The Dark Side of Blogging

darkside

It’s so easy to get sucked into the dark side. We all start out with good intentions — we find things we love, and we want to share what we love with other people. And maybe we want to make a little money, too, because who couldn’t use a little extra change?

Bloggers really can influence people. And that’s why companies want to get into bed with bloggers. I remember not long after I first started blogging, I read the post Why Bloggers Should Stop Working for Free.

And I thought, that’s all well and good for you, obviously you have figured out how to turn your blog into a business, something that still eludes me. And if you read the post, you will notice that Megan does say not to expect to be paid for reivews — at first. Also to ask for what you want, such as a link back to your content.

So I filed it away in my little brain at the time and I have to be honest — for the most part, companies are not beating a path to my blog. Not yet, anyway. And some of the ones that have clearly fall into the categories Megan talks about — it’s all about them, not about creating a working collaboration.

Fast forward a year or so
So one day I read Patty @ Noguiltlife’s post Newsflash: Mom Blogs Do (Sometimes) Suck, which she wrote in response to the post Dear Mommy Blogger. I’m not actually a mommy blogger, but I’d say I fall into the hobby blogger community, and the wannabe a professional blogger maybe community.

Posts like Josi’s always strike me as a plea for attention and a bit of sour grapes. I think a lot of bloggers get into blogging with good intentions, find some fast money, and find themselves sucked down into the rabbithole and doing things they weren’t planning to when they first got into blogging.

You see posts like this every so often. We get lured by money, by more exposure, by flattery.

The ZOOMA Debacle
I dodged a bullet on that one. Darlene was signed up for ZOOMA Cape Cod. Mr. Judy & I like the Cape. His parents retired there, and we’ve spent a lot of time there, although they no longer live there and we don’t spend as much time there anymore.

It sounded like fun, though. I’ve already done my MA half, but the 10k fit nicely into my training schedule. There was a lot of back and forth between Mr. Judy and myself. I tried to get a few of my friends to come with me. We actually got as far as renting a house (knowing we could get a full refund within a month if we changed our minds).

In the end, despite some interest, the friends weren’t going to come. And then while we were in NYC last Friday, I got a text from one of those friends: the race was sold out. Oh well, I thought, it wasn’t meant to be.

I had noticed, a couple of days before, that there was a note on the ZOOMA Website saying “permit pending”. And that was the problem — they failed to get a permit. They canceled the half, changed it to an untimed 5 & 10k and yoga weekend, and tried to make it seem as if this was a good thing.

Last year I ran ZOOMA Annapolis. It was the eighth year the race had been run. It was hot, hilly, and humid. And at one aid station they ran out of cups, at another they ran out of water altogether. Luckily I had my small handheld with me and had had it refilled halfway through the race.

Let’s just say I wasn’t particularly impressed by ZOOMA, which is a darn shame. The idea is good. Apparently this year the Annapolis race was even more disorganized.

I am now boycotting ZOOMA races; they don’t really seem to care much about the runners.

But What About the ZOOMA Ambassadors?
ZOOMA Ambassadors don’t get the same experience as the people who pay for their race. Let’s face it, anytime your don’t have to pay for a race, and you’re wined and dined and get extra goodies, it can’t help but shape your opinion of the race.

I am friendly with some bloggers who are ZOOMA Ambassadors. It was suggested to me that I should apply to be a ZOOMA ambassador, too, but I replied that after my experience last year, it just wasn’t a race I could get behind. Which is probably kind of snarky on my part, because it was my one and only experience of ZOOMA and you really can’t judge a franchise by one experience.

With everything that has gone down recently, though, I’m glad I didn’t apply. I’m not holier than thou — I want free stuff as much as the next person. But it’s hard to stay objective when you’re given stuff for free.

I still like my fellow bloggers who are ZOOMA Ambassadors, but I know that it’s just not for me. I also know that the way ZOOMA handles its races most definitely not the ambassadors’ fault, and no doubt they’re not terribly thrilled by what’s going on, either.

I do get a small amount of money to spend on  Skirtsports and a nice discount. I’m pretty honest (I hope) with my opinions about their clothing. While I do love Skirtsports, and have been buying them long before I was chosen to be an ambassador, there are still things I don’t like (the fact that, for me, anyway, I can’t put sharp objects into the Gym Girl Ultra Skirts’ pockets without getting cut, although it’s fine on the Happy Girl Skirts, for instance).

I hope I can always remain honest in my reviews. So far I haven’t hosted a giveaway (except that one time which was my own baked goods, which in an odd twist of fate Darlene won — fair and square, I swear!), and if I do, I hope it’s for a product I truly love and use. You can be sure that I’m not going to purchase a Kitchenaid mixer out of my own money just to host a giveaway for it and hope to get some new likes, because those likes are not going to keep reading my blog, and connecting with other runners and like minded people is still my number one objective for this blog.

You get what you put into it
Even if I never make a dime from my blog (so far, I havne’t), I don’t anticipate that I would stop blogging. I enjoy it. Perhaps someday I’d spend less time on it. Even this summer I’m spending a little less time on it.

I enjoy writing, I enjoy the comments, I enjoy the interaction with like minded bloggers, I enjoy sharing healthy recipes, and often I have something to say.

Does my blog suck sometimes? No doubt. Did I start my blog just to make money? No. But if you could make money doing something you truly love and not get sucked into the dark side . . . well, that’s the holy grail, isn’t it?

If the only reason you start to blog is that you want to make money, some day you will no doubt burn out. Maybe you’ll find yourself doing things that really don’t interest you or feed your spirit. Maybe you’ll find that it’s no longer fun or rewarding.

And maybe you’ll make a ton of money and never have a moment’s regret!

I’m truly interested in what you have to say about this subject — especially if you’re a blogger or if you got caught in the mess that is ZOOMA Cape Cod. Tell me in the comments:

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

What sort of topics would you like to see more of on my blog?

Have you run a ZOOMA race? Did you like it? Would you run another one?

I’m linking up with with MCM Mama Runs, Marcia’s Healthy Slice, and My No Guilt Life for the Tuesdays on the Run linkup.

Tuesdays on the Run
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47 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Blogging

  1. I read the beginning of josi’s post then got the idea, got bored, didn’t finish it.
    I started blogging to try to get local interest in my community to sponsor me for a run. It worked I raised £2000. But on the way I found blogging was fun, met some likeminded people and have made some friends.
    Not everyone wants to make money. Some blogs are very entertaining whether they read yours or not, but they get less so when they start to relentlessly promote products. Unless it’s something I’m really interested in I just skim over those bits😊

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  2. I think if the main intention is money, it will lead to censoring. At least for me. I love to be able to write what I want and without thinking about possible impacts. On the other hand I think if you I.e. put the time in to bake recipes from a book and do a review on it and link it up, that works well. I like your post on this! It’s all about protecting your integrity and not sacrificing it for a quick like or cent.

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  3. I had not heard of the ZOOMA debacle. Wow so Cape Cod’s cancelled?? I ran Zooma in Lake Geneva WI years ago and it was fine. They changed it to the most mundane course in Chicago in the hottest month of the year the following year and I passed. Word has it that race was a mess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Technically it isn’t cancelled, although there won’t be a half. And people who already signed up are supposed to be able to request a refund.

      And it’s not the first year they’ve been in that location, so I don’t know why it became such a mess.

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  4. Great post! When I started blogging I had no idea people could make money doing it! I write professionally as well so I think that may help a little when it comes to getting opportunities to review products. I will tell you though, I don’t review just any products just to be paid. I want to stick with the integrity of our blog. I have turned down numerous offers to write about feminine products and to help promote the movie release of Fifty shades of grey. Neither of which I felt had a place on my blog. Just be true to you in essence keep doing what you’re doing! Looks like you have a dedicated group of readers Judy!
    Oh, and that stinks about Zooma. I have a friend who won a free entry to the half and she lives all the way in Colorado. I wonder if she will make the trip for the other 10K?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been reading blogs for a looooong time, so I knew it’s possible to make money with them. It’s not why I started the blog, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hopeful to make money from it someday. Because I don’t work right now.

      Darlene had a friend who was coming to ZOOMA from far away. I just can’t see ZOOMA surviving much longer since it seems they can no longer get permits almost anywhere (what’s up with that?).

      And I really respect AMR, and wonder at that partnership.

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  5. I went into blogging initially because I was taking a web design class and it was an assignment. I really enjoyed it, so I decided to keep doing it. I don’t do it in hopes of being able to make money; I wouldn’t have a clue how to do that. I just do it in hopes of inspiring others to eat healthy and be active, and to be kinder to all beings, human and non-human. I’ve met some awesome people who have become really good friends through blogging, so I’ll keep on blogging until it becomes a chore and I no longer enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually started blogging waaaay back when (about 15 years ago) when one of my cats was very sick — it was a way to try to keep track of what was going on with her. Obviously I wasn’t trying to make money from that.

      I didn’t get into it with the sole intent of making money, but I won’t lie and say I wouldn’t like to make some pocket change from it. Some day.

      But I keep blogging because I have a big, fat mouth and a lot of ideas. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I read comments on Zooma’s FB page since I went there looking for news on the Texas race. The Texas race didn’t happen this year, and if they didn’t get permits for Cape Cod, I’m guessing they didn’t get permits for Texas. It’s not a shock that races need permits, so when they don’t get them, it reeks of being unorganized. I’ve never done a review on my blog, and I don’t write my blog for extra money. I was inspired to start a blog by other runners, and it’s a fun escape. I never was a writer, but I can be online.

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  7. This is a fantastic post, Judy. I’ve never run ZOOMA because it’s nowhere near where I live and there are a million other races I would rather put my time, energy, effort, and possibly money into so I have no commentary on that. But yes, I agree, sometimes bloggers can be sellouts. I’m as honest as it gets so hopefully my readers are all good with my reviews, but I only know my own experiences so there’s that. Let’s continue to keep it real.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting points. I had been looking forward to running the Austin ZOOMA this year, but they didn’t get the same venue so it was cancelled. I considered running Annapolis since it was going to fall around my vacation, but didn’t want to change my plans. After reading your assessment of Cape Cod and Annapolis, I’m not enticed. I blog to have a creative outlet for writing (and chronicle my running for my terrible memory). I write for a living but it’s pretty technical, so it’s nice to be silly, serious, or whatever on the blog. I have zero expectations about money, and I wouldn’t post a review for money. I don’t buy products when people have been compensated for reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know about the Austin one. Obviously something is just going on with them, and that’s too bad.

      Would I write a compensated review? That’s a really good question and I don’t have an answer for it right now, as it has never come up so far.

      Money is definitely not why I started to blog — but a little bit would never be frowned upon. 🙂

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  9. I want free stuff!! Sunglasses, shoes, earbuds, compressions… bring it on, I want it!! 😀

    Actually, I started blogging so I could have a place to put my thoughts, maybe document some of my life history, follow my running path… this is better than a diary. But I never knew it could be so fulfilling with the friendships. It’s really cool. I still want the free stuff, but that’s not why I blog, ;D

    I think it would be kind of cool to be an ambassador for a race, at least to try it. I think I’d want to know the race was good first, then be able to promote it in a positive way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I’m certainly not above entering giveaways. And I wish I had enough clout with companies to get stuff to giveaway, but no, it’s not why I blog either.

      I was an ambassador to my last half, but I got nothing out of it except a bumper sticker, and I’m pretty sure at least one friend signed up using my code, but maybe she didn’t.

      Oh well.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this post! I had been thinking about this things the other day. I love free stuff, but have not reached out to any companies to review their stuff. That is just not something that interest me.

    And recently I stopped following 3 bloggers who were doing “product reviews” once a week. It is just exhausting to keep up with it… I would roll my eyes as soon as I would see “Product Review”, and it was just easier to stop following. Every once in a while I get it, but EVERY Single week!!

    I started blogging because I wanted to document what I was doing, and find others who were doing the same things I was.

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    1. I have reached out to companies on occasion for review products — things that I’m interested in. But it would never become the focus of this blog. At least I hope not, because that would definitely be boring!

      I didn’t start to blog as a journal (I have a written one for that, although sometimes I get lazy with the written one and I copy it from here), but I did start to connect with other runners and hopefully inspire people to make healthy choices and be active — that’s the most important part to me.

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  11. This is a cool post. I never really dabble much with ambassadorships (although, I’ve thought about it). It has occurred to me that I could run into issues and not feel like I can be honest when I talk about a product. I’m glad that you feel like you have that ability with Sport Skirts.

    That post by Josie is pretty obnoxious. I could consider a lot of the people I blog with to be friends of mine now. I like to read about their lives and how they are doing and I especially like to see that they are happy. Their happiness does not make me feel less about myself. Josie sounds like a real tool.

    Just keep doing what you’re doing. Your blog is great! Don’t go to the darkside! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kerry.

      I used to do a lot of reviews when I ran a graphic design site, and I think I’m pretty good at being impartial.

      Generally the things I apply for an ambassadorship for are things I’m already pretty passionate about. And if they were to drop me because of my opinions, so be it.

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  12. This is a really great post Judy, and you put it ALL out there! I’ve talked a little bit about wondering if I’ve gone to the darkside…when you are an ambassador for various races, it can get a little bit crazy, I’m learning! But I am always honest about what I do and want to promote things that I think fit my audience and are worth my time as well.

    I’ve tried doing different affiliate links and sponsored posts but it’s been a challenge. When you don’t have the “magic number” of followers, it’s hard to get anything going, so I’ve been more inclined to let certain brands come to me, lol.

    Now when it comes to ZOOMA…I was definitely disappointed to hear about the changes to Cape Cod. My sister and I were going to run the 10K and half respectively and have a sister’s weekend. I was really surprised that none of the other ambassadors seemed upset about the change, so I do think that there is a little bit of dishonesty sometimes when you’re getting things for free. I guess now, our trip will be more relaxing than anything!

    Oh and last thing – I really enjoy reading your blog and hope you stick around for a long time! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely don’t have the magic numbers. 🙂

      I might still be on the Cape that weekend . . . or not. We haven’t decided yet. My husband is leaning towards it. I’m looking for somewhere to go a little closer to home, but I haven’t had much time the last couple of weeks!

      And thanks for the compliment on my blog. I have no plans to go anywhere. A little pocket change would be nice, but it’s not why I started the blog.

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  13. As a ZOOMA ambassador we got the same information- permitting issues and a concern for the runner’s safety. I have run a couple of their events and have always had a great time. I am disappointed about Cape Cod since it was listed as a top 10 must run now it is no more. Ragnar Relay had the same problem with their Key West event and it was 100% sold out and they could not get a permit and had to cancel. It happens. We will see how this event unfolds!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We might still be on the Cape that weekend . . . not sure. But it does seem like this is happening a LOT to ZOOMA — I heard the same thing happened in Austin, and while I had a bad time at Annapolis last year, from what we read, this year was a lot worse.

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  14. I love this post . We have noticed so many bloggers who shill stuff just to earn money. Our blog is for us and we do enjoy trying products, but only if they fit with our goals and lifestyle. We have turned down tons of things because we either use a similar product or don’t have any interest. I can’t stand the blogs where runners are talking about multiple brands of shoes that they love. Sorry, it is just not happening. Christine ran Zooma in Napa Valley one year and enjoyed it, but that is a disaster what they are doing with the Cape Cod race. I can’t believe they did not have a permit before they started taking race registrations. I would be so angry if I had registered for that race.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, I do love multiple brands of shoes (and don’t represent any of them). So I can see how that would happen (I at least like to give people the benefit of the doubt).

      I wonder how many races deal with permit problems?

      It’s not just that one race, though, there have been problems with a stream of problems with their races lately. And they are trying to sell it like it’s an upgrade!

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  15. Lots of great thoughts here. I definitely fall into the “hobby” blogger category. I’ve given up on the pipe dream of actually getting paid to write. I enjoy the product reviews and giveaways, but at this point, I love that people read what I write and comment on it. I love the interaction with other bloggers and meeting them is a bonus.

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  16. Great post! I started a blog about 9 years ago just posting recipes from what I cooked because people were always asking about what I ate or if they could have the recipe. When I started getting back into running, I started a new blog to help keep me accountable, and for family and friends to keep up with my running. So, I definitely fall into the hobby blogger category. I do enjoy a free perk or discount here or there… and I LOVE the sense of community and the opportunity to meet fellow bloggers at races.

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  17. I’ve taken a couple months off from blogging (unintentionally), and missed it terribly. I started my blog with the intent of documenting my progress towards getting healthier, with a hopeful side effect of inspiring others who might be trying to do the same. Running was a natural topic to blog about since it’s become such a huge part of my life. I, too, nearly got sucked into the “you can make money from this!” premise, but have since realized that what I treasure most about blogging is the fellow bloggers I have met. While I haven’t been active with posting on my blog or commenting lately, I’ve continued to follow blogs I love and am inspired every day. We have so much in common, and your blog is one of my favorites! While you may not be making money (yet), know that you are inspiring those who follow you. Can’t wait to meet you one of these days!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, thank you, Dee. You know I love meeting bloggers and we DO have a lot in common. Do you follow Darlene too? Maybe we could all meet up for lunch one of these days. I never seem to do the same races as you do!

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  18. I agree with you on so much of this. I have no interest AT ALL in monetizing my blog. Honestly, it seems like it’ll take too much work, and I like to be able to write what I want without worrying about sponsors or advertisers. I also think sometimes bloggers end up posting too much sponsored content and it kills their blog. I post reviews rarely (like the Arctic Zero one I just did) and try to be as honest as possible in those reviews, but usually I’m buying the products myself and reviewing them for fun, not money or exposure. At the end of the day, I blog for myself, to reach new runners who want some motivation, and to be involved in the wonderful running-blogger community!

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    1. The main reason I am interested in monetizing my blog is that I don’t work, and so a little extra change would be nice — it would be nice to feel like I was contributing again, without actually having to go out and get a job, LOL.

      I think a lot of bloggers who get sucked into really trying to monetize their blogs start out with good intentions (but not all). And I also think there are definitely those that do it without turning me off, too.

      I’ll continue to chew on it, but I’m not going to stop blogging if it doesn’t happen.

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  19. I don’t have any intention of making money off my blog. I started it to just keep track of my races and to motivate myself to run. I used to have a lot more readers and more offers to review stuff but I think there is more competition out there…many more bloggers. And I am not wiling to put more time into it. As I’ve mentioned, I hate being stuck at the computer for hours composing posts. I do love the interaction and meeting new runners especially older ones like myself.

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  20. I didn’t hear about the Zooma thing, but not being in the US I might have missed it. I didn’t start blogging to make money, it was a personal project. There are some blogs out there I love (or used to love) but they were overtaken by so many sponsored posts and giveaways that they lost their blogging soul. So I stopped reading. I don’t mind give a ways (I never participate) but when it takes over, I usually stop reading.

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  21. Ahhh… monetizing. I think what’s great about blogging is that there is an audience for every one, and no real wrong way to blog, as long as you are honest anyway. I didn’t start out to make money, but I do get paid through my blog in various ways now. However, if I never made another cent, I’d keep writing. I love it! And I don’t want to ever stop writing. My rule is: do we use this? Would we use this? If so, then yes, we will try it and see how it goes. I’ve been very lucky that most things I’ve written about have actually been positive experiences. Choose wisely, my friends! 😉

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  22. Great post!!

    You know I have been thinking about monetizing…..still a debate but not a priority right now.

    I was so ready to do Cape Cod and totally disappointed for sure. When we were told (the ambassadors), many were still so excited and I was wondering if I had missed something or read something wrong. For the cost of traveling and staying in Cape Cod….it didn’t seem to workout for me at all….so like you totally dodge the bullet there! I am supportive of Zooma and want to work with them to create great races…need to find my voice to be able to share my thoughts.

    I find myself losing my blogging mojo…..I am hoping to find it soon and get back at it. I need to go back to why I started and go from there.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I ran ZOOMA Cape Cod in 2014 and it’s my PR half marathon. My sister and I had such a great time. How disappointing. It was a race I definitely would have done again. I’ll be keeping my eye on it, I didn’t know about the issues until I read this.

    Liked by 1 person

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