Asha: My goal for a second act is to focus on the people reading it, not the numbers.
Heather: My web site turns 15 a week from today. By 2005 I was supporting my family through banner ads on my articles. Model collapsed in 2011, the only way to make money then became through sponsored content. Need to make my audience happy to make my brands happy. In 2013 I wrote a piece for Banana Republic that they just hated, so now all sponsored content has to be approved by the brand before being published [ed note: not true in my experience at all. –Dave]
Ford wanted me to play a word game while driving their car, so I had to fabricate three posts for Ford. Her 5yo cried “please don’t make me get into the car”. So she quit to build something else.
Jeff: Out with the Kids is just about ten years old. Became a lot about kids music because indie music had changed Jeff’s life when he was a teen, but became more pompous, then started to get sponsored content and activities came along, so he stretched himself to go in different directions. Decided to focus on travel and kept taking chances, and the site kept growing. If your readers like you and your personality, you can write about more than just kid related stuff and write for other sites.
Adrian: I started blogging 6 years ago, and the place I am now, well, it was like a weird invisible group of friends I have had all these years. In the last 3-4 years, I’ve gotten a lot of sponsored campaigns and content. “Sure, I can figure out how to work q-tips into a 750 word post”. But now I’m asking am I a complete sell-out? Am I even writing about my kids any more?
Adrian: Why did I get into this in the first place? Can I stay true to myself not feel like I have to take a shower every ten minutes? Do you follow your instinct or do you try to find a medium or do you just try to maximize revenue?
Asha: Really be honest with yourself, what gets you to put your best stuff out there? And realistically assess what you need. Do you need income, community, an audience, customers, more dollars in the bank? The challenge is to keep in mind what direction the opportunities that come in are taking you. Is that really where you want to go?
Heather hired a life coach to help move forward. I’m the sole income in my household and the amount of sponsored content I needed to accept required me to produce so much non-sponsored content that she couldn’t keep up. “I didn’t sign up to have an editorial calendar”. Worked with a life coach for a year and a half, and have been on the speaking circuit for the last 18mo, speaking is a natural extension to storytelling.
Jeff: There are a lot of really neat opportunities that come along through sponsored content. When I first started I took just about everything, but it’s fun if the creative angle behind it is interesting. There’s no shame in accepting these promotions, even if sometimes it’s a bit of a stretch.
The nightmare for agency reps is bloggers that just cut and paste the press release, rather than do something creative, some good storytelling. Though it can be difficult to come up with interesting stories month after month on a specific campaign (example was a pizza restaurant)
One of my concerns about being a parenting blogger is what do I write about next? Am I going to infringe on their privacy and keep writing about them and about parenting? Heather says you don’t need to have your kids age push you out of writing about parenting.
Heather: Our children’s sense of privacy and what they want to keep online or off is completely different.
Asha: I started my blog writing about parenting, but not about my parenting. So I wasn’t aging out because of my kids, but just because of my kids: Now that they’re older, I don’t really need the hacks any more. (Ref is her book “Parent Hacks”). There will always be parent hacks, but it’s completely outside of my blog. I don’t have all the answers, I’m just taking on a mentor role for new parents.
Jeff: The transition to cars, lifestyle, European football just came as time passed. I share it with my kids, which is my parenting connection, but it’s about my digital lifestyle. I would cloak it with “I’m doing it out of respect for my children’s digital lives” but that might not really matter as our kids see all this completely differently. You don’t have to be aged out, and you don’t need to stay in that box either.
Be very careful of being exploitive of your kids, particularly with video (Jeff). If your kids don’t want you to write about them, it poses a great dilemma. How do you write about teens?
Heather: My 12yo has an understanding that she’s not allowed to read my Web site. At some point she will appreciate that I am trying to celebrate her childhood, but not now. But she asks her daughter before posting photos or stories about her.
Can you take your community with you when you go to your next project? When you share that you’re changing, many people connect because of you, of your voice, and many will stay with you even as you move in a new direction. We are our brand, though, so you can branch out…
Jeff: Out with the Kids has morphed over time to “OWTK”. No kids, no dad in the title, it’s just nebulous.
Banner ads collapsed, so what’s going to happen with sponsored posts? Heather: That’ll happen too, and we’ll end up having just paid content and only the privileged will be able to read about things online.
Asha talked about other ways to generate revenue, including the Amazon Associates program. The question might be whether this should be an income stream or you should earn money through other means.
Is creating your own opportunities a better way to avoid “feeling dirty” with your sponsored content? Jeff: I don’t pick things that don’t align for me, so I feel good about the campaigns I work with. Create a media kit. Heather: shared story of a campaign she pitched to Larabar about hosting her for a half-marathon. Asha: The relationship between brands and bloggers can be great, like Dove Men+Care and the Dad 2.0 Summit.