The Weird Thing I Want You To Do On My Blog

The Weird Thing I Want You To Do On My Blog


This is a guest post by Michael Schechter.

I’m noticing a pattern lately:  the moment that a blogger starts to monetize his or her site can usually be tracked back to moment the content begins to suck. The minute that optimization becomes the priority, creation tends to quickly take a backseat. It’s not a perfect theory, but it is quickly becoming a common one.

Now, I’m fairly new at this whole blogging thing, but I have a pretty clear call to action on my site: I want you to read the crap I wrote on the page, with the desired reaction being that you derive value from said crap. If you really found it useful, who knows, maybe you’ll even comment. Apparently, this is wrong and I just don’t get how things work.

Apparently, I need you to engage, to end on a question no matter how obvious and patronizing it is. I need an offer to get you to sign up for my email newsletter, to get you to trade your first born for an ebook. I need to coerce you to come back, because apparently compelling you just isn’t going to be good enough.

I don’t want you to get me wrong; I’m not against making money. I love money… a lot! Hell, I may even throw in an affiliate link or ten on my site.  What I am against is those making money at the expense of their audience. I’m against those who care more about you clicking a link than reading the words on the page. In other words, I’m naive, and that is just fine with me.

It’s been sad to watch once-great bloggers leveraging past trust in exchange for future dollars. We used to get your A-game for free, but now you expect us to pay for a subscription to your 8th website (you know, the super secret one where you really put all of the “good stuff” now) for the watered down version. Worse yet, we fall for it every time. Even those of us who should know better (Read: Me). We want to believe, badly, that the trust we once put in you is still worth it today.

I don’t see things changing any time soon, so for now, the best advice I can offer is the same steps that I am trying to adhere to myself:  unceremoniously unsubscribe your attention from anyone who is working harder on selling you than teaching you. Take that time and start writing about something you care about. Pour yourself into it, even when no one is reading.  If and when people do start reading the crap you put on the page, don’t ever take that for granted.

So am I alone, or do you see what I’m seeing out there? Damn, there I go with the patronizing question and I didn’t even monetize…

Michael SchechterAbout the author: Michael Schechter is the Digital Marketing Director for Honora Pearls, a company specializing in freshwater pearl jewelry. He writes about all things digital over at his blog, and you can connect with him on Twitter at @MSchechter. He also knows his way around a fine single malt scotch.

image: The Sun and Doves

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  1. says

    Isn’t that the only way people are going to make money though, is by building up their reputation, showing you what they are made of, and then charging to get the absolute best out of them?

    Granted, some go a little too far in the “can’t give away too much” direction while trying to draw people into their membership site (aka, leaving a big load of nothing on their public site with promises of gold in their private one). But at the same time, if they were putting their full A game on their website, what would they have left to offer to sell?

    Some people need to make a living. If I had a million dollars stashed away with the promise of more money coming every year and I didn’t have to do anything to get it, then I’d love to spend my time giving away all of my knowledge and helping everyone else for free (no joke). But I don’t, and a lot of people don’t either, so we have to find a way to put our hard work (because blogs are hard work) to profit one day.

    I’d venture that some of the authorities you’re referencing in this post have spent years working on their blog, building their reputation, etc. and some probably did it for very little in the beginning.

    Personally, I’ve been blogging for over 3 years now, and still not earning enough to make a living on it, but I’d like to be. Hence, I’m going to do my best to still be true audience, but I’m also going to find a way to make this all profitable. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

    • says

      There is a difference between going to the well and there is sucking it dry on a daily basis. I’m not saying that there is a steadfast rule, just that there is a line in the sand and at some point you start to cross it.

      By their A-game, I don’t mean that they have to give everything away. Of course the point for many is to convert their ideas and their efforts into paying customers. But there is something to be said for subtlety… It is when everything starts feeling like a thinly veiled sales pitch (and eventually just a straight forward sales pitch) that things begin to go wrong.

      I agree that you have to make a living, but the problem is that when you blog a certain way or communicate a certain way for several years and than suddenly change that you are bound to ruffle a few feathers (in this case mine) or turn your audience off. You can ramp things up, you can evolve, but have to think about how you are going to make that profit at the beginning, rather than suddenly pulling a 180 somewhere along the way.

      I don’t knock the effort that a lot of these guys put in. They paid their dues. It just feels like a lot of what we are starting to see utterly contradicts what they told us in the first place. In fact that is the thing that scares me most, if they had to change this dramatically to make it pay off for them, than perhaps they were wrong all along…

      I want you (and anyone doing this) to find a way to capitalize. Hell, I do this stuff for a pearl company… what do you think my goal is there… I don’t think there is anything wrong with making a living, it’s just killing me a little bit to see how that is playing out in some cases…

      • says

        So you aren’t against making money from a blog you’re against giving away a lot of great free content and then later on trying to make money from a blog? Sounds like a matter of expectations being shred.

        Every business I advise I always tell them to have calls to action that link to a product or service of theirs, from the beginning, for this exact reason. Now that’s not the same as telling them to sell in every single post, something I don’t think they should, but at a minimum you should have (as a business) an opt-in offer or banner to your services.

        • says

          I think it is somewhere closer to the fact that I really believe in the balance that many were preaching at the beginning. Just think we may be straying away from the kind of balance we set out to find… I’m not against the goals of a site growing and evolving, just hate for the core of it to get lost along the way.

          • says

            I see your point Michael. It does appear as an evolution but an evolution in the wrong direction. I think we can all sell successfully on a blog using content, but making it less overt takes more work. It’s like Google – millions of servers behind a little search box. But the power is there.

      • says

        Well said. I feel like in some cases, your blog should have even higher quality content when you start selling things as you don’t want someone to come along to a crap post as their first impression of you and then expect that they’ll buy into your eBook, membership, etc.

        I also think that in some cases, when bloggers monetize, their focus goes from their blog to their product. Some are new to the world of customer service, and depending on their route of monetization might find themselves a little out of their element dealing with support issues and what not. But no matter what it is that happens, their focus leaves their blog.

        For some of these big bloggers, I think it comes down to who they leave in charge of their content. Copyblogger, for one, has had some excellent content recently because he has pulled in some great writers and editors.

        Some big name sites haven’t done such a good job in the department of keeping up regular content while keeping up the quality after going the monetization route. It’s almost like they let just anyone up there just to fill the space.

        I think the solution for the latter might be just to cut back on blog content and just post when they do have A-game material instead of trying to post all the time with whatever is available, whether it is directly from them or from someone else. I’ve seen a few bloggers do that, and while their traffic probably took a nosedive, at least people still feel their posts are worth reading when they do popup with something new.

  2. says

    Oooh, stirring the pot a little on this one, Mr. Schechter. I like a bit of pot-stirring, though. 😉

    @Kristi – Excellent reply as well; now I want to hear Michael’s response. I feel like I’m watching a tennis match.

    15-15 right now. Aaaaanndd, GO!

  3. says

    There is nothing wrong with monetizing a blog provided that you are transparent about it. There is nothing wrong in asking people to pay for goods or services.

    You don’t have to read the blog or pay for whatever it is they are offering. It is like complaining about whatever is playing on the radio/television. If you don’t like it, change the channel or turn it off.

  4. says

    Hi Michael,
    Interesting you chose Brogan as an example. I use to subscribe to his blog when I started online late last year. In early 2011 I started to get bombarded by his posts which all had one goal, join 3rd tribe, buy my blog topics, buy Thesis, buy this, buy that.

    I emailed him and said that selling is going way too pushy. He felt that he had spend years giving away tons of free content (and he still does) and now was time to cash-in. The model has worked for him and others like copyblogger, problogger etc…
    Build an audience, sell them stuff.

    Now I am not a communist I understand the reason we are all here is to make money. Yes we exchange ideas and build relationships but I don’t think there is anything wrong with monetizing a blog.

    I do agree there are ways to go about and pushing a service or product in every post turns me off, but it works for some otherwise they wouldn’t do it right?

    • says

      It is clearly working, but it has always clearly worked. What I find most interesting of all is how much some of these recent SM posts feel like traditional efforts. Sometimes I wonder if the companies that many of these guys are working with are rubbing off of them rather than the other way around.

      I actually like Chris a lot. Every time I’ve crossed his path he’s been really nice. In fact, his 12 to 1 ratio (12 for them, 1 for you) has really been a guiding light for me. It’s probably why it crushes me a little inside to see some of the recent stuff.

      Part of me actually thinks it is more of turning the site into a sandbox than it is cashing in after all of these years. Seeing just how far you can go. Seeing if you can shrink that ratio (which I would imagine is on the minds of some of the larger paying clients).

      I want guys like that to make a living (I hope I was clear there and maybe I wasn’t entirely), I just wish what they taught me was enough to get there (and maybe it isn’t which is probably another post for another day).

      Maybe this just is the point where social is growing up and becoming a lot more like the more aggressive techniques I am accustomed too in my world, so it could just very well be that this post is a lament for something I wanted to believe in very badly… that there was actually a better way to actually sell.

    • says

      Is the goal to earn income or to earn something else? Is earning the correct verb?

      Substitute making money with gaining Facebook fans for your page and the takeaway is the same: When you have more of something, you can do more with it.

      The Facebook page owner will write the same updates as always but with more fans there is more of an incentive of people to read and follow-through so why not be a little more pushy? That’s what Chris Brogan is doing with his blog, that’s why Third Tribe exists, that’s why I just *knew* Michael’s link about engaging was going to link to Brian Solis.

      Here’s a test (and the subject of a blog post I’m writing): Peruse through your LinkedIn connections and observe the titles people describe themselves. Then, compare that title to their actions around the web. You may be surprised.

  5. says

    Michael – I read the title of this post I was worried very worried this was going to be about something terribly kinky.

    But seriously, there will always be people selling out to make money on the internet. We, the audience, give them the power, attention, and money to do so. By taking away your time and attention, they lose that power. By spending our money on things we care more about, they lose that power.

    We the audience hold the power on the internet and stand on an equal platform with anyone else on here. Never forget that.

    • says

      The kinky stuff is another post for another day (and for a blog that is MUCH harder to find :) )

      Amen to the comment, was just hoping to remind the the audience that they have that power and perhaps suggesting they look for the perspective to use it if they feel it is needed.

      Unrelated side note: Centipede Bloggers made me pee myself a bit, so thanks for that.

  6. says

    I think that if you’re good at what you do and feel the need to ask for money, then doing so is not a problem. If you are a designer then a wordpress theme cannot always be free. If you are a good writer than charging a bit for an e-book is okay, but to pay in order to subscribe to a website or to ‘read the best stuff here’ is just silly. How is this info better than what is found in one’s previous website etc.

    there’s a way to go about this and you do it correctly then I say go for it to whomever wants to.

    I sense some interesting debates to come 😉

    • says

      Damn straight! I’m not against the ask… I’m just questioning the frequency of it and examining how it is impacting the content.

      I’m not saying I want everything to be free… but in some cases I just can’t keep reading a daily sales wrapped in a “helpful hint”.

      Let’s face it, Social Media just hit puberty. It’s no longer a kid and not quite an adult, so we have some awkward days ahead of ourselves…

  7. says

    Made this ‘unsubscribe your attention from anyone who is working harder on selling you than teaching you’ my favorite monday quote and re-tweeted it! Brilliant! This reminds me directly of a recent ‘debate’ that did not end well with a #BWENY course instructor (not Danny of course), it seems like the hard sell, and the ‘all-take’ how much can I get from you mentality is just becoming worse! You hit the nail on the head here. Yes money is great, monetizing is fair we all need to eat but when it’s ‘all sell 24/7′ you come across like a used car salesman and people stop caring! Leaving people feeling ‘used’ always leaves a bad taste in their mouth!

    • says

      You can be honest and admit that it was Danny…

      I think John hit the nail on the head. It is getting worse because it is working. I just have a feeling (or more likely a fear) that it is going to be a short term sellout for some (others I am sure will have no problem riding the wave for a long while).

      It’s just very interesting to me that what we are saying is the least effective traditional methods are starting to look a lot like what are proving to be the most effective SM ways of monetizing…

      • says

        Ha Ha! No really it wasn’t, he was one of the most down to earth people I met that day!

        Ultimately every relationship is about that balance of give and take and if you continue to add value opportunities will come! 😉

    • says

      Did he used to be at Kodak? 😉

      And thanks, miss – the way I look at it, we’re all in this together so why should one person think of themselves better than another?

      Meh to that. 😉

  8. says

    I find it rather ironic that Google wishes to reward “quality” content while at the same time punishing those that associate with “bad neighborhoods” on the web, when in fact the presence of Google AdWords on a blog (monetization anyone) is the very first indication a blog belongs to that very bad neighborhood that Google so despises.

    Its as if Google has become OCP (Omni-Consumer Products) from the old movie RoboCop. In case you’re not familiatr with the movie (SPOILER ALERT), OCP was fueling the drug trade with money and protection while selling robo-cops to the Detroit police department and other governments.


    • says

      I’ve always found it hard to get mad at a math problem, but you make some sound points here. I still think it is going to take search engines a while to figure out what is quality once all of this dust settles.

      • says

        Luckily for Google, Bing and the rest they have a lot of people to work on the “problem” of what is quality. I see blog posts come out on a regular basis from big companies that I feel offer no value whatsoever, read nothing new. However the number of shares they get on social media measures in the hundreds. So just because I don’t think it’s quality doesn’t mean hundreds of others don’t. But most never go past the first page or two of search results.

  9. says

    LOL, “the moment that a blogger starts to monetize his or her site can usually be tracked back to moment the content begins to suck.” Classic line. And I think it is true to some extent. I look at Copyblogger and I am not so sure it is universal, but generally yes. When you blog without obvious transactional monetization you are focused on a higher value, even if it is for consulting leads. Good post.

    • says

      Thanks Geoff,

      Copyblogger is a damn good example of doing it right. Sure the pitches are worked in, but they are side by side with damn useful (and pitch free) resources on a regular basis.

      Nothing wrong with going after leads, everyone has to eat… just hoping that there can be a little more balance.

      Unrelated side note, really enjoyed your podcast with Mitch.

      • says

        I was going to add before scrolling down this far that I thought Copyblogger was an example of doing it without tipping too far over. It’s a balancing act, and ultimately you need to take your audience’s temperature, and make sure you are not turning them away in the long-term for short-term sales push. It’s a tough line to toe and I’m glad I’m more in your boat, Michael, just getting thoughts out there and trying to establish a discussion around god content (or crap, as it may be)

        • says

          Amen to that. I’m probably delivering the message with a rock (I tend to do that), but my hope is that this really does evolve into a conversation about where that balance lies.

          Nice to see you in the boat!

  10. says

    G’Day Michael,
    I first moved my well established offline business to online three years ago. My first impression was that I’d never run into such a bunch of ethicless entrepreneurs in all my business life. I use the expression “I had my fingers burnt to my elbows.”

    And, like you, I still believe that www still has more than its fair share of “cardsharps and crapshooters.”

    But I’ve discovered that if I look hard, there are lots of web marketers whom I’m happy to do business with. There’s also an “unsubscribe ” button on every blog.

    Web marketing is really old fashioned mail order in new clothes. Like it or lump it, we’re in business to make some money no matter how we may try to disguise it. We’re bound to run into some people who do things differently to us.

    Just make sure you have fun



    • says

      To be honest, I don’t know that a lot of these guys are that. In fact, my experience with them is the exact opposite. I just think the moment is overwhelming and some are getting carried away with short term opportunities.

      There are tons of great guys and even those who I am calling out here are amongst them. This is all a learning process and conversations like these are healthy.

      You are dead right about the unsubscribe button, but there is also something to saying your keep before you press it.

  11. says

    Is this any different than the Music Industry? I can list band after band and give you exactly the album the sold out and then sucked ever after yet still sold a gazillion albums. Why? Because they people left aren’t the ones they started out with. I am going to anger a lot of people with this harshness because I am going to basically thrash one of the biggest acts ever. But in my opinion U2 has not put out one good song since the Joshua Tree their sellout album. And guess what? Only one song on that album Bullet the Blue Sky is good. Everything else since that song is sing along crap for the masses. No edge. No heavy rock your face off. Not to me. I own all their albums through Unforgettable Fire. In fact I will posit Wire on that album is their greatest song ever. Count back now with me….1986. This band to me has not had a good song that I would buy since 1986 and yet they still do sold out tours.

    My question for this great guest post is where do you separate art from business? U2 are GREAT BUSINESS people. So is Thomas Kinkade. So is Brittney Spears. So is Lady Gaga. They are rich even though I will never buy any of their work.

    If you knew how many bands have hurt me for selling out and made me cry you have no idea. But do I have a right to insist they meet my expectations when the real goal for most is money?

    I might not read Brogan, Solis, or Godin. And maybe Danny Brown will be them one day and I will find other people who aren’t mainstream who I align with and whom I find value. But if Danny get’s the big house and on TV and speaks at TED should I be bitter that he left me or be happy for his success?

    • says

      I actually see a few differences between this and the music industry (although I do utterly agree with you here, especially on U2). One difference being that, we have their example to learn from.

      I’m not insisting they do anything, in fact if these tactics are working, all the better. However I would bet you that unlike U2, these diminishing returns will have a shorter shelf life in our space.

      Where musicians are looking to sell out to a mass audience, consultants are usually end up abandoning a much wider base for a far smaller (but much richer) clientele and that becomes a lot easier to lose

      I don’t begrudge them their success, I just hope that they know what they are doing in the long term.

      Danny is definitely days away from selling out… you can just feel it, can’t you?

    • says

      Off topic, but Bullet The Blue Sky is absolutely the worst song on that album- that is where they just lost it. Wish they wouldn’t have included it.

      Just my two cents.

      • says

        I hate the album but did see the concert when I was at Arizona State and it was good. I don’t like pop music that where I felt they went pop. But then Black Sabbath is one of my favorite bands of all time so that is my own perspective. Always been the guitar rocker at least until I became a techno head. And the one song is really the only rocker on there. The words/lyrics are a different story 8)

  12. says

    I thought this was great. So many people engage in tricks to try to hook readers. It’s to the point where their blog posts start to read like the emails you get from that Nigerian Prince who needs help converting his wealth into US currency. People bombard you with advice like the aforementioned “ending with a question” technique as well as putting everything in snappy lists and always have a headline like “How to get millions of readers before lunch”.

    “What about just writing something you think is interesting?”

    “Are you insane?”

    It all reminds me of a favorite line from a Michael Crichton book – “Most of what people tell you is wrong.”

    • says

      Yeah, I actually have a bit of a rant coming on the whole pictures and questions bit… I don’t know if it is intentional, just think we get carried away with the techniques sometimes…

      Writing what you think is interest… that’s just crazy talk… :)

  13. says

    Great article, Michael! Spot on.

    Selling is most effective when it’s a secondary priority. It doesn’t need to be off the table entirely, and you don’t need to run your blog on the fuel of hopes and dreams.

    If you are attracting and engaging your ideal customers on social media (which I would argue blogging IS), your first priority is providing valuable, original, and relevant content. From there, sales should flow naturally.

    Price comparison comes with a Google click. A blog establishes trust, credibility, and should be a demonstration of you walking-the-walk.

    Bloggers unfortunately have a difficult time being an unpaid consultant for readers, and I can understand why. We put tons of time and money into your blog, and it’s not so much to ask for a little in return, right?

    With this medium, it’s required. Have products and services available, offer them to clients, highlight them on posts, but NEVER forget that first priority – content.

    Thanks for getting the wheels turning, Michael! :)

    • says

      Happy to start the spinning, that was the intent of the post. We all need to make a living, just think its worth taking the time to talk about how we do that…

      Like the thought that selling is most effective when it is secondary. As a big believer in the soft sell or the indirect sell, I could not agree more.

  14. says

    To quote a friend of mine, “people are fascinating”.

    Here’s what I find interesting. That people believe a *business* needs to operate by their rules and ideals. The common theme I see lately is that of people trying to bring others down so that they can pull themselves up. Those who believe that by playing the White Knight out there to protect the idiot masses who are ‘falling’ for this stuff they will in turn make themselves popular.

    Let’s be honest here, taking controversial positions against the most popular folks in a sector is a means of creating blog traffic….which is a means of monetizing in itself (an explicit call to action isn’t needed to establish yourself as an expert to get consulting and speaking gigs. Danny knows this well). I’d much rather have someone say “I think I’ve delivered you some value, buy this from me please” than I would have someone say “Let me show you why those people are douchebags” so that they can generate a leadership position to monetize in less explicit ways. Be careful what you call ‘selling out’.

    Standing on the mountaintop proclaiming that the masses are worshipping false gods is certainly one way to go. But very few people are Moses and taking the position of owning the ‘ultimate truth’ is frankly demeaning to me. It implies “I know better than you, so stop thinking for yourself and just listen to me instead”.

    There are two sides to every coin.



    • says

      I may be jewish, but I sure as hell do not consider myself Moses…

      Look, as someone who is prone to hyperbole, I tend to recognize it when I see it. And if you are really being honest, the blanket dismissal of a lot of what I am saying under the guise of me trying to be a “white knight” is equally over the top.

      Did I go too far in this post, possibly (read: probably). Am I saying from on high “THIS IS THE WAY YOU MUST DO THINGS” absolutely not. I’m commenting on a trend I keep seeing (and I very well may be wrong). As a guy who loves this space (as well as a lot of the people who I excessively lashed out) I just wanted to offer some thoughts and some advice. The beautiful thing about advice (which is what I am clearly trying to give here) is that you can take it or leave it.

      I never once used the word douchebag, I never once questioned the character of the people. Or at least that was not my intent. I did however question the tactics because 1) It’s never a bad idea to take a hard look at things and 2) Some of what is happening now tends to directly contradict things that a lot of the same people were saying at the beginning.

      In fact if there is anything I am asking people to do it is think for themselves rather than blindly follow.

      There are definitely two sides to the coin, I just shared one to try to get a conversation started. I don’t know better than anyone, I just thought I’d add one perspective. I can promise you one thing, I hold no truths, only opinions.

      • says

        I’m not dismissing what you are saying at all. What I *am* saying is that you’re railing against sales pitches without talking about the fact that your post is in itself a sales pitch. It’s a pitch for you, a pitch for Danny, etc. And that’s *fine* with me. It’s how demonstrating expertise via blogging is done.

        What’s *not* fine with me is that you attack individuals vs just the ideas. There is a massive difference in disagreeing with an idea, versus a person(s). If you think linking to specific people, but not mentioning them by name, is somehow different I would beg to differ. But not cross-linking to famous blogs simply doesn’t generate the same SEO traffic so I guess that makes it worth it?

        You say *explicitly* that they (Chris Brogan and Scott Stratten in this case) are taking advantage of their audience. (“What I am against is those making money at the expense of their audience”) That’s not a subjective statement of ‘it isn’t right for me’, that’s a statement of ‘they are doing wrong’. How is that not taking a stance of “I know better than anyone”?

        What bugs me is statements like “the beautiful thing about advice is that you can take it or leave it” while not applying that same advice to the very article you wrote.

        I’m actually not a fan of the Chris’ whole blog post idea thing, but that has nothing to do with whether or not others derive value from it. And I certainly can’t say as I’ve ever seen Scott work ‘harder at selling me than teaching me’.

        Stick to the healthy debate of ideas and concepts instead of unnecessarily pointing fingers at individuals simply to increase traffic.

        • says

          I don’t think every sentence requires a requisite “I think” or “In my opinion”. Hopefully it was clear that this was an opinion piece, if not, something to hone in on for the future.

          I also don’t necessarily think that they are doing this on purpose or from an evil standpoint at all (something I should have been clear about in the post). I think there is a tendency to get carried away (in fact, I may have done just that myself here…).

          You are dead right, the debate and the ideas are the important part and the last thing I wanted to do was lose focus on that. With anything (hopefully) the goal is to get better, so I really appreciate the feedback.

        • says

          I once pointed out some trends toward people making offhand arrogant statements online, in Twitter and at events. I used three examples and purposely didn’t link or mention the names of these people. I go the very same criticism as you are handing to Michael, that I was looking for micro-fame, that how could I think this person wouldn’t see/hear about this, that I was just looking to drive traffic.

          Moreover, my point about arrogance was lost to an argument that people should get paid for their ideas. Just as Michael’s point about how quality tends to slip when people turn their attention to monetization has turned to an argument that he is beating up on people at he top of the field to get attention for himself, and moreover, people have a right to make money.

          Of course they do. But if we can’t make observations about the space, how do we ever make adjustments? The thing is that in today’s environment you have to almost be crazy to add any statement to a blog besides, “totally agree, or good job!”

          Either way you go, as someone pointing out a perceived problem/concern, you will get hammered. Hopefully a productive conversation will ensue, which in this case *might* still be possible and is happening in some of the threads.

          • says

            Oh Kami, was there anything ever more eloquently articulated? I think not. Bravo to you. And ditto what you said.

            We are collectively a group of pioneers in this digital space. If we can’t discuss, rationally and respectfully, the goings on in the space, then shame on us. Like you, I didn’t feel that Michael’s post was maligning others, but moreover posing some questions. Some very valid questions.

            And yes, for me, the more focus someone has on selling their products, services, etc., they less valuable they and their content becomes, at least to me, as a resource, “thought leader,” role model.

            However, as others have pointed out, everyone has to make a living. And I have no problem with anyone doing that. In addition, there are probably those who are served by that content that’s no longer useful to me – which is terrific.

            Whether or not I read their blog content or regard them as a thought leader (whatever the hell that is), is really quite irrelevant in the big scheme of things.

            Productive conversations. Isn’t that all we are really looking for?

            Thanks Kami, for some wise words on what’s always a tough subject.

          • says

            I can’t speak for everyone, and I suspect you are probably right in general, and I’m sorry that you experienced that, but I assure you no one is more critical or loves a good debate more than me. :)

            That’s essentially my issue. True thoughtful discourse can only occur when it is around an idea, not a person. As soon as it’s personalized then it becomes an argument between you and I, not a debate about an idea.

            I’ll also admit that I was primed to focus in on the parts of this piece that were top of mind for me due to a blog post I wrote last week on the notion of having to bring someone else down in order to prop yourself up.

            As for someone leveling the ‘looking for micro-fame’ charge at you. I’d probably have to tell them ‘yes, and…’? We are all, in our own way, looking for attention. That may be to have our writing seen and evaluated, to attract business, to stroke our egos, to raise money for a cause, whatever. To that I say, so what. It’s silly that we run away from that notion, much less that someone feels the need to post a comment to that effect when that is itself an attempt to make our ideas heard.

            The reason I react so strongly when people (vs. ideas) are attacked is because if we *really* want to move a conversation forward, if we *really* wanted it to be productive, then we would ensure as much as possible that we left the door open to those people we are criticizing to sit down over a friendly beer tomorrow and try and understand each others intent and motivations. If I lay a personal attack at your feet, that’s not very likely to happen. It’s part of what’s wrong with so much of our religious and political discourse in my opinion.

            Thx for the feedback,


          • says

            Kami, It is very true, but it is also a failing on my part. The message got lost in the envelope. I very well may go and write a second version of this (if even for myself) that emphasizes the point and deemphasizes the drama.

            I wanted to make a big point, not for traffic, but to spark a conversation. Unfortunately that conversation got sidetracked because of the theatrics (which is where I tend to excel).

            Hell, most unexpected of all, this is turned into a great conversation overall of how to make a point (and how maybe not to) and for that, I am thrilled that it went out as is. In the fact that it has led to drama, not so happy.

            • says

              Michael, late here man, but honestly this was one of the best blog posts I’ve read in a long time. Please don’t apologize for being dang awesome…(see Danny Brown).

              Can’t wait to see more of this from you in the future man.


              • says

                Thanks for the popping in! Never one to apologize, just one to learn from an experience.

                I promise you one thing, wont be the last time I yell from a rooftop!

    • says

      I was going to reply, but I think Mike covered it well enough.

      I didn’t read the post as saying “Don’t try and make money” – I saw it as a question / opinion piece on how that’s done. Especially when some of it is coming from folks who railed against that approach as little as 2 years ago.

      I also prefer an open approach to a discussion, as opposed to some of the stuff that’s shared between emails behind the scenes. To me, that’s what I find fascinating about people…

      Hey ho. :)

        • says

          Hi Matt,

          I’m not a fan of people doing the opposite of what they tell others to do. So that could be people or approach – usually the two are intertwined.

          Like Mike (and many others) say, there’s always the unsubscribe / block option, and that’s used often. 😉

          • says

            Whether real or perceived I don’t think anyone is a fan of hypocrisy Danny. I just don’t find a lot of value in talking about it, otherwise I feel like I’m just perpetuating the whole ‘snake oil salesman’ thing that is so played out at this point.

            Evolution happens to both businesses and people. Sometimes they evolve in ways that suit us, sometimes they don’t. Wasting my time on the latter is just that, a waste.

    • says

      Let’s be honest here, Matt. This post actually strings together a pretty serious theme across the top tier of blogs that are monetizing by turning their sites into the local $0.05 and $0.10. That is literally selling out. I think the criticism is spot on.

      • says

        I guess the question is whether you believe the free market applies in these cases? If they are ‘selling out’ (which has always seemed an idealists word to me) in a way which is negative to their value then they should fail and the market auto-corrects itself no?

        If on the other hand we are simply sitting around wistfully recalling the ‘good ole days’, then I’m happy to pull up a chair.

        • says

          I think the free market is applied in these cases. And I am sure that Twitter popularity is not the example of success. Contracts are, and toe to toe, I’m pretty sure these top bloggers lose more than their fair share of competitive bids from what I am seeing.

          As far as the old days snit, just remember that riding someone else’s coattails is not the same as doing and leading. It’s easy to take an arm chair and take pot shots. It’s not easy to be consistently out front. See you on the playground.

          • says

            I don’t actually come up against many of these top bloggers at all out there in the real world. On the occasions they’ve been in the pool of competition over a contract they’ve lost more often than not on the jobs I’m involved in. That’s not a huge representative sample, but from a personal perspective I’d have to agree with you.

            Can’t really comment on your ‘old days’ comment, as I’m not sure I understand it. Is it referencing me? Others? A generality? I’m thinking you misunderstood what I meant by it but who knows.

  15. says

    I’m one of those rare souls who blogs because I like to think out loud. So I’ve never worried about making money at it. Since one of the first blogs I read starting out (and still read) was Chris Brogan’s, I immediately thought of him when I read this post, Michael. It did disappoint me when the not-so-subtle profit motive began working its way into his posts so regularly, but I still find the “first” Chris Brogan there, as well (I started to say “real” Chris Brogan, but who among us really knows who’s real via social media!?). I have no need for the services he offers for fee, so I just dismiss those posts. With everything I read or hear, I try to use that whole separating the chaff from the grain approach and hope that others do the same with me.

    • says

      I tend to be the same way and do not depend on my blog to make a living, so I may not have the full understanding of what it is to have to use this site to feed ones family. I don’t mind that people monetize, I really don’t. I think it is great that smart people can make a living helping others use these tools. I just am struggling with the chaff to grain ratio these days. And that is on a lot of sites, not just any one in particular.

      • says

        True…it is on most sites that have been around for any length of time. I think it’s great that you brought this to our attention. We may think no one notices changes in our business models because we don’t “see” one another each day like we might customers or colleagues in other settings. But we’re seen nonetheless. The internet provides a living record of who we say we are and the way we pretend to operate. So when we change, the transparency reveals any duplicity in our actions immediately. I can’t imagine such a shift on my blog. But if I get to that point, this post will help remind me to proceed with a clear and consistent sense of purpose.

  16. says

    Hey Michael,

    I appreciate your point of view (and humor) here. After having viewed many of the other comments in this thread I see many people have perceived this as a “selling is bad for blogging” post. I disagree.

    Rather, I think you make a very important point. I’ve interpreted your message here to be something like this:

    Please don’t take the trust you’ve worked so hard to establish with your loyal audience for granted by luring them into buying poor-quality renditions of your work. Instead, challenge yourself to step up to the plate and innovate, create, or collaborate in a way that continues to foster the trust you once worked really hard to get.

    I think that’s a noble and important aim. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? Not at all.

  17. says

    Not sure how to feel about this post. I got no problem with people making money from other people. There are also plenty of stupid people out there that eat up the “A-Lister” offerings despite the overwhelming lack of originality or innovation.

    But it does speak to the state of blogging as a whole. Its become a mad dash for blog “monetization” (Heck, if Chris Brogan can do it, why not me?) and this mad dash has led to daily (and SEO boosting) blog posts that are usually chock full of keywords/links and/or devoid of originality.

    Someone needs to administer the sobering smelling salt of reality to the masses who dream of making a living via their blog. But to those who are, they’ve earned it. Besides, there are worse ways to make a living than selling picks & shovels to prospectors looking to cash in on the “Blogrush”, yes?

    • says

      I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it either, so no harm there. It was just an observation and I was curious as to how others felt.

      You are certainly right that it is hard to knock what is working for those guys (although, looks like I did just that…). I just hope that in the end we are all selling more than picks and shovels and there I very well may be naive…

  18. says

    The problem with people monetizing their blogs is that it’s often quite blatant and transparent when they blog about something and pepper their text with affiliate links. I have a lot more respect for bloggers that come out and say “I’m going to talk about this product and here’s an affiliate link at the end of all this from which I get a cut”. It’s the clumsy attempts at making this whole thing seem somehow natural that I take issue with – it rarely comes across to the reader the way the author intends.

    But, hey, it’s a jungle out there and if you can make money with your blog AND retain readers, good for you! There’s nothing inherently wrong in making money blogging.

    • says

      Totally agree, there is nothing wrong with making money. Just think it is worth a second or two to discuss how we go about doing that as more and more blogs start making it.

      I don’t think there is any lack of transparency on any of these sites (just wanted to be clear in case it came off otherwise), I just think it is a matter of frequency of the pitch getting to be a bit much.

  19. @EvilPRGuy says

    I think Michael Schechter did a good job of making his point in this post. Strangely, after reading the comments, it appears that many of the readers just don’t get what you’re trying to say. The commentators seem to think it’s saying people shouldn’t monetize their blogs, where the original post seems to be saying that if you’re going to charge money for content it should be good stuff. It also seems to read that turning your blog into a revenue generation stream at the expense of having good content is a bad thing. Which I completely agree with.

    I think checking out The Atavist would be an interesting addition to the conversation. It’s a site that specializes in long-form journalism, and they charge for every piece, between $1.99-2.99. It’s an apt comparison because it shows that if the content is worth it, people will pay the price. There’s no trickery, no A-List bloggers begging, and no blogger bait and switch. I think the difference between The Atavist, and some of the sites Michael linked to in his post, is quality. High quality writing will always sell. B.S. fly by night, jargon filled flavor of the second marketing writing needs shady help to sell. (Full Disclosure: Evan, who runs The Atavist is a buddy of mine, but I honestly think the quality of the work on the site is outstanding and well worth the cash).

    • says

      Thanks for the thoughts. While I don’t wasn’t really commenting on the quality of content you are charging for (although you are dead right), the rest is pretty spot on.

      I actually think there are some interesting models in the pay for content space. One of my favorites is the read and trust newsletter, it cost $5 a month for a weekly post and I always find the inspiration there well worth the cash. Thanks for the feedback and for the recommendation.

  20. says

    Hey Michael,

    Great post. Your close, “Pour yourself into it, even when no one is reading. If and when people do start reading the crap you put on the page, don’t ever take that for granted.” says it perfectly. Enjoyed the post and the resulting conversations/comments. Nicely done, sir.

  21. says

    Once again I am late to the party. To answer your patronizing question, no, you’re not alone. Michael, this is an insightful and interesting post. I’d almost get the sense that you have your tongue in cheek a bit if I didn’t know it all to be so true.

    And, everyone else, incredible comments. Thank you! 😀

  22. says

    Hey there Mike,

    Just wanted to say great post, sir, and a topic that’s clearly close to a lot of peoples’ hearts.

    Reading your words, and knowing the heat – and, in some circles, abuse – you’ve taken over your post, I just want to say you’ve been a rock in grace and class.

    Sure, a post like this was always going to ruffle some feathers – but then isn’t that the point of great blogging, making people think?

    Shame some of the other “parties” couldn’t handle themselves the way you have.

    Thanks again, mate, sterling stuff.

    • says

      Thanks Danny and thanks again for letting me run rough shot over your site.

      The post certainly matured into some seriously interesting conversations and was a hell of a learning experience.

      Related side note: How the hell do you respond to all your blog comments and have time to take a piss in a day?

      • says

        I tend to leave most until the evening now, mate, when the wife and son are sleeping. It’s the only real time I get to myself these days. :)

  23. James Greg says

    Great post, very touching. All this commercialism has ripped the love of writing just for the love of it. People want to just earn millions by selling crap. Anyways great post and a great job at least someone is trying to promote writing just for the love of it.

    • says

      I really don’t know if that is the case. I just think it is the fact that money changes things and that change requires thought. I don’t think anyone is selling out. I just think learning how to make money from something that started out as free takes time, thought, care and a hell of a lot of conversation.

  24. says

    This topic reminds me of something.

    Way back when, in the 90s, when newspapers dominated the information world, there was this little thing that got some footing called the World Wide Web.

    Newspapers liked the web and began to put their stories up on their websites, but they made a serious mistake. The created a situation where their online content, regardless of how valuable it was in other terms, had NO financial value.

    Today, newspapers are trying to sort out a solid business model, and one of the issues is that they are soundly rejected when they try to charge for content. Most “charge for content” efforts in newspapers and magazines do not succeed on a level that is beneficial to the publication’s bottom line.

    Is the same true for blogs? I always found it very odd that bloggers would talk about how valuable your information had to be, and then at the same time decry efforts to charge for the information…or to put a value on the content.

    It seems that to an extent, serious bloggers are in the same boat as newspapers – tons of great content, tremendously valuable information, and now they need to figure out how to make money off of it.

    The problem is they opened Pandora’s Box.

    The final thing is this: There is a difference between monetizing a blog and “selling out.” Running a few ads is not a sell out, however, there are a few blogs with content that sure seems to mirror their ads – that’s a bit iffy. And as some people have stated here, some blogs have taken to very hard sales techniques to get you to purchase additional content.

    • says

      I couldn’t agree more on the selling out vs. monetizing. In fact I don’t think that many have sold out (especially considering making a living out of this was often their intent in the first place). It is way more a matter of getting lost and getting a little bit rigid. The newspapers waited far too long to evolve, hopefully history doesn’t repeat itself.

  25. says

    Michael – How do you add to a comment thread when you’re the 89th to weigh in? Lucky for me folks like Danny, Geoff and Doug aren’t too original.

    See what I did there?

    Seriously though, I understand your point and I totally agree with it. Douglas Rushkoff would take it a step further and argue that as soon as you try and commercialize your digital network it is compromised.

    It obviously doesn’t mean it cannot be done. It’s being done at the bottom of this page. I’m not saying there’s no room for commercialization and I don’t think Rushkoff is (I am not Douglas nor do I play him on TV).

    His point is that every social network is built for connection/engagement and when we try and use it for monetization it eventually peters out. So while Facebook is a monolith, he argues it will eventually suffer a fate similar to Friendster and MySpace. And perhaps its another reason why Google hasn’t succeeded in social. That’s a whole other blog post/comment.

    This idea is addressed in Rushkoff’s “Program or Be Programmed” fwiw.

    I also agree based on my own experience. My posting frequency to Strategic Public Relations and the Bad Pitch Blog is abysmal. My stats reflect this. But I’m not trying to monetize, so I post when I have something to say. This increases the odds my content is more quality vs. quantity. My posting habits are not a model I’d recommend, but the fact that someone (at least my Mom) still reads the two blogs also supports your theory.


    • says

      Thanks for the thoughts and for getting me excited to read Program or Be Programmed, it is next up on my Kindle! I still believe that there is a way to get from free to paid (although it is a bumpy road), it just takes a tremendous amount of thought and perspective and that is where many end up falling short.

    • says


      Thank you for your kind comment on my blog. For my part I cannot comment on the early days of social media. On the question of ethics I mean in terms of how people set the bar for their business I don’t believe any of the A-List bloggers that influence me have dubious or better ethics than anybody else Danny included.

      My headline was taken straight out of the copyblogger text book 😉 Just to peek people’s interest. I believe this is a conversation that this industry needs to engage. There is so much that is great about SoMe and people like Chris Brogan are needed no doubt. Just as people like you and Danny are. People who are not afraid to pose questions and generate discussion that evolves the space.

      Have a great day Sir.

      Respect always

      • says

        No, I’d argue that Danny’s ethics are downright dubious :)

        I really appreciated your perspective and could not agree more, we need more people like Chris and even those like Danny! We just need to make sure we can all talk about how we go about this thing we call Social Media, especially now as it is growing up!

  26. says

    Hi, Michael.

    It took me a while to read your post and wade through all the comments here. But, I’m mighty glad I did because the banter here pose lessons that I might not have learned otherwise. Thanks! :)

    Although I am running a company blog, I don’t do direct selling through it. Instead I am using it to share the special magic of 3D rendering, which could or could not help bring in clients for our company. So, I don’t have much to say about monetizing my blog.

    But, I do like your closing statement here about pouring your heart out on your blog even if no one is reading it. That is exactly how I started with my blog and although I am still unsure how many people do read my blog, I care not. In time, I know, I will have my day in the sun when the comments to my post would increase according to my liking.

    It was nice meeting you here in Danny’s blog, Michael. :)

    • says

      You and me both, that was a heck of a comment stream! Out of curiosity (and as a fellow corporate blogger) do you track leads from the blog and how these convert? I tend to agree that a soft sell or even no sell can go a long way, but that you have to track and make sure whatever technique you go with is working.

      Pouring yourself into your work or your writing is so underrated and you can really feel when someone’s heart is in their work. As much as I give him grief, Danny is great at this! You FEEL his writing and for me that is the mark of someone who is getting it right. I know who is reading (thank god for Google Analytics) and my audience is small, but I value anyone who is willing to give me a few minutes of their time and hopefully manage to be useful from time to time :)

      Here is to getting the comments you deserve!

      • says

        Thanks, Michael. I admit I am still going at this stuff slowly. So, no, I have not been tracking leads from the blog yet and until now our Google Analytics is not yet working. My boss is still snowed under with work that we haven’t really focused on correcting the kinks of our blog yet.

        But, all in good time. I am in no rush yet. I am having fun connecting with people online and right now, that and what I write for my readers (regardless of their number) are what matters for me. :)

  27. says

    You are still an ass and I don’t care if you tried to disguise it and act like someone else on Danny’s site.

    You talk about the sanctity of amateurism and helping others and here you are whoring yourself around on any guest post that will have you. I mean really…..and no I’m not going to ask you to be on mine……….

    Michael my man, how the heck are ya?

    I guess it’s a fine line when you reach a certain point in popularity you just assume you should be able to monetize or capitalize. I love money too (in addition to myself, remember?), but if everything about your site becomes commercial and you lose the essence of you then I will probably lose interest.

    Me personally, I would like to try and let people know me for who I am and if it leads to monetization opportunities outside my site then more power to me, huh?

    Well, I can’t say I didn’t know you before this week but certainly getting my fill. Good stuff though, thanks for sharing.

  28. says

    Now, I agree with what you’re saying, but honestly, my own pet peeve is when headlines don’t match content, and I feel that was the case for this article. I was expecting a bit of a humorous article on “the weird thing I want you to do on my blog”, but instead I got a rant about people not blogging for quality anymore. It would be great to share, but not with the headline you currently have up, because now I feel like I’d be misleading my own audience.

    Hope my 2 cents is worth something….and I love constructive feedback and discussion on this type of thing!

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