Unpaid Writers, Both Literal And Hypothetical

by anna on February 15, 2011

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Kids, if you haven’t yet noticed, I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m not functioning at full capacity lately. As such I’ve found it very difficult to write good content for this section of the website in particular. It kills me to put this whole section out to pasture for part of or the duration of my morning sickness, though, so I’m currently entertaining the possibility of hosting a few guest posts here. If you’re interested, please pitch me (anna at abdpbt View definition in a new window dot com) your idea and I’ll mull it over. Basically, if the topic is the business of blogging, and it sounds like something readers here will like, I want to hear about it.

I do have some mixed feelings about guest posting — for one thing, I’ve always felt that this blog is kind of inextricably tied to my voice, and for another, we all know how ambivalent I am toward the concept of unpaid (or low-paid) writing labor in general. That said, writing one guest post is a little different from signing up to be an unpaid “citizen journalist” indefinitely. So here are my rules, if anybody cares (and it’s very probably that nobody does, except me, but just to make things clear):

  1. All guest posts will have an author’s bio plus a link back to the author’s blog or business or whatever they want within the text of the post;
  2. I will only accept one guest post from any one blogger;
  3. There will be a (pathetic) payment of $15 for each post I use;
  4. The topic has to be amenable to the general zeitgeist of ABDPBT Personal Finance in general, i.e. no copy-and-pasted PR releases about Disney Cruises or the latest bullshit brand ambassador program (unless, of course, you have some kind of inside dirt that you want to share that will ensure it’s worth all of us reading); and
  5. I reserve the right to be rigorous in determining what is acceptable guest post material, and am guessing most of it will not be acceptable because I’m super crabby and difficult to please.

I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass about “exposure” here because, you know, whatever — everybody knows it’s kind of a crapshoot whether or not a guest post will really lead to a bunch of clickthroughs or new readers. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. But maybe there’s something you’ve been wanting to say about this topic you can’t say on your own blog, I don’t know. Give it some thought.

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Now, just to be totally hypocritical, I’m going to link to some of the interesting articles I’ve been reading about AOL’s recent purchase of the Huffington Post for $315 million. It seems that, now that there’s an actual, verifiable dollar amount attached to the value of the Huffington Post, some people are up in arms about the fact that they use unpaid writers! What do you know? Of course the deal is far more complex than many of these articles suggest (e.g. some of the Huffington Post’s staff is paid, and its tough to say how much of their traffic is actually produced by unpaid writers, etc.), but the discussion is still intriguing. As I said to Carla (who sent me the links to most of these, btw), I wonder if the New York Times will be called an angry jealous and bitter troll View definition in a new window for raising some of these questions? (My guess is no).

Tips For Conference Newbies

by anna on February 14, 2011

There are tons of blogging conferences coming up, and because I know these can cause an unusual amount of anxiety in otherwise normal people, I thought I’d give you some more tips on how to make the most of your experience. Below are some of my tips for conference-going in the blogging arena. Please chime in in the comments if you have more that I’ve overlooked.

1. Go to lunch by yourself.

If you are going to a conference where you already know some people, it can be tempting to rely on those people and never let them leave your side. That’s one way of approaching the conference, but another way might be to force yourself outside of your confort zone and try to get to know as many people as you possibly can. As I wrote here, going to lunch alone is a great way of forcing yourself to stick your hand out and introduce yourself to people you might not otherwise meet.

2. There will be eighty million private parties, and you won’t be invited to all (or any) of them. And it doesn’t matter.

Nobody gets invited to every single brand event View definition in a new window or party. (Nobody — not even the biggies, because some brands assume they won’t show up anyway.) There is a peculiar equation that is used to determine who gets invited to what party and when, and if you base your self-worth on it, you will drive yourself crazy. It just doesn’t make sense — some of the people invited will be “bigger” than you, some will be “smaller,” and each brand has its own theory as to why they want certain people at certain parties. The good news is that nothing really happens at these parties that will help you with anything, so unless you’re desperate for a swag View definition in a new window bag full of Diva Cups and Fritos, it really doesn’t make any difference if you’re invited or not.

3. The person you are talking to is always worth your time, and you can learn something from everyone you meet.

I’ve covered this before, but for some reason, this is something that comes up at nearly every conference — there is always a story about some blogger who turned up their nose at some other blogger, or a “more important” somebody who cuts to the front of the line (this last one has happened to me on more than one occasion, in fact). Listen: the blogging world is always changing, and who is “important” one day may be insignificant the next, and vice versa. Even if you are so unfamiliar with the rules of common decency as to not find this behavior problematic from a moral perspective, I beg of you to think of your own self-interest: what are you going to do when that person you just snubbed is in charge of some project you want to be a part of?

Here’s an interesting thing: one of the most “important” and well known people in the blogosphere I have the pleasure of knowing is Jenny Lawson, and she is also probably the most welcoming person I’ve ever encountered at a blogging conference. Are these two things unrelated? I don’t think so. When in doubt, think WWJLD?, and you will probably be OK.

4. Every year it gets bigger, but it will seem smaller next time you go.

Unless you have been blogging for years and years before attending your first blogging conference, there’s a good chance that your first experience will seem overwhelming and anonymous. This is particularly true if the first conference you attend is BlogHer View definition in a new window, Blog World Expo, or SxSW. Just accept this ahead of time and don’t let it ruin your experience — you probably won’t know that many people, you probably will have to stick your hand out a million and a half times, and because some people are always acting like douchebags, you probably will come back with some kind of awful story about a snobby blogger of whom you had never heard who refused to talk to you or something equally absurd.

Listen: that is just the first time conference experience at work. We all have to deal with it. Don’t sweat it. Because the next time you go, you will know a billion more people than you did the year before, and you will be laughing about how so-and-so snubbed you. And you’ll be the one reaching out to the girl who doesn’t know anybody. Look at the first trip as reconnaissance and it won’t seem as scary, I promise.

Hey everybody, we’ve got a new featured blogger ad up and running! Please check out Katy’s ad for Thought For Food in the sidebar ASAP! If you’d like to participate in the ABDPBT View definition in a new window Featured Bloggers Program, please email me and I’ll put you on the waiting list.

Some of you have been asking me to write about MckMama for a while now. (If you’re not familiar with MckMama, she is a blogger named Jennifer McKinney who blogs at MyCharmingKids.net, and who is most notable IMO to outsiders for the fact that she has inspired a huge following that is only surpassed in size by the legion of people who despise her.) I’ve shied away from it because I don’t feel like I’ve ever reached a sufficient understanding of the MckMama situation to provide any valuable insight.

That said: this is really interesting (if by interesting you mean “bad”), and I thought it might be an instructive point about the illusive nature of trust capital View definition in a new window. Recently MckMama was hosting a giveaway involving Lansinoh breast pumps. In her posts on the topic, she had made reference to speaking to people “from Lansinoh” about the giveaway. Somehow (and when I say “somehow” I mean, one of MckMama’s detractors probably told them, since Lansinoh stated that the tweets were “address[ing] consumers’ questions about our involvement”) Lansinoh’s official Twitter account was informed of this and set about making it abundantly clear that Lansinoh had NOT been involved in any such giveaway, that they had never worked with MckMama in any capacity.

Well. That’s odd. And some confusion followed, which was kind of cleared up when Lansinoh posted on their blog that they had not run the giveaway, and in fact what had happened was that some PR subcontractor had given MckMama the pumps for a giveaway on her blog:

Late in the day on Feb. 7, Lansinoh was informed that Ms. McKinney was in fact part of a sampling effort carried out by a third-party service provider. Due to an unfortunate breakdown in communication, Lansinoh was not informed that four Affinity® Double Electric Breast Pumps were indeed provided to Ms. McKinney. Lansinoh is taking steps to address the breakdown in the approval process that contributed to this misinformation.

Well, I guess that PR subcontractor won’t be hired again, since Lansinoh wants nothing to do with any of this, reiterating “Lansinoh does not support or endorse the blog My Charming Kids or @MckMama.” Jennifer McKinney’s response is here, if you’d like to read it.

The takeaway for me is this: attention and trust capital are sneaky bitches View definition in a new window. The whole thing reminds me of the story about Snooki from Jersey Shore getting gifts of competing designer handbags sent to her by companies who didn’t want her carrying their own bags. In other words: endorsement seems like a great idea until it doesn’t, and the audience turns on both you and the brand that you’re pimping.

Now listen: I’m an outsider, and I don’t know what the “true” story is here, and I’m not really sure it even matters. Both sides of the MckMama equation are pretty vehement about being right. But the only thing I know for sure is that when you have companies trying to absolve themselves of any kind of association with you, I think it might be time to reassess your personal branding message a bit. All bloggers have critics, and whether the criticisms are correct is really not relevant: if you get enough critics after you, they will become a market force of their own. This is why you cannot just ignore all of the critics and hope they will go away — what you might actually lose is all of your credibility.

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