If you’re reading this right now, you’re looking at a work in progress of something that is very important to me.
Full disclosure: Eventually I plan to monetize this website. I don’t think this, in itself, is unreasonable. Most if not all bloggers do this. It takes a lot of time and energy to run a successful brand, and people deserve to be compensated for their work.
However, I also think a lot of the techniques bloggers and content creators take for granted form unhealthy relationships with their audiences. They enforce the expectation that the audience needs to keep consuming content, and needs to accept constant solicitations and calls to action as part of the package. Don’t forget to SMASH that like button.
What I’m doing
My goal is to make this website, and my brand in general, a healthy space to express ideas about food, drink, and culture. As such, at time of writing, I commit to the following statements:
I will not make advertising on my website my primary source of income.
I will not make any pieces which are mostly or entirely sponsored content.
I will not spam you with annoying pop ups and notifications.
Let’s be real here. Ads are a game. Nobody likes them, but every content creator relies on them for income to some degree. Even if they don’t put ads on their articles, videos, or social media, they can themselves become the ads for other companies and products willing to use their brand’s image and fans’ loyalty as a way to generate buzz.
Ads can sometimes lead the audience to good products that audiences genuinely find useful. But they also run a risk of dictating what kind of content appears on your favourite creator’s channel. In some cases, the ads can be invasive or harmful, especially when targeted toward children.
Which leads me to sponsored content. Sponsored content is similar to native advertising. This is when the content of a page is the ad for a product or service. The only difference is that sponsored content is made by the creator rather than the advertiser. Influencers on social media often make content like this, with some feeds being mostly or exclusively ads. Marketing agencies often tout this is the best way for brands to get noticed. I am a bit more skeptical – but I’ll share my detailed thoughts for another time.
In some cases, it’s not ads for external products, but just self-promotion that can be a little overbearing.
You know when you’re looking for a new recipe, you’ve just found what you think is the one, you start to read – then BAM! You are bombarded with one or more full-screen pop-ups. One of them is telling you to disable adblock. One wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. Yet another is asking if you consent to push notifications.
Isn’t that a little annoying? I’m sure I’m not the only one to experience this. It could be well-intentioned, but it’s a bit aggressive. You’ve been on the page for literally 10 seconds or less, you haven’t even scrolled down to the recipe yet, and you’re already being asked to make a commitment – and reminded that your data and browsing activities are being logged and sent to advertisers.
You may think I’m shooting myself in the foot with this one, and frankly, you may be right. It’s certainly easier to accept how the world works currently. Advertising revenue and social media influence can definitely be directed to do a lot of good in the world. But ultimately, I’m a little uncomfortable relying on techniques to generate money and attention that most people just implicitly feel wrong about.
I hope that by laying out these ground rules I can encourage you, the audience member, to engage with my content in a way that is meaningful to you. I also hope that, by writing this, you can keep me accountable to my own philosophy. I mean, come on, I literally called this website The Philosopher Feasts – don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming?