The Perils of Problogging

There seems to be a rift between personal blogging and professional blogging (aka problogging). In Shari’s recent post, where she compares blogging in the past and present, commenters seem to imply that running advertisements on their blogs as well as people who start blogs for the sole purpose of blogging is a miserable example of how desperate people are to earn money. Worse, at least one commenter believes blogging is not hard work, and that if you don’t exert (physical?) effort (hindi pinagpaguran) into a job, then the money isn’t well-earned.

I don’t think problogging is evil, nor the antithesis of personal blogging. Placing ads on blogs to write off the maintenance costs of (yearly) domain registration and hosting fees is one good use of problogging-earned money; any type of blog can benefit from that.

Let me just stress that making your money work for you with little to no marginal effort is not a bad thing either. The most successful people on Earth work smarter, not just harder. If people can invest in stocks and franchises, why not in blogs?

Also, “effort” is relative. Good, successful blogs require dedication (to satisfy the thirst of your readers), skill (to communicate clearly to your readers), and a fair amount of goodness (more about this later). Without these, professional blogs turn sour. Here are the most common reasons:

Bad Advertising/Monetization Choices

Do people actually mind the full-page ads of Cartier, Gap, Calvin Klein, etc. that fill up more than two-thirds of fashion magazines? No, because they’re easy on the eye and fashionable, that is, useful to the readers.

The same idea should be applied to online ads: choose ones you think readers would find useful. Text ads like Google Adsense and Text Link Ads are less tacky and more intelligent (“contextual”) compared to animated banners—“YOU WON A PRIZE” with a thousand exclamation points, neon flashing colors, and spyware—but anybody eager to earn more cash can slap both on, and in all the wrong places.

Then there are the referral/networking/affiliate schemes (find out what Agloco really does). These make it completely obvious that you are not trying to be fashionable, that is, useful to your blog reader.

Boring, Insensitive Content

I get tired of reading soulless, insensitive blog posts that lack motivation other than money. Best examples are the sponsored reviews courtesy of ReviewMe, PayPerPost, or that Acer Ferrari laptop bundled with Windows Vista. People won’t fault you for fully disclosing you were paid to write about a product, but if that “laser surgery” review is so out of place in between “I went to the mall” and “pictures of my cat” posts, do you have to wonder why you will lose returning visitors?

Of course, plagiarism is out of the question. With the abundance of article sites out there, amateur probloggers (what a paradoxical term!) think they can get away with posting unoriginal content, an especially attractive tactic since minimal effort is required.

Less subtle are those from the more professional-looking sites that churn out dozens of posts a week. These are predictable posts with a straight-up formula: announce the gist of the post, quote a snippet from the source (e.g. CNN, boingboing, kottke.org, Slashdot, CNet, etc.), and provide the link out. How are these posts any better than the aforementioned sponsored posts? Especially if the blog, although professional-looking, are not the foremost authority on the subject, only another echo in the chamber?

If you call yourself a writer because you are a blogger, then live up to the expectations of your readers. More so if you make money off them.

Giving Blogs a Bad Name

The popularity of blogs, coupled with its potential to draw convert visitor traffic into profit, has also led to the make-money-online bubble. This is becoming a turn-off for those who believe blogs are better defined as online personas rather than money mills. Art for art’s sake versus all about the benjamins. Idealism versus practicality. Good versus evil…?

Even if money is the root of all evil, you aren’t necessarily giving up the good side of the force when you become a problogger. Blogging smart is blogging useful and ethical entries, not misleading or lazy ones.


Incidentally, somebody’s gotten a big boost in his problogging career. Yep, the Corsarius is blogging at Performancing: read his first post! (No, this post has nothing to do with the good news, i.e., hindi ako nagpaparinig!)

25 replies

  1. Hi Stellify! Thanks for dropping by. I recognize your site! You’re one of the finalists in Best Tech Blog category, right? :)

    True, those sponsored reviews by BTP, PPP, etc can be very annoying. I actually skip a sponsored entry when I see one. Haha. Once I tried BTP on my personal blog, but I cringed in disgust after I realized the effect it had on my blog (and my readers!). I never did that again. But I do make use of sponsored reviews on my other (not-so-personal) blog. :)

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  2. Yes, Joni. Glad you noticed. :) I have no qualms about sponsored reviews—if they are appropriate!

    Editor? I’m not even sure what that means anymore. Ranter is more like it. Grah, my posts are too long. If I were another person I’d add that: don’t write too lengthy posts. :(

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  5. Regnard, true! I am first and foremost a web (slash computer) enthusiast (not expert).

    J, thanks for the heads up, as well as the mention on The Blog Herald!

    Garro, wouldn’t that be an echo chamber as well? Anyway, check out Techmeme.com. That’s more or less the automated version of it in the tech world. :) (Yes, that guy is irritating!)

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  6. I have nothing against people making money on their blogs. In fact I kinda like the idea that you earn something from it. But what I do don’t like are those blog sites that blatantly post ads on each corner of their site making it look like the classifieds than a blog. I quickly close my browser when I stumble upon those sites. What an eyesore.

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  7. …Which is why–

    (insert hopelessly arcane ramble about writing, words, blogging, the web, art, commercialization, truth, beauty, and humanity)

    — or at least, one of the reasons why — I don’t want to be published. And don’t own a blog anymore.

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  8. Haha, well, Mor is a dumping ground for stuff and Keeg is owned by the collective? One’s not a blog and I don’t own the other? Iunno. I wish I hadn’t caught the “pickiness w.r.t. semantics” bug from one of those articles on blogging I read years ago.

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  9. I dont find anything bad in earning money with blogging. Its like earning money with writing books. Just more democrating..you dont have to beg for a publishing company…you can generate your traffic by yourself.

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  10. Mia, I meant the general sense of a blog. Livejournal is a blog. Mor runs on WordPress and therefore is a blog. ;)

    Zsolt72, I don’t find anything bad either. Advertising is BIG.

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  11. It’s really simple: I put ads to pay for the upkeep of my site, everything else is gravy. I’m a web guy who blogs, not a blogger who does web stuff. :)

    That’s a nice way of putting it. :)

    If you start a blog solely for earning money, discussing a topic you have no business talking about, then that’s a mockery. But there’s nothing wrong earning a living doing the things you’re passionate about — people in the arts are doing that exactly. However, integrity should be intact and there are certain ideals we should uphold and never compromise.

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  12. True. Unfortunately, that’s what the vibe of the business side of blogging gives off: it’s easy to make money and often that’s the only thing people care about.

    “But there’s nothing wrong earning a living doing the things you’re passionate about” — it doesn’t have to be the arts, though. The ideal job is one that you love.

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  16. ia, mabenta itong post mo. The Blog Herald, huwaw. Thanks also for the link. ;)

    I’m sorry that some people seem to have taken my post the wrong way. I’m simply comparing strictly personal blogs, mainly because I’ve become frustrated on the deteriorating quality of personal blogs I normally visit. They’ve become ad-infested that it’s hard to read what they’ve really written (which is, honestly, crap). And geesh, the sponsored posts are just horrible. Can’t they just incorporate the sponsor links in their entries more gracefully than just blatantly showing them to me without even disclosing the fact that the posts are sponsored?

    I also disagree with what Tammy said. I know how hard it is to earn money online. I’ve tried Blog to Profit twice, and I just cringe at those posts whenever I read them. But I try to integrate those links to my posts in the most natural way, and it really takes time to be creative enough to do it. Probably the only time you’re going to notice that they’re sponsored posts is when you see the links, haha.

    A very well-written pseudo-response. Now I only have to wonder if I have the guts to put even some minor ads in my site. Sayang yung exposure kasi.

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  17. Shari, thanks for writing about it in the first place! And thanks to J for mentioning it on BH—Phillip also mentioned it on Performancing.

    Unfortunately these horrible personal blogs have became that way because its owners have been misinformed. (“Make big money quickly, easily!”) It’s a tip of the iceberg—how about grey areas like sponsored links on WP themes, etc.? It’s really difficult if people have no idea what it is exactly that you are doing on the web, a very foreign place for them.

    Go for it! Your site is very popular and I’m sure you’ll come up with a brilliant method of monetizing it, even at least for covering bandwidth and domain expenses!

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