Wednesday, 25 January 2017


Many bloggers will have experienced this, especially if your blog has general appeal and a steady readership.

There are people out there who monitor every blog and assess them for their exploitation possibilities within a particular line of business. If (say) your blog is about Fashion, and that is their business, they will find it by searching for the most-used key words the public uses when locating online retailers. If the blog looks in any way suitable for their purposes, and reasonably popular, they will make an approach. They will suggest that you carry a link to them.

The very obvious idea is to catch the eye of your regular readers. But not just them. Anyone searching on the Internet will see your blog high in the list of search results if it is popular enough, and may click on it. Even if they don't stay to read your blog for long, while they have it up on their screen they are captive, and in that short time their attention can be caught and channelled towards another website where they can be parted from their money, legitimately or otherwise.

There's something of a moral issue here: should one 'monetise' a blog, knowing that at least some of one's readership may follow up an advertising link and find themselves wasting money on goods or services they wouldn't otherwise have been aware of? I'd feel very uncomfortable about that. There's also an issue connected with the blogger's creative freedom and control. An advertiser who pays significant money to the blogger will insist on those key words being mentioned, and may want others introduced into the text. They may want posts that steer the reader towards a certain topic or point of view that chimes well with their goods or services. And certainly nothing being posted that would prejudice their use of your blog as an effective advertising mule. Goodbye freedom and creativity.    

There is nothing new about being approached to allow advertising material. But the way it's being done seems to be changing. Am I wrong in feeling that nowadays (a) there is a strong positive assumption that the blogger will agree to carry sundry ads and links as a matter of course, and not try to resist; and (b) there is no intention whatever to pay for the blogger's compliance?

I don't know why cash is not on the table. On the face of it, it seems pointless for a commercial outfit to make a request without offering a kickback. But they are doing it. Has it then become cool for a blogger to show third-party advertisements, whether paid for or not? If so, then I'm clearly ignorant of that development, and I don't understand the kind of mindset that feels it can get free advertising space on application.

Currently I'm being pestered by two online companies, so far only by email. In one case, a certain Cara Benson, who works for Eventbrite ('the largest self-service ticketing platform in the world', according to her) has taken the view that I have my finger on every local happening, and wants me to suggest and recommend things for their listings. She wants to 'talk'. Naturally I checked Eventbrite out. I can't substantiate the 'largest in the world' claim, but they certainly have listings. I looked for events under the categories of Food and Drink, Science and Tech, and Hobbies. Here are screen prints of the results:

As you can see, it looks pukka. Some events require payment, some are free. Not all are strictly local - all the Science and Tech events would require a trip to London.

I can't say I'm bowled over. Eventbrite seems to be a combination of local event lister and ticketing agency. As such, some might find this useful - but not me. I can't even say how comprehensive their listings are. I've no reason to push a link to them onto the kind of people who regularly take an interest in this blog, and I don't see why I should. Not even if Cara had said up front that there was cash in it for me - which she does not say at all. Perhaps she thinks a link to the world's largest would in some way enhance the credibility/seriousness/usefulness of my blog, and that is payment enough. Really?

I should perhaps make it clear that the Lucy Melford blog is not going to be sullied and besmirched with commercial ads and links. I don't need them; I find them irritating when I see them on other blogs, or indeed anywhere on the Internet; and I'm quite certain that they would put off readers and suggest that I had been 'bought' - that my gibberings were not authentically my own.

Another approach has been made by Alonzo V - he withholds his full surname - who works for Artsy. Clearly he did a blog search on 'Damien Hirst' and discovered that I had written two posts featuring Hirst's huge figure Verity at Ilfracombe. He has assumed then that I am an art lover and keen to display the fact by carrying a link from my blog to Artsy. I checked them out too. Here are screen prints of the top and bottom of their big page for Damien Hirst - I've left out the bit in between:

All right, it's a bona fide website that serves the art trade. Nothing wrong with that. But I don't need their services and information, and I don't know anyone else who might. Once again, I am guessing that Alonzo V is banking on my wanting the offered link in order to lend status and educational value to my blog. For he too doesn't mention payment. So he too can take a running jump. And even if he belatedly mentions a purse of gold, I will not stoop to accept.

It's not just these two who are pestering me. An Indian 'online marketing executive' named Kara Dutt wants to 'develop' my blog. Go away.

These are just this month's latest. In the run-up to Christmas I had three pressing emails at weekly intervals from someone in America who wanted me to download and read a clinical report on reconstructive surgery and how to get it. As if I would download anything from an untrusted source! That would break the first rule of security. As for the report, if genuine, I am simply not interested. I ignored him. Yet he persisted. After a short while, I marked his emails as spam, and they no longer appeared in my Inbox. That doesn't mean he won't keep on trying. What a nerve. As if I have nothing to do but dwell on surgical protocols, and be prepared to endorse such stuff.

One more peep out of Cara or Alonzo and they will get marked as spam too. I hope they are reading.

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This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

Ideally I want to hear from bloggers, who, like myself, are knowable as real people and can be contacted. Anyone whose identity is questionable or impossible to verify may have their comments removed. Commercially-inspired comments will certainly be deleted - I do not allow free advertising.

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Lucy Melford