What Is The Cost Of Integrity?
Recently a girl wrote that a blogger she knows had been berated on Twitter for featuring too many sponsored posts. The girl said that if the person who'd criticised this blogger didn't like it she should have simply unfollowed her, rather than publicly "bash" her for featuring so much paid for content. If you are a career blogger you are entirely reliant on your audience to earn your living. With no followers or readers you simply cannot earn money from sponsored content and ads. So if a reader is complaining about being presented with too many sponsored posts, you better sit up and take notice because that is one person voicing an opinion that possibly many, many of your readers are feeling.
This is a discussion that's happening more and more as bloggers are increasingly being paid to write content.
However, the girl's view that the answer is to simply unfollow the blogger fails to address a genuine concern. This is a failing thats happening time and time again as bloggers come onto the scene only ever having seen blogging as a viable way to earn a living. They rarely recognise why blogging became popular in the first place and why, at the time, it started an important shift in the reporting and sharing of fashion, style and beauty.
Us very early bloggers started blogging as an alternative to magazines. Sharing our own looks and styles was an antidote to the endless parade of models in magazines and sponsored content and ads. As bloggers we were free to call it exactly as we saw it. We were real girls, with real bodies, styling real clothes.
a shifting landscape
The landscape shifted massively when bloggers realised they could actually earn money for writing. However, the big difference with journalism and blogging is the professional codes of conduct journalists adhere to, or at the very least must learn and understand in order to find ways to get around them (in some cases). There are currently no such codes of professional conduct in place for blogging, other than disclosing when content is sponsored. This means we leave the issue of integrity entirely up to the bloggers themselves. Most bloggers, it must be said, have integrity but when your living is reliant on getting your readers to buy products or click ads then integrity can be stretched to its limits when there are bills to pay. And that is totally understandable. Of course, you need to put your bills first, but it does pose some issues.
The original girl I mentioned wrote that by "bashing" the blogger in question the tweeter was possibly costing her her living. But the bigger question is, is this blogger, who's posting endless sponsored content, really offering a truthful view of all the products she's trying to get her readers to buy? The answer is highly likely to be no. She's trying to earn a living so it's likely that she's not in the position to be able to turn away products or brands that possibly she wouldn't endorse if she weren't getting paid for. And that's the unique position bloggers are in. Her living will, sometimes, be at the cost of the reader. If she endorses a product that isn't as good as she said it was and a reader goes and spends their possibly very small income on it, then one person's income has been at the expense of another's. This side of the discussion rarely gets mentioned - that of the reader and our responsibility to you. Unlike celebrities, who frequently endorse products they don't use, bloggers are much closer to their readers, who are usually just ordinary people like them. And it's exactly why I won't get involved in sponsored content. I don't want to ever find myself in the position where I get offered a handsome amount of money to feature something that I honestly would never use but have to say that I would in order to sell the product, but the alternative is to turn away the work that will pay my bills. At what point do you set your integrity aside?
strike a balance
The girl asked what the answer is. The answer is simple. It's balance. Write sponsored posts but ensure to also feature lots of your own content where your real likes and dislikes are shared. The whole point of blogging, and why it became popular in the first place, is that it's your view and opinion of the world. It's about sharing your experiences. Don't fall into the trap of feeling you should always get paid to write. Blogging is a personal project so no-one owes you a living. If you can get paid for it, great, but remember that the love of sharing and connecting is important too. So share the things you write for money but share more of the things you write for love.