Monday, August 19, 2013

The Comforter Aisle (A Post on Sponsored Content)

The oldest picture I could find of Hannah in front of our comforter
Disclosure: I received the Yurbuds headphones mentioned below for free. All opinions are my own.

So I think we've reached the end of our series of posts on BlogHer 2013, but I never promised to be brief on such an amazing experience. This is perhaps the hardest post for me to write, but definitely the one I've thought about the most.

I decided to challenge my thinking a bit going into BlogHer, and see what I might want to do in terms of working with brands, sponsors, and paid content in general here at Busy Since Birth. I attended two parties outside the conference (which is very controversial, apparently), and spent a couple of hours walking around the Expo Hall. Since I didn't chose to buy the conference pass that was at the non-sponsored rate, which was considerably more money, I wanted to give the sponsors my time, and see what might be a good fit for me to tweet/talk about on my blog. For example, I spent time listening to the Yurbuds presentation from Best Buy, headphones that supposedly do not fall out of your ears, and decided they'd be a great addition to my commute, and when I exercise doing something other than Zumba. It was a product I didn't mind telling you I'd found--it was authentically something I would use.
But a lot of it felt problematic for me. I just don't use that many "products" in my life, I guess. I watched others talking to this brand or that, and I didn't feel comfortable engaging in the same way. While it's true that women are responsible for the vast majority of purchasing decisions, it's probably not true in my house. Marc does most of the shopping for household goods and groceries, and we've been in our home for long enough that we tend not to buy a lot of extras. When I do buy something, I usually don't spend a ton of time researching it in advance. My time is limited; if it's in front of me, and I like/need it, I'd rather get it done than spend more time on it. Which could help explain why I've had the same blanket on my bed for at least ten years.

Yes, there's a reason for the adorable picture of Hannah above, other than the adorableness of it. As I mentioned in my long "what I learned" post, I attended a session called "The UnMarketing Manifesto," and I've been thinking about it ever since. Panelist Dresden Shumaker said that once a blog starts acting more like a brand than the full range of someone's original voice, post topics tend to become more limited, and she might think of that blog as similar to "the comforter aisle in the big box store." Meaning that it's nice to know the aisle is there, but unless you're looking for a new comforter--an activity that probably doesn't happen all that often--you're not going to visit that blog as much either. I know that's true in my own experience, that when blogs feature a lot of sponsored content and the focus becomes more limited, I don't bother doing a lot of reading...and I'd hate for that to happen here. I buy new comforters far too infrequently.

So, Busy Since Birth, at least for the time being, is going to remain ad-free. However, I hope you'll keep reading when I do find things that I want to share with you. I'd like to be a resource for you to discover new products or services that fit this busy life (like a new app that helps you schedule appointments and activities...), but I can't enthusiastically write about the things that don't fit (...that's only currently available in Los Angeles). I hope you'll trust that anything I'm posting here is worth your while--and mine too.


  1. Cheryl, I have gone through the exact same thought process - especially after my first year at BlogHer last year. I agree that I never read blogs for sponsored content unless I'm researching. UNLESS that writer is really good at continuing the story arc of their blog and maintaining their voice with the sponsored content as a sort of add on. I have written two posts this year that weren't sponsored, but I did receive free product. I was up front with the company that I was going to write a story, not a review. I didn't want my readers to feel like the post wasn't authentic or that it didn't match my blog. I like the way they turned out and I'm open to doing more. But I totally agree that we cannot let ourselves lose sight of what we are here for in the first place. And for me and for you, it isn't to write about products.

  2. I don't think being ad-free is the same as limiting sponsored posts. The "comforter aisle" makes sense in terms of sponsored posts. But you could use AdSense or something (maybe even BlogHer) to monetize you blog. I'm not saying you should, or that it would work, or that there aren't other issues, but the traditional journalism model of a Chinese wall between editorial and advertising can sometimes be a good way to fund content, even if the places that model works (better they days for Google, worse for newspapers) has changed.

  3. Okay, I didn't go into it all above, but I've thought a lot about ads too. From what I've gleaned, ads make very, very little money. For me to invest my time to figure them out right now, I'd have to do so at the expense of something else. That something else is most likely to be the actual writing of a blog post. So for now at least, getting more content written is a higher priority than figuring out how to install ads.

  4. I agree. I know the purpose of sponsored posts, believe me (and I know you do) but it dilutes a blog's purpose for me. I'm not there for product, I'm there for conversation, thoughts and feelings. There are many blogs I had sadly waled away from that just forgot their voice.

    I have the Yurbuds and I love them. Their customer service is also really great. If you have trouble making them stay in your ears, let them know, there are other custom fit sizes available, which they were happy to send to me.

  5. Helpful post! I've had questions about all this as well. I'm going to a one-day blog conference in town in October. Instead of the "writer track" (which I don't feel like I need help with now), I signed up for the "business track" because I want to learn more about ads. That said, I for sure do not read blogs with many sponsored posts . . . and I'm not sure who does. I agree with what you said about sidebar and banner ads. In theory that seems better because it doesn't compromise the content. However, managing it all for such little money seems like a waste of time.