Tag Archives: it takes a cyber village

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If we want to be taken seriously as bloggers, we must take blogging seriously.

I wrote that when I began If Emily Posted, when I found myself overwhelmed by the Wild West behavior online. Almost a year and a half after I began writing IEP, I still believe my initial hypothesis to be true:

Most bloggers want to do the right thing. Sometimes they simply need it defined.

I know I sound like a broken record at times, but most bloggers are running a solo show as writer, editor, photographer, publicist and agent. Most haven’t received a formal education in any of these areas. Especially the business end. (Hence the number of bloggers willing to do free PR, but that’s a post for another time.)

FACT: If you’re attempting to make a business out of blogging, or already are, you need to understand the FTC guidelines that concern bloggers who are monetizing their sites.

The guidelines are not new, but the March 2013 updates are important. We as bloggers, as professionals, need to keep up with this evolution. This homework is our responsibility. *

Attorney Sara Hawkins has written a wonderful breakdown of the FTC guidelines as part of her Blog Law series, and Blog With Integrity co-founder Susan Getgood wrote another great overview at BlogHer. The FTC booklet, which you can download for free, is good information to have on hand.

But I want to talk about what’s missing from the guidelines that many bloggers need.

You won’t find a section within the pages of that PDF that calms the fear that the word disclosure brings to many bloggers. A section that tells them not to be afraid of reader backlash for what can be an anxiety-provoking issue. (My friend Maegan wrote from the heart yesterday about misconceptions about paid content, and its strain on the blogger/reader relationship.)

Fear that readers will boycott keeps many bloggers from making disclosure obvious. They hide it in the fine print at the footer of their website or on their disclosure policy page or maybe they don’t say anything at all. Because they’re afraid of disappointing readers. It’s why bloggers post links to products in their posts or on their Facebook pages without disclosing “by the way, when you click this link it helps me make a living.”

FACT: When a blogger doesn’t disclose ads ethically, it hurts the rest of the blogging community that is playing by the rules. It promotes the notion that there’s something shameful in making a living this way.

IEP is primarily about social media netiquette and ethics for bloggers, but social media is a two-way street of content creators and content consumers. Sometimes readers need things defined, too.

Readers of the blogosphere, trust in the hardworking bloggers who create the content that inspires, entertains and informs you. Understand that your approval is taken very seriously. Also understand the hours, the days, the weeks, that can go into creating that content. (Paid or unpaid.)alexandra-wrote-rules-civility-disclosure-ftc

The new rules quite clearly tell bloggers to simplify disclosure. Make it clear. State it upfront and in each post where it applies.

FACT: For a long time, I place disclosure at the bottom of posts. I thought that was right. I was wrong.

If someone clicked through to check out a book I talked about before reading the affiliate links disclosure at end of my post, they’d have no idea. That’s why it needs to be the first thing they see, not the last.

It’s OK to make mistakes. The good news is this is all very fixable.

RULE: Don’t try to hide disclosure or bury it in fine print. Bring it to the top of your post and make it easy to read.

Bloggers owe it to one another to respect the rules. As I wrote in March of last year:

I’m not the first, and certainly not the last, to have referred to the web as the Wild West. The analogy works. But here’s the thing, the Wild West is not so wild anymore. It hasn’t been for a long time.

History has shown us that civilization can’t sustain itself if it isn’t, well, civilized.

Here’s to the rules of civility.

*My disclosure post from last November will be updated in regard to the #ad hashtag as per the new guidelines.

Some new books from authors I love have come out recently, but they’ve yet to be picked up as I continue reading with great fascination, interest and, at moments, concern about what life with screens means. (If Emily Posted this Friday will be about some of the tools I’m using to make for mindful screen(s) time in 2013.)

Once upon a time, in our lifetimes, computers were where we wrote papers and letters and printed up dot matrix birthday banners. But, I digress and date myself.

I love what the web has opened up for us, and particularly in the blogosphere, I appreciate and enjoy the unique community it creates. A whole wide world made closer via a web that narrows it all.

My friend Morgan, of The 818, wrote a really great post on her blog yesterday that touched on one of the very things I am becoming increasingly aware of in my pursuit of mindful screen time: the way we think about what we receive online.

She writes about the truncated RSS feed and the various reasons she uses it. I do, too. There are so many reasons someone can choose to do this and some who do it without knowing why. They just click the button in their dashboard.

Here’s my take on it. The blogosphere is extraordinarily unique. Different from any form of writing I have ever done in my 16 years as a working writer. No matter how surface or deeply personal the subject, bloggers are writing for themselves. And the reaction they receive, be it via traffic numbers or comments, is validation. And validation is something we all need in some form.

As users, we take so much for granted online. We get so much information/inspiration/education/sustenance for free from the 1%.

The 1% known as the 1% percent before what we now consider the 1% – creators.

“It’s an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will “interact” with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.” – The Guardian, July 2006

(I need to do some research for more data, but I don’t believe the ratio has changed much. In fact, the surge in blogs and the degree with which people share via other SM platforms, makes me believe that the lurker numbers are higher and contributor/commentors are lower than 7 years ago. I’ll have to see what I can find beyond the anecdotal.)

I don’t think it’s bad if people don’t want to read blogs that they can’t view in full in an RSS feed, but I do think it’s important that they understand the many reasons why doing so isn’t really supporting creators. Sometimes that support can be financial. All times that support is emotional.

We skim rather than deep read online. That’s the nature of the beast. But the impatience, the skimming life, I watch how it bleeds over into the real world. Impatience grows. People complain when there isn’t a twitter handle to complain to. When a restaurant doesn’t have a website. When they can’t get what they want as soon as they want it.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I don’t like the direction this is heading. I don’t like that blog reading via Reader breaks a certain connection I believe it creates between blogger and reader. Reader with a lowercase r. But I do love that a Reader or RSS feed allows people to keep up with when someone has posted new content. It’s like hearing the mail truck drive away. You know the post has arrived. Now you have to go and get it.

Again, check out Morgan’s post. It’s good food for thought.