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.