Challenges, Money, Reflection

“Free” Entertainment and Inspiration

I wish some of my go-to blogs and websites for entertainment would stop trying to sell me stuff.

I know why the links are there, sitting at the bottom of a blog post or article. Even if I hadn’t known what they were doing there, phrases like, “Shop this article!” and “Shop her look!” would have clued me in. So many websites that I enjoy, in addition to showing advertisements, pay for themselves using affiliate links to vendors; readers click through the link, buy the product, and the vendor sends a cut to the website. Straightforward, but annoying.

Annoying, though, as a word, does not sufficiently explain my feelings around the affiliate links. It is not annoying to me that a website or a blogger is trying to make money off of their writing. That is important, and that’s what keeps the lights on, especially if their readers are like me, and tend to use a browser with an advertisement block!

What is frustrating or disappointing about affiliate links is that I feel as though I can no longer trust the content of the post, or the intention behind the post. Did someone write an article about their tips for de-stressing or decorating because they like the tips, or because they were hawking an affiliate’s product?

This is not a problem I have on my blog, because I am a very small operation and I write for an audience of one (and my mom, hi mom!) In that sense, I write what I want to read, because I want it to exist in the world. While I can appreciate that as a mental exercise, it doesn’t have the same feeling of entertainment.

I like to visit other blogs that don’t have the same perspective as my own. I seek advice from people who are wiser than me, or who have been in situations already that I am just beginning to approach. I read to inspire myself, to hold a mirror up to my own situation, and to learn things that I can’t simply write about off the top of my head. After all, if I knew them, I may not need to read or write about them in the first place!

Affiliate links, ‘shopping a story,’ crush that feeling for me. It puts a barrier, however necessary, between me as a reader and the author or creator. Instead of the feeling that I am getting some quality advice, I feel like I’m being sold a bill of goods, and that I need to venture ever further towards crowd-sourced content for the little gems of wisdom that aren’t influenced by a brand. I’ve become more active on sites like Reddit as a result, but even then, that content form is not as appealing to me as a well-written post or photo set.

I know that many bloggers use disclaimers, and clearly state that they make money off of a product. Transparency isn’t the issue for me, it’s the intention behind the post at all. I will use the products that essence makeup sent me, and I will probably write about them. Yet, in a reaction to my own annoyance, I will have to be clear with myself (my reader!), that I would never have purchased those products independently.

Perhaps I’m being selfish or naive by seeking content that seems genuine by not trying to sell me something at the end. Perhaps I’ll understand that it’s possible to be genuine and get paid at the same time, if my blog ever attracts the interest of a brand. Sponsorship doesn’t compromise the beauty in the expression of an art form, but it may compromise the content.

For now, or rather, after my thesis, I will focus on creating the kind of ‘genuine’ content that I want to see, and looking for people doing the same thing. For now, I won’t give up my usual routine of entertainment sites, but it will be worth it to examine different sources of entertainment to eventually supplant them.

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