Based upon my observations and experiences, I would say that there are three basic types of bloggers:
- The Professionals These folks claim to earn their daily bread solely via blogging and expend a lot of effort studying and writing about “SEO,” niches, marketing research, analytics and all sorts of other concepts I neither understand nor want to understand. The also write extensively about how to blog, attract and keep readers, etc.
- The Dabblers In this group I include all those bloggers who do not claim to sustain themselves financially solely with their blogging efforts. Rather, they supplement their incomes with some advertising or paid content that is integrated into an otherwise personal site.
- The Fun Seekers The vast majority of bloggers are, like me, folks who just want to have fun. Blogging is not a money-making proposition but, rather, just an enjoyable hobby, especially for people like me who do a lot of professional writing but want a platform where we can write creatively and dabble in other genres.
So could someone please explain the alarming proliferation of blurbs like “If you enjoyed this post, why don’t you buy me a cup of coffee?” or “How about buying [Blogger’s name] a Starbucks?” on strictly personal sites where no services are provided, no advice rendered and no goods sold? One couple asks readers to donate to their building fund — they are attempting to move from a trailer to a custom-built home.
I’m not referring to sites operated by “techies” who provide invaluable blogging tips, guidance, plugins or hacks in exchange for which a PayPal link is provided for the convenience of readers who found the information particularly helpful and wish to make a “donation.” Frankly, I don’t mind making a modest contribution when computer industry professionals or students provide me with free advice or software. After all, I don’t, for the most part, provide legal services free of charge. Fair is fair.
On the contrary, in the past week alone, I have visited at least ten purely personal sites where the owners have opted to extend the cyber equivalent of a Dickensonian tin beggar’s cup to their readers.
Some bloggers worry that transforming their blog into a semi-commercial venture might “cheapen” it and alienate some readers. If their fears are well-founded, what can be said about this new phenomenon?
I will be very curious to read your feedback.
For me, the answer is very simple and straightforward. When I discovered the new campaign launched by the bloggers in question, I was repulsed and, after clicking upon the verbiage or graphic in question to confirm that it was indeed a link to PayPal, closed the browser window. I will neither visit nor link to those sites in the future.
For one thing, I know nothing of those blogger’s personal circumstances, i.e., whether or not they need financial assistance. Secondly, they have not provided me with any goods or services. Therefore, they have not earned my business. In contrast, I worked my way through undergraduate and law school, and work hard to support myself and my family. I give regularly to deserving, reputable charities. The blogs I am referring to do not meet the criteria.
Most importantly, the bloggers in question have done exactly what some fear: They have cheapened themselves in my eyes. I cannot imagine just walking up to a stranger in the street, holding out my hand and asking for money. But that is what is taking place on those sites. It is offensive conduct and I will neither condone nor be part of it.
So to the bloggers in question, here is my response to your plea: “Buy your own coffee.”