Your Dream is Under Attack

image of great white shark

Recently, I was reading a post about sponsored Tweets, which sparked debate in both the comment section and on Twitter. The debate boiled down to whether or not a sponsored Tweet, or any sponsored content for that matter, is ethical.

Social media has a long history of being uncomfortable with making a profit. People believe there is some noble benefit to be gained from “taking the high road” and giving everything away for free.

If you’ve read Copyblogger for any length of time, you’ll notice that they talk a lot about content marketing. In essence, how to build an audience and gain trust and authority by giving content away.

It should be obvious that the goal of that process is to actually make a sale and pay your bills. But for some reason, that’s the part that people struggle with.

Is making money bad?

There is a certain percentage of the population that views any business pursuit (outside of the 9-5 workday, mind you), as a case of profiteering and being greedy.

In the conversation I mentioned above, some people have declared that they’ll stop following the “guilty” party. Some have said that they are completely turned off by all affiliate marketers. And others have stated that all the profits from this venture should be donated to charity.

Of course there’s more to life than making money. But I’m also not opposed to making a profit. If I have something of value to contribute, why should my family live in a van down by the river?

Money is useful for a lot of things, including charitable work and finding the cure for cancer. Like it or not, it makes the world go around. And there’s nothing particularly noble about relying on someone else’s money to lift us up.

Are social media spaces sacred?

What is it that makes one place acceptable for commerce, and another “sacred”?

Why is it now considered OK to monetize a blog, but not OK to monetize a Tweet?

And why does being generous with free content lead so many people to get angry when we try to monetize?

I’ll give you two examples.

Example 1

Chris Brogan has given away a ton of fantastic free content for 11 years. In fact, his primary audience isn’t even a consumer of what he’s selling.

But that doesn’t matter . . . he still gives, freely and generously, every single day.

When he asked his readers to reciprocate and support his book, Trust Agents, (for a whopping 15 bucks), what happened?

His audience put his book on the bestseller lists, yes. But there was also a considerable backlash. Apparently, a vocal minority thought he was supposed to give for free forever, and never ask for anything in return.

Example 2

Gary Vaynerchuk gave free content to his Wine Library TV viewers for years before he asked anyone to buy anything. Sure, he offered wines for sale, but he never pushed them. He consistently cared much more about his audience than he did about making a sale. In fact, I’ve never met someone more passionate about community than Gary V. You can hear it in the way he talks . . . it’s in his blood.

But when he launched his book, Crush It, people all over Twitter begged him to shut up about it. They wanted him to tone it down and relax. (Like Gary V. is ever going to do either of those things.)

These two men gave generously for years before asking for anything in return. And when they did, it was small change compared to what people spend on beer, coffee, movies, or video games. And even smaller change compared to what people make for their companies as 9-5 employees.

For some reason, it’s OK to make money at a day job. Don’t ask any questions, just sit in your cube and do what you’re told.

But when a passionate entrepreneur uses social media to create relationships and ask for money, that’s over the line. I guess the line of thinking is: I can’t make any money on my blog, so why should he?

I realize I’m preaching to the choir here, but there’s a reason for that. It’s simple really:

We need to stand up for our livelihoods

Our dream is under attack. The way of life that many of us are working toward is under siege by people who don’t have the courage, desire, or dedication to make it happen.

How can we let someone come into our house and talk smack? How can we not stand up for what’s right?

Making money, whether with affiliate links, sponsored content, or creating products, is not evil. It’s simply a byproduct of our desire for self-actualization. The world is better because of entrepreneurs, not worse, and it’s time we made that known.

So, are you with me?

About the Author: Nathan Hangen writes about web entrepreneurship at NathanHangen.com, and about how to use social media to fuel your brand at Making It Social. Follow him on Twitter @nhangen.

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Comments

  1. Great post Nathan, but I can’t help giggling a bit.

    You have no idea how much better things are now then they were 4-5 years ago. When I launched Copyblogger four years ago today (wow) and used the word “sell” in conjunction with “blog,” some people considered me Satan.

    Some people likely still do, but those people don’t matter to me and my business. And that’s the key — if people want to be critical and wallow in their sense of entitlement after you’ve given and given and given, just ignore them.

    Focus on the people who appreciate you. Ignore those who don’t. It’s the only way to deal with this crazy space without becoming crazy yourself.

  2. If you want to become wealthy, you can’t hate the wealthy, cause then you’re just hating what you want to become.

    Excellent read, thanks.

  3. Great post, Nathan!

    I’d like to add Naomi Dunford to the list. She took her affiliate commissions from the last round of Teaching Sells and helped to build a school in Cambodia.

    Money made that happen.

  4. Brian, I completely missed out on that period when monetizing blogs was evil. I can only imagine how frustrating and crazy that would be!

    You’re right in that it’s something you have to just shrug off…it’s tough at first and I think it’s a bit of a journey, but it needs to be done (sooner rather than later preferably).

    Amazing how many different types there are in our scene though…1 dissenter seems like hundreds. It’s just a matter of maintaining perspective.

  5. I didn’t know that Sean, thanks. That’s really cool…it pays to get paid!

  6. @Nathan, that’s period’s not entirely over. I once got yelled at by someone (who was in general very angry about my blog, I must’ve offended her somewhere and never noticed) that I was lying when I talked about blogging because I want to because I make $$ off of my blog. So if I make money, I a) am not doing it because I love it and b) have no right to complain about how another monetized blogger’s readers are treating her.

    She wasn’t entirely coherent (she also insisted that going by her first name made her more “real” and open than I was even though I have 900+ posts & she has no site) but she was very angry about the whole thing.

  7. Way to stand up for the good fight Nathan.

    I was looking at the post photo and realized that we should think of good bloggers as sharks, and their critics as those leech-like fish that hang from their gills doing little for their spoils.

    Don’t like it critics? Detach and fetch your own content!

    Save the sharks!

  8. I used to follow “Things White People Like” for a long time, because I read funny and insightful things there. Apparently, a lot of other people did, too. Soon they were famous, and doing printed books and appearances.

    All of that is fine. I’m not going to begrudge them their audience and their fame.

    The problem was that they started replacing their usual insightful humorous postings with postings promoting their books and appearances.

    Again, that’s fine. I don’t mind promotional stuff. But the problem was that the original content happened less frequently, now that they were posting more promotional plugs.

    so, my advice (such as it is) is to promote and plug all you want, just keep the stream of valued content steady.

  9. Nicely said… you make good points – moreover, why should individuals not make some of their living online too – think corporations like Amazon but also Barnes & Noble, etc. that do much business online – they’ve got a bit of social media happening in reviews and comments. We’re no different. Big media does the same and will be moving in the same direction.

  10. Good post, Nathan. It’s a shame that many people had a problem with Chris Brogan’s and Gary Vaynerchuk’s plugs. These guys give away so much and heaven forbid they try monetize a mere fraction of their content. In my opinion, some people have taken the notion of Free far too far.

  11. @Nathan: thanks for the post. It’s a little funny to me when people act like they’re entitled to free stuff . . . FOREVER. Where does that expectation come from? Did bloggers create that expectation?

    In any case – I think that having naysayers could be an indication that you are succeeding. Because if you had NO naysayers, maybe you’re not taking risks, not living in line with your values, being safe rather than true. So – stay the path, acknowledge – but don’t follow – the naysayers, and have fun with it.

  12. Yeah, I just read that Kim Kardashian’s asking price is $10,000 per Tweet!!!! She recently Tweeted about Propel water and they had to fork over the $10,000 for just that one Tweet! Kinda ridiculous…

  13. Great post and I agree that envy drives a lot of the hate…

    But so does bad marketing. There are pure sell-bots on Twitter. No content, spam in 140. And they are irritating. I think that drives up people’s blood pressure.

    Of course, that’s not Brogan or GaryV. Their problem is that people know they ARE real, so they make a nice juicy target. It’s no fun to yell at a bot. They don’t get hurt. So a real person ends up getting the anti-advertising ire, unfairly.

  14. You wouldn’t walk into a grocery store, eat a free sample and then get upset that if you want more you are expected to buy the product. So I don’t understand what the big deal is…bottom line…if you don’t want it…don’t buy it. But don’t hate!

    Most of the blogs I follow (including CP) produce awesome content for free has provided value in my own current and future endeavors. Why shouldn’t these information providers be compensated in some way?

    My only caveat would be that it should be endorsements that you can stand behind and not the highest payout. I beleive most long-term successful bloggers have the character & class necessary to affiliate, endorse, advertise and promote.

  15. I can’t help but feel like you’re talking about two different things here. Chris and Gary were selling something they created (and admittedly didn’t get as much out of it as they should have.) Sponsored tweets is something else entirely, or at least it can be.

    I make money off my blog in that I give away a lot of information for free, and when people decide that implementing it is too much hassle, they hire me to do it.

    I have been approached by companies that have asked me if I would consider sponsored tweets, and I adamantly (although politely) decline every time.

    A blog post by nature allows for more explanation and context. If someone sends me a free book to review, I have a lot of time and space to explain pros, cons, etc. If someone tries to pay me for a *good* review, they can suck it. No sale. My reputation and integrity is not for sale.

    Sponsored tweets – at least if we’re using that term the same way – feel much more like paying me to lie about liking or endorsing something I don’t like or endorse, or know nothing about. That’s not that Gary and Chris did – they were endorsing their own blood, sweat and tears, so I don’t see them as being the same situation.

    I used my blog and my reputation (pre-Twitter years) to hawk my books in as non-intrusive a way as possible, but that seems a whole different thing than sponsored tweets. In tweets, you only have 140 characters – there isn’t enough space to give the reader any context at all, even if you wanted to. Affiliate links (i.e. an Amazon Affiliate link) to something I am already endorsing because it’s awesome are totally fine. Pumping out affiliate links for something I don’t believe in isn’t.

    It comes down to maintaining your integrity. That’s part of why people trust you and listen to you as an authority. When you start going into the realm of sponsored tweets, you risk selling out and losing that.

    Just my two cents, of course.

  16. It’s easy to be on a soap box about freed product when you are employed by somebody who gives you a guaranteed income. Try self-employment for a while and then you will find, any angle that works has to be pursued. Ideals are pretty but they can leave you hungry.

  17. When doing something you enjoy and making a profit happen to intersect, I’m all for it. However, when the latter becomes more important than the former, there IS a problem. I will always look up to people with entrepreneurial spirits who are willing to take risks.

  18. Part of being a good writer is keeping your audience in mind. We writers lose touch easily when we live in the world of “content.” Outside of work, my personal experiences clash with my comfy belief that everyone “gets it” when a celebrity or a blogger endorses a product.

    Those not in the know about “content” buy it hook, line and sinker. They believe that the busy mom who blogs really does just try new diapers and cameras and floor polish every day for kicks, because she has nothing else to do, and not for income. It can make a writer feel ashamed for succeeding at creating the illusion that a business deal is really a sincere personal experience with a random product. We owe it to the audience to be honest. Honest endorsements are great, but if you build your entire blog around the premise that you are not being remibursed for your indorsement when you acutally are is just deception. No fine line here.

  19. Nathan, great post. I agree with everyone’s comments here. Shane: hilarious! (see below)

    “…think of good bloggers as sharks, and their critics as those leach-like fish that hang from their gills doing little for their spoils. Don’t like it critics? Detatch and fetch your own content!”

    It seems people forget there’s always the option to unsubscribe or not read the blog, update, web page they criticize. And no one’s forcing their hand in buying anything.

    I got a comment from someone who thought I posted too many updates on LinkedIn – via Twitter. (I post approx. 10 a week, maybe less.) It shouldn’t get much crazier.

    This IS America, right? Free, capitalist society? : )

    Also, I know many wealthy entrepreneurs who made their money online who donate freely to charities. Hmm..not a bad side-effect of making money, right?

  20. I like the Chris Farley reference you managed to sneak in there. I wouldn’t want your family to live in a van down by the river either:)

  21. Nathan,

    Great post and thank you for writing it. Everyone has to make a living whether it be online or offline. I was brought up in the church and went to a christian school in Jamaica and it was constantly drilled into us that it was more blessed to give than receive and I always thought that was a fallacy. Life is about give and take.

    I have learned lots from Chris Brogan and even before I had a blog I saved his post and when I first started blogging 10 months ago, I went back to those posts that I had saved and started implementing some of his suggestions.

    The question that I would ask those who are upset with bloggers selling is, is it okay for you to consistently take without giving back in return? And giving is not just about money, it is also about giving of yourself.

    We have to be realistic and we also have to be suppostive of each other.

    Avil Beckford

  22. @Anthony, that is an excellent point, and one that many people just don’t understand. Dorothy Parker has (of course) a great quote on that, “I hate most rich people, but I think I’d be darling at it.”

    @Lee, I think you’re right, the creepy spamsters make people touchier than they might ordinarily be.

    I had a gentleman who was furious with me for promoting Dave Navarro’s (excellent) upcoming course in the CB newsletter. I unsubscribed him. Life is too short to waste on confused chuckleheads.

  23. Fantastic post.

    I think one reason people recoil to affiliate offers is the spirit behind so many affiliate promotions.

    A lot of affiliates have used deceptive practices to try to make a quick buck on products they don’t necessarily even believe in. The unethical affiliate marketers have created a reputation that has also affected those affiliates who ARE ethical.

    Anyway, some people have a strange, irrational resistance to other people’s efforts to earn a living. But I think the negative reactions are due mostly to poor technique — and not necessarily the effort to generate income itself.

    Ryan

  24. I totally love this post. Although I have to admit that the sponsored tweet thing bothers me a bit.

    “Why is it now considered OK to monetize a blog, but not OK to monetize a Tweet?”

    Great question. I post sponsored posts on my blog, and I feel that I can justify them, but sponsored tweets get under my skin. You make a great point, however, and definitely have given me food for thought.

  25. Entrepreneurs working in their cottages stir the porridge that feeds hungry stomachs and hearts. Not everyone likes porridge or oatmeal, but delicious descriptions cause many to salivate and a sale is made. In between the sale and the meal, keep writing about the benefits of healthy porridge.

  26. Leaving aside the issue of integrity (when you’re pushing a product for money, how do I know whether you really believe in it?)…

    If someone I enjoy following begins to get obnoxious with ads or pimping or self-promotion, I leave. Disappointed, perhaps, but I leave. It was his/her choice to monetize, my choice whether the method followed keeps my interest up.

    I’m a homeschooling dad. A guy I followed for years started to monetize. I think he went too far. It got in the way for me. I have no idea whether it got in the way for other people or not. Not my problem.

    I worked in a RadioShack. People came in all the time upset because we didn’t still carry a product they used to buy there. I’m here to tell you: stores carry product they make money off of. If the store no longer carries the product you want to buy, start going somewhere else.

    Same thing here. It’s a free country. And stuff changes.

  27. Here’s what I don’t understand about this whole debate: if you don’t like the sponsored tweets, don’t click on the links. If you don’t like the advertising on a blog or sale of a product, don’t click the link and don’t buy the product.

    If someone goes on about it to the point that they have nothing else you are interested in, stop following them.

    Why whine about it and try to control what people do in their own spaces? Even a low traffic blog like mine takes time and energy to keep running, and I can’t justify spending that much time on it purely “for fun.” Someone who is trying to make a living at it less so.

  28. Great post! I whole heartedly agree though the concept of sponsored tweets sounds a little to “spammy” for me.

    I do believe people should be able to monetize their passions or interests and that naysayers should fall back and evaluate what’s wrong with their cash flow!

  29. Excellent post. Couldn’t agree more!

  30. Pretty good article. My only beef with people who do make money out of blogs if they turn their blog to nothing but pure advertising. Then it’s a sellout. But if they’re making a little money on the side, then hey, why not, right?

  31. @Sonia: “Life is too short to waste on confused chuckleheads.” Right on.

    I do as you do and unsubscribe the nonsense-spouting complainers. Better yet, I have my assistant do it, so I’m insulated from that kind of useless noise … and can keep my focus on the people who actually appreciate what I have to offer.

  32. Thank you so much for this post! My advice to anyone (online or offline) whose work is ethically bringing good value to the lives of other people: do not ever be ashamed of making money at what you do and continue to do it despite the criticism!

  33. This article is well done and I appreciate the guts that it took to write it, especially the line: “The way of life that many of us are working toward is under siege by people who don’t have the courage, desire, or dedication to make it happen.”

    I get a lot of unsolicited advice from people on how to run my business from people that are not running their own businesses. I understand that they have good intentions but there are a whole set of new rules entrepreneurs are playing by. Everyone is making it up as they go along, making up rules for their own specific business. There’s nothing wrong with that!

    To a great degree, this is a commentary that you can’t please everyone. I agree with Lee Stranahan that GaryV and Chris Brogan are easy targets for haters. As a society we’ve become okay with trashing celebrities. When people see niche celebrities they may feel a sense of entitlement to criticize them but they really have not earned that “right” in any regard. It’s all based on misguided fear of being mediocre and jealousy.

  34. You are so right, Nathan. I totally agree. Chris Brogan was the most helpful person on Twitter when I first ventured there a year ago. He answered my questions, gave me advice, and became on of my first followers. In appreciation, I bought his book when it came out. And hope others do too. It’s a great book, and I see nothing wrong with his touting it on twitter. Kudos to him!!

  35. The key point to remember here is that if you don’t like what someone is doing online, whether on their blog or on Twitter or wherever, you always have the option not to buy, not to subscribe, not to connect, not to follow and to block. Twitter has a bit of a Wild West free for all thing going on and yes, sometimes it annoys me, sometimes it doesn’t. What works for me may not work for someone else and vice versa. It’s a free world (for the most part) and if you don’t like what someone is doing, then don’t be a part of their community.

  36. I suspect that as more and more of the population comes to discover the wonderful world of social media (and blogging in particular), the issue of content providers making money will largely go away. Readers, viewers and listeners have been paying for content for over a century–via subscription fees, book/album/cassette/CD/VHS/DVD purchase prices, or tacitly agreeing to allow their content to be peppered with advertisements. Social media is a unique animal, of course, but ultimately the people who are truly bringing value there should and, I think, will be compensated.

    BTW, great post, Nathan. Where do I send my check?

  37. Great post. I’ve been navigating this territory for the last two years as my podcast has grown in popularity. I feel empowered by your perspectives. Thanks!

  38. I think this is an example of trying to change market forces rather than adapting to them. We can complain all we want about the fact that people hate being marketed to, but that isn’t going to change the fact that people hate being marketed to. In the end, the solution lies in finding a way to get people to embrace what we have to sell. I don’t even want to speculate how to make that solution come about, but I don’t think smacking them behind the head and telling them to stop complaining is going to do it.

  39. Nice post, Nathan – something that needs to be said…

    I have found there are two kinds of people on the Internet:

    1) Freebie seekers and time wasters
    2) Customers with real problems deserving to be solved.

    Freebie seekers have little to no money and will most likely never buy anything. They go from site to site collecting up as much free stuff as they can get. And that’s all most of them ever do.

    They make little progress toward their dreams (they usually don’t have clear goals) and they drain people’s time and resources. Hey – I guess they have fun and are just living out their lives entertaining themselves and learning what they can, which is fine. What else is the Internet for but to entertain the masses? These people don’t want to be sold, because they’re just casually involved and aren’t serious about what they’re doing.

    Customers have a purpose and reason for visiting a site or engaging in social media. They have goals and they intend to achieve them. Their time is valuable, so just because something is free doesn’t mean their time is available to allocate to it. We have to sell them on investing their precious time on our free stuff, as well as whatever we sell.

    Unlike freebie seekers, these people expect to be sold from time to time, in a tasteful and professional way, and they have high expectations of what will be delivered when they buy.

    Sigmund Freud once said “for it to work, they must pay”. My experience is that when people do pay for something, they tend to take it much more seriously and will put in to work to get the benefits from what they bought (not always, but usually).

    Unfortunately, our society has evolved from an “earn it” mentality to an “entitlement mentality”, something we see more and more today.

    “Moving the free line” by giving away our best content is done for various reasons: to attract more visitors to our blogs, to increase our influence scope in the market, and to create a community where people can share ideas like we’re doing here, which is great.

    But at the end of the day, the bills must be paid. The whining freebie seekers aren’t a part of that bill paying process – never have been, most probably never will be.

    Only serious people with ambitions, goals and/or a real job to be done in their life will pay for our products and services.

    Personally, I have come to ignore the whiners and complainers. If these folks unsubscribe from my blog, email lists or Twitter, so be it. I won’t miss them. And I won’t lose a microsecond of sleep over it either.

    Because at the end of the day, we’re in business to make a profit. People with an “entitlement”mentality will likely never understand what it’s like to own a business and have to pay everyone’s bills (including theirs as employees), and so it’s futile to try and explain it to them because unless they’ve lived life as a business owner, they can’t possibly understand it fully. And if they think we’re greedy, who cares? You can drive yourself crazy worrying about what everyone else thinks…and you can’t please all the people all the time.

    Meanwhile, as business owners we must continue to balance providing high-quality free content to attract people to our sites, constantly strive to increase the value of our offers even more and optimize our sales processes to close as many sales as possible.

    If we fail to do these things, we won’t be around to have discussions like these.

    Finally, on the topic of Social Media, hard selling is a no-no. It’s a place for meeting people, sharing ideas and developing relationships that will help us, in life and with our businesses.

    Direct selling doesn’t work in SM. Instead, we use SM to meet people, learn from each other and attract qualified, interested customers to enter into our sales funnel with premium opt-in offers (landing pages) and great free content that causes buyers to seek us out. This kind of low-key selling is something new to many marketers.

    As for the Twitter-bots and snake oil Internet marketers trying to use SM as yet another spam and broadcast channel, that’s an easy one. Just UnFollow them and report them as spammers.

  40. Great post, but waaaay too many affiliate links on your site!

    Joking aside, monetising blogs is what makes the social media world go around. If people bellyache about the fact they don’t like the adverts on a blog… simply go to another blog!

    Thanks for your consistently great work.

  41. Great post. It may be that people get used to being fed for free, and then when you ask them to pay up, they get offended. I know that I have been guilty of that when using a free trial for a program. Then the trial ended, and I got upset because I had to go find another “free” program. Life would have been simpler if I just would have paid for the program, and moved on.

    I wonder if the examples of Chris and Gary would have been different if they had been selling something from the beginning.

  42. I don’t mind a plug pushed at me here and there, but when I see several posts about the same product I get a little irritated. The constant plugs I see for the WordPress Thesis templates come to mind. After about the second ad it gets silly, and I tune out completely.

    I’m also tired of misleading plugs, such as a “Free E-book” that is only an ad for a $195 E-book with more information. I’m done if somebody misleads me once.

    If you’re showing me something you’re getting paid for once or twice, great! Especially if it might be useful.

  43. Nothing wrong with making money. Nothing at all.

    There just needs to be a clear delineation between what’s being done for money and what’s not. When Lebron says “Buy Nike shoes!”, we all know he’s saying that because Nike is giving him a lot of money to say that. We can evaluate the statement in that context.

    When people blog and tweet for money, but don’t make it clear that they’re being paid for it, we can’t evaluate their statements in that context. This will eventually lead to one of two things:

    1) People get upset because you hawked something that’s not as good as claimed, but they bought it based on your recommendation. They will lose trust in you.

    2) They will eventually realize that you’re hiding the fact that you’re getting paid to say what you’re saying and start evaluating ALL statements as if they’re paid for. And then they will lose trust in you.

    Oh. I guess it’s only 1 outcome. If you want people to trust ALL statements you make, be sure to be VERY clear about which ones you’re getting paid to make and which ones are free.

  44. Great post. I blog about my passion (Islands, Caribbean) and if people enjoy the same thing that go along with that…Buffett Music, Resort Reviews why can’t I sell or sponsor those? It is getting better. The haters are fading. Just trying to spread what I enjoy.
    Cheers!

  45. I agree with the post in principle, but one of the individuals cited (Chris Brogan), I do have an issue with. He recently came to my attention through the Clark/Brogan/Rowse mutual admiration / and slip-in-a-word-about-this-guy promotion technique.

    Brogan seemed cool, his book was well-received, and I like reading his newsletter, but truth be told, I HATE his tweets. Very annoying, and so I simply took him off my follow list. Same with Darren Rowse and Keith Ferrazi – too many tweets, mostly of the “me, myself, and I” type of variety, either overtly or covertly advertising themselves, very little in the way of anything valuable.

    Brian Clark is just the opposite – quantity and quality are perfect and I always look forward to his tweets.

    Siraaj

    Siraaj

  46. Count me in, Nathan. I’m with you.

    Whether you give stuff away for free or donate part of your profits to charities is besides the point. The point is, only you get to decide which channels you’re going to use to promote your products, services, or ideas.

    The audience will decide if this is right for them. They will either stay or leave. Most will stay if you are adding value to their lives, whether you charge for it or give it away for free.

    And thanks for a well deserved post and reminder.

  47. GREAT article! Entrepreneurs bring fresh, authentic ideas to the table across all formats. That’s what I want as a consumer. I don’t understand why anyone would bash anyone for trying to do just that. Especially when it is good stuff! This is America. We are capitalists right?

  48. Nathan,
    Guilty, guilty, guilty… I have consumed voraciously the free advice that Brogan, Copywriter and you have provided. I am racked by a cognitive dissonance, an urge to return the favor. 10,000 years of altruistic genetic coding drives me to recommend you guys to other business executives, but it is not enough… I must buy something! Quick, go online and buy everybody’s book. I liked their condensed content – I will love the whole story. Thank you, thank you for helping me understand the nagging unbalance in my life.
    FYI. Business professionals expect and desire their partners to be successful. They appreciate transparency and honesty, and they pay for value.

  49. Hi Nathan,
    Fantastic article! I love the idea to “stand up for our livelihoods!” I must say that at times, I feel a little squeamish about asking for money…but you are absolutely right-on about the world being a better place because of us entrepreneurs. Amen!
    Appreciate the pep-talk,
    Michelle

  50. I agree with @Dana, people don’t have to click/buy. Also with @Simone, there will always be complainers (who are often those not learning, growing, earning.) I tune them out because they are clearly not my ideal client. Unsubscribing works great, too!
    On my blog, I mention once in awhile, that I do offer info and services for a fee. This “heads up” seems to quell unrealistic expectations.

  51. There’s just too much hate, envy and negativity about at the moment both out there in cyberspace and here in my tiny little hamlet in France. A visiting alien would find it hard to believe that this is the season of goodwill.

    So, good on you, tall poppies, keep growing and stretching for that sunlight and don’t let naysayers cut you down to their size. I am a newbie on the outside, looking in, and can’t wait to make my first dollar, pound, euro or whatever and join you.

    @Eni – I thought the FTC had addressed the point about declaring a vested interest. This is an area I would like to do some research because I don’t know what the penalties are for misleading one’s readers. Does the FTC actually have any teeth?

    @Dana – So true. The basis of the capital market system is consumer preference. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it, be it a product or a source of information.

    Who says writing isn’t a 9 to 5 job? Well, of course, it isn’t. More like 7 am to 10 pm. Plus one of the ways of showing that one values something is to pay for it. My younger son is driving me mad saying that everything on the internet should be free.

  52. So this is like the best blog post ever. Ever. Thank you.

  53. Yes I am with you!
    Desi

  54. Part of the problem is simple exhaustion. We’re bombarded with advertising and sales pitches everywhere we go these days, and let’s face it, a lot of them are horrible.

    I can sympathize with people wanting one place where they can interact without someone getting in their faces trying to sell them something. Yes, there’s a choice – don’t click on the ad, ignore the ad, but when a person reaches their breaking point, that’s it.

    It’s unfortunate that people like Chris and Gary get caught in the flak. Hopefully their loyal audience makes up for it.

  55. Nathan – Great post and thanks for saying things bluntly. Many folks starting out will take these insights as a breath of fresh air because they feel guilty for wanting to make money using the tools available.

    Best wishes for 2010!

  56. Amen and amen. I haven’t monetized my blogs yet, but am in total agreement that if you bust your butt creating content that is worth people’s time, it’s perfectly legitimate to seek some recompense for the time you put in. Copywriters make $40-400 or more/hour, so if they use some of their time to bless and inform others, that adds up to a helluva lot of “freebies” — ones you can’t even write off (to my knowledge). I fully agree that monetizing your knowledge and insights is capitalism in its purest form. We all have to make money to survive and to have time to offer insights and wisdom.

  57. Excellent post. Thank you for the inspiration and support. I get so discouraged by the attitude you describe. I am always perplexed as to where this take, take, take and take some more attitude comes from. I often want to ask them, “Do you work for free?” “Does your doctor work for free?” “Does Barnes and Noble give their books away for free?” It seems as though they don’t realize that this is what I do to make a living. Even with consulting services you offer related to your niche, people often think they should get those for free as well, and are often indignant when you guide them to the consulting fees page after answering several of their questions for free.

    Thanks Brian, for your follow up response too. That is so true and it’s so great to hear it from other bloggers. The ones that appreciate us do make it all worth it. I find that most of my buying customers are usually not the ones that are takers. Sometimes the people I give the most to, don’t even say thank you. I still benefit from the takers, because the buyers come along and see how I’ve helped the takers and they are prompted to buy my products and services. So it all works out in the end, but it’s easy to feel down and discouraged by the taking attitude and great to read such a supportive post like this that helps put things back in perspective.

  58. Great post, I think there is a fine line between honestly trying to make money as a blogger with a few internet marketing techniques and mindset.

    It is a whole different thing when a blogger likes to promote products left and right.

    If you tell your readers to buy a book on blogging that you like, then you probably shouldn’t tell them to buy another 3-5 blogging books in the next few months.

    Build your community of people that like what you say, and grow from there.

    Done right, then the money will come from your TRUE readers.

    Knowing you can not make EVERYONE happy is a great thing to learn right up front.

    If you have 1000’s of readers then why stress at the 5 that get mad? It’s a waste of energy….dump the morons and move on.

  59. It’s the general mentality around social platforms. People like to use facebook and twitter to connect freely with their friends and new connections. They’re used to using it recreationally and so when they see a sale being pushed, they get very defensive.

    Deep down though, everyone agrees with this post. No one can argue it. And everyone knows the difference between an honest person selling (like brogan and gary v) and a dishonest person selling (all the bs snake oil whatever).

    So what it comes down to is people like to complain. And that’s old news ^_^

    David
    Community Manager, Scribnia.com

  60. Hell yes im with you! Thanks for sharing this experiences. Entrepreneurs are the solutions for our present and future. Its time to go back to our roots.

  61. Great post- Even Scripturally “a workman is worthy of his hire”. I’ve bought several items as a result of following a blog, sometimes simply because I’d gotten to “know” the blogger and wanted to support his or her work. When we’re the consumers, we expect integrity and professionalism, but we can’t be “service and information leeches”. Entrepreneurs should get the rewards for their hard work and vision.

  62. @Todd, I think you’re right, one thing that does help is to start selling something (it has to be good quality, of course) early on. I think there’s a psychological principle at work there, people get cranky about paying for what they used to get for free — if they’d been asked to pay from day one, they wouldn’t be nearly as unhappy about it.

    The other side, also, is that we as entrepreneurs can’t whine about the whiners. There will ALWAYS be whiners. Ghandi probably had whiners.

    @Pam is very smart to have her assistant handle it. These people aren’t customers, and for us to spend our time wringing our hands over them is just not a wise use of the very few hours we get on the planet.

    @Flyss, you mentioned “tall poppy,” and I think you’re very right that that’s a big factor. People enjoy taking a swing at those they feel are “too tall.” And yes, the FTC has very sharp teeth, and they use them aggressively. Again, to bring things around to what we as businesspeople can change, it’s not smart to fool around with anything that’s less than honest. And no, contrary to the opinions of some, you are not safe from the FTC if you’re outside the U.S., if you have buyers who are here.

  63. People seem to have the perception that if someone tries to monetize their site or blog then they’re somehow being sleazy and dishonest which is just downright hypocritical! That’s like your boss saying, “you’re going to work for free for the last 3 hours of each day, so I can have a better holiday this year.”
    What does it matter if someone gets paid when you click on their link? As long as that link or content provided some kind of value in the first place, which we can assume it did, or you wouldn’t have clicked on it!
    This “holier than thou” attitude that people adopt when confronted with debates on sponsored tweets or content is just bullshit! Seriously.
    Do we really expect bloggers to sit and write content all day and not get paid for it? I will happily click on ads on the blogs I follow, if nothing else other than to support the author!

  64. Interesting to see how many other people are aggravated by the whiners. :)

  65. 100% with you Nathan and this is kind of shocking to me
    since I’m starting to monetize my weblog just to compensate for my blogging expenses and so far, no one has told me to shut up (my visitors are mostly americans).
    I wonder how would they react if they know that i’m not American.

  66. Wow, so many great comments that I want to get to, but I’ll start with a few notes:

    The dissent on Sponsored Tweets is interesting, and although I don’t use them now, I would have a hard time turning down a few k to do them…would you?

    As for being authentic with them, if you use platforms like Sponsored Tweets (the brand) or Ad.ly, you’re forced to disclose the Tweets as ads, which might clear the argument a bit. Also, you do get to choose which products you Tweet about, so you still have control over which products you support.

    Another topic I find interesting is the notion of bloggers supporting stuff that they don’t know about, read, or use. Again, I’m not a fan of that, but why don’t we complain about celebrities doing the same thing?

    As to where to send the check? Send it to Brian/Sonia – it’s Copyblogger’s 4th Birthday!

  67. @poch In general, we would call for you to be publicly flogged. :) Seriously, I’m not sure that would matter, as long as the quality is there.

  68. Also, thanks for supporting this post everyone…I admit, I was slightly worried when I heard it was going up. I like to push the line because I think it’s healthy to do so, but sometimes I’m on my own. Great to know that as far as this topic goes, I’m not!

  69. I’m in the process of monetizing my site and can’t help but feel bad about it. But you are right, I need to get over this. I spend so much time on the content of my blog — and would love to work from home someday to spend more time with my kids. And the truth is no one has to buy what I’m selling. They can still read — and benefit from — all the free content.

    Thanks for the post!

  70. “Another topic I find interesting is the notion of bloggers supporting stuff that they don’t know about, read, or use. Again, I’m not a fan of that, but why don’t we complain about celebrities doing the same thing? ”

    @Nathan – because we don’t care about celebrities because of their knowledge. We (or rather, “people”, not necessarily present company) seem to love them simply because they are famous. They commit crimes and they are forgiven, because they are famous and shiny. Honestly, I have NO idea why there is a double-standard there. I find it infuriating that celebrities get a free pass on *everything*. But I digress…

    As other have mentioned here, the problem becomes an issue when users cannot tell what you’re hawking just for money and what you believe in. Motivations are always being questioned, but at least with a blog post you have more room to give your endorsement context. Even if that context is a bold-faced lie, you have more space to plead your case to your users, which makes your endorsement seem more genuine. Whether it is or not is something else entirely.

    You asked if I’d turn down a few k to do sponsored tweets – I’ve already turned them down. I suppose if you could pick the specific product you’re endorsing AND if you really love that product ferreal, it would seem less cheap to me. Shame it doesn’t automagically work that way. I promote products and services I like all the time on Twitter for free ;)

  71. Now, email lists are evil as well.

    What people don’t get is that most of the first 10-15 years of the internet was built by people working for Big Government, Big Corporation or Big Education.

    This is a fact.

    I used to be a part of it.

    Such folk have no need to make money on the internet, because their salaries are already paid.

    They are not customers.

    Now, a very large and growing number of people are depending on the internet to, say, make the mortgage.

    Free as we know it cannot continue.

    It has to evolve.

    How it evolves and what it looks like after the next phase is anyone’s guess.

    But it will be interesting to be sure.

  72. @Snipe – certainly is a double standard…and it drives me nuts. I think it’s because we trust bloggers, but most of the public doesn’t trust celebrities (although they might admire/worship them).

    And that makes sense. That’s why I only recommend products I’ve read, used, or watched in action. Unfortunately, I’m also on lists that will promote anything that comes across their desk. That hurts the rest of us.

    As for turning $ down for sponsored tweeting, I still haven’t been there so I can’t say, but sharing for free is one of my favorite reasons to use Twitter. I love promoting other people.

    My problem really is with the complaints about them…when I see them, I just read it and move on. Maybe it’s because I’m a marketer that it doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers others?

  73. Great post, let’s spread the word! I’m an SEO analyst and I’m amazed at how many people ask me to look over their site and give them some SEO pointers. They are a bit taken aback when I tell them that I’ll write up a proposal for them. I’m not sure that they understand that what I sell is my time and expertise and that’s how I make my living. If you owned a coffee shop you certainly wouldn’t be in the business of giving away free coffee every day. It’s the same for blogging, writing and anything really. We’re all just trying to make a living.

  74. I’m with you Nathan!

    There’s obviously a lot about self actualization that people have to come to terms with and accept as part of a holistic life process.

    On the other hand, it’s also understandable how some might have a knee jerk aversion to sales pitches from individuals vs larger organizations. I think this stems from the classic vacuum salesman mentality and, more recently, the MLM explosion.

    Not that there is anything inherently wrong with those businesses either, but people sometimes muddy relationships with super aggressive sales and a crazy blind fervor for whatever they’re selling, effectively compromising trust on a very personal level.

    It’s important to make the distinction between the nazi-vaccum-salesman and the examples you gave because Gary V, Chris Brogan, and others like them, are people-centric and sincerely care about helping others and the value their products deliver.

    Great post!

  75. I say let people post sponsored tweets if they want to. If their followers don’t like it they can always unfollow them.

    Times are TOUGH for at least some of us out here. We need everything going for us just so we can eat and pay the bills.

  76. @Nathan – interesting point. I am patently *not* a marketer, I’m a techie – although the marketing people at the creative agency I work for seem to think I can play that role pretty well. (I always feel a little dirty when I do… lol)

    It’s funny – as I’ve been following this thread, I realize that I do sometimes feel guilty about marketing to my audience, sometimes absolutely more so than others. Sadly, I feel far less cheap and dirty promoting an affiliate link to something I love than I do asking people to pay for something I actually created.

    I think part of that comes from my own background in the open source software community. I have maintaned free software projects for 10 years that I have never charged for – that type of thing is standard in my world, although as you can imagine, it does tend to encourage a freetard audience mentality.

  77. Happy birthday, Copyblogger!!! You are a true treasure and deserve every penny of whatever this bodacious blog is bringing in!

  78. Maybe some of this attitude about how everything should be free stems from the old “starving artist” paradigm. People have been told forever that you can’t make a living doing art, or by extension, what you love. So when someone starts to prove them wrong, they lash out. I’m working to get the free content/paid content balance down myself, so this was a great article.

  79. Something I find interesting… if someone suggests a product or service that I need, I am grateful for it. I *thank* them for it, even if it is a paid product service. If someone I don’t trust offers me the same product or service as a solution to my problem, I’ll tell them exactly where they can stick the aforementioned product or service.

    Trust is the only thing that separates a Good Solution ™ from a Sleazy Pitch. So as long as you remain true to yourself and your audience, it shouldn’t really matter how you monetize.

    While I can absolutely understand the idea of “who gives a crap what the whiners think” and “they’re not our customers anyway”, I think Alisa Bowman was spot-on.

    “I think this is an example of trying to change market forces rather than adapting to them. We can complain all we want about the fact that people hate being marketed to, but that isn’t going to change the fact that people hate being marketed to. In the end, the solution lies in finding a way to get people to embrace what we have to sell. I don’t even want to speculate how to make that solution come about, but I don’t think smacking them behind the head and telling them to stop complaining is going to do it.”

    There has to be a middle ground. “If you don’t like it, leave” has never been the mantra of any successful business.

  80. Great article!

    I know exactly what this is like. I created, ran, and paid for BodyMod.org out of my own pocket (>$500/mo) because I enjoyed it so much. Then when I quit my job a little over a year ago, I couldn’t afford the costs from it growing so much, so I moved to a “Support the site” model. In the long run, it worked, but a LOT of people were pissed off and left expecting it to be free forever. All I was asking for was as low as $3.75/mo, and that was just to see the nudy pix… everything else was still free.

    For others on the fence about what to do, I know how you feel and struggled whether or not to go pay-site or not for years. Here’s the answer…DO IT! and do it ASAP! Once you filter out all the “it should all be free” retards, you now have a 100% following of people that agree with what you’re doing and all the new people will as well from then on. It’s scary, but you have to do it.

    Cheers!

    .: Adam

  81. Hey, I am a Real Estate agent so yes I believe in making money through the web. This is a great avenue to educate buyers and inform the population. I have Chris’s book, there are a lot of good points there. He is the one who sent me to you and I thank you for your positive thoughts.
    thank you

  82. “If you don’t like it, leave” has never been the mantra of any successful business.

    Don’t tell 37signals that. They built a cult that way. ;)

  83. @Brian – okay, so one managed it. Probably a few have – but I don’t think that’s the secret to being successful in this field.

  84. I’ve just started blogging and have nothing to sell yet. Anyone that thinks making a profit wrong is living down by the river denial. There are two kinds of profit. One kind blabs about things to come. The other makes things happen. It is a shame more people do not get up off their butt, join the human race, and go for a better life, i.e…. make a profit from a created value.

  85. “We can complain all we want about the fact that people hate being marketed to, but that isn’t going to change the fact that people hate being marketed to. In the end, the solution lies in finding a way to get people to embrace what we have to sell.”

    Imaginative, innovative, engaging messages make a world of difference. I’d never thought about driving a Subaru until they came out with their sumo wrestler TV ad.

    *How* you sell is critical. So many marketers don’t get that.

  86. I put up a wiki a few years back that I monetized with Adsense and I quickly found that those in the wiki/ open source community REALLY don’t want you to make money online. Had quite a few discussions about it from early contributors.

    My wife and I were doing most of the work and paying for hosting, so it made sense to us to profit from it, but there is a group of people who think everything should be free. We just have to deal with it. As long as our government doesn’t start to side with them, we should be fine.

  87. Awesome Nathan…

    2010 will be the year I will start think outside the box.. and yes that means that one of my goals is actually to make money doing what I enjoy doing online.. what a concept..

    I came to the US in 1999.. and a lot of the documentaries I did see told me a story about the land of opportunity… and like many here.. I am a dreamer.. and after reading Napoleon Hills book ‘Think and grow rich’ that seemed to be a good ability to have here in this wonderful country.

    In my book the opportunities here will bring riches. And I know there is not short cuts or over night riches that will fulfill this dream. But honest and hard work.

    Since FTC want to regulate our actions, then why not just tell it as it is. I am here to make money with Social Media. Of course to make money with Social Media I have to make sure I; have a plan.. have a product.. have knowledge.. have set of the proper time to achieve my goals.. prepare for adversity.. build relationships.. build trust.. and share all experience from this with my friends and followers..

    I’ll give a tweet for this awesome article Nathan..

    Cheers.. Are

  88. @snipe

    Where in Nathan’s piece did he write “If you don’t like it, leave”?

    ps. freedom of association = if you don’t like it, leave ;)

  89. @Shane – he didn’t – it’s come up several times in the comments.

  90. @snipe

    Cool. Although not the “mantra” of business, I believe “if you don’t like it leave” is the BASIS of all business.

  91. Excellent post, Nathan!

    I don’t understand why people get so upset when bloggers, especially Chris Brogan who has been serving remarkable free content to us all for over a decade and only once – ONCE – asked us for something – and that was simply to consider buying his book – by the way, Trust Agents is a GREAT book – and no, I don’t have an affiliate link for it :-)

    Do these idiots eat the free samples at the mall food court and then scream at the people behind the counter for charging them for a full meal?

    (Quick check – food courts at the mall still give away free samples, right? I buy almost everything online now, so I haven’t actually been to a mall in a long time.)

    How about going to book store every day for a few hours and reading books a little at a time for free, without ever buying them, just to stick it to “the publishing man” for trying to make money…oh, wait, I had to do this a little in college only because I actually had no money to buy books – bad example.

    Movie previews! Movie previews are free – why not the movies? TV shows are free – why not the DVD collections? Songs on the radio are free? Why not – okay, I will stop now, either I made my point or you have stopped reading by now, anyway … and for only $9.99 you can read the rest of the comment from my premium Twitter feed…

    Personally, I would think people would appreciate having free content to help them judge whether the premium content is worth paying for – and like many others have commented, it is not like you are “forced” to buy the premium content.

    Happy Birthday Copyblogger!

  92. Here, here Nathan excellent post I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 20 years (owned a bricks and mortar business). When I first started learning about how to do business on the internet I had to change my entrepreneurial mindset from providing a service or products and getting paid to what many online marketers call a gift economy.

    My thinking from the beginning of my online business career was why should I give valuable information away for free, I mean we’re entrepreneurs this is how we put food on the table.

    I’m finding out that the e-commerce economy for online marketers like ourselves is built upon attracting prospects to your blog/website by providing as much valuable and relevant content as possible thereby giving customers and prospects the opportunity to make a purchase.

    Small business and entrepreneurship is what’s kept this country and the world for that matter alive. I understand were all not cut out to be entrepreneurs but somebody has to provide the goods and services to keep the world economy going online and off.

  93. Snipe, it’s actually fairly common – I remember Seth Godin talking about the ornery pizza vendors in NYC, the pizza was so good you put up with their ill manners and crazy conditions to get it. Think Soup Nazi.

    While you don’t have to expressly say “if you don’t like it, leave,” all effective modern positioning is based on focusing intensely on those who matter and ignoring, if not downright alienating, everyone else.

    People who try to please everyone please no one.

  94. This is why so many of bloggers end up focusing on basic product and service niches – you can count on your visitors taking “some” action at least. They don’t really care about you, your blog, your style – they came for a product or service.

    I of course of have a personal “blog about blogging” but it accounts for .73 % of my online income.

  95. @snipe, I don’t agree at all. I think “if you don’t like it leave” is the model of most successful small business. If I had an hour or two to kill, I could give you 100 examples. Off the top of my head, here are 5: Naomi Dunford, Dan Kennedy, Havi Brooks, Sugar Rae, and Sonia Simone.

    Trying to market to “anyone with a pulse” is what will kill you, assuming you don’t have Microsoft-level dollars to market with. I think what @ .: Adam said is exactly on the money. Suck it up, flush out the people who absolutely hate what you’re doing, and move on.

    You absolutely need to define who you don’t serve at the same time you define who you do. It’s very easy to get thrown off-track trying to make people happy who will never in 10,000 years give you a dime. I don’t think they’re bad people. I don’t think they’re wrong. They’re just not my customers.

    You say that “everyone hates to be marketed to.” I would say, rather, that (nearly) everyone hates clumsy salesholes who don’t listen. Not the same thing at all. Respectfully offering a solution to problems works for the people who will go on to become our best customers. But we also have to face facts, it also makes some people really annoyed.

  96. I think the Hedgehog concept echoes the point — find the blend of passion, profit and value to be sustainable.

  97. There’s actually a name for “if you don’t like it, leave.” It’s called the takeaway, and it’s a tried and true technique among high-level salespeople.

    Which isn’t to say that you should (necessarily) be rude about it. That depends on your style. :)

  98. This is an interesting post and I have to say, rather surprising regarding the backlash issue. I’m a big fan of Chris and also read great reviews of his book as well as Gary’s, although I’m not as familiar with Gary. I have 2 reactions: 1. My guess is that these people objecting to having to pay for a book probably haven’t yet written one, or they would realize how little money it is given the work that goes into it.
    2. Anyone familiar with online marketing knows that it is focused on giving away a certain amount for free, and that eventually toward selling for a price, being that people have to make a living. There are hundreds of blogs posts about this everyday, so you’d really have to have your head in the social media “sand” to be taken surprise when someone charges for a book! Get real.

  99. @ MaryEllen Smith — SO TRUE. The unsolicited advice on how to run a business from people who don’t run a business? Annoying when they’re telling you what color to paint your walls. Fatal when they’re telling you to stop making a profit.

    How many people with non-monetized blogs walk around saying, “Never monetize your blog!!!” That’s great. Now we can be as broke as they are. Where do I sign up?

    @ Sonia — Gandhi TOTALLY had whiners.

    @ snipe and @ shane — “If you don’t like it, leave” is not a basis for business, no. Neither is “fantasmico customer service” or “the fairest price in town”. But they’re certainly pillars.

    “If you don’t like it, leave” is a great way to polarize people. Derek Sivers calls this proud alienation. Tell the guys who don’t like it to leave and the guys who DO like it are a hell of a lot more likely to stay.

    Havi has her crazy duck fetish. I have the swearing. Brian has his hair. All of those are very, very good reasons for people to leave. Lots of them do. And business is better for it.

  100. @JessicaKnows has a post on her site that challenges women entrepreneurs to stop apologizing for their success. My goal this year is to become proud of the content, advice, and community I provide for free. Proud enough of it, that I don’t have to feel guilty about throwing in an affiliate link or sponsored post here and there.

    So far this month? $72 in affiliate sales. Go me!

  101. @Naomi
    pillar works for me.

    I guess the reaction to “if you don’t like it, leave” depends on whether you say it with a smile or a finger.

  102. @Shane: Well said, sir!

  103. Perfect example of what we are discussing;

    MSNBC’s and FOX’s political coverage. Both of these Cab Nets are beating CNN now because they have “picked a side” and go hard.

    There are millions of people that HATE both of these Cab Nets, while the viewers, from the polar opposite spectrum of thought, tune in and watch everyday.

    I won’t state which side I’m on cause that might derail the discussion. ;-(

  104. Nathan–haven’t had time to read all the comments here but let me just point out that (1) these naysayers are largely in the minority (2) free content is, by its nature, not entirely “free” (you’re building your brand, forming relationships, etc.) and (3) ultimately challenges from these folks are helpful as they reflect the genuine sentiment of the audience you serve. Allowing dissenting voices to be heard, and then quelled (or not) by the majority strengthens relationships w/ your readers and has a net positive effect.

    That said, I could not agree with you more on the point that “If I have something of value to contribute, why should my family live in a van down by the river?”

    Good post.

    Mike

  105. @Erica, right on! Good for you!

    @Naomi, nodding about the non-business-owner thing. And you get so much of it that it’s easy to start thinking you’re the loony one.

  106. Nathan,

    I am starting to pick up the vibe of your posting even before I look at the byline. “van down by the river” is what kicked it for me. I have been blogging since 2003, saw the blogging for money as evil phase, and now the tweeting for money as evil phase. This will pass as well. And then it will be something else. Keep strong in our passions, give till it hurts and making a little money is good too.

  107. Great stuff Nathan! It’s remarkable the hangups people have about making a profit – and yet somehow of course it’s fine to take a salary! I’ve had a small number of people criticise me for charging £10 for a great evening workshop I run in central London because I made it free at the start!
    I suspect Brits are one of the worse countries for this kind of nonsense.

  108. It’s like what Steve Pavlina calls the “lightworker’s syndrome”. A lightworker selflessly gives to others, but many forget that they need to take care of themselves as well.

  109. I don’t have any issue with profitable content.

    The problem with these examples is that Chris and Gary are selling themselves. (in a good way) Their reputation, intelligence and further blogging/professional aspirations are affected by the success and sales of their respective products. They have skin in the game, and want you to love what they are selling. Gary might sell over-zealously, but he also does so sincerely.

    In the case of sponsored tweets/posts, that’s simply not the case. While the content creator takes a hit if they repeatedly promote sub-standard product, they aren’t tied to the product in the same way that a producer/author are. Like TV spokespeople or recognized magazine models, they may be embarrassed if the product is terrible or dangerous, but they will apologize, distance themselves, endure and move on. (likely to sell out again at a later date) I just think a model that has bloggers feeding me some part honest content and some part whatever pays the bills is wrong. On the other hand, if they stand by the product, really know about it, and are willing to defend it at the cost of their own reputation if something goes wrong, then I could care less if they benefit financially.

    (I didn’t get through every comment so I’m sorry if I’m repeating.)

  110. “In a van down by the river” – nice Chris Farley reference!

    As for this topic, come on people.! I’m usually level headed, but this is a tired subject and the detractors go beyond holier-than-tho. Earning a living, and more importantly placing value (monetary or otherwise) on what you do, what you know, what you produce is not unethical. I can’t believe I even had to say that. Heck, if you don’t value your skills, brain, IP, why should you expect anyone else to?

    “And why does being generous with free content lead so many people to get angry when we try to monetize? ” Unfortunately this is an age old issue in any commercial transaction. Its all about expectation setting and a segment of the consumer population that, once you give away something for free, expect that as the standard for all your offers. Its a shame. Your two examples point directly to that failing in the consumer mental model.

    So, no sponsored tweets are not unethical. Just be transparent about it. Thats why I like the business model of companies like Izea.com

    Heck, if your Kim Kardashian and can get $10,000 for a single tweet, go for it. She can use that to pay her lawyers to fend of the diet cookie doc she just pissed off.

    Cheers

  111. Hi Nathan –

    Thanks for this post. I first heard about you from Rich Lazzara and have been following you here and at your own blog.

    I am a HUGE believer in making money. Slightly to the right of Attila the Hun versus the typical left-of-the-salad-fork social media “rockstar” (cough.)

    I am a proponent of Social Spark, sponsored tweets, and pretty much everything else that people yap about. The key to being a good businessperson is to figure out what works for you, whether or not people say they hate it. (I’ve never really met a person who says they LOVE billboards but they are still effective for a lot of companies.) Same with banner ads, pop-ups, CPA’s, midis, etc.

    The issue I have with a lot of these folks, specifically one of the two you mentioned is that he proffers himself as completely transparent and is elusively opaque, not to mention very misleading. Ten of his random blog posts yielded over 1,000 comments, YET none of them were his. (None as in NOT one.) Weird for someone who is all about community. He states that he “makes a couple beers” when he lists an affiliate link YET then says he sells over 50 books the first day. Hmmm… What kind of math is that? 40 at just $5 (and said commission was more than that) is $200. How much does a beer cost these days? I could go on and on about this but I think a lot of why he specifically gets hammered is not about his attempts at selling per se, it’s backlash from preaching about how you shouldn’t sell for years and then selling aggressively.

    This is why I think it’s VERY different when someone like Brian Clark is aggressive. He’s consistent and his message is consistent over a period of time. (And no, I am not saying that just because this is his blog or that I think Sonia is one of today’s best copywriters.)

    You can’t act like a non-profit for years and then suddenly change your status and expect all your previous donors to be ok with it. It just doesn’t work that way. And tweeting does not mask that you are the damn Wizard of Oz, I might add.

    P.S. By the way, when grocery stores give out free samples, their sales jump by an average of 475%.

  112. Giving away content for free isn’t just a matter of feeling a need, or responsibility to give to your consumers. Its also part of a good business strategy. One way to penetrate a market is to undervalue your product in the short term to gain market share. In a way it is like buying brand awareness and consumer loyalty. Eventually you can raise the price for your product, and you will already have an established consumer population.

  113. Phew! And I thought art and money stirred the pot when mentioned together…Nathan, I think you’ve just inspired me to raise my prices…LOL. Nice reading. Thx.

    Happy Birthday Copyblogger! Yippee!! Virtual cake to you.

    @naomi and sonia- you know I only follow Brian and Chris ( Brogan) to see what they do with their hair next.

    @Shane -Thanks for the video link to Chris’s Web 2.0 Presentation. Great questions there.

  114. I loved, loved,loved this post!!! It is bad enough that there are many people who don’t even know about the concept of freelancing, let alone understand entrepreneurs! If they have to work in an office all the time, so should the rest of the world, right?

    While I appreciate every useful free content on the web, it is necessary for the creators of that value to make money out of it. I am amazed to find so much great stuff!

    I had this amazing PR teacher in college. Her first lesson was in networking. If people are not going to take advantage of their chance to earn from the values they created, they shouldn’t be judging the ones who do. But the again, value creators have never been the ones to complain!

  115. Hey Amy – great grocery store stat. And a big reason for that jump in sales is because the samples don’t suck. I’m not sure how that relates to this topic. But let me take a shot. Regardless of when, where, how you start charging for your stuff, if you’re going to give away ‘free samples’ as a lead to the sale, make sure they taste dang good.

  116. Most people aren’t *really* copyblogger types.
    Most people that should blog are CPAs, Lawyers, Realtors, Dentists.

    My crowd. I love them with all my heart, anyone that says, “eff yourself, corporate job,” has my heart.

    The point of a blog is to demonstrate consistency. To demonstrate what level of standards you uphold and what type of service that a customer will get when working with this guy.

    It’s to get clients. An en masse free sample works.

  117. @naomi – People are leaving because of my hair? Now you tell me. ;)

  118. Thanks for an interesting and impassioned read, Nathan. I wonder if people’s reactions to the commercialization of content is bred from the unscrupulous marketing that assaults all Internet users while online. I think that consumers have become quite sensitive to black hat SEO tactics that so many (not all) affiliates and merchants employ. After finding honest and reputable sources, they may feel betrayed and distrustful (as a knee jerk reaction) when they see affiliate ads, links, or pay-for-content pitches. Maybe we need to ease them into it to avoid this reaction, so that the trust is not lost and the sense of community remains.

  119. I have nothing clever to say, but I will say this; copyblogger is the only blog I truly spend any of my time reading. The content is informative, creative and inspirating. I still can’t believe I get it for free! We all have a gift, some can make money using it, what’s wrong with that?

  120. @Sonia – Absolutely right on. With regard to my bricks and mortar business, I’ve been firing customers for years. And, I make sure that all the customers know that I fire customers. The thought of actually getting fired as a customer made one guy start to tear up.

    The deal is this, and it’s not harsh, I and you (I hope) are in business to make money. In fact, if you are incorporated, you as principal have a fiduciary duty to make money. So if you have a blog…either have a business or don’t. And either make money or go home.

    Most of us, a large percentage of us, are not going to be millionaires doing what we do everyday to make money. So my motto…I’m damn well going to have a good day. If you are the kind of customer that gives me a bad day…you’re fired. Simple.

    And if you are doing your job right and providing value, NO ONE will want to be fired.

    Jeez…when did being a capitalist become so terrible. I think they might all just be jealous…

    Yeah, that’s it…

  121. Great post! Thanks Nathan!
    I agree with you. We have a God-given right and duty to elevate ourselves as high as we can. The more we elevate ourselves, the more we can elevate others. No one is brought up by being held down. The more money we make, as long as it’s in line with God’s teachings, the more we can help others. How others don’t understand this is frustrating.
    And I think that people continue to expect things to be free because our nation has been in training for many years (albeit subtly, manipulatively, and/or ignoraneously) to become a “me” society. People have forgotten how to respect, appreciate, and put in their dues of hard work.
    You keep up the great work and I’m glad that you have some great common sense.
    Blessings,
    Irene

  122. THANK YOU FOR BRINGING THIS TABOO SUBJECT TO LIGHT!

    I’m about to start monetizing my blog and am curious what the reaction will be. The truth is, I’m a young entrepreneur who is struggling to make ends meet. I’ve had this blog for over a year. I spend hours a day on it. Why is it a sin to earn basic grocery money with my passion?

    There is no way the world would survive without entrepreneurs. I think we’ve all been spoiled for so long with all of this free content, and it’s just not sustainable forever.

  123. I completely agree!

    While I may (at times) be annoyed by some relationship marketing execution, I could never begrudge someone trying to make money through relationship.

    I challenge people who find marketing offensive to vote (silently) with their mouseclick and unfollow.

  124. Thanks for the article Nathan. It raises a number of issues which I’m sure will help the beer go down in my geekish pub.

    Personally I feel that Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuck made a mistake in not having limited advertising or commercial links on their sites in the first place.

    Showing that you are a business shows you are serious about your work and your content.

    On the other hand there are too many websites that have too many advertisements or the content is just marketing bumpf. Most readers are not that easily conned and will unsubscribe or exit rapidly stage left.

    Advertising tweets will either have links to some content that is useful, or it will be a hard sell, that will turn the majority of readers off.

    Be open that you are a business and you won’t offend. Sure you will lose some of the no-profit brigade. So what?

  125. This IS a really great post copyblogger, thanks! This really gets me thinking about how jaded I may be as a marketer. As a marketer, I appreciate all of the free, super useful content that is offered, and am grateful to purchase a book, webinar, etc. from all of the great people that I rely on everyday for great perspectives and learnings, like: Seth Godin, the communicatrix, all of the great people at HubSpot, yourself, design thinking by Tim Brown, Zen Habits, and many, many more.

  126. The complainers have to be those who are not entrepeneurs, or who have no business sense whatsoever. There is always going to be a percentage of a consumer base who want things for free: but that in no way needs to stand in the way of asking for a legitimate product of value for something the entrepeneur is offering. So I would say, Don’t Be Surprised. But Don’t Be Intimidated, Either. Of course, I am preaching primarily to myself here :)

  127. Nathan- Great post! I have just started following you here and on NathanHangen.com and on Twitter. Love reading your stuff and learning from you. Keep up the good work!

    How long would any business survive without monetizing. Look at any magazine in print today and count the number of adverts before you get to any content. I think if you provide quality content you shouldn’t feel bad about asking for money in return now and again. But what do I know…

    Thanks for the post and keep delivering!

  128. The fact that a tool can be used for evil doesn’t make the tool evil.

    Just because some folks do stupid things to sell stuff using social media doesn’t mean the concept itself is stupid.

    But the really important thing I learned today is that Brian Clark isn’t Satan. It’s been on my mind a bit of late, and it’s good that he came out of the closet (er, um, whatever) and clarified.

  129. Great post! I don’t get paid to blog, but I do sell my artwork through my web site and I frequently use my own graphics in my posts for imagery. I’m fairly low-key with it, but on occasion I will find someone complaining that I’m “selling t-shirts” on my site. Well duh. I’m an artist. I have to eat, too!

  130. Completely agree with what Mark Hansen said waaay up at the top of the comments.

    If you grow because of the valuable content on your blog to the point where you can make money and sell things then fine, promote all you want. But be sure to keep the volume, quality, and helpfulness in your blog that helped you make it big.

    I don’t mind seeing promos all over a site… As long as I can still come there and find unique and helpful info. Stop the info flow and do nothing but promote… I’m gone.

  131. Excellent post! I’ve been writing my blog for a year and have made a grand total of about $11.35 from AdSense, so basically it’s all been for free. I’m just now beginning a real strategy to try to monetize it by becoming a Thesis affiliate (thanks to Copyblogger, BTW) and developing related content to sell. One of the reasons I’m doing this is because I’d actually like to spend more time writing the free posts that my current audience has been benefiting from but, for some strange reason, my landlord won’t accept complimentary reader comments as payment. So I have to spend a fair amount of time doing non-blog work to, you know, live and stuff. If I can actually use my blog-related activities to generate some income, that can only be good for both me and my readers. My 2 (unsponsored) cents.

  132. Nathan,

    I am comment 132 here, just another person here to say good post.

    It seems the general consensus here is that “the do-ers” are out there making things happen. Be it via social media or any other venue. The happy customers and followers are buying. But it is “the non do-ers” who are lazy or dream about achieving goals and making money, but never take action. Then they complain and finger point.

    Let them…

    It is simply fuel to feed my fire and pushes me to achieve more and fly higher. And I hope it is the same for the rest of you as well.

    Good luck to you and you endeavors,
    Mac Bull
    Japan

  133. @Rick.

    “I have found there are two kinds of people on the Internet:

    1) Freebie seekers and time wasters
    2) Customers with real problems deserving to be solved.”

    That’s a pretty narrow-minded way of looking at people on the internet don’t you think?

    You’re implying that the second group is the only one worth your time. Unfortunately, you’re ignoring the fact that people looking for freebies do in fact go out and pay for products/services. It’s not as black and white as you have made it.

    I don’t think this is an issue of self-entitlement, either. I think the criticism stems from this idealistic belief that keeping it free means “keeping it real”.

    One last thing: whether the content you provide is free or for profit, you will get nowhere without trust and reputation.

  134. Great post, Nathan!

    I’d like to add Satish Talim to the list. He donates a lot of his eBook and Ruby course proceeds to HelpAge India.

    Money made that happen.

  135. What I gather from the post and comments are that people don’t mind the entrepreneurship aspect in blogs and tweets – but the caveat is going about it in a smart way. Give and get. But if you dig you’ll be dug (and not in a good way). And the comment about Kim Kardashian asking $10,000 for tweets made me utterly depressed.

  136. First, I believe that if one doesn’t disclose that they are making money from a tweet or a sale, then it is unethical. The FTC also has this opinion and is now forcing bloggers to disclose these facts (of course). One of the problems with that is that since tweets are so short, there is often not enough room. Perhaps Twitter should add an option so that you can signal whether something is an ad or not without taking up valuable space.

    Second, my opinion is that it is not greedy to want to get paid for doing something. Money is what makes the world go around, and very few people will do things completely for free. For rich people it makes sense, but for people who are struggling, it is just a bad idea.

    Third, I think that some people want some places to be “sacred” and free of advertising because basically everywhere we look now, there are advertisements. However, it’s just not practical because I said earlier, money is one of the main things that people crave.

    Also, in my opinion, if you are reputable and help people, most of them will want you to go get paid. Lisa Irby of http://2createawebsite.com/ says that people even e-mail her for the affiliate link to make sure she gets the commission! Of course, there will always be people who are skeptical, but they simply don’t live in the world that we do in the way that money is of the essence.

    Thanks so much for this post!

  137. Great post. I couldn’t agree with you more. If you enjoy great content, don’t complain about people profiting from the ability to create this content.

    That said, transparency is key. Your direct admission of your intentions to make money puts people at ease. I think the negative reaction to entrepreneurs like Gary V is from people feeling like they got hit with a bait and switch. This is the natural reaction many people have when they’re accustomed to getting everything for free.

    Note: I bought and love Gary’s book. This is not my perception or opinion. I’m just pointing out how some people feel an odd sense of entitlement to having everything for free.

    Twitter, Facebook and all other social applications struggle with the same problem. Whether it’s fair or not, they will never be able to launch a paid version without huge backlash. From this point on, it’s the entrepreneur’s responsibility to realize this mentality and adjust their business plan accordingly.

  138. Nathan, thanks for writing this article!

    I’ve been involved in church ministry for many years. Every now and then someone would complain to me that “all the church does is ask for money.”

    One day, I replied with this: “That’s interesting, because every time I go to the doctor, he asks for money. And whenever I go to the grocery store, they ask for money. And whenever I go to the gas station, coffee shop, book store, etc., they always ask for money too. Come to think of it, I don’t know of any place that survives without money.”

  139. Hi Nathan,

    Thank you for an excellent post. I, like Amy Africa, am a big proponent of making money. That isn’t surprising since I come from a direct marketing background where everything is quantified by its contribution to corporate well being. What may be surprising is that I am also an advocate of social media.

    Before I jumped in to the fishbowl three years ago, I spent two years studying everything I could find about the channel, platforms, and participation. My takeaway was that the social media world was filled with dichotomy. People of influence would speak out against monetization, and then promote affiliate products. I guess they thought that if they didn’t receive all of the money it didn’t count. Others would talk about how it was “all about the conversation”, then ignore or berate people who tried to converse with them.

    The reason people get angry when free content is followed with monetization is because they feel mislead. As you mentioned, a segment of the population will always cry foul. But most folks understand and are willing to pay for quality content that fulfills a need or desire. It all boils down to expectations, as Barry points out.

    One of the first things you learn is direct marketing is to manage customer expectations. If you don’t, your “money back guarantee” will send you to the poor house faster than investing with Bernie Madoff. Unfortunately there aren’t many people in the social media world who understand this.

    If you train people to expect free content by giving “generously for years”, how realistic is it to expect cheers when you start selling?

  140. Sure, if your stuff is good, why not pay for that?

  141. Is making money bad ? For many people, the question would mean ‘is living bad’ as many people will not be able to survive without making money by selling whatever they can!

    Of course stealing something and then selling is different!

  142. I don’t think there is any difference between making money from day job and making money from blog.Why some people always think that making money money from blog is wrong?If making money from blog is wrong,then making money from day job is also wrong.

  143. Great post here. This is something that I have found outside of the Internet too. I have been self-employed all my working life and I have found the greatest of friends when I am helping others out. However, I have always had to reassess who were and weren’t friends whenever it came to the point that I asked them to buy something from me! In fact, I discovered that one or two actually went to my competitors! And then on top of that, they never even tried to hide the fact! It’s a weird world.

    My common sense tells me that I would always support my friend’s business and have done so even if it has cost me a little more! I can almost hear my late father saying, “you are letting people take you for a mug!” Maybe he was right.. But that’s not a very Zen attitude for this Zen practitioner.. :-)

  144. I’m wiht you, Nathan, and Sonia, I think your comments about the takeaway issue are spot on.

    I write about music –Irish, Scottish, folk, and like that — and there are so many who think it wrong for musicians to make money, for others to make money supporting them. Sad, and frustrating that doing what you love and are called to do is thought to be wrong way of making a living.

    But as we are in such a time of transition with blogging and marketing, I think a number of different business models will shake themselves out, and there will always be room — and I’d hope, more room — for those who offer great ideas, ethical service, and fair price.

  145. I recently polled my readers and many of them asked for some specific tools to be created to help them with their business. I thought them through and developed the tools for them, and then offered 2 of them in one week. Now mind you they were $10 and $7. I got an email from one of my readers saying “you’re getting salesy! You used to give away all this free information and now you’re selling every day”. This wasn’t true, and I did the posts for the products on my “non tutorial” days, so she was still getting her three content laden posts every week.

    It got to me though, and made me stop and think. But dang, I was only giving the majority of my market what they specifically ASKED for. The one dissenting voice can really lead you to question yourself, and when the one voice has a loud twitter voice it can be even harder. In the end I had to think about my life, my business, and my integrity. All of which were still very much intact. There’s an opt out link at the bottom of every email, maybe more people should use it instead of complaining ~ although then, they would miss out on the 97% of my content that’s free and valuable.

  146. i just don’t understand what is wrong with making money – as a realtor i hear things like “oh realtors just want the commission” – well…its our JOB.

    as for Chris & Gary – what they provided was a valuable and useful product, not just random asking for money, and yes a small amount to pay in the whole scheme of what they give away

  147. It’s crazy. If I walked into a store and told all the employees they should work all day for free so that I can come in and grab food for free they would think I was nuts.

    The problem is we think knowledge as something that should be free and is not a “real” product. In reality the Internet has devalued knowledge (not to say we can’t reverse that trend)

    For Chris Brogan, yourself, me and many thousands of others, this is our job. There was a time when people wrote blogs late at night after their real day job was done, but that isn’t the case anymore. We’re not a bunch of people sitting in our mother’s garage inventing things. We have lives, rent, most of us have families.

    But forget about us making money from sponsored Twitters, if Twitter itself doesn’t figure out how to make money it will be doomed.

  148. @Sonia – Re the FTC’s teeth. Thanks, that’s interesting. I am grateful to Mark Widawer’s Squidoo Lens for my information on the FTC’s new rules. The main point being transparency. There is a difference between “editorial” content and “publicity”. You have to own up for the former but not for the latter.

    I don’t know much about how the FTC would regard Twitter but I would guess that most Twitter stuff is too short to be considered “editorial”.

    As with anything to do with marketing, perception is everything. We need to train our readers/followers to expect to have to pay something sometime for useful and relevant content. That would do away with the “let down” that some of your readers have expressed. My approach is and will be to say right up front that my websites/blogs can make money, either through sales or commissions. Such a statement can go on the About page as a minimum. If you are always going to provide everything for free, then perhaps you could state your charitable status.

    I came across a site today which even covered themselves for the random Google Ads on their site. They said “… gets a pittance of support via advertising Ads by Google.” That’s the first time I’ve seen that.

    Also, I don’t think anyone has mentioned the word “greed” in relation to the blog readers, the presumption being that it is the blog owner who is being “greedy”. As a newbie who is hard-up, I am a confessed hunter of free knowledge. However, after trawling through Copyblogger for all the excellent free content I could get, I did go on to buy two of their products. I don’t expect to educate myself completely for free.

    Hell, we’er talking basic economics here after all.

  149. “Money is useful for a lot of things, including charitable work and finding the cure for cancer. Like it or not, it makes the world go around.”
    I swear your words a re great to read for your listener. But some people will not believe what we said. I ever collected some donation from web, but what’s happened? They never trust us to manage an organization but a lot of my money was spent here. And I quit then start to take the money from anywhere and will never tell to my audience what for it. Donate or not, they shouldn’t know. The point I do what should to do!

  150. Lynda, Twitter is doomed. I’m not sure how they even call themselves a business. Call me crazy, but I don’t call anything constructed without a revenue model a business.

    The system is completely overrun by self promoters. Everything on Twitter has become marketing noise and clutter. A new social platform will pop up soon and begin to tear away market share (see facebook killing MySpace).

    Don’t get me wrong, Twitter is revolutionary. They have brought change to the way people interact and promote. I just think they’re crazy to have done all of this without any strategy for how they would capitalize to make it a sustainable business. Traffic isn’t money. Free isn’t revenue. Unless you have a clear strategy of how to eventually capitalize on your traffic, you shouldn’t give away your service to draw traffic.

  151. Spot on. I truly don’t understand the public that thinks they’d rather spend all of their money (because they ARE spending money) with an anonymous box rather than support the efforts of their friends, those of us who work everyday, in any field of work, as entrepreneurs to build relationships and valuable customer experiences. Supporting your friends on the blogosphere is no dissimilar to the necessity to “buy local” groceries, goods and services in your local neighborhood. Support your friends happily. And we will support you back enthusiastically.

  152. I go back and forth with the concept of monetizing a social media profile such as Twitter or Facebook. I do think there is a significant difference between monetizing your blog and receiving money for a sponsored post or tweet. The content itself is an advertisement rather than offering free, educational content with banner advertisements, products for sale, and affiliate product suggestions.

  153. Twitter will most likely be doomed if it doesn’t do something quickly (and rumours have it they are working on this and we will see it early this year). I agree that a business shouldn’t begin without some clear concept of how they will make money, however, so many have and quite a few made the successful transition.

    Even the example Harvest made of Facebook killing off MySpace is interesting because Facebook started out with no revenue generating business model and had to find one eventually.

    Google itself started with no way to make revenue.

  154. I’m with you Nathan. Another thing that may help readers is that you need to show that you are in it to make money right from the start.

    If you tell your readers that the reason they are getting a lot of great content is throught the sales of your products (so you can eat too), then they are trained to understand that it’s ok to get a little marketing message now and then.

    If you provide free content for years and suddenly ask for the sale, of course people will revolt, because that is the opposite of the road they were conditioned on.

    I prefer to use the technique of never letting a single piece of content out that is not somehow related towards a sale (even if it’s just a tiny link).

    The content has to be valuable on it’s own, but the readership knows that if they want the full monty, they are going to have to pay for all of the step-by-step information.

  155. We’re talking a lot about making readers pony up for content, but I want to add, just in case it’s lost in all this, that the content has to be worth paying for.

    Just because you blog doesn’t mean you are entitled to make money. However, if you do create good stuff and people like it, there’s no reason not to charge.

    Perhaps it’s a matter of value. It’s great free, but not worth paying for? As others have said, the marketing has a lot to do with it.

    I’d also like to add that I wrote this before our recent Beyond Blogging launch, which stirred up this debate again. Just check Chris Brogan’s comments to get an idea of what people were complaining about, and you’ll probably be amazed.

    The issue here between Sponsored Tweets and blog monetization is different, and while I think most of us here agree on the validity of blog monetization, there is some debate with the ST’s issue.

    To many of us, Twitter is still special, and “pure.” I don’t think that will last, but that’s not for me to say. I believe that if a marketer uses ST’s, they should strongly consider the message/brand of the Tweet. For instance, I was offered 8 bucks to Tweet about a Facebook app…hell no.

    $800 bucks? Who knows…it’s all about signal to noise IMO and your followers have the choice to tune in or change the channel.

    I’m still not convinced either side is correct, but I don’t think that ST’s are the devil.

  156. I think it depends a lot on how you’re using the tool. I doubt I’d ever do one, because my promotions have more layers than I can get into 140 characters. If I’m going to promote something, I at least want a little time to tell you why, and how it might relate to other stuff we’ve been working on.

    But if I’m one of the Kardashian people (I always think of them as being those lizard-like fascist characters on Deep Space Nine), am I violating the Sanctity of Twitter with a sponsored Tweet? Please.

    I don’t think STs are evil, but tactically I can’t see myself using them.

  157. Social media is awesome at building two things among potential cutomers: relevancy and credibility. It’s the beginning of a conversation – not the end. Once relevancy and credibility have been adequately established – it’s not about ‘making a sale’ anymore as much as it ‘helping the customer’.

    John Chow can get away with sponsored tweets exactly because he has established relevancy and cred among his base. Not many others have that kind of relatonship with their audience, and it’s something that can be squandered quickly.

  158. @Shane Arthur

    Watched the video, tough crowd for jokes I guess =)

    Didn’t really change my mind on Chris, there are others I follow that know how to both respond to others and promote others on twitter, didn’t get that vibe so much from Chris and so I discontinued following.

    Thanks for sharing though, greatly appreciated =)

    Siraaj

  159. Followers will sniff out sponsored tweets and tune out the people sending them. That issue will resolve itself. The larger problem is that Twitter will be gone before long if they don’t figure out how to make money.

    I also don’t believe you can lump blogs, Twitter and Facebook into one “social media” category anymore. Each one has its own unique uses and each requires a different approach.

  160. Sponsored tweets began when the first paid social media community manager started tweeting. The only difference is the hired guns aren’t paid per tweet. It was only a matter of time before it expanded to PPT model.

  161. You’ll never please all of the people at any time. It is finding the fine line that keeps most people pleased (or accept the sale). I wonder in both the cases described above the percentage of those that did nothing, accepted and helped support the entrepreneurs efforts and the complainers that bashed them. Look at every amazon review. one always has 5 and 1 star remarks. The goal is to please the most. So, how does an entrepreneur find that line to trigger the helped keep one out of the van near the river?

  162. Every time a new era of doing business comes along there is always criticism. Many people by nature are resistent to change. But change we will. This is a new era and you are the trail blazers. Strive to do the right thing and create balance with your endeavors and the scoffers will eventually subside.

  163. I’m way too late to the party. But I’m glad you got the party started over here, Nathan. I’ve been blogging about the same topic for a couple of weeks now, and it’s been on my mind a lot.

    There comes a point where we all need to draw the lines and take care of our dreams. And if that makes us a little bit Satan like Brian there, then so be it, I say. It’s no one’s call but our own.

  164. Everything I do is designed to help my readers succeed. Sometimes that means they have buy something in order to get the information they need to succeed.

    Making money is simply a byproduct of me looking out for their best interests and taking care of them.

    People who don’t get that and think I’m “just selling” can kiss my ass and take a hike. If they think they’re going to truly succeed without investing in themselves, well, nobody’s going be able to help them, anyway.

  165. Sponsored tweets…wouldn’t follow many who did that, but to each their own. Do watcha like. We all approach our use of Twitter on different ways.

    I think a common theme to this problem and your two examples is the audience hasn’t been trained. If you train your audience that they’ll get everything free and then ask them to pay, you bet you’ll get backlash. But of you train your audience from the get go, they’ll gobble up your free stuff and willingly open their wallets to you too. Those who complain…just kick ‘em to the curb.

  166. You are so right!! I love writing I’ve had a passion for it all my life!! I am trying to making a living doing what I love, what I need in my life, Is that so wrong?? I have done so many jobs that I hate (including the one that I have now) I have worked and studied to become a writer so I am going to do It!! DEAL WITH IT!!

  167. There needs to be a better business model for blogging in general, like a complete paradigm shift. I like the analogy about the free samples, but don’t expect to have the entire meal for free.

    Personally, I’d go for a subscription based model. If the price is right, I certainly wouldn’t mind paying monthly or per article basis. Even better would be an affiliate program attached to it.

    What do you think?

  168. Fantastic post.
    We are living in the age of free.
    Anyone that breaks that rule is an enemy.
    That’s why there is backlash once anyone stops giving for free for even an instant, regardless of how much for free he has given before and will give after.

  169. @Terrence: I’m with you %100. I love writing and it is all I want to do. I’ve been creating and researching and eventually I’ll manage to reach my ultimate goals.

    P.S: Writing rocks and writing about rock n’ roll…it just doesn’t get better than that.

  170. This is a very timely post for me.

    Just yesterday, as a matter of fact, someone told me that I was obsessed with money and that I probably keep all of the money I get for a charity I support.

    I told him to go to hell.

  171. I don’t think there will ever be a question about whether sponsored Tweets will or will not be permitted. I think the question is, as the service and technology evolves, what form those sponsored Tweets will take. There will always be people who think that money (as opposed to the love of it) is the root of all evil. Others will simply begrudge people who have profitable Web-based businesses.

    We must remain vigilant that we will continue to be able to provide for ourselves and our families via a Web-based business model, but I will not waste too much time trying to convince certain people that their position is untenable.

  172. Great post! It brings to mind a question.

    Chris and Gary gave information away for years before really monetizing. Is this still necessary? Or have we moved beyond the need for easing people into the idea of monetization via social media? If I decide to start a blog tomorrow, do I have to hold off on the monetization, or is it now acceptable to just jump in since people like Chris and Gary paved the way?

  173. @Michelle, I suspect it wasn’t actually necessary for Chris or Gary to do it, and I definitely don’t think you have to do it now.

    As some have pointed out here, going too long without at least signaling that you’re in the game to make money only trains people to expect that everything you have is free.

  174. Ah, excellent point, Sonia. And thanks so much for the response! Have a great weekend!

  175. I was thinking about making a post like this for the past 2 days. Absolutely fabulous.

    I thought one of the most interesting points, is that some people feel it’s ok to make money at a job, but just about everything online should be free.

    They assume that nobody makes their living online and everyone has a job.

  176. Gazillion comments in here! Obviously, all of us who are trying to make a living out of this is gung-ho for the idea that the content we provide and the community we create be the avenue where we can further provide MORE content, in a different packaging and a more comprehensive form, that is fee-based.

    However, there needs to be a balance of being a pseudo-PR personnel of a company while you herald your own so-called brand, and being a person of authority and endorsing these items as a side note or for the benefit of your audience.

    I agree on the comment that it’s “how” you market your fee-based products that carries a lot of weight. Sincerity, authenticity and honesty will win the game for any person of authority to make the most-financially speaking-out of one’s blog or social networks.

    P.S. That Kim Kardashian $10,000.00 per tweet thing is just crazy!!

  177. I saw the minority of negative comments when Gary V was promoting his book. He was excited as heck to be talking about his book, his book tour, and the content in his book.

    I love it, many other people love it, but there were also some who complained.

    I often wish those people would just unsubscribe and never comment again. It’s not like they are needed.

    They can just leave.

  178. Very good article well summed up. I agree people are silly they dont want anyone to make money we will all live under a bridge to make everyone happy lol not! Affiliate marketing is a business, and its not an easy business there is a learning curve, and there is an art to it. I am with you on this one working at home is the ultimate goal for all of us. Its a business, and businesses make money online. Bottom line! Nice post…

  179. Excellent post. I think it’s a personal choice whether we monetize our blog or our tweets or whether we give it away for free. Whether we start out free then monetize. Completely a personal choice. I wrote the best article about this by Steve Pavlina who simply asks first if you got any issues monetizing, stop reading his particularly long post and have fun. There is something to be said about envy as well. Perhaps those who criticize the “monetization” also envy the courage it takes for others who stand up and earn a living by living their dream. We tend to dislike that which we cannot ourselves have, but secretly also want. Who knows! I am simply inspired to no end to see and watch the success stories of these fantastic entrepreneurs, and shall definitely be there some day! Keep up pursuit of those dreams and ignore the naysayers.

  180. @Farnoosh, you make an excellent point about envy. I guess there’s always a certain amount of fear about not wanting to turn off potential readers, at least in the beginning, and more so for beginners, like me. But you’re right, part of even having a career like this is about pleasing yourself, not everyone else! :-)

  181. Yes! I am definitely “with you,” Nathan!

    I attended BlogHer in 2008 and I remember going to tons of workshops and they all seemed to be saying the same thing, “Be true to yourself. Don’t sell out and make money.”

    About halfway through the first day, I remember turning to a friend to say, “I actually think it’s a totally good and noble thing to make money as a blogger.” I agree that it’s important to have integrity and be true to yourself and all of that, but it’s also OKAY (and good!) to recognize that your contributions are valuable…valuable enough to be paid for.

    Thank you for this honest, refreshing, bold post. It was brilliantly stated and I agree 100%.

  182. Hi Nathan,

    I believe everyone is allowed to make money however they want to make money. I also believe if someone doesn’t want to be sold to, that’s their prerogative as well.

    My take is that I don’t mind seeing “a” sales pitch on Twitter; I do mind seeing the same thing over and over multiple times an hour. I also don’t want to be contacted via DM with a sales pitch either; I will delete anyone I’m following when that pops up. I’ll admit that I see DM’s as somewhat sacred, and when that’s been breached, I’m irked.

    As for blogs and other sales, anyone who doesn’t like being sold to should just leave. I’ve left a few blogs when every single post was promoting the same product over and over; that gets irritating. But someone promoting new things is at least new content, and I learn things, so I’ll stay.

    So, go for it, and everyone else who has things to sell, go for it. Who cares who doesn’t like it; it’s your blog, you’re paying for it, so do what you want to do.

  183. You nailed this one. This explains the fear that I must work through, and be prepared to face from the “practical, normal” (unpassionate) people around me as I create a useful product!

    Thanks for the clarity, as I continue to move forward!

  184. Yeah I’m with you. I just had a webmaster yell at me for posting a link to a (FREE) list of 500 Great Websites for Kids because it was on my blog (I’m a teacher). A WordPress blog–they don’t let you monetize anything! Some people just don’t get it. I’m sure I alienated him with my response, but when you can’t even give something away for free without people getting, er, annoyed. Yeah. I’m with you.

  185. It’s true that, if you want to achieve something, you must have to give something away. At the very first time you may have to share your stuff as freebies but later……one day…you will return back more than that. The thing that you will get is “Money”, Reputation, Popularity and so on.

  186. Back to the sponsored tweet thing.
    If I love Doritos and I tell everyone how great they are but I’m not paid is that OK?
    If I love Doritos and I tell everyone how great they are but I am paid to say it that’s not OK?
    Where did I lose everyone? When I started getting paid for something other Dorito lovers are not?
    If people don’t like that I’m tweeting about and promoting products or services I love can’t they just unfollow me?
    I’m not talking about spam or crazy selling machines. I’m just saying maybe once every 10 posts or so I throw out a sponsored tweet…why is this so wrong if I really love what I’m selling?
    And who wrote the rules?
    I’m just sayin…

  187. This is my first comment here and I like this post, Nathan.
    My idea for sponsored tweet is that, it’s still ethical. The followers have a choice. If they think the tweet doesn’t make any sense, why click the link?

  188. Wow! That is an unfair response (the backlash I mean).

    If your friend asks you in person to buy his book, do you hate him? If he asks you via Twitter though?

    What a hypocrisy!

  189. Nothing really beats giving stuff for free. In the world of blogging, you always want to take care of your readers/subscribers. Furthermore, giving free stuff can make your visitors go back. They will love your website for this and will in turn result to loyal subscribers.

  190. I know it’s an old post, but a good one! I’ve been going non-stop for the last 4 months.. in search of making money online. I never thought it was a “real” pursuit.. thought people that claimed huge earnings were just making it up. I was then lucky enough to email Amy at Web Design 101 and she actually replied with a bunch of screenshots that she took just for me and even followed up with her personal sites and showed how she was doing it. That spoke volumes. Soon after, I found the warrior forum, made some ill-advised “too good to be true” purchases and came back to the system that I was told would work if I applied 2 to 3 hours a night. I just got my second adsense check last month and it was just over $125. I know that’s not a ton, but for the amount of time (4 months), I find it amazing and I read that if you can make $100 online, you can make $500.. and if you can do that… well you get the idea!
    I’m thankful to the many people that give of themselves online and really make an effort to present the truth and help others. Making money online is wonderful! There’s no stopping me now. :)

  191. Thank you very much with respect to a really great weblog! My partner and i could think of numerous website that doesn’t deliver beneficial tips UNLIKE yours blogsite. Thanks much!

  192. I’m with you Nathan – if you can’t get paid to do what you love, you’re only living half the dream, right?

  193. I definitely become skeptical of the information someone is offering if they are looking for an immediate trade-off for money, without any established history of delivering valuable content. I am biased in the sense that I loathe most marketing initiatives, especially those that manipulate the emotions of individuals in order to get them to ‘buy into’ the product or brand. Often, the emotion the ad inspires has nothing to do with the product itself (e.g. How does shaving with a Gillette Venus razor allow me to ‘feel like a goddess’? This logic becomes obvious only if you actually take a minute to step away from the sexy babe in the waterfall to contemplate what is really going on.)

    However, in the 2 examples you gave, where the individuals gave away free content for a long time and then decided to ask for a return, I was surprised to hear that the ‘minority’ (loyal longtime readers?) criticized them. I would have to suggest that such a reaction is simply a reaction misplaced due to feelings of defensiveness, probably caused by decades of advertising bombardment in every form of media.

    I have visited blogs that offer killer samplings of free yet useful content. Some follow it up with offers to purchase further services from their firm; Even without a longtime history, if the free content had practical take-away points, was really valuable and hearty (not just a teaser), I can honestly say I am happier (almost proud) to use their services, confident they will deliver what they promise.