored content. They prefer that I disclose immediately, at the start of the post (most bloggers disclose at the end), and some have even gone so far as to say that I should put it in the title. I do sponsored posts pretty rarely for that reason; I know the risk I take when I do.

This issue was highlighted again this week when well-known mom blogger Heather Armstrong announced a sponsored project she’s doing with Ikea. Soon folks were making statements about the project and how much they objected to sponsored posts on Twitter.

It might surprise you to know that some bloggers experience this reaction to sponsored content.

After all, there are plenty of mom bloggers (not to mention wedding bloggers, tech bloggers, etc, etc) that write as many as two or three sponsored posts a week without suffering from reader disdain and loss of traffic. Mom bloggers that offer content that falls into lifestyle, fashion, beauty, and other types of “advice” blogs don’t get much flack about sponsored content.

Bloggers that are best described as “memoir” bloggers are the folks that hit this particular speed bump.

It’s hard to pinpoint what, exactly, is the issue. All bloggers have devoted and loyal readers that are invested in the life and well-being of the blogger; this is not something that is exclusive to memoir bloggers. I do think, though, that memoir bloggers have a particularly intimate relationship with their readers, and readers develop a sense of ownership over memoir bloggers. I think that for those readers the relationship goes deeper; we become like their favorite musicians. Most readers have accepted side bar ads —much like we accept a beer company sponsoring our favorite singer’s tour but sponsored content for reader is like their favorite singer actually including the beer company’s jingle as part of a song. It jars, it feels wrong, and it feels like a kind of personal betrayal: you’re selling me and my loyalty to this brand? Because ultimately, that’s the real objection; it’s not that we’re selling TO them. It’s that we’re selling THEM to the brand.

I sympathize with the folks that dislike the sponsored content. I do. I’m a massive fan girl of a whole lot of blogs myself, and I’m one that often skips over the sponsored posts even when it’s a blogger I love. But at the same time, I also fully understand the blogger’s dilemma; it’s a chance to earn some money, and (usually) it’s a product or company we can build a great story around. It’s hard to turn it down and why should we? I know it’s unlikely that I’ll stop taking the occasional sponsored post.

I’m eager to hear your thoughts. Do you read sponsored posts? Do you find them objectionable? Do you feel it’s just part of the blogging package or do you really feel like they shouldn’t be accepted? Let me know in the comments.

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