Deciding if to take sponsors on my blog

I’ve been blogging on for five years and have debated taking ads for five years. My thoughts continue to evolve. At Interop 2015, held in Los Vegas, I ran into fellow Chicagoan and Blogger Chris Wahl. Chris has been very successful blogging mainly on deep technical topics such as designing and configuring a management dashboard. Prior to Chris’ session, I got a chance to pick his brain and get some advice. At the end of the day, he convinced me to at least attempt to take on sponsors.

Image: Wahl Network
Image: Wahl Network

Why I hadn’t accepted ads

A good place to start is why I hadn’t taken on ads prior to my conversation with Chris. First, my content isn’t as technical as some of the most popular virtualization focused blogs. I tell myself this is one of the reasons I don’t get as much traffic. I believe my content is a bit more niche.

It is a reflection of where I am in my career. I don’t get to turn many knobs in my day-to-day job. I spend my day sitting between the business and technology. I help ensure that technology selection and deployment meet the business objectives. I believe consumers of my content are in similar positions and respect my independence. I’ve traditionally felt that taking ads would either affect my independence or cloud the image of independence.

Point blank, I needed to get past my concerns of independence. Ultimately, an analyst can be trusted just as long as consumers understand where potential biases lay. Advertisement and content have been tied together as long as there has been creative content.

Secondly, I don’t believe in banner ads. Banner ads have been the primary method I’ve seen bloggers monetize their content. I don’t pay much attention to them on websites I visit. The click-through-rate (CTR) is the number of times an ad is clicked versus shown. A good CTR is three-tenths of a percent (.03%). That just doesn’t seem like an effective value-add for my readers or advertisers. Isn’t the whole point of advertising to connect consumers with products and services they are interested in buying?

Blogger for money?

The goal of my blog was never to make money, at least not directly. My desire is to give back to the community. Helping engineers become better engineers and purchasers make better buying decisions helps the overall industry grow. As a side affect, I get opportunities to make side income and gain elevated access to vendors. Virtualizedgeek has led to freelance writing assignments and invited to speak at conferences. I’ve also benefited from getting premium access to technology vendors through Tech Field Day events.

Deciding to take on sponsors would need to lead to added value to the community. It costs me a few hundred dollars a year to host VirtualizedGeek and support my small lab. The extra income should expand my capability to share information. I’d love to upgrade my recording setup to improve my TechTalks and add more complex labs.
I also expect that taking on sponsors will add to my personal bottom line.

What’s next?

TWiTI’m a fan of native advertising. I wasn’t too familiar with it until a friend of mine recommended I checked out sites like Storygize. Doing some research did help, as I know a lot more about it then before. Native advertising blurs the line between content and advertisement.On popular technology podcast <This Week In Tech, host Leo Laporte spends time each podcast going into a deep dive conversation about his sponsor. This conversation may last about 3 to 4 minutes. In written mediums such as blogs, this may take the form of sponsored posts. I don’t know if sponsored posts written by sponsors are the way to go. I believe readers/viewers visit VirtualizedGeek for my voice. So, I’m willing to write on topics sponsored by vendors.

Of course, I expect to provider disclaimer. I’d love to hear feedback and thoughts around the monetization of content.

Published by Keith Townsend

Now I'm @CTOAdvisor

2 thoughts on “Deciding if to take sponsors on my blog

  1. I’ve added sponsored ads in the sidebar of my blog a while back. I don’t see it as sponsoring, advertising or bribery at all. I see it as an acknowledgement of the vendors for the extra time we put in our blogs beyond our daily work. I also don’t specifically write about the vendors that sponsor my blog. They are there because they want to be there for that price. Sometimes, because of my attitude, I could very well end up writing something one of my sponsors really doesn’t like me to say. They would be free to drop my sponsorship immediately.

    What I do stay away from is specialised advertising. Like “we want a bigger ad and it has to be in the text”. I haven’t done sponsored reviews yet but I could see myself doing that with a clear disclaimer that it’s my words but someone did pay for it.

    But I am NOT just taking the money and run with it. I have made it clear (also at home) that every dime that comes in through the blog, goes back in the community. This is how I got to buy quality podcasting gear and bring the community the best quality of podcasts, whether or not I’m at home or on a convention. It also gives me the opportunity to take that flight to a near VMUG in Denmark of the UK and add some buzz for them as well.

    1. Great food for thought Hans. I like the idea of reinvesting proceeds back into the community. I’ve gotten some interesting response thus far. A number of bloggers don’t have an issue with taking on Ads. It’s the overhead associated with selling ad space. Even with BuySellAds they find that the act of going out and selling spots is more than it’s worth.

      I think this is why I like the sponsored posts/reviews. Anecdotal experience tells me it’s more inbound selling than banner ads.

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