Bloggers – Don’t Sell Out CheapPosted on March 7th, 2013 44 comments
There has been an issue that has been bugging me for quite a few years now, and I need to say something about it.
Bloggers being exploited for the benefit of the big players in the online engineering space.
You’ve seen them, the big companies going all “social media” internet happy and wanting to draw in and dominate engineering audiences with their online blogs, and piss-poor attempts at setting up online communities. I won’t name names, you know who they are, because it’s almost every major player in the online engineering supply or magazine/content business.
And they are tripping over themselves trying to entice bloggers to write articles for them, do product reviews for them, blog events for them, you name it.
They do this by enticing you (if you are lucky) with free products, maybe travel to a trade show, and claims of making you well known with the “massive” viewership numbers they claim they have. And they all actively target existing bloggers, both well known, and not so well known to come and write stuff for them. If you have an existing blog, and you haven’t been approached by one of these companies, then it’s only a matter of time.
Whilst on the surface their offers might sound attractive, there may be several issues you are not aware of:
1) The numbers are bullshit.
Yep, every number they give you in terms of readers/subscribers/viewers/hits etc is complete bullshit. Artificially inflated. There is an old figure of “1.4 times” that the magazines used to claim on their subscriber base, and the BS continues on to this day, even more so online, sometimes by an order of magnitude or more.
Lets say a magazine prints 10,000 actual copies of a magazine. They will say to their advertisers that they have 14,000 readers. Why? Don’t ask. They don’t care if those 10,000 copies are actually sold or not, if they are read or not, or if they are returned for pulp. That’s straight old-school publishing BS.
But the BS gets a bit more complex in the online space. Let’s say an online magazine has 10,000 subscribers, with 10,000 accounts & logins. Then they decide to add a blog. They’ll sell and package advertising space based on both print, electronic, and blog space etc, and they’ll muddy all the numbers up to make it sounds like their blog gets similar numbers of views. Only it doesn’t of course, it gets very few views. The advertisers don’t care, they sign up anyway because their advertising department has to meet its monthly KPI (Key Performance Indicators) for money spent on each advertising space – “blogs – TICK!”. In short, it’s in the companies interest to muddy and inflate these numbers, and grossly inflate they do. And it gets to a point where they actually believe it themselves.
Then there are the companies with online communities. Some will proudly display their “view count” for blog posts etc, but in some cases, this number can increase with every page refresh of that thread. So your blog post contribution that shows 10,000 views, really only got a hundred or two genuine views.
Beware of these fake figures. Often, even a relatively little known blogger can get more views on their own web site than on one of these big players websites. There is almost always more in it for them there there is in it for you. Beware.
The rule is, take their figure and drop it by an order of magnitude. Two orders if the smell is rather pungent.
2) They are outsourcing jobs, and want content for (almost) free
Why pay existing full time employees real wages to write quality articles, reviews and blog posts, when you can get gulli-err-eager bloggers to do it for the enticement of fame and/or some free swag? And yes, the big companies have been shedding full time writing staff. Genius on their part, it looks great on the books.
Ok, so the fame ain’t as good as they say it will be, but what about that free swag?!
Yeah, it’s real, but what is that costing you, and your fellow bloggers? Is it such a good deal?
By accepting the free swag and writing for them (or doing it for the “fame”), you are effectively lowering the bar for all bloggers in the future when these companies expect people to produce content for them for free, or effectively slave labour wages.
Often the free swag comes direct from the manufacturer, so why not start you own blog and them ask the manufacturers directly? Odds are the manufacturer will give you the same swag for free as well. Then you aren’t producing content for a big commercial magazine/website/community for free, and you are making a go of it yourself – awesome. Why work to build “the man”, when you can build your own future? By doing this yourself your own blog can then potentially bring in views, advertising income, sponsorship, and fame – to you, and not some corporate website.
3) What if they pay you?
Well, do the math. How long does it take you to do that review or write that technical blog article? Are you getting paid a professional hourly rate for doing so? And not just a minimum wage for someone tossing fries at Macca’s, a real professional engineering rate, or the resemblence of one. Try $50-$100/hour as a bare minimum figure.
4) What if they want you to be an “expert” and answer questions?
Having your name and photo plastered all over their website as one of their writers or “experts” might look cool, but be prepared for the deluge of (often stupid) questions you’ll get from people from all over the globe, or people wanting you to spoon feed them. How much time are you spending doing this?, and for what pay? For who’s ultimate benefit?
5) But I wanna do it for the fun of it!
I hear you! But why not do it for your own site instead? Views might be less at first, but they will pick up, and it won’t be long before your own numbers will surpass what they get on the big sites. If you build it, they will come. You’ll see.
6) How long will they last?
It might seem like a silly question, but how long will your post or reviews remains on that big site? Will it get purged in their next brain-flash idea to change social media direction? Will you be able to put it on your resume in a few years time? At the very least, duplicate any content you create on your own site. Don’t let them tell you you can’t do that either, and don’t sign anything that says your content becomes their property.
7) We’ll advertise your blog!
Sure they will, in exchange for your free content. Is it such a good deal? Is it better than Google? Maybe, maybe not…
Ask fellow bloggers to include you in their list of other blogs. That will likely bring in more views than the big sites will. Independent bloggers should scratch each others backs, not the backs of the big corporate players.
8) We’ll advertise ON your blog!
While I’m on the subject, as a blogger you will eventually get approached by an online ad agency rep. They will attack you several ways.
First they may offer you “info graphics” or other content to put on your blog. Don’t do it. They are trying to get cheap SEO for their highly paying client.
Next they may offer an absurdly low rate of say $50-$200 to advertise on your blog, for the whole year! Don’t do it. They have a LOT more money available, haggle them up by an order of magnitude. They will try and throw you a line that they don’t have much budget for keywords etc, it’s bullshit, their are just trying to get a real big juicy margin! Their keyword search software has determined that your blog page
They might offer you some free swag in exchange for advertising. Don’t do it. You are being bought cheap.
Only accept real advertising rates, in cash, up front, that as a ballpark, start in the hundreds per month. And even those figures are absurdly cheap compared to traditional print and big engineering website advertising SEE HERE for but one example. Accepting less once again drags down the bar for the whole industry.
9) We’ll write a “guest post” article for you!
When your SEO ranking gets high enough you’ll also get bombarded with requests to write a “guest post” in exchange for a text or some other link for whatever client it is “they” are trying to improve the SEO for. They claim they’ll write a professional quality post or infographic, blah blah blah. It’s a way for them to get big $$$$ from their client in exchange for very little work on their part. People are wising up about #8 above, so they have moved to offering content instead of cash.
It’s a crap deal, don’t do it. People come to your site to read/watch/listen to YOU, not to read some stupid pasted together info-graphic or “article”.
So I encourage every blogger or wannabe blogger to really think long and hard before deciding to create content for someone else, be it for free, for pay, or for some other perceived benefit, or accept cheap advertising or guest posts etc.
Don’t sell out cheap. Sometimes something is not better than nothing!
It’s funny because it’s true
This would have been a nice drive-time rant.
I have been subscribed to your RSS feed for about 6 months now and although I really like your videos I don’t make that much time to watch them as they are quite long. So I tend to pick and choose quite a lot.
I therefore fully support your idea of adding some text blog posts now and then.
By the way, this post was very useful as I am in the process of starting up my own online company. Once again thanks for your super site and willingness to share so much information.
I hate reading. But I cant afford to miss even a tiny bit of knowledge I would lose if I dont read this.
URRRRRRHHH!!! so im going to read this
but I found it interesting!! great stuff. I didnt know that 50$ is cheap;-)its ae lot in here. may be for you.
Anyways, All the best. want more!
Since, as far as know, you are only one guy, and time is limited for only to 24 hours per day, does not matter if you make videos or text, do not waste your time writing for your personal opinion for many different subjects.
You blog works because you are specialized. Every person come here to know about electronic stuff. If I want to know things about how to build a blog, I would go to somewhere else specialized in that. And I not interested in building a blog.
Do not lose yours blog identity. Do you know why people come to visit your blog? Because they are people interested in Electronics. If you start to talk about everything, people will lose interest. Just put your self in readers position, and think how you use Internet.
Hi Dave, Ive been a silent fan from the begining. I dont care what you talk/rant about, just dont want to read it. Love to watch your opinions on video and see your expressions. It’s the fact that you did videos and your “on-screen” personality that has led you to this success. There are lots of other text blogs out there, stick with your unique video blog. This first text blog would have made a great rant video! The videos dont need to be perfect, we just want to see you in action (off the cuff). Any text bloging will take away from the video productions. If anything, produce more videos…we love them.
Excellent first text post!
I would love to see your follow ups on this thread of thought, some behind the scenes of EEVBlog (one can read between the lines some of your experience in running this blog).
* What is your process for determining what to cover in a video? (Aside from mailbags) Do you have a planned queue of what you are tearing down, or do you have a bin which you pull something out of?
* Do you script or outline your videos at all before you shoot, or do you shoot first and let it guide itself? I imagine the technical ones, like your LiPo charging and such have more planning than a teardown. For the tear downs, to you peek inside after cracking it open off camera to plan out the next few minutes?
* How much work goes behind getting tours like your Agilent tour?
* etc., and so on, yadda yadda
While I agree with Julio, that it could be detrimental to your site to branch too far away from the purpose of this site, Electrical Engineering, I do think taking the time to share your expertise in *running* an Electrical Engineering blog would not be a waste of anyone’s time, especially since you are quite successful at it.
15yrs ago I started an online webzine, ran it for 3 years, built up 15 regular advertisers then sold the whole lot. The new owner committed a lot of the mistakes Dave mentioned over the following year and the 15 advertisers soon became zero…….
My two cents:
I like the text blog idea, as a quick method of getting out bits of knowledge.
It should work well for fast follow-ups, one-offs, etc.
I agree that the content should stay mostly “on-topic” to electronics. That being said, I did find this article interesting and informative. Perhaps a similar idea to your other video channel which isn’t strictly EE related, you could post text blogs in both. EE related here and anything else over there. It would seem to satisfy everyone without much (if any) additional work on your end.
Thanks again for your efforts. I only watch 3 blogs/video blogs/etc on a regular basis and this is one of them. I look forward to all the new content and appreciate the work you do.
Dave, I’m a big fan of your videos and I like the idea of additional text based content. As a budding tech/electronics/DIY blogger, I especially appreciate this post. Sharing the ins and outs of your business is right on topic and very interesting.
First off, this is weird. Text? Now I have to read it with all your Aussie inflection to get the proper effect
Second, saw this article and thought it might be interesting supplemental material for your post: http://pandodaily.com/2013/03/07/how-much-is-a-piece-of-content-worth/
Great use of a text blog entry!
This would have been boring as hell to watch as a video, though watching you get over-excited would have been amusing. But we would have beem more focused on you, rather than on the issue itself.
In a technical context, video works best when there is an object to manipulate in a dynamic manner, where text alone, or even text with photos, just can’t provide “effective” communication. A soldering tutorial without video? Ugh.
Text+image blog posts work well when each image provides a “stop and look” moment, where one image provides lots of detail to examine, such as for graphic art, astronomy, architecture, or landscaping. Text+image posts also work well as a backup, when video isn’t available.
I think your next trade show tour could be a good text+image post topic.
Audio blogging (podcasting) has its own niche too, but I can’t see much use for it for technical communication outside of interviewing people in the industry, where I’d prefer a video anyway (I can always just listen to the sound).
I think you’ve launched your text blogging with a topic that well suits the medium. I look forward to more!
Dave, only do a text blog is you really want to say little things, lets say a max of 10 lines, more than that go video.
Remember that your differentiation was because you went video.
About this blog, I 100% agree, I’m so tired of seeing it
But, I don’t think it will disappear, I will give you an example, for example these days in Portugal many engineers simple don’t have a job, and when they find one, many times is for figures like 600€…
Ya, sad but true; so when you say:
“Try $50-$100/hour as a bare minimum figure.”
remember that for example in Portugal you have to work ~3 days to make it, so…
The world is far from perfect.
The key thing about your blog; it is information one can’t find in most books. Life experience. Save a bunch of pain and suffering, maybe find a new method, inspiration, technique or tactic, or just a different valuable perspective or two.
Some things convey better with text than video, and visa versa. Without a doubt.
Look forward to more of your stories, experiments and experiences, whatever the format.
Dave, break the post with “read more” and set the feed to send only the text before the break. Otherwise, people will read your post directly form the feed an will visit your site only if they have something to say. Not good!
Thanks for the great advice. I have been working on forming a web presence for my business for several months now and your example is obviously one of my favorites.
Number one rule with blogs (and any site in general) if the advertising ‘offer’ looks too good to be true – then it is too good to be true.
Build your site, build your traffic and expect advertisers to pay the going rate for it. Far better to knock back the ‘cheapie’ crowd. Also the info ads usually have very dodgy ‘facts’ in them and appeal to the old FUD technique – basically nasty stuff you do not want on a quality site.
hire an intern to produce your vids.
Dave, Excellent blog post. You could do both video and text posts. When tearing something apart use video, when you have an opinion about anything use text. I enjoy both technical and business posts. Keep it up!
Virginia Postrel (she was editor of Reason Magazine for 10+ years) posted this article on her facebook page:
The article is directly topical to Dave’s excellent blogpost.
Brain always got commoditized by moneymakers. With the net, and the desperate longing for recognitions by brains, brains have started giving away all of their value for free.
And brain’s education is carefully crafted to avoid them discovering their market value. Typical science faculties shun in “mercantilistic attitude”. This is utter BS. EVerything has a price, and there is no shame in trying to improve your lot in life.
If you apply your brain to business, you will succeed. Most business people, if applying their brain to technology, will fail miserably.
There is no reason not to sell your brain at the highest price you can get for it. After all, the seller of cabbage does exactly the same.
And if a despicable vampire argues that you shouldn’t sell your brain for a high pr9ice because it is easy for you, just walk out. (just refrain from spitting hin his face, it can lead to lawsuits ).
In 1987, I went on a personal strike.
I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged only seven years later, in ’94.
Don’t give away the gems of your brain to people who treat you like commodity, but who cannot figure out how to change the batteries in a flashlight…
Oh, and Postrel commented
“Reminds me of the 2010 email from Forbes.com inviting me to write a weekly column, exclusive to them, for free.”
I guess it is similar to a spam e-mail: if they send these proposals is because someone will take the bait. And I wonder that, if someone is just starting his career in journalism or a related area, that would sound the most interesting opportunity in the world!
Heh, recently I received an offer we’ll pay you 50 bucks one time compensation if you include our link on your website.
Mr. Dave Jones since when you have become an expert about the correct strategies regarding successful and profitable technical Blogging?
While you are playing or better said pretending the wild cat on camera, you did manage to scratch on the face simple people like me and also key players of the T&M industry.
I have no intention to point out which solutions works out as best, regarding succeeding by working in technical Blogging, even me I do not have all the answers yet.
But I will say something that you will understand even if I use medium in quality English text.
What it can lead us up to the sky or drive us in the depth of abyss is our own true character / education / personality / believes.
Eventually many Bloggers they will fail in the exams about conquering or monopolize the scene and the spot lights.
The bad example given by Bloggers with poor personality forced the T&M industry to invest in their own video presentations.
The river does not turn back Mr. Dave Jones
Did you bake recently any cake of a Fluke DMM?
We do have a totally different mindset and this is a fact, and so do not expect from any one to scratch your back, with out learning first to say thanks, and by respecting the work of other people.
And I like to reinsure you that this message is not an Mano-a-mano challenge between hostile camps, I just wanted to let out some leftovers of old steam.
Today I am feeling very optimistic by managing my Blog.
I do get samples and income by a very transparent way as editor.
Your rand could have some value for a sixteen years old Blogger’s, but for some one at his 44 (This May) like me, your suggestions does not measure up.
(By the way I am not monitoring this topic, if you have something to say, get at your hand the telephone)
I think Mr Triantafillou may be a little jealous.
Well, I have received an Amprobe multimeter last friday for review. I learned something today. Expect a video review coming soon! I will still post a short review in the official Amprobe site, but it is very limited as I can’t compare it to the Extech EX330 an I cannot link the $50 multimeter shootout -but I have tricks under my sleeve.
Actually, I’d rip my guts to earn $200 for one ad on my blog for a year.
I’m not blogging full-time, and my blog is rather small. Especially for small blogs, these numbers you tell us sound incredible.
$50 per hour for writing? I do it in my free time, my blog exists for a year now. Earnings? None. Ads didn’t even cover the hosting fees.
Perhaps, this applies for well-known blogs or popular vblogs, but none of these numbers apply to startup-blogs. At least not in Germany.
@ Rafael Souza (and to some extent, to Kiriakos Triantafillou)
Yes Rafael, you are right on, except that they have more gall than spammers, as spammers deface your inbox, while these insult your intelligence.
Virginia Postrel, who wrote the article I mentionned and which you seem to refer to,
1- has been for ten years the editor in chief at Reason Magazine, so she hardly qualifies as a green writer still wet behind the ears.
2- is an acclaimed author (The Substance of Style, The Future and it’s Ennemies)
4- has been a guest speaker at TED.com conferences.
5- is a regular contributor to The Atlantic.
This illustrates how much some (sales) people are willing to take others for (to use Dave’s favorite expression) suckers.
Great text, I loved it. It’s not a bad idea to have some of your blog entries as text (though apparently some prefer video only). On occasion I am not able to watch video (accessing the RSS feed via mobile phone over the 3G network, for example) and it’s great that I can read stuff on your blog in such situations.
I always thought that you were brave for dropping 9 to 5 job to go full time blogging, and I wish you continued success in this. I learned a lot from your videos (and I’m just a hobbyist).
hi, It is true that all PROFESSIONAL bloggers should not sold out for cheap doing so will bring down their businesses. But there are many bloggers who do it for hobby and many even do it to help themselves in different ways, 50-100 dollars may seem nothing to some people to others is a lot of money to some one in India or China maybe, off course always try to get the most that you can and never feel intimidated by big companies.
A brill read – thanks for the tips.
When I get big enough I’ll come back and reread it to remind me.
Got to learn new things thanks………
Unluckily, whatever you say in this post is true. I know what you’re talking about.
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