Hi-de-hi, friends. I wish all of you a most happy Friday. Today I would like to take some time to reflect upon and share my thoughts concerning weblog advertisements. In this blog post I choose to limit my discussion to two specific categories of advertisements: the donation, or "tip jar" blog advertisements; and the pay-per-click blog ads that have been made popular lately by companies such as Google.
Now then—what do we make of the choice of some weblog authors to display "Make a Donation" buttons on their weblogs? Obviously the decision to do so is a personal and private matter. On the other hand, as a reader of many personal weblogs I am confronted with these advertisements on a daily basis; consequently, I feel that I am entitled to and qualified in my opinion regarding them. Here is my stance:
If I am offering a good or a service to the public, then I feel perfectly justified in asking my customers for financial compensation for my labor. This is how capitalism works, correct? The customer and I agree upon a fair price for a given product, I deliver the product, the customer pays me, and then we both part ways with smiles on our faces. Done and done.
Given the previous scenario, why would I, or should I, feel that it is right to ask the readers of my weblog to send me some of their own hard-earned money just because I think they think...what? That I'm a "good writer"? That I "speak the truth" in the ethereal "pages" of my blog? Or, most nebulously..."Just because"?
Consider a freeware or shareware software developer who offers her product via her Web site. In this case, I can view a "Donate Here" advertisement as a reasonable and appropriate means of allowing her customers to express their appreciation for the developer's work in creating a useful piece of computer software. Furthermore, the donations may very well be necessary to fund the ongoing "life" of the project.
Another "pro-donation" case that springs to my mind is the personal blogger who asks for donations on their site because he, she, or someone in his or her life (ack—these pronouns are killin' me, folks!) has undergone some sort of medical, financial, or environmental hardship, and the blogger, in all humility, queries the public for financial assistance. I'm all for this kind of "advertisement." In point of fact, I strongly hesitate calling this situation an "advertisement" in the first place. Rather, this truly is a "matter of the heart" circumstance of one human being asking other human beings for help.
Note, also, that I am not referring to humanitarian-related advertisements, such as the one that my fellow blogger Brittney displays on her personal weblog. These requests for donations, where the proceeds are directed to third-party, non-profit agencies, strike me as eminently humane rather than as obviously capitalistic.
Therefore, as if you couldn't tell this already, I do not care for most donation advertisements on personal weblogs. My fundamental thought is unless I see a clear disclosure by the author of the good or service being advertised on the weblog, I'm offended by the blatant "panhandling" that I feel underlies these ads. Is panhandling too strong of a word?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the transitive verb panhandle as "To beg from or importune (a person, etc.); to scrounge (something)." To extend our definitions one step further, the verb beg means "To ask (bread, money, etc.) in alms or as a charitable gift; to procure (one's living) by begging."
Okie dokie. I've said enough about that topic. Let's move on to the subject of pay-per-click blog advertisements. These puppies are getting to be so common (Why? Because they can be so dadgum profitable if you have a healthy weblog readership! Can you say, Ka-ching?) that my Adblock Firefox extension receives a healthy workout at just about every new weblog I visit these days.
Again, I suppose my argument regarding these advertisements can be distilled into two essentially synonymous words: transparency and disclosure. If personal weblog authors want to use their weblogs as vehicles for making money, then I politely ask these authors please to be up-front with their readership about their motivations.
I have noticed that some weblog authors have done this, either from within some of their blog posts, from their "About the Author" page, or wherever, and I respect them greatly for their integrity. I do not feel manipulated when an author lets me know on the front-end "what time it is," as it were, with regard to their fiscal intent in their weblog.
Speaking very candidly, when I visit someone's personal weblog for the first time and I am hit with a flurry of blog ads straightaway, I am highly likely to close that browser tab immediately; that is how susceptible I am to the poor initial impression created by being slammed in the face with...ehm..."financial incentive" in a personal blog.
The first questions that pop into my mind are "Why is this person blogging? Is it for the love of the medium? Is it because he or she genuinely wants to connect with other people? Or, by contrast, is it because the weblog author sees the potentiality of a vast ocean of revenue that can be capitalized upon with a small time and cash investment?
Whatever floats your boat. Everyone has to make a living. Similarly, each person has to do what they need to do to get to sleep at night, and do so peacefully and comfortably.
Have a fantastic weekend!
UPDATE: Nick Wilson wrote an interesting piece at Performancing.com entitled "Beware the Blog Snobs" and reading it inspired me to tack this lil' addendum to my blog post. Look, while I own every single word I've put down in this article, I need you to understand that I (a) do not for one New York minute consider myself to be an authority on weblogs; (b) believe that my opinion carries no weight whatsoever beyond the borders of my own thick skull; and (c) do not intend to offend any blogger who runs advertisements on his or her weblogs. Peace be with you.