When I launched this blog, I decided to introduce a zero advertising policy – no paid advertising or endorsements. There were a couple of solid reasons for this.
Firstly, I don’t like blogs, which are just glorified advertising vehicles. They make me wonder if the posts are being written just as a way to sell ads, rather than provide genuine value.
Secondly, I wanted to show you that this blog contained information you could trust, without you having to wonder if I was being paid to recommend a product or service to you. My aim was to use my ad free approach, as a way to increase the quality of the content here and make it a more valuable resource for you and your business.
I soon had to include unpaid endorsements in this ban, as it was the only way to prove that this was a fully, paid-ad free blog. I tried offering unpaid recommendations, but as you will see later in this post, it just didn’t work.
However, after reviewing the impact of this approach since the blog’s launch in winter 2008, it’s become increasingly clear to me that my zero ad / recommendation has actually done the total opposite of what I intended.
In reality, banning all forms of paid and unpaid recommendations, has stopped me being able to provide you with a stack of genuinely useful, valuable information. I have also been unable to share some great resources with you, things that I pro-actively recommend to people on the radio or when I give a talk. I have even been unable to answer some common reader questions here; things I get asked all the time and have to answer individually via email – because the answer involves me directly recommending a product or service to you.
To show you what I mean, here’s just a few examples of the kind of issues I’ve encountered, by refusing to offer any form of paid or unpaid promotion here:
- Over the years, I have invested thousands of pounds and dollars on marketing and other business related audio programmes. Some of these programs have been massively useful and have the potential to directly help you and your business. One program helped me to totally transform my whole life! However, I have not been able to recommend them here. This has clearly stopped me being able to provide you with something of genuine value.
- After I reviewed Seth Godin’s blog, I got emails and messages on Twitter, complaining that it was an advertisement! In truth it was an endorsement, albeit an unpaid one, for a site that offers stacks of great, free content. There’s been (literally) dozens of similar examples. I mention this, to highlight the difficulty I have found in being able to bring you really useful information – within my self-imposed guidelines. This has clearly stopped me being able to provide you with resources of genuine value.
- David Henderson sent me a copy of his book; “The Media Savvy Leader” to review. I loved it. David’s a former Emmy Award winning CBS News Correspondent and really understands the media. His book is excellent, BUT I wasn’t able to review it for you here. So, I find myself in the insane position, where I can pro-actively recommend his book to my friends and contacts, but not to you. This has clearly stopped me being able to provide you with something of genuine value.
- I get emails on a very regular basis, from people asking the same questions – questions, which I could answer easily in the blog, but can’t because they involve me giving an endorsement. These include: “What emailing software do you use for your newsletter?”, “Which is best for Twitter management; TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop?”, “Which hosting company do you use for your blog?” and “What wordpress theme do you recommend?” etc, etc.
I know from the volume of email I receive, that answering questions like these here on the blog will help a LOT of people.
So, my friends and contacts all know the things I use and endorse, but my readers here don’t - And that’s just wrong!
Then there’s the borderline stuff
Things get even crazier, when you look at other borderline advertising issues here. For example, is that button in the sidebar that says ‘Twitter’ an ad for Twitter or not? What about the link at the bottom of the screen, that lets you know who configured this blog for me, surely that’s an advertisement? What about the links in my sidebar or the people who promote their services in the comments section of the blog? Though none of these mentions were paid for, surely they are all forms of advertising?
Clearly, something had to change. So after a lot of thinking, I have decided to kick the zero ad policy into touch!
Removing the barriers
The time has come for me to remove this barrier, so I can increase the value of this blog to you and your business. As a reader, you are likely to notice two significant improvements:
- Firstly, I will be able to write posts far more frequently, because posts will be written with total freedom and none of the previous limitations.
- Secondly, the blog will become a more valuable resource for you. That’s because the only qualification a post will now need, in order for it to be published here, is that I believe it will help you or your business to succeed. This leaves me free to share everything with you and is a powerful enough reason by itself, to make the change worthwhile.
I have not spoken to anyone yet about paid advertising here, as my primary reason for this change is to give myself the freedom to deliver better quality content to you. Everything I recommend on this blog, will be something I use and/or believe in 100%.
Of course, having now made this announcement, it’s likely there will be advertising enquiries. I have a blog that already successfully offers paid and unpaid endorsements, advertising and reviews; via a full disclosure policy. When the time comes, I will use a full disclosure policy here too. This means everything related to any form of paid advertising that you see here in the future, will be clearly identified. Full disclosure allows total transparency and the development and retention of trust.
For example, if I recommend a book to you that’s on amazon, and I include an affiliate link to it in the post, the link will be clearly marked as an affiliate link. Then, if you want to read reviews of the book on amazon or buy a copy, you can do so with just one click. By the way, bloggers typically make VERY little money from this kind of link. Chris Brogan refers to it laughingly as ‘beer money’ – and he has a massively popular blog. These links are primarily offered as a useful resource for people that are interested in finding out more about the book.
There’s a real irony about this, as I can be more open and transparent without the former ad ban, using full disclosure, than I could with it. Remember, only a relatively small number of my long-term readers even knew what my policy was! Everyone else must just have wondered why such a popular marketing blog had no ads and seldom reviewed anything!
By having the freedom to write for you, without all the previous restrictions, I hope to significantly increase the value of this blog to you and your business. I would like to know what you think about these changes, so please leave your feedback in the comments section below or if you prefer, by contacting me here.
In the 2 days since writing this post, I have received almost 90 messages; through the comments below, emails, Tweets and even a phone call from a long time reader – which was brilliant. All the feedback thus far is in support of what I am trying to do here. I have also seen my largest ever increase in my RSS subscribers. Thanks to everyone!