There is a new shrill contingent of people I see in my twitter networks (usually retweeted, I tend to unfollow people that just shout or are too full of themselves) or at events I attend that call themselves “pro bloggers”.
I’m old fashioned; when I hear the phrase pro blogger, I still think of sites like Gawker, Techcrunch, Boing Boing or Engadget, founded as tech blogs by individuals, some of which are now owned by some of the big boys in publishing but still run very much like blogs. Guys like Peter Rojas, Nick Denton and Michael Arrington are pro bloggers; someone trying to charge an agency £300 to attend a press launch isn’t.
Perhaps it’s me though. It can be, I’ll be the first to admit it. What does it matter how people try to portray themselves short of deliberately misleading people? Well, the cynic in me says it paints a lot of us bloggers in a bad light but it is difficult to attain a good balance, so perhaps I’m being excessively harsh. Again, I’ve got a track record on that. I’ve blogged (a lot) about effort & reward in blogging:
but is there simply a common sense line that shouldn’t be crossed? And if so is it arbitrary or subjective where that line should sit?
I always think it’s easier to define what something isn’t than what it is, so as a bit of a tongue in cheek dig at a lot of the nonsense I see in my timeline, I give you the following list of things that don’t make you a pro blogger:
Charging to attend press events doesn’t make you a pro blogger
If you can somehow manage to wangle several hundred quid out of a PR agency to attend either a press event or an event targeted at bloggers, you’re doing several things. Firstly you’re showing us which agencies are daft enough to fall for your demands, secondly you’re reducing the notional pool of funds to cover travel expenses for the rest of us and thirdly you’re not only believing your own hype, you’re convincing others to do the same. What you’re not doing is proving to anyone you’re a pro blogger. The biggest mistake you’re probably making is confusing professional with income generating.
Writing a product review for an item you’ve been gifted and/or charged a fee to write about doesn’t make you a pro blogger
In July I wrote about the pitfalls of free holidays for parent bloggers. Generally as the cost of an item goes up, the glowing positive review the blogger gives it increases proportionally. How much more of a concern is a review where the blogger has been paid to write the review? That’s not a review, that’s an advertorial. At worst the reader would question the objectivity if they know it’s a freebie and you’ve been paid to write it, and worst, they may not know that money has changed hands for the review.
I write reviews. I also don’t- there have been occasions where I’ve emailed my issues or concerns with a product to the PR and ultimately haven’t written about it. We went on a press trip once to a holiday park. There were lots of issues, asbestos in the gravel beds, ants in the static caravan, a huge industrial chimney visible from the park- you won’t see the write up on my blog because it wouldn’t have been very flattering.
Now when I review things, I do research on what I’m being offered to see if it’s any good first, since it avoids awkward conversations and me wasting time and effort on stuff that’s not worth it (I work full time and blog as a hobby). I know a lot of review products end up in Cash Converters or on eBay. I remember one blogger telling me he’d sold a piece of tech that he’d been given to review before I’d even unboxed my one and got the thing up and running. There are even bloggers who have ebay widgets to their “shop” in their blogs sidebar, selling the stuff they’ve supposedly reviewed as new.
Ideally I like to write stuff around a product rather than a straight review of a product anyway. I wrote a piece on Soreen lunchbox loaves being used to play Jenga a while back that’s had almost 90,000 views. That was a hell of a lot more fun that writing 200 words on the Soreen chocolate malt loaf I was sent. I’ve just agreed to be involved in an LG blogger promotion that will see me receive a telly and write about Christmas movies. There will be elements of review about it but primarily it’s about what you use a telly for. To me that’s a better campaign than simply sending out 10 tellies for review.
Calling PR agencies “clients” doesn’t make you a pro blogger
It just makes you sound pretentious. Saying “I’ve got some work to do for a client” when you really mean is “I have to review the biscuit selection tin I was sent and put a backlink to the manufacturers website in my write up” makes it sound like you’re trying just that little bit too hard and are probably thinking about applying for a spot on the Apprentice.
Sending a PayPal invoice for placed backlinks/written content on your blog doesn’t make you a pro blogger
A lot of bloggers do this (I do myself, I have hosting costs and domain renewals to pay for after all and I’d rather my hobby was self funding), but it doesn’t make you a pro blogger if you do it. This counts double if you you “invoice your clients”.
Filling in a self assessment tax return doesn’t make you a pro blogger
At the risk of sounding like an arsehole, just because you do things properly and declare your earnings from blogging doesn’t necessarily make you a pro blogger. I know a lot of people who make a nice wodge from blogging to either supplement their income or provide stuff their kids wouldn’t have had otherwise. Heck, I’m just finalising my wife’s tax return and her blogging has bought her in a four figure amount in the last tax year.
And another thing
The same goes for vlogging too. I watched a ColinFurze video on YouTube yesterday that has been up for 5 days. It’s edging towards 6m views, which looking at the BARB viewing figures for BBC1 would put it in the top ten most watched for pretty much any given week. That’s mad. Properly mad. And there are plenty of YouTube pros that are as popular or moreso than Colin (although few are as funny). I think I’m doing well if one of mine hits 10,000 views (I’ve got 5 over that level) but the pros are in a different league.
You know what? I could go on. A lot. I have the knack of writing thousands of words when I get going but I’m going to rein myself in.
If you have genuine reach outside of the circle-jerk world of bloggers, who often just shout loudly to each other and are happy that they’ve reached an “audience”, you’re probably on the way towards something.
Better still, if you can convince someone to employ you and pay you to write great content on their site, not yours, I’ll be even more convinced you’re on the road to being a pro blogger.
Until then, shush.