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Sway Group

Why It’s Insulting To Ask Bloggers to Work for Free

By October 29, 2013January 18th, 2021No Comments

We are big fans of the recent New York Times article titled Slaves of the Internet, Unite! Author Tim Kreider’s palpable frustration at being repeatedly asked to write things for free is one that’s deeply familiar to those of us who are bloggers or work with bloggers:

I’ve been trying to understand the mentality that leads people who wouldn’t ask a stranger to give them a keychain or a Twizzler to ask me to write them a thousand words for nothing. I have to admit my empathetic imagination is failing me here.

Most online publishers have their inbox filled on a daily basis from PR professionals hoping to score some free publicity for their product. Plenty offer nothing in return for the favor, while some may go so far as to provide a gift card or coupon. Best of all, they often ask for immediate turnarounds or specific word counts. In fact, here’s an email I just received while composing this post:

What do you think? Any chance you can review the app today?

What do I think? I think the chances are quite low, being as how I’m not in the business of providing pro bono marketing services for anyone who manages to add my contact information to their generic “Dear blogger” pitch list.

Some brands or agencies tout the exposure they’ll give a publisher in return for their time and effort, but let’s be real: the reason brands want to work with bloggers is because of their online influence. Whatever exposure a publisher may get from working with a brand pales in comparison to the value they provide as a trusted source. When a professional blogger can help advertisers connect with their audience, that work is worth something. Specifically: money.

As Kreider puts it,

Practicalities aside, money is also how our culture defines value, and being told that what you do is of no ($0.00) value to the society you live in is, frankly, demoralizing. Even sort of insulting. And of course when you live in a culture that treats your work as frivolous you can’t help but internalize some of that devaluation and think of yourself as something less than a bona fide grown-up.

Of course, the sheer number of bloggers means there’s always going to be someone willing to write or promote for free. But if you’re aiming for a memorable campaign that delivers results, you’d do well to remember that age-old saying: you get what you pay for.

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