Commercial carrots in blogworld

I’m going to interrupt my exploration of the spidery corners of British culture—you know, the stuff I claim to be doing in the heading of my blog—to explore a spidery corner belonging of the blogosphere.

The other day, I got an email from someone who said nice things about my blog. I fell in love immediately. Who wouldn’t? She has such good taste. She wanted me to write a post that the company she works for would then promote through social media. Since I’m crap with social media and I assume they’re not (although how I think I know that is anyone’s guess), this is a tempting offer.

Irrelevant photo: Here's Wild Thing me, failing to see the solar eclipse. Just out of range is a piece of cardboard with a hole in it, through which the image of the sun declined to make itself seen. It was hazy, and I'm guessing that was the problem.

Irrelevant photo: Here’s Wild Thing and me, failing to see the solar eclipse on a piece of used paper. You can just see the type on the other side. Out of camera range was a piece of cardboard with a hole in it, through which the image of the sun declined to make itself seen. The sky was hazy, and I’m guessing that was the problem. Either that or the image of the sun was holding out for non-recycled paper.

What does she want me to write about? My ideal night out in a foreign city and how to connect with a culture using language and food.

Well, I like language. I like food. In my barbarian way, I like culture(s). I even like cities, and Britain has almost as many cities as it does bizarre festivals. (I made that up. It can’t possibly.) So maybe this fits. Admittedly, my ideal night out is a whole lot less raucous than most people want to read about, but what really bothers me is this feeling that I’d be selling out if I bent the blog off course (if it is off course, which I haven’t established yet) just so I could wolf down the first commercial carrot anyone has bothered to dangle in front of me.

And hell, the carrot isn’t even money. I’m mean, if you’re going to sell out, shouldn’t you get paid?

That tells you I come from a print background. I mean, in blogworld we’re supposed to be thrilled if our words are discovered and circulated, but we’re not supposed to think about money. Even when the circulator hopes to make money out of the exchange.

Does anyone notice something slightly wrong about this?

Even so, I am thinking about it. Carrots are food. I like food. We’ve established that. And I’m crap at social media. We’ve established that as well. It’s the commercial aftertaste of this particular carrot that bothers me.

In the name of transparency, I should say that I haven’t a clue whether I’m supposed to be writing about her request or whether the post—if I ever write, let alone post, it—is supposed to appear completely natural and unsolicited. Also in the name of transparency, I’ll add that I’m not sure how I feel writing about our email exchange. I don’t know if I’m talking behind her back, and if I am whether it’s okay since it’s not gossip, just discussion. Hell, I don’t even know if her back’s turned. Maybe she’s reading this. If so, I hope I’m not creating any hard feelings. She presented me with an interesting problem, and I want to explore it. And she was drawn to my blog, she said, by its creativity, which I take to mean its unpredictability. So here’s me, folks, being unpredictable.

If anyone has opinions or past experiences with this kind of thing, I’d love to hear them. Let’s explore.

43 thoughts on “Commercial carrots in blogworld

  1. Hi Ellen
    I know what you are going through :-) it maybe a completely legit offer but I suspect not. There are a lot of people out there trying to improve you SEO (search engine optimisation). They may even succeed but at what cost to you? Google and others are working hard to help peeps like you & me to do our own – within our posts, using only words and not clever arcane stuff.
    I can’t go into any real detail here (there isn’t enough room!) but before you go any further check out her company and also look into modern (less than a year old) SEO practice, you will be impressed by what you can do yourself!
    Regards
    David

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmmm… interesting conundrum! I can understand the appeal of the carrot (if for no other reason than to see where it goes) as well as worrying that this is not what this particular blog is about.

    Looking forward to your final decision!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ok, I may not have understood this post, so if my comment is irrelevant, please delete so I don’t look like more of a moron on the internet than I already do.

    Personally, I’m against workers giving their labor away for free. It devalues the work, devalues the worker and creates a downward pressure on wages. Soon, we’ll all be working for “exposure.”

    You asked for opinions. ;) This is one of my hot button issues.

    Some things to consider: is this an opening salvo in negotiations? Is this person reaching out to you and saying, “Hey, would you do this for free?” hoping you’ll say “Sure!” Is it possible you could respond, “No, but I will do it for £X” and then she says, “Nope, I’ll only pay £Y”?

    If that’s not the case, and you feel the non-monetary compensation she’s offering (improving your social media presence? Again, if I misread the post, delete) is considerable, i.e. you’ve been thinking about paying someone to do this for you already, then caveat emptor.

    If this is the first time you’ve been contacted to work for free, consider yourself lucky, and prepare for the deluge.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Since that last bit wasn’t clear, I meant: consider yourself lucky in that you’ve lasted this long without getting these sorts of requests. I think they’re the absolute bane of the blogging world.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You couldn’t have understood it better. Thanks. And I think you’re right about working for free. What a world: Internships that don’t pay and don’t teach; writers giving their work away for illusory exposure. Anyone up for organizing a union?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I would tend to agree with Karen. Just for the record, I shared this on Twitter, followed you and added you to a couple of my lists. It’s a small step, but it’s organic social media growth which I think works better over time than some company promoting you, alongside their product/service.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks, Dan. That’s a lovely and thoughtful way to respond. And I’m leaning heavily toward agreeing with you that real people passing along something they like works better–and feels better–than corporate promotion.

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  5. Hmm. I started to read your post here and assumed it was going to be about spam, so before I finished, I went and emptied my spam folder. So, thanks for that reminder. Now that I’ve finished reading, I see that it’s not about spam. Or is it?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m in! This is very weird though, have you been reading my mind? I have been plotting a post on this VERY THING this morning. In fact I was writing it in my head as I walked into town. I was wondering how I would feel if someone asked me to write a paid for post on my blog – how transparent would I be? How comfortable would it feel? How honest would I be? I too come from a print background – as a journalist we used to go on paid-for press trips. And we were always nice about the places we went. As a blogger, writing on my own blog, I am not so sure how I would feel about this sort of dishonesty. Probably because my readership is small, and we all connect so much more than we ever did with readers on a newspaper, I feel a lot more responsibility to those readers. Anyway I still hope to write the post – it’s a very interesting subject! Blogging is evolving so quickly, I am sure we will come up against these dilemmas more and more. PS Love the irrelevant picture from the eclipse!

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    • First the important bit: I think we may start a new trend in eclipse watching. Maybe there’s a book in it: 100 Ways Not to See an Eclipse.

      I’m leaning heavily toward saying no to the offer (among other things, it’s not really organic here; on your blog, it probably is), but I’d be really interested in your experience if you say yes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No I haven’t been asked! It was something that was going through my head if I ever DID get asked. At the moment I am happier selling myself for free to get people to the blog and hence to the book (which should be published in April, all fingers and toes crossed). However there will come a time when I may feel I deserve to be paid. I think I would need more readers first though :)
        Incidentally we were actually lucky in the end and got a good eclipse here – you just needed to be a bit further up the M5…

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  7. I agree with Karen and Dan. You need to decide what you want to accomplish with your blog. If more exposure is a priority, you can research or ask blogging buddies for help (WordPress has lessons on the topic) or hire a consultant. Unsolicited offers that appear too good to be true ( even if they are complimentary) are just that.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Interesting offer – I would be wary of this though. A few years ago, I used to run a political commentary website back in Michigan. Had an offer to write for another publication but never bit the hook. Call me paranoid or overly cautious but it didn’t seem right. I love reading your posts on living in England, some day I want to go there and spend about a month taking in as much as possible.

    Like

    • I hope you make the trip. Can I offer a bit of advice? Don’t limit yourself to the cities. If you can, find a way to get out into the countryside, because it’s absolutely gorgeous.

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  9. Ummm. Swimming against the stream a bit here, and maybe I’m stupid, but I’m not seeing the hook. She likes your blog and she’s asked you to write about something that is in fact in line with what you write anyway – in that you could choose London as your foreign city, for crying out loud; you’re an American! And you already write about connecting through food, etc.

    I’m sure there is a hook there, but I can’t help wondering whether it’s possible to nibble away some of the bait anyway. Has she specified which city, or where you should buy the food? Do you have to name her company or product? Can you even continue to have fun with the fact that you’re responding to their request – in other words, be transparent with your Faithful Readers? I’d be curious to know who they are and what they stand to gain … but if, for example, they’re a travel company or an airline, they might just be looking for interesting material for their magazine that will promote what they do in an honest way. And yeah, writing about it for free might be a hot button issue – but if there’s something here that you could seriously write anyway, so what? Looks like a win/win to me.

    I guess I view it rather the way I do blogging awards. I’m not going to let someone else tell me what I have to write about, or how many bloggers to nominate, or whatever. But I’ve written one post that I actually found quite fun, when I got my first award, and I’m busy with another that sort of responds to two more awards. I have no idea how the creators of the awards benefit, but I don’t have a problem with promoting fellow bloggers – so long as I can do so on my own terms.

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    • It’s always good to hear a contrary view, but I did turn down the offer. Partly because I couldn’t get past the feeling that I’d have to bend off course to make it work and partly because the let’s-get-you-to-do-this-for-free-so-we-can-make-money pissed me off.

      The company makes translation software.

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      • The important thing is to trust your gut. And I agree, it’s odd … what would a translation software get out of a blog on travel subject, by someone who doesn’t exactly write about travel anywhere? Sometimes one catches a whiff of a scam, but I’ll confess it frustrates the heck out of me when I can’t figure out the wotsinnitferthem.

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    • It’s always good to hear a contrary view, but I did turn down the offer. Partly because I couldn’t get past the feeling that I’d have to bend off course to make it work and partly because the let’s-get-you-to-do-this-for-free-so-we-can-make-money pissed me off.

      The company makes translation software.

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  10. I only have some experience in writing for other bloggers, which must have increased their traffic a bit. But they ping back to my blog, so this is some sort of a favour. In your case I’d probably agree but ask them to promise: 1. To ping back to my blog; 2. To make sure they include my FB page in their FB post (Twitter handle, LinkedIn, respectively). Let us know what happens and good luck.

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    • If it had been another blogger (and if it had fit well with my blog), I wouldn’t have hesitated. The fact that this was a company–a commercial operation–was what made me hesitate. I’ve written them to turn down the invitation.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I would go for anything that would increase my exposure on the internet. I want people to read my books. If I could afford to, Id pay a vanity publisher – I can’t, so if someone offered to swap my story for more exposure, Id go for it.

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  12. I see a fairly steady stream of these requests via email. The first time I got one, I thought I was a rock star. However, I think the golden rule is that if you’re writing for an organization or company that makes money, you should get paid.
    Recently, I explored some freelancing options and it hit me that 1) I care about my work enough to charge for it 2) I don’t want to ghost write for others 3) They’re asking me to do it because they don’t have the skill set, so they need to pay, like every other specialist gets paid (plumbers, assassins, teachers, etc.).

    Sounds like you reached a similar conclusion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have. The only place where they were within bounds is that they weren’t asking me to ghostwrite–they’d publicize my blog. But they’re still hoping to make money from other people’s unpaid work.

      Like

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