The High Cost of Selling Yourself Out: Be Careful What You Blog

In my last post The High Cost of Free Software: Be Careful What You Download, I included the following quote from Ed Bott of zdnet.com:

Basically, there’s a dilemma that software developers are in. They can either go with these monetization companies which load up their installers with “special offers” and which in turn allow them to make a frightful sum of money or they can take a day job and get out of the software business.

Lately, I’ve been thinking that this could be paraphrased to apply to bloggers:

Basically, there’s a dilemma that [BLOGGERS] are in. They can either go with these monetization companies which load up their [BLOGS] with “special offers” and which in turn allow them to make [SOME] sum of money or they can take a day job and get out of the [BLOGGING] business.

Of course, one of the main differences between software developers and bloggers is that a great number of bloggers already have day jobs (myself included). The urge to try to make the blogging a paying gig can sometimes lead to unfortunate decisions.

When you start a blog, one of the first questions you need to really ask yourself is why are you writing this blog? What content do you want to share with your readers? What unique perspective can you bring to an already large blogosphere?

Back in 2009, I wrote a post for BlogHer.com called “Why I Blog About Beer“. In the post, I mentioned that Hoperatives was actually the third blog I had started. The first one was an earlier version of this blog and didn’t have much focus. I mainly rambled about various topics and didn’t really offer anything new. The second one about our experience on a liquid diet was too focused and really was only meant to last a short time.

I also mentioned a talk that Merlin Mann and Jon Gruber gave at SXSW in 2009 called “149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog with Credibility!” You can find more information about it at http://www.43folders.com/2009/03/25/blogs-turbocharged. I summarized the talk this way:

…a successful blog must have three things: “obsession + topic + voice”. If you have those three things, you can “become the go-to person for whatever your topic is.” Consider this: “How do you know it’s time to start a blog? Because people keep telling you to shut up.” And finally: “When CPM becomes more important than making readers happy, you’ve lost it.”

Since blogging has become more popular and accessible, I’ve seen a growing trend of people starting a blog just because they think it is an easy way to get free stuff or make money. But it’s not. Blogging is hard work and takes a lot of time.

Is it worth going to a bloggers event if you are just going to learn about the entity hosting the event? Back when I worked in radio, we called that a press conference and it was part of my job to attend them. Since I was paid by the radio station, I attended many press conferences on topics I didn’t personally care about.

As a blogger, I only go to events directly related to what I blog about: craft beer in Cincinnati for Hoperatives and technology, theater and a few other topics here at RadioCarla.com. Any time I broke this rule and went to an event that really didn’t interest me (usually as a favor to someone), I was miserable. It was a lose-lose for both me and the hosting business.

The word “free” sounds good except it usually isn’t really true. I’ve been to many, many trade shows over the years ranging from the National Restaurant Association, the National Association of Broadcasters, EarMarked for Disney travel agents, Cruise360, BlogHer and the national Beer Bloggers Conference. At first, all the free swag is great. Then, it’s the end of the day and you’re carrying around this bag of crap. And then the bag of crap is in your home taking up space. Was it worth it?

The same idea applies to blogging. If you want to write a blog just to get free stuff, you have to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” Is it worth shilling a product you may or may not like on your Facebook page and Twitter stream? Is it worth losing readers and Facebook likes and Twitter followers for a “free” product that you could have easily bought yourself (if you really even wanted it)?

All in all, it goes back to the question of why are you blogging. What is your obsession? What is your topic? What is your voice? Your voice is really your brand in blogging. Is it worth diluting your voice for a cheap plastic spatula with some company’s name on it that you’ll just throw away the next time you move?

In my last post, I suggested that you think before you download. Now, I’m suggesting that you think long and hard before you give away your voice. Don’t pay the high cost of selling yourself out.

— Carla

plastic spatula - high cost of selling yourself out