Full Disclosure

Hey folks, hope you don't mind, but I'm exploring new ways to monetize this blog. I've met people who shun or even completely disapprove of blogging for cash and to them I say… well, hell, they probably stopped reading this blog the minute I added Google Ads.

My view of blogs has changed dramatically over the nearly four years I've been blogging. My first blog started as a way for me to muse and vent about my rather routine life. Later I kept a blog to stay in touch with family while I lived out of my backpack for five months while traversing continents. I migrated back to my first blog after returning home, and rather than dusting off the travel blog on some freebee server when I left for China, I did things proper and got myself my own site. TheHumanaught.com was born.

In the course of my blogxpedition, this little site has grown from what I though was an amazing 457 visits in February 2005, to the more than 13,000 visits I had this past month. I'm now daily receiving nearly the number of visits that I received that whole cold February about two years ago. Here are some nifty charts to illustrate (click 'em for the bigger version):

monthlyvisits.gif dailyavgvisits.gif

When I started blogging, the whole idea was still pretty new, and it has evolved a lot since those early days of trying to customize my LJ template. Whether my mind about blogging has evolved to fit the new blogsphere, or the new blogsphere has evolved to fit mine (and others) minds, I'm not sure, but I love that the net has exploded to a point where near everyone has a blog of some sort now. Some say the blogging explosion has dilluted the quality of the content on the net, which I think is laughable. The sheer number of good blogs with excellent writing out there far, far, FAR outweighs any claims that blogs are cluttering up the net or are just some ego-stroking vanity fad.

Anyway, that's all a very convoluted and reminiscent way of saying, shit's changed. And as much as I'm pretty well still writing the same drivel I was two years ago when I launched this site, I have monetized (that's fancy for made-it-money-makin') some things on here. As such, I've put together a page for my Disclosure Policy, which outlines – for all to see – my exact position on advertising in this blog. This was generated for me by, appropriately enough, Disclosure Policy Generator (www.disclosurepolicy.org), which is encouraging bloggers to be clear and transparent about where their editorial/advertorial lines are.

With my background in publishing, I've no qualms about being paid to write and no problems displaying advertising to assist in the costs of distributing that writing. In fact, I've issues with people who feel writers don't need to be paid for their work. However, I do agree that standards should be held, and if something is advertising, or related to advertising, that needs to be indicated.

 This very post is an example of the new system I've implemented on this site. If you look at the top, you'll notice that under the headline there is a PAID indicator – that means I've been (or hopefully will be) paid in some way for this post. Basically, this means I've worked into the post some sponsor or whatnot. In this post's case it is the www.disclosurepolicy.org site, via a program called PayPerPost.

If any readers have any questions about this, or any opinions, feel free to leave a comment. I'm very curious to hear what people think in regards to blogs, the future of blogging, and the monetization of blogs.

11 Responses

  1. Hey Ryan, I don't think there is anything wrong with you trying to monetize your blog.  Many people are doing the exact same thing, in fact I would say the majority of well ranked blogs do so, even the majority of well ranked China blogs. I personally am trying to figure out exactly what to do with my website, as it is not so much a personal blog (although I may add more and more personal experiences) as a collection of translations and hopefully somewhat interesting information and thoughts about China. I am using it as a way to improve my writing skills, get some thoughts about China out there into the blogsphere and web, work on my budding translation skills, and hopefully make some money at the same time.    As to the future of blogs, I think there are more and more good quality blogs out there, and this is a tremendous resource for everyone.  What there is a lack of (and I make no claim in any way to providing this kind of content) is really high quality content, although I think we will see more and more of this as bloggers create higher quality content to lure the people who come through on search engines and whatnot.   I really think your blog is the nicest designed China blog I have seen out there, and think the extra touches you put into it are outstanding, like your video blog.    The question is, will it get harder to make money from providing high quality blog content with so many new entrants or remain about the same?  Only time will have an answer for this kind of question.  What I don't think is in question is that the best blogs out there will continue to rise in quality.   

  2. @Hek: haha… well, to be honest, there's not much to see really.

    @ChinaExpat: Thanks for the kind words, this blog is a work in progress, but has largely been in its current manifestation since about March when I switched to WordPress. The switch allowed me the flexibility to customize a lot of things and dig a bit deeper into the code. I may still switch some things around in the future to help the flow of the site, but overall I'm quite happy with it.

    As to blogs becoming more professional in their content. My personal opinion about blogs is that generally there needs to be some distinctly human element to it to seperate it from traditional media such as magazines and newspapers. Of course there is a lot of cross-over in this area in both the China blogsphere and the blogsphere at large. However, I personally find I enjoy blogs more that don't try too hard to write "professional", "journalistic" editorial content. In doing so, I find the blogger loses that intimate connection that she or he has with their readership. I read blogs, and assume others read this blog, because I want someone's opinions about something. I want to peek into their mind and see what they're thinking. If I wanted true journalism, I'd go over to the Economist, NYT, NME or whatnot.

    It's also why I sometimes don't get to Danwei but I'll almost always read Sinosplice. Whereas Jeremy has a fantastic site, rich with well written content, I find that there is a human element missing, something John's posts almost always contain.

    As far as the money goes … professional blogging is not something I am about to take the leap into. There are plenty of people out there making it work for themselves (couStevePavlinagh), but there are also endless droves of blogs that are not much more than GoogleAds and dollar-sign contact lenses. My monetary goals are essentially to pay the bills for the site and possibly pull in enough to finance other small ventures (ie. The Hao Hao Report).

  3. I'm not a big fan of ads on personal blog sites, but I can see as a site becomes more popular supporting it financially can become a burden. As long as a blog's content doesn't suffer and the author isn't being paid to say something he doesn't believe then I don't see the harm. On non-personal blogs advertisements are expected.

  4. I'm going through the exact same process (our stats are also very similar), and I've decided that although I make in an hour of doing IT consulting what I make in 6 months of blogging with Adsense, I still think the ads are a good idea, for various reasons. Ads are a part of cyberspace and a decent way to cover basic expenses. Some would even consider those as a service. Did someone consider not using Google because of the sponsors on the side? quite the contrary, and I know a few people who think that's a great added feature, as long as the ads are targeted at their content and local preferences. People who don't enjoy ads can use of of the many tools to block those, and I even provide a guide on my blog about how to do it next to the ads. Problem begins when people aren't aware that they're seeing ads or a promotion, which might even happen here in your blog if visiting members don't get the green "Paid". I'm still not sure what I think of this, but it is taking ads to a new level…

  5. Here's the distinction I usually make: Doing something for the money, and having the money that allows you to do something. Both are OK, but they serve different ends. My old newspaper publisher was definitely in it for the money. On the other hand, all the underpaid reporters really would have had an easier time had we made just a bit more, maybe enough to move out of our parents' homes or live somewhere close to the communities we covered. We weren't reporting to get rich (that's what PR is for), but a few bucks more a week wouldn't have damaged our objectivity any. As for ads on the blogs (full disclosure, I have them, too), I'd rather see ads than paid posting, personally. Ads provide the means to write, where as paid posting (advertorial) seems too akin to reading the classifieds, even if it is in well-wrought prose. At best, a good paid post feels a bit like a good viral ad campaign: maybe entertaining, but I lose something when I keep wondering what someone is trying to sell me. Of course, my opinion might change the moment someone offers me cash for copy. And I won't knock a blogger for making a buck, lord knows I'd like to someday.

  6. I think really what it comes down to is integrity. As you can see by both the two posts that are in the PPP category (the PAID posts), I've not written them in a way or included anything that was selling something not directly related to the focus of this site. Now, the focus of this site is rather broad, but does have some amount of consistancy and as such, anything I'm being paid to write on this site will also fit that focus. I'm not going to write about a site that is offering fluffy cell phone pockets just to make a couple bucks from it.

    That's where a writer's integrity comes into play. I write about a crapload of things on this site, and most of them aren't going to bring me money. If some are able to, and I'd write about them anyway, hell… who am I to turn that money down? I trust my integrity enough to not let chasing money with my blog hurt the blog itself. It's also why one of my sponsors is a cheap hotel price search and not some pharmacy company. I do believe Google Ads and selective static advertising is more beneficial to my readership than taking on anything that might bring in cash. The fact is, contextual advertising works because it has value to the users – people wouldn't use them otherwise.

  7. Interesting concept; however, this PPP forum post – http://boards.payperpost.com/viewtopic.php?t=627 – makes this particular program sound like it has quite a few hoops to jump through and arbitrary "WTF?" thumbs-down rulings from the Post approval department. (Sort of like dealing with most government offices and banks in China, no?) A bit of discontent in the ranks to boot over there. I hope you'll provide updates on how this arrangement goes for you. FWIW, these days I'm actually wary of most blogs that don't incorporate Google ads or other ads. Exceptions: Blogs by politicians, companies or CEOs, entertainers/artists, or other "public figures" of some sort. I wouldn't expect these to be "monetized" because the payoff is in the publicity or good PR or whatever. But otherwise, when I see a blog that doesn't display PPC or other types of ads, my kneejerk reaction is to assume that the author is an egomaniac, fanatic, extremist, or lunatic of some sort until proven otherwise. This is a groundless assumption on my part, I know…and I can name lots of great and worthwhile regular Joe/regular Jane unmonetized blogs…but it seems I've been noticing a trend like that lately just the same. Anyway, Ryan, can you disclose the payout range for these sorts of paid posting "opportunities"?

  8. @Mark: I agree about what you’re saying in regards to GoogleAds adding a feeling of comfort. Advertising in general has gone that way for me. I used to hate ads on sites back in the early days of Geocities free hosting and the likes. Now, what nearly 10 years on, I’ve become so accustomed to sites/blogs having ads (particularly contextual Google Ads) that they look strange without.

    This is one of the things that I’m still on the fence about with PPP. With GoogleAds you know where they are, what they’re doing and how to interpret their placement on the site. With PPP its a little less obvious. After navigating through the forums on the PPP site, I’m not liking what I’m hearing from the advertisers that post the “opportunities” there.

    Many are complaining that bloggers are including disclosure statements, and they feel this negates the value of the blogger writing about their site. In fact, many of the advertisers don’t seem to care as much what you write, but that you link and that link should help their Google page rank.

    Now, I’m not sure how PPP pitches them to provide opportunities for bloggers, but this whole concept irks me and if it doesn’t resolve itself in a way that meets my editorial ethics, PPP is off this site.

    I’ve seen some pretty shady things done for advertisers in my time in the publishing industry, but generally speaking the editorial integrity of any publication – whether blog, mag., newspaper, ezine, etc. – is the only thing it has of value.

    The way I look at PPP (idealistically), is that I can scan their opporuntities, and if there is something there that I feel adds value to my site and might benefit the people that read this site, I’ll blog about it and have no qualms about being paid for doing so. However, if that site starts to dictate how I link to them, what I say and how I disclose to my readers… it’s just not worth the money.

    To answer your question about payout ranges… I wont be specific in regards to the actual opportunities, but it’s common to see opps on PPP ranging from $2 to $10 with different conditions (word count, tone, etc.) for each one.

  9. True all dat!, as they say. For years I took pride in the fact that my site (one up since 1998, not my blog) was “pure and untainted by ads and commercial vice.” Then Roddy (chinese-forums.com) hipped to me Google Ads, but for two years I kept the ads out of the main line of sight (tucked way down at the bottom of pages). I didn’t want to “corrupt my design” or “offend my visitors.” Then I started learning about proper placement and blending and skyrocketing CTRs, and, well, that was that as far as wanting ads on my site to be unobtrusive.It’s funny to read the PPP vs. PPC debate, though, because I think it’s exactly because of certain Adsense “abuses” that PPP is having such a struggle. Some people seem to be associating PPP with some of the less respectable Adsense trends (splogging, black hat seo, Adsense farms, etc.)–even some of the advertisers are nearly making this association, it seems, as you suggest–but I don’t really think the concept itself deserves such a bad rap. I’d bet that if PPP had hit the big time before PPC, it wouldn’t be having these perception issues with some people.I think it’s great you’re trying it, though; if it doesn’t work well, it’s probably just a few template edits to part ways with PPP; it if does work well, right on!Cheers,Mark

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