I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ethics and blogging. What it means to have a monetised blog. And how that might affect what I write about in my blog.
As you’ve probably noticed, I monetised my blog last year. I now include affiliate links. I joined the affiliate program with Amazon last spring, and became a member of Shop Style Collective late in the summer.
When I write a post about a book I’ve read, and link the title to Amazon, I get a commission if someone clicks my link and makes a purchase. When I write a fashion post, I can create a Shop Style link to the clothing, or shoes, or accessories I’m discussing. That is if Shop Style has a relationship with the retailer. Again if a reader clicks the link and makes a purchase, I receive a commission. Shop Style Collective acts as the middle-man, so little blogs like mine can make money even if we don’t have our own agreement with big companies or brands.
When I started blogging I was determined to not spend a cent on my blog. And for years I didn’t. Then I wanted to take the blog up a notch, and it started costing me money. So I decided to monetise. But not without some major soul searching. I tossed around the idea of monetising, and shelved it. Then debated it with myself… again. And shelved it again. Then I finally discussed it with Hubby. And went for it.
I’m sure you’re saying: “What’s with all the drama, Sue? What is the big deal?”
Well, the big deal is I didn’t want my relationship with readers to change. And I was afraid it would. I didn’t want the blog to become a glitzy ad-filled purveyor of product, instead of a community of like-minded women who yak about clothes and travel and books and life. I was afraid that monetising might be a very slippery slope. Like getting that first face-lift. Ha. Not that I know what THAT feels like. But I can imagine.
So, I started using affiliate links on my blog and the sky didn’t fall. I don’t use ads, nor do I have agreements with brands to review their products. I’ve received some requests to do that, but not from a brand I use, or would use. I haven’t received gifted products, although a company selling pantyhose did get in touch the other day. They seemed perfectly lovely in their e-mail, but since I can’t remember the last time I wore pantyhose, I demurred. The big brands have not been breaking down my door. Not so far. I’m still waiting for Vince to find me. Or Max Mara. As if.
I try to be careful to include my disclosure on any post with an affiliate link. It bugs me when I see glossy blogs that don’t disclose. But I won’t get into that since I ranted on that issue in a post last year. And I hope what I write about has been mostly unaffected by the fact that there are links on the post that may make money for me. I say “may” because most links trigger a lot of clicks and few orders. And I only make commission on sales. But I have been making enough to pay my hosting fees, which is what I wanted all along. So, it’s all good.
Except I’ve been angsting again. About blogging ethics. Not about disclosing a monetary relationship. But how that monetary relationship fits with my fashion philosophy. And my preaching, or maybe espousing is a better word, the idea of slow fashion.
My angst was initially triggered a couple of months ago when I was out for dinner with the “girls.” One of my friends who is really on top of social issues, who is politically active and doesn’t just talk the talk, and who reads my blog now that she’s retired too, told me that she was proud of me for writing my post Fessing Up About Slow Fashion. That’s the one where I did my yearly shopping tally, and looked at whether I’d made any progress in becoming a more ethical shopper. “Wow. Thanks, Nancy. That means a lot,” I said. “But,” she continued, “how are you going to rationalize monetising your blog and providing shopping links with your slow fashion philosophy?”
And, although I know Nancy didn’t mean for this to happen, her question created a whole cascade of conflicting emotions for me, that have been kind of simmering below the surface. Until this past week. When I wrote again about slow fashion and old coats. And my friend Frances wrote a really thought-provoking analysis of the whole issue of slow fashion and “mindful consumerism” on her blog. You can read Frances’ thoughts here. And that pot of angst that had been simmering uncomfortably for a couple of months boiled over.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming Nancy or Frances for my angst. They are friends whose opinions I value. In fact, I consider both of them to be philosophical kindred spirits. Okay, I cannot understand why Nancy never carries a purse. But that’s beside the point.
On the contrary, I’m kind of glad that angst-y pot boiled over because it prompted me to write this post explaining what I do and why.
To that end, I have to say that I do want to be a more ethical shopper. I do try to limit my purchases, and I do strive to shop consciously, and “mindfully.” But I still shop. I am not signing on for any of the “no new clothes” initiatives that have become popular in the past year or so. And I’m not going to promise to only shop in thrift stores. I try to be good. To be better than I’ve been. To make an effort to do my bit, however small, to save the planet.
But… and here’s what I realized today has been bothering me the most… I still want to have fun with fashion. To seek out and find that perfect pair of jeans. Or that perfect sweater that goes with everything in my closet. I still want to think about fashion in a joyful way. And, lately, stressing about whether my philosophy and my practice are at odds with each other has taken the joy away. I’ve been so worried that I wasn’t doing enough to limit my consumption. Wasn’t being strict enough with myself. Or dedicated enough. Or by having shopping links in my posts I looked greedy, or hypocritical. That I was draining all the joy out of simply loving clothes.
And I do simply love clothes. I love having fun with clothes. And then talking with you guys about the fun I’ve had. For me, blogging is like teaching. If I was having fun in the classroom, I was a way better teacher. Same with blogging.
In the long run, I plan to continue to write posts about slow fashion. I’d like to be more diligent at researching ethical brands. I’ve already been doing some reading about shopping on-line for ethical brands, and the issues around that. And I’d like to explore on-line second-hand shopping.
And I still plan to provide monetised links to the clothing I wear in posts. I’ve come to the conclusion that including those links does not compromise the content of my posts. I still say what I want to say. The monetary aspect, the affiliate link, does not drive the content; it arises from the content, which is a whole other thing. You don’t have to shop those links. You can probably find similar pieces in shops near you. Or at your local consignment or thrift store. Or even better, in your own closet.
So, that’s all I have to say about ethics and blogging. At least for today. You know, I have a sneaking suspicion that part of my over-thinking, angst-y over-reaction this week was due to the fact that it’s been a rough winter here in our little bungalow nestled on the banks of the Rideau. Maybe I’m suffering from cabin fever.
Maybe I need to start planning my spring wardrobe. I’ll start with planning how to wear what I already have for spring in my closet. Although I can’t guarantee that I won’t be adding maybe one or two carefully chosen new pieces. After all, I said I was trying to be good. Not perfect.
Linking up with Catherine at #ShareAllLinkup.