Monday, January 18, 2016

Can Sponsors Cooperate with Writers? Please?

(Reclaimed from Blogjob, where it was tagged with advertisements as content enhancementeristic advertisingJohn McCutcheonJohn McCutcheon’s Howjadoo albumpage view statistics,theories of advertising psychologywriters’ relationship with advertisers.)

When I started writing online, I wrote for an "official," "edited" site called Associated Content that matched articles with ads by proposing topics for articles that would (more or less) support the ads they had received. AC wasn't "bloggy"; it read like a magazine. Everybody had more and less successful articles, but those who stuck around long enough to post more than 100 articles were consistently getting several hundred daily page views.
When AC started going bad, I set up my Blogspot. What I've liked about the Blogspot is that its ad-free format is designed for maximum writing and reading convenience. What I've not liked about the Blogspot is that it's never paid me a dime. In theory Google has an ad service that works with Blogspot; in practice it never did. In theory Amazon links could generate revenue from Blogspot; in practice that could have happened, but it never has, yet.
Blogjob has ads. That's nice. Blogjob encourages bloggers to insert ads. That's nice. I've gone to some pains to insert Amazon ads that fit naturally into each article and stand a chance of helping some hypothetical reader (somebody like me, only with more money to spend) find something to buy. If this person is reading a book review, s/he may want to buy the book. If the person is reading a blog post in which I refer to a book, s/he might want to read that book. If the person is reading a song lyric, which I post from time to time, s/he might want to listen to the recording of the tune the song fits. Really there's no reason not to link to ads for food products, furniture, hardware, anything else a blogger might mention.
If you read a line like "Like John McCutcheon, I like peanut butter," and don't already remember, don't you want to know why I bothered to mention John McCutcheon?
Maybe just seeing that graphic brought the whole song back to your mind, or maybe now you're thinking, "Oh, so she's referring to an old song," which you might or might not want to hear. (In my experience, all children under age ten like this children-sing-along album.)
This kind of advertising doesn't annoy a reader like me because it's natural. It takes the place of footnotes. It can even be considered to enhance the article; in case the reader has no mental picture of a style of dress or chair or car a blogger might mention, the blogger can insert a photograph, and for international readers that feature can actually be useful.
Of course, there's another school of advertising psychology that teaches that the more you annoy readers, the better. According to this school, people don't buy things because they've researched those things and think they may be worth buying. They buy things because distracting, annoying ads have forced product names into their subconscious minds and created an obsessive-compulsive craving to buy whatever's annoyed them most.
Really? I've never made a purchase that way. I've consciously avoided buying things for which I've found the advertisements annoying.
Anyway, as they say, the numbers tell the story. It takes about six months before a blog can be said to exist. After six months, my Blogspot was up to very close to its current level of traffic--low, and variable, but consistently averaging 25 to 30 percent of the page views I got from Associated Content.
After six months, my Blogjob is consistently averaging about 10 percent of the page views I get at the Blogspot. That's with exactly the same type of content. That's also with Blogjob's social feature: Blogjobbers actually earn points, which convert to money, for reading other people's Blogjob blogs.
The Internet has become more crowded in the past four years, maybe...but...even with a partly paid audience...ten percent of the page views? I aim for quality rather than quantity in all things. But...ten percent? After six months, my page view count here is still in two figures? Yes.
I'm the same writer, for better for worse. If anything I've concentrated more effort on posting the "richer," more sponsor-friendly, articles on the Blogjob. I've linked from one site to the other to make sure that readers know that both sites exist. I've also promoted my Blogjob on Twitter, where throwing in a link and running really works. I've neglected the Blogspot and posted more at the Blogjob. And still...Blogspot's getting ten times the page views.
There are times when this disparity is due to the fact that, even though I've done all the typing, the Blogspot is not a single-user site. It features content from correspondents, regularly including elected officials. If it were just that one of Morgan Griffith's current reports from the U.S. Congress were getting ten times the page views that one of my book reviews got, that would seem right and reasonable to me...but it's not only that. I still have "little more than link" posts from years gone by that are getting more page views at Blogspot than a post Blogjobbers apparently enjoyed discussing at Blogjob.
The only explanation I can think of is the ads...the ones certain high-paying sponsors throw in, without consulting us writers, based on that eristic principle of getting under readers' skins by annoying them. I can be controversial, no problem there. I know some of the Blogspot's most loyal followers are people who disagree with me (on things too controversial to be publicized even as political issues). But ads that feature images of disease conditions, ads that bob up in between paragraphs while people are trying to read an article, ads that try to stalk individual readers with more and more images of whatever they looked at last week, may be turning off readers who aren't paid to hang out here...turning Blogjob into a site that only Blogjobbers read. Guess what? Blogjobbers are, almost by definition, people with very little spending money.
I'd like to see Blogjob grow and become more profitable. Advertisers might wish that that would happen because Blogjob would naturally turn into a slick, Cosmopolitan-type magazine where everybody wrote about being young, single, sleek, and a big spender. That is unlikely to happen. What could happen here, though, is that Blogjob could naturally turn into a whole new reading experience where writers could write things into which ads fit naturally, so that products trickle into the minds of (the shopping minority of) readers without annoying them.