Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Thinking about blog sponsorship

I've been thinking about something for a while now.  I've talked it over with a few people, and I've come to a few conclusions, but I'd like your thoughts.  You've probably worked it out from the title to this blog post.  I've been thinking about blog sponsorship.

Ivy
Ivy's been thinking too.
Before I started On the Windy Side, I spent a year or so just reading and following quilt blogs.  It gave me a pretty good feel for what I enjoy in a blog, and what I don't enjoy.  When I started I thought it might be nice if one day I could make quilting more than a hobby. I thought it might be fun to try making quilts for sale - at least that way I could defray the cost of materials. At some point I realised that I was never going to make any money making and selling quilts.  At that point quilting got a lot more fun because I stopped thinking too much about whether other people would like my quilts.  I've realised that I really love the creative part and the freedom to do what I feel like doing at any given time.

Ralph thinks best when he is relaxed...
 
I still haven't given up on my idea of making quilting more than a hobby though.  I'm at the point where I'm thinking about looking for sponsors for On the Windy Side.   I'd love if my blog could go some way to supporting my fabric habit.  That said, there are a few things that make me hesitate:

- What if no-one wants to sponsor my blog?  That would feel a lot like rejection and rejection sucks.  I'm not fishing for compliments, I'm just being honest.  Writing up that email that says "hi - would you like to sponsor my blog?" is a bit scary.  That's not the biggest issue though.

- Too much sponsored content is a major turn-off for me.  I'm not going to name names but I can think of blogs where the sponsored content far outweighs the "genuine" content.  That's the point at which I hit the un-follow button. I'm sure that I'm not unique in finding too much sponsored content just plain old boring (yes, giveaways are lovely, but I really read blogs for inspiration rather than the chance to win fabric).  I think this can be managed though.

- I tend to keep my blog pretty non-controversial, but I wouldn't want to feel like I can't give my honest opinion on something because it might upset my sponsors.  I guess that's part of the reason I'm putting this post up now.  Potential sponsors be warned - I might say things you don't agree with.  Like this next bit.

- I'm not sure I'm ok with the constant pressure to buy the newest latest fabric right now all the time.  I can't afford to buy every new line that comes out (honestly, who can?), and frankly, I don't always want to (incredibly, I don't love every line of fabric that has ever been produced!).  Do I really want to be part of the consumer cycle?  On the other hand, I really genuinely love fabric.  I get excited about new fabric and I love seeing how other people use it.  When I first started quilting 6 or 7 years ago there weren't many quilting fabrics I did love, and omg it was so amazing to find more and more of them. So maybe this whole consumer cycle thing is not so bad.

- Yes, I put a lot of time and effort into my blog.  But I don't have sponsors right now, and I still write my blog.  If I didn't get any sponsors, I would still keep making stuff and blogging about it.  Does this mean I shouldn't seek out sponsorships?

- The deals behind blog sponsorships seem to be a bit hush-hush.  I mean, that's fair enough, it's commercially sensitive information.  The thing is, normally I'd have some kind of a benchmark for deciding whether an offer is fair.  For this? Nil, nada, zilch.


Modern She Made Received (cat not included!)
I think the cat's out of the bag...

I feel like I'm really laying my cards out on the table with this post.  In one sense it does make me feel pretty vulnerable, but in another way its a bit of protection for me - if a sponsor is willing to partner up with me after this, they must be a good egg.
 
Let's keep it friendly even if we don't agree.
 
I really really want to know what you guys think about blog sponsorship.  Is this something you even think about?  I've been wanting to have a conversation about this stuff for a while - I can't believe it only just occurred to me to post about it here!  Seriously, I want your honest opinions here, so chime in even if you don't agree with anything I've said.  One thing though.  Let's keep the discussion constructive and respectful.  Thanks!

37 comments:

Alyce @ Blossom Heart Quilts said...

I'll jump in and comment!! I have a couple of blog sponsors and a couple of affiliate programs I use too. My first step into the sponsorship waters was very scary indeed! But I have only ever approached businesses I already enjoy buying from and who I am proud to honestly advertise for them. I made the decision to only advertise things I really love myself, and so I can do each sponsor/affiliate justice, I don't plan on having a sidebar with a mile long of sponsor buttons!

I have so much more I could say, but I can't right now. I'm happy to talk about it with you via email if you like!

Melissa at My Fabric Relish said...

It seems like you are really weighing your options and making sure your blog's integrity stays in tact. I agree with some bloggers going overboard with their sponsors and promo/giveaway post. Sometimes doing it for $ takes the fun out and as long as you are still having fun then what's the harm. I am glad you posted this and would love to hear more on the subject. I always say my husband is my sponsor. Lol.

ChristaQuilts said...

This is a great post and what better way to get opinions? I'll give you a little input from the sponsor side of things - (though I'm letting my sponsorships expire because I'm taking my business in a different direction and don't need to advertise so much anymore).

I love it when blogs have a sponsor info page so I know what I'm getting into ahead of time and I don't have to ask. You don't have to bend over backwards, just be clear in what your fees are and what the benefits are for them.

There are so many online shops trying to advertise that you shouldn't be afraid of asking. If you ask 20 shops and get 1 or 2 responses, that's actually very good! But don't fear rejection - it's business, not personal :-)

That being said - you may want to contact FQ shop first. They seem to be a sponsor on every single sponsored blog I've run across so it's a good place to start.

This is long but it's for all to see and learn - so good luck!

Jess @ The Elven Garden said...

My two cents on the whole sponsorship thing:
My blogging hasn't changed at all since I got my couple of sponsors - if I use something from one of my sponsors I will usually say so, but that's about it. Sara at Sew Sweetness has all her sponsor info available on her blog - which is what I based my initial emails on (although obviously asked a lot less per month for my little blog). Generally speaking, blog sponsorship means the shop pays you a monthly fee for displaying their button, and that's it unless you have agreed to other clauses. I tend to mention sales etc just because I like to know when they're happening and figure my readers might too - but this is my decision and I don't get compensated for it.
IMO, being sponsored doesn't mean you need to buy more fabric either :o)

I probably have more to say - happy to chat via email if you're interested :o)

Susan Owenby said...

You could always try it out. Give it a whirl with a sponsor. See how it feels and fits your blog and your voice. If it changes things in a way you don’t like – you don’t have to do it forever!

Patchwork and Play said...

I agree with reading blogs which have become one big advertisement. ( have you noticed how hard it is to 'un-follow' those blogs?!) it would be nice to have a sponsor or two to help with the fabric bills but as that's not going to happen tony little corner of blog land I don't really think about. Go for it, if it feels right for you!

Kristy @ Quiet Play said...

Differently to some of the other blogs the sponsors on my blog provide goodies for my BoM linky parties. I don't personally receive anything from them. But I advertise them on my blog because they are so nice as to offer prizes for the BoM giveaways!

So I don't have sponsors in the traditional sense- but I have signed up for the Craftsy affiliate program and that works for me.

I don't like the idea of feeling like I have to post about the latest news from sponsors just because they're paying me each month and (rightly) would deserve that exposure. I'd find it difficult to write more forced posts than just on whatever I want to write. So I stick with the affiliate program and post about it if I think people will be interested. I totally know what you mean about there being blogs that feel like one big advertisement it's a turn off.

I guess it comes down to finding a balance that works for you! :) Good luck with whatever you go with!

Camilla said...

I'm sure you can strike the balance Adrianne. If you stay true to what you really like and don't like and keep questioning yourself and enjoying sewing and blogging about it why not?!

Little Island Quilting said...

I personally find over-sponsored quilt blogs a real turn-off, especially when I can remember when they were sponsor-free. They just seem to lose some of their integrity and became a great big advertising billboard.
I have one sponsor on my blog and only because they approached me and I already use them. I do know special blog posts for them and was clear with them from the start.

I think it very much depends where you see your blog going. I have never seen mine as more than a hobby. When non-quilters ask me why I do it I explain it is my zone out/relaxation time. I equate to the enjoyment they get from something they like doing such as running to wind down. The only difference with my relaxation is there is a by-product (ie the quilt) at the end.

So if you look at it like that, what would you think if your friend who runs started looking for sponsors. You'd think they were wanting to become a 'professional'. Likewise with quilting it means you see your blog becoming 'professional' too. The consequence of that is that you have to be prepared for your readership to change. When I 'follow' a quilt blog it is because I like the journey they are on. If they veer off that journey I sometimes hop off because it's not wht I signed up for at the start.

I think ultimately you have to find a balance and maintain your integrity. I'd say you're off to a fine start with this blog post which has unintentionally made me leave the longest comment ever! Good luck.

Little Island Quilting said...

*No* not *know* !

dutchcomfort said...

That’s a well thought and written post Adrianne.

So many of my first day blogfriends aren’t inspirational anymore, their blogs are all about sponsorship and they obviously didn’t set up some guidelines for themselves on the how to’s and why’s.

I don’t mind a few sponsor buttons in the sidebar, but I’ve seen more than once that that’s the start of going overboard. Blog hops will follow and advertising fabric lines, hosting give-aways, making quilts of certain fabric lines, bringing out patterns and suddenly the blog is all about selling. That’s when I press the ‘un-follow’ button.

As I think you are really aware of that you could give it a try?!

Flying Blind... said...

Well I don't think I am going to say anything different to you and others.
Some of the original blogs I followed have become over-run and sponsorship-orientated and to be honest, are now completely boring and involve little creativity any more, which is a shame.
I am sure no-one would want to sponsor me anyway, so I haven't really given it much thought other than I would prefer to be sponsored by the shops I actually use, and who maybe are local (UK-based).
I know I could never make a living making things, especially when you can buy a mass-produced but quite nice quilt for about £25, but it would cost about 5 times that to make a fair profit and then pricing along the same rates as designers and boutique stores. Not going to happen.
I always put links back in my blogposts for any fabric I buy, just in case people want to follow through, but do they actually do that? I rarely ever do unless someone has a rare bargain destash going on!
Good luck with whichever way you decide to go, because anything that helps with the fabric bill can't really be a bad thing!

Salsy said...

Thanks for opening up this discussion so well Adrianne. The whole journey is to find you and your heart. Each challenge is something to be learned from, and each success will have its downside. Stay balanced and do what feels good for you..do what you love and love what you do.
Your blog is great..and gets better when you share a little bit of yourself. Your style is great.
I look forward to more.

Jo Jo said...

I don't think it would make too much difference to me. I follow your blog because you make beautiful quilts and you have lovely cats! It's highly unlikely that these things will change, so maybe try it see? Good luck!

Elmosmate said...

As a non blogger or not yet blogger this conversation is very interesting. I look at and follow a number of blogs and have always wondered how the sponsorship works. Don't do it if it is going to change your enjoyment of blogging. It would be a shame to "have to" blog about something you feel pressured to talk about. On the other hand i am sure there are some shops that you are loyal to and have provided you with great product and service so why not ask for their sponsorship. Your cats look so cute!

Lucy @ Charm About You said...

I think sponsorship can be really beneficial to you and the sponsors. I'd rather see blogs sponsored by fabric and craft shops than bombed by general adverts for nonsense. Different shops have different conditions for sponsorship and I'm sure you can state what you're willing to do (or not!). I only approach shops I use and like and I don't have money to buy vast amounts (many months with no fabric purchases at all!), so it's not like you have to buy more. I like to use shops I like as inspiration for pulling fabric too. So a new fabric bundle might inspire me to use similar colours from my stash. Do what feels right for you :) Oh and your blog is wonderful so they'd be mad to reject you ;)

Rebecca said...

I really love your blog and think you have achieved so much in a short time. To me it comes back to the number one reason you blog - it takes lots of time and effort and what really motivates you? That said if you want to have some sponsorship and that fits within your blog goals well go for it but please dont over do it!!

Ali said...

I have been thinking along the same lines recently, although my blog is much smaller and so I am only at the beginning of the process so it is something for the future.

I agree with the other commenters that over sponsership really spoils a blog. There is a UK based one in particular that now only posts sporadic sponser posts and nothing else and it used to be one of the best blogs.

On the other hand, though, I really like fabric giveaways (even though I've never won one) and they are often sponsered so that is a good thing.

As long as you don't let them take over you should go for it. And if it helps buy more fabric so you can make more things then that can only be good.

Adrianne said...

Thanks Alyce! I definitely agree with looking for sponsors you really love already so you can feel good about advertising for them. I've signed up to a couple of affiliate programs too after trying and really liking the products and I feel fine about that. It's just a bit different actively going out and looking for sponsors.

I think your point about limiting the number of sponsors you take on so you can do them justice is a really good one. I hadn't really thought that far ahead!

Teresa said...

The fact that you are worried that you lost readers, interest on blogging/sewing or independence is good, that mean that you don'd want to become one of these blogs. Just try one shop a certain time, then evaluate the pros and cons. I was thinking too about that but my blog is so small that only think about it 5 minutes ;)

Cille said...

First of all you not going to be overall rejected :) But I agree with most here that an oversponsered blog is not really that much fun. That being said, I still browse some blogs for ideas or even better... for discount codes. yes, a very useful thing when getting fabric shipped across the big Atlantic pond.

I've often seen some fabrics reviews that I didn't agree with and didn't really feel the blog author did either. Those posts is a waste of time and really I just stop paying attention, browse the pictures and if I like what I see, I'll read it. If not I'm moving on to the next blog spost.

So, I propably wouldn't hit the 'stop following' button just because you're sponsered. You just makes great quilts. What ever the fabrics :)But if I dont agree with you I wont comment either. So dead silence s a also a sign :)

Cille said...

ps. sorry for the typos. Rushing a bit here..

Fran said...

I really like that you've outlined all of your thoughts about sponsorship, I really like bloggers that are honest & upfront & 'real'. I agree with you about blogs that are more about sponsor posts than projects. I think that as long as you stay as you are & are transparent about any sponsor related stuff, then it can be a good thing for all involved. I reckon that if you approach shops/ companies that you use or shop from then that's a good way to go. And then it's about honesty & balance but you seem to have that sorted, so good luck!

Megan said...

I really enjoy following the blogs of people who just like making stuff and sharing that process. As a sociologist I can't help but be interested in the effects of capitalism on our leisure spaces. This means i find blogland fascinating for two quite different reasons . I have stopped following some blogs because I think they are too commercialised and I find it hard to stay interested in content that is essentially about marketing. I never enter giveaways for the same reason. Having said all that, I respect the right everyone has to pursue their own interests. Good luck!

Dominique said...

Great discussion, Adrienne. I do not have much input as sponsorship is not something I am looking at. I am a beginner blogger with a full-time job. I think there is a difference between making your blog your full-time business, like some of the bloggers, and wanting to have a couple sponsors to help pay for your hobby while earning an income somewhere else. Being in the second category means you have much more freedom and can really pick and chose how much sponsorship you want, and draw the line when it becomes too much, or when you feel your blog is no longer "you". Good luck with this, and keep us posted!

Leanne said...

This is an interesting conversation. I think that it might not be the sponsors that changes blog content but rather the choices that the blogger makes in terms of the sponsorship deal. Also, some bloggers just get into pattern writing and cannot share their work on that until the patterns are published. They seem to end up with little time for other projects and thus have nothing much to share, so I wonder if it is the sponsorship or the focus on designing that changes the blogs.

Amy Given Sewist said...

I think you can get sponsors and not become a "sponsored blog." There are several examples I have seen of that sort of sponsorship... I am thinking about getting sponsors, too, somewhere down the road, you know, after people start reading my blog... :) Anyway. I think if you are upfront with your potential sponsors about what you are willing to do for them, and what you will not do, there will be much less risk of the blog becoming something you are unhappy with.

Becca said...

Thanks for beginning this conversation. You and the other commenters have posted very sounds thoughts and reasoning.

My initial reaction is go for it. But the issues raised by you and others made me stop and think. I particularly like the commenters who have made the point to think about your goals and whether sponsorship would be a step towards those goals.

Food for thought. Thanks!

Kristy said...

If it's something that you want to explore...go for it. It doesn't mean that it's a lifetime commitment. One of the bloggers I follow (non-quilting) puts it all out there regarding rates and expectations. http://sillygrrl.com/sponsor-sillygrrl-com/

What I can speak towards is feeling obligated to use whatever a sponsor provides me with. While I don't have blog sponsors, as a Quilt Pattern Designer, I have worked with some fabric companies in the past and while I had grand visions of what that relationship would be...it wasn't. That's probably of course because I'm not a "Big Name"; but it still left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

Gwendellyn said...

This is really interesting! Almost every blog I follow has a sponsor of some sort, and I've been thinking about pursuing that once I start updating my blog more regularly. I know that no one wants to name names, but I am very curious as to what blogs you (or others) consider to be "over-run" with sponsorships and which just have a lot of sponsors but retain their integrity. I can think of quite a few blogs that I follow that do have lots of sponsors, but I've felt like they maintained their creative output as well; just wanted to know where other people draw the line. Maybe I just haven't run into any sponsor-only blogs yet haha :)

Adrianne said...

Hi Gwendellyn - thanks for your comment. I totally understand your curiosity about where other people draw the line on feeling like there is too much sponsored content on a blog. The reason I have not named names in my post is that I don't think it's fair to publicly criticise another blogger for what is a completely legitimate decision that I have a subjective opinion about. I wouldn't like it if someone else publicly used my blog as an example of how not to do things. I would strongly prefer that the comments to this blog post don't become a forum for people to point fingers at specific blogs they don't think do the sponsorship thing well. I'd ask that people refrain from naming specific blogs they think have too much sponsorship in these comments.

That said I am happy to share my thoughts on some specific blogs I think do the sponsorship thing very well, and if anyone else wants to point out blogs they think do a great job please feel free!

Faith at Fresh Lemons Quilts (http://www.freshlemonsquilts.com) has lots of sponsors but she keeps the volume of sponsorship activity low by combining almost all of her posts about sponsors into a monthly "Great Big Giveaway Day". That's great because readers still have the chance to win fabric and other stuff (who doesn't want free fabric) but aren't bombarded with constant sponsored posts.

Rachel at Stitched In Color (http://www.stitchedincolor.com) has a talent for turning her giveaways into contests that are fun and get you thinking about some of the stuff thats important for quilting anyway. I've participated in her mosaic making contests a few times and creating a virtual fabric bundle based on inspiration images and words is a great exercise in developing your fabric picking skills.

Erica said...

We have talked about this a little bit and I think it's totally a personal decision. Some people have way too many sponsored posts for my liking, but most people have a nice balance and it doesn't bother me one way or another. I figure that if we didn't have blog sponsorship as an option there would be a lot fewer tips and tutorials out there so sponsorship can be a good thing. Go with your gut! You have a great blog!

Lyndy at Stitchbird said...

I think as long as you stay true to yourself and what you want to blog about, then why not give sponsorship a go. If you find that sponsorship becomes to onerous and it changes the way you or others feel about your blog you can always change back to a non-sponsored blog. These decisions in life are not irreversible. I don't think your blog readers will think any differently of you because you have sponsors if you keep "your voice". Who knows maybe some cat food companies may wish to sponsor Ivy and Ralph because they are so adorable (even if Ivy suffers from bitchy resting face). As a shop owner (who may be interested in dipping her toe into the sponsorship waters), I would also be interested to know how many people actually click on the links for the ads in the side bars of blogs? You can always ask me :0).

Gwendellyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gwendellyn said...

Oh, obviously I wouldn't have expected (or wanted!) you to name names in your post, and I didn't mean to encourage people to discuss names in the comments or anything. It's so funny that you mention Fresh Lemon Quilts & Stitched in Color, because those are two of the blogs I was thinking of when I mentioned blogs with sponsored content but that kept their integrity! Thanks for your insights, though; it's something difficult to quantify, especially without enough experience with a wide range of blogs to have enough context :)

Kelly Young said...

Thanks for writing this Adrianne. I've just been catching up on my blog reading and I have to say that you said pretty much everything that has been running through my head lately. I'm still mulling it over. Good luck with whatever path you decide to take!

:) Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation

sharpie said...

I'm so happy you decided to start the sponsorship conversation, Adrianne! I've given some thought to it myself (though I get hung up on the, "Well let's not get ahead of yourself, self -- who would ever agree to sponsor your random endeavors, anyhow?") and can relate to the "hush hush" nature of it all. (C'mon people -- we are analytical by nature and need something to go off of!) That said, I'll be very curious to hear about your experience while I work on culling readership for my own someday-but-not-quite-yet-or-maybe-never-still-thinking-on-it sponsors ;)