I recently received a solicitation for advertising on the blog. At first blush it was intriguing... flattering, even. I briefly imagined some of the great stuff we use on board Totem, and being approached by one of the manufacturers to share more about something I already use and love. So I asked for details.
Hey, sometimes people actually are interested in what we have to share.
Well, the reply to that email was a whiplash back to reality and minor casualty for the ego. The advertiser: a creator of educational websites. The pitch: an article would be written for me by their writers, containing promo content and links to the advertiser's sites. The catch: I would be expected to post their work to the blog as if it were my own; it could not be identified as a paid/sponsored post.
The return for accepting?
Happily, I read the reply on my phone instead of at my laptop... the snorting and spluttering of tea after reading their offer might have have done real damage to the keyboard.
I am stunned at how cheap the price of integrity is and somewhere between sad and amazed that there are enough people selling out to make this viable. And you know what? It's really not even the content of the article that they care about. The advertisers are mainly after the links that go in the content. It's just a cheap trick for link building, to help the advertiser's sites build their quality score and improve their placement in the organic returns in search engines. Imagine the quality of the post that would be provided...
It made me think about when we're being sold to. I'd like to think that whatever I got from the unnamed educational portal would be freakishly different from the typical post here, but advertising is not always obvious. Those glossy magazines that prompt us to dream, that show us the boats and tools to help us sail away toward the horizon...when are we reading one writer's truth? And when are we reading an "advertorial" fiction?
There's definitely some great writing in the mags (thank you, Fatty Goodlander, for all those excellent CW contributions). And they include material from some other awesome writers we know (*cough* Diane! *cough*) who write about their direct personal experiences with a place or product - not blind placements. We write a monthly article for 48 North, and our only editorial pressure is to write honestly from our cruising experiences in a way that is interesting and relevant for the boaters reading at home.
Ultimately, most mags are in the business of selling advertising. Sometimes that ad is in a box on the page. Sometimes it's more subtle. A friend of ours in the marine industry was recently approached by a magazine for "reviews" of his products. Basic product reviews started around $150; new boat model reviews went for $2,000 plus expenses. Did your gut just clench too? And not in a good way? It's all just selling, but when you look at how they are presented, it's not apparent. That's just not cool.
What's the best way to figure out what you need to know? It's different for everyone. For me- it means getting a lot of opinions, from a variety of sources- but leaning most toward the experience of those who are our cruising compadres, and those who have gone before us. Their integrity is not for sale, and neither is ours.