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Is ProBlogger an Infomercial Blog

Eric at Subnixus just posted a post titled The Infomercial Blogs which caught my attention tonight for a number of reasons – the main one being that he writes that ProBlogger, Jensense and his own blog are like infomercials. I’ll not do his post justice by paraphrasing it so feel free to go read his post to get the full message – but below are a few quotes with some of my own thoughts (this could get a little long and rant like – bare with me as I think out loud):

‘I had watched sites like Problogger “help bloggers make money” for a while. I thought to myself, “Here was a site that was making money, by telling others how to make money, by explaining how his site was making money”. I couldn’t help but get that infomercial feeling. “If you order my free CD I will teach you how you could be making $10,000 a month on Ebay, all from the comfort of your own home!” Anyone ever seen that one? Well Problogger was the same… come to the site for the “free cd” and leave spending $280 on his “Six Figure Blogging Course”.’

On one hand I think Eric’s got an element of truth to what he says – I think we’d find if we had heart to heart conversations with them that most bloggers experimenting with ads, affiliate programs, products, donation jars or any other potential income source will at one time or another have grappled a little with the temptation to be a bit infomercialish – but I wouldn’t limit it to blogs that write about making money online – I’d widen it out to most entrepreneurial bloggers and take it a step further and say it’s something most businesses are tempted with.

I caught a 5 minute grab of Dr Phil on TV today as I ate lunch (please don’t tell anyone) and he took a couple through ‘five ways to fix their family’ – all of which were from his latest book. I opened the paper today and saw a helpful article written about how to select a digital camera – of course it was totally surrounded by ads for digital cameras. I was in our local hardware store yesterday and saw the tail end of a free workshop on how to build a mailbox and of course saw the hard sell by the demonstrator who had a range of helpful mailbox building products ready for purchase. I was at a craft market on my recent holiday and saw a guy running a free table for kids to make greeting cards and then selling their parents card making kits. I took a painting course with my wife last year and our teacher tried to upsell us to the next course she was running at the end.

I’m not sure what my point is – except that I think many businesses use a variety of tactics like Eric describes – many are a lot more explicit than others – quite a few are more manipulative than anything I’ve seen on any of the blogs Eric mentions (unless I’m blinded to it by my own greed?).

‘The truth is that people don’t need middlemen to tell them how to make money from their blogs. Every tip you see on Problogger, Subnixus, Jensense, etc… can be found on one site: Digital Point.’

Once again Eric is right on one level here. I’ve never hidden the fact that what I write here comes from a variety of sources including forums like Digital Point. However I would argue three things:

1. Digital Point is similar to the blogs Eric refers to in his post in on some fronts. Whilst it’s a different medium to blogging, it too has ads, it recommends products and it too has information that can be found in other places. I would argue that this isn’t a bad thing – in fact it’s brilliant, as can be seen by the thousands of loyal readers that it attracts.

2. One thing that Digital Point provides and that blogs like Jensense and hopefully ProBlogger also attempt to give is a place where a large amount of information on one particular topic can be found in the one spot. When I first started blogging on a commercial level I spent many many hours scouring the web for information relevant to bloggers seeking to make an income online. While I found site’s like DP I never quite found anything that was aimed at the blogger specifically and that provided the blogger with the mix of topics that they’d need. So I surfed around many sites to find it. If there had been one site which focused upon blogging I’d have been it’s biggest fan but there wasn’t one – so I pulled all the information I’d learned together to make one and gave it all away for free.

“But what about your $280 course? That’s not free!” I can hear you say. That’s true. But as I’ve written previously in talking about SixFigureBlogging – it’s a course that similarly condenses the lessons I’ve learned into an even more concise and focused form than the blog can. When people have asked me why they should do the course I’ve always said that if they have time to read all the archives of ProBlogger (currently around 1870 posts) that they probably won’t learn much more by doing the course except for the more up to date information and to hear it in a verbal conversational form from two bloggers with different experiences – (ie Andy brought his own expertise and experiences to what I know). Most of those that I’ve spoken with that did the course didn’t have the time and were willing to pay for someone to collate it into something they could digest in a more focused way.

3. Eric writes -People don’t need middlemen to tell them how to make money from their blogs‘ – true they don’t ‘need’ it. The information is all out there for free – but the fact is that some people don’t have the many hours I had to find all the information I needed by sifting through a variety of forums (DP must have tens of thousands of threads) and sites. People may not ‘need’ site’s like ProBlogger but I’ve found that they certainly want it. Once again the phenomena of ‘middlemen/women’ is not just restricted to blogging (although I’d argue most niche blogs on any topic function in this way) – it’s something that happens on a grand scale in wider culture. People are willing pay a premium for others to do work for them to provide them with services, information and goods that they could potentially get for themselves much cheaper or for free but which they don’t have the time, patience or expertise to get for themselves. This is why ProBlogger seems to have gained some popularity and why SixFigureBlogging has interested some.

‘Don’t kid yourself. These sites are created to make money by recycling information you can find on Digital Point, Site Point, etc… I know, because I have been doing it for three months. I have made over $2500 from ads and referral programs on this site since it started.’

I can only speak for myself on this one – but while I’m certainly aware of and from time to time read sites like DP and SP – I’m not in the business of simply recycling their information. On occassion forums have inspired posts (I always link to them when they do) but I’m much more inspired by other bloggers and my own experiences. I would argue that there is one thing that forums or even other blogs don’t have that my blog does have – and that is my own story. While my story is not the ultimate story I tell it every day as I write (sometimes directly and sometimes through my comments on what others write) and see people respond to it. This doesn’t make my blog better than any other blog out there – but it does make it unique (as every blog, and forum, is unique as a result of the stories and experiences of it’s writers).

‘And finally, don’t put any faith in Problogger, Jensense, Subnixus, the list goes on… in the end, we just want you for your clicks. Take us with a grain of salt.’

Speak for yourself Eric.

While I agree that people shouldn’t take any one person, blog, TV show, newspaper etc too seriously I take exception the statement that I am just in this for my reader’s clicks. If there was truth in that statement I’d have given up on ProBlogger after a few months of writing it. No offense readers – but you just don’t click that much (and I kind of like that about you you web savy lot)! If I was only in blogging for the cash can honestly say I’d be pouring the hours every day that I put in here into other ventures.

While I’m not adverse to the idea of making money from ProBlogger (and it does make some) – I have a much much wider mix of motivations for this blog. While some are selfish (happy to admit that), many are not.

Eric asks ‘So why this post?- and to be honest I’m not sure. While I think it does bring out some interesting points for discussion (I think we SHOULD talk about the temptations for example) I’m a little puzzled by where his posts leaves his blog Subnixus. Is it only going to post tips that can’t be found elsewhere? Are the ads going to be taken off? Is this just a release of some sort of a guilty before the blog continues on as normal? I’m not wanting to pick a fight but I’m interested to see how his post that is to ‘call out our entire niche‘ impacts his part in it.

I’m not wanting this to turn into a flame war or bitch session – but am interested in discussing it further (although I head off tomorrow morning for a weekend away to marry yet another couple up in a rural area of our state so won’t be here to respond much for a few days).

I’m happy to be told if people think ProBlogger is Infomercial-ish (perhaps infomercials are different here from elsewhere but the ones we get give no worthwhile information at all and are just about promoting themselves – hence my strong reaction to being compared to one) – and interested to hear what other’s experiences are on the topic.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Andy Merrett says:

    Oh look – surprise surprise (not) – Chitika just paid me (just like all the scammers do, right?) – again – like they did last month. OK so they were delayed. Deal with it (oh you don’t have to, you don’t use Chitika, so stop complaining about it)

    Grow up Paul. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

  2. Andy Merrett says:

    How to spot a scammer – by Paul – ‘tip’ number 43: They pay you an extra 10% as a goodwill gesture for the delays.

    Yeah right Paul. Your credibility decreases by the minute.

  3. Gee, if I comment and have the audacity to put my website in the box, does that mean that I’m doing an infomercial too by responding here? (No, please don’t click it, that would just be wrong…)

    I’m a consultant in my day job. What consultants do best is compress experience and jumpstart situations where the purchaser does not have the resources (time, people) but does have the money and the desire to have a problem solved or an opportunity explored.

    Darren, I see you as a true consultant with two purchase models for people with different mixes of resources and requirements. You’re up front about the fact that you’re trying to make money: what else would “professional blogger” mean?? Is anybody here so naive that they don’t understand that you’re trying to build a brand?

    By the time it gets to be a year old, I want my blog (eventually blogs) to be a consultancy too, but just on more mundane and probably less profitable topics in which I actually have an interest.

    Of course, just like the TV informercials, our results may (and definitely will) vary. My site is a less than a month old. My goal is to earn $1 in revenue in January! If I’m so stupid as to think that what you’re describing is a magic bullet, then I may as well go buy the infomerical programs instead.

  4. b. J. says:

    I don’t think there is nothing wrong or being an infomercial site is wrong. Darren writes and we read and we click on the ads cause we want it. It actually doesnt matter as long as your customer want to give you the money.

    eric’s decision is kinda true – why are there so many spam sites around: because of google. yeah, i think larry page is kinda aaway from his goodness. He’s trying to make money so we do.

    Internet is a new market just like diet pills etc business.

    So is there something wrong?

  5. Please note that Paul is a known troll. He used to be my personal troll, but I sold him on Ebay to a friend. Also, I’m about 90% sure the link in his name isn’t really him.

    Either way, take what he says with a beachload of salt :)

  6. Andy Merrett says:

    Jeremy you should set up trollbay.com – where we can all sell off our unwanted trolls to the lowest bidder ;) Batteries not included.

  7. Nischal says:

    Wow!!
    Good number of responses!!!
    I think Darren has done a good job. Not everyone can do like he is doing as a full time.
    I started to dig in this site recently, and looks impressive.

    If someone thinks that this site is like informercial, then why to complain. You have every right to say what you feel like. But if its not for you then, you can hunt your different path.

    Success don’t come easy.!!!

    Alrighty then…Later,

    http://www.internetsalsa.com

  8. Bryan says:

    I am thoroughly confused by the debate in the first place. Why is marketing a dirty thing all of the sudden? The single best way to market anything is to provide true value to the customer that proves the value of the product offered. The Banker is correct in saying that newspapers have been doing this forever. They spend large amounts of energy to compile news into one concise location so that the readers can digest this information as easily as possible. In return, the newspapers sell ad space to allow marketers to gain access to the eyeballs looking for the news. In most cases, the newspapers do their best to actually divert the eyes from the actual article onto the ads. Do you think that the newspapers would spend all of this time, energy and money to put out their content if there wasn’t money in it for them? And this strategy extends to television, radio, magazines, websites, etc.

    Problogger has been invaluable to me as I have started up my new website because Darren has pulled a ton of good information into one place for me. I will shamelessly provide excellent content to my readers and will eventually serve to promote my services and affiliate realationships in the real estate world. By the way, I also shamelessly stole the name from Darren and some of the ideas of the site as well. Maybe a better debate is on the ethics of using other people’s ideas in developing your own products. I stand on the shoulders of giants.

  9. Bryan says:

    One other thought – informercials do NOT provide valuable information during the pitch. It is all hype to get you to purchase.

  10. raj says:

    Certainly link bait, a bit of hypocrisy, and no understanding of the term ‘infomercial’.

    This site provides valuable information that I consult nearly daily. On occasion, I find an ad that interests me, so I follow the link. Darren has never asked me, or any other visitor, to pay for the information he provides. An informercial tells you NOTHING other than what you COULD earn. I don’t see cheesy ads here of people claiming to have made X dollars in Y months, and then not providing any information. Darren always provides details.

    And there’s certainly nothing wrong with his putting together a course explaining some of the more esoteric points.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Eric Reynolds decries the rise of what he calls infomercial blogs, stating that everything you read on those blogs, including this one, can be found in the Digital Point forums. There’s a good discussion about it happening over at ProBlogger, so I’ll refer you there instead of rehashing the comments here. [...]

  2. [...] My favourite part of Darren’s post when he responds simply to that assertion with: Speak for yourself Eric. [...]

  3. [...] Darren from Problogger obviously read what I had to say and made a post about it. It seemed to cause a bit of a stir, because at last count his post had 49 comments. [...]

  4. [...] This post on subnixus is causing a bit of a storm as he questions whether a niche is a niche or some kind of infomercial. Darren at Problogger has responded with this article as his site was the subject of some criticism. Well, perhaps criticism is a bit harsh, but Eric attempted to include Problogger and jensense in what is an article devaluing the efforts of the ‘problogging’ sites. [...]