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F is for Finances: Are We Shooting Ourselves in the Blogging Bank Account?

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Piggy Bank

This is a tricky post for me. When I started BeautyGeeks, I intended to find a way to turn a profit from it of course, but mostly it was a way for me to approach beauty and style from my own perspective, to share helpful or interesting tidbits. It's a passion-driven project that also happens to be work. The thing is that for many of us in this online beauty-tips-and-reviews arena, passion drives us much more than profit. So maybe we're not making some moneywise choices.

To be blunt, the word on the blogosphere street is that while brands are willing -- determined, even -- to have us give glowing reviews of their products and basically sell their products for them (how many of us get enthusiastic comments and tweets from friends and readers who bought something we told them about?), many are not willing to support us by advertising. And big networks aren't the answer because the network owners are the ones making all the coin while bloggers eventually get 50 per cent of 50 percent. Or less, when you factor in the work you have to do to get it.

Here's a note someone sent me in a moment of frustration. It's not an actual letter from a marketing person, but the gist of the message bloggers are getting:

Dear (Blogger),

Unfortunately we do not have a budget for your services, which we ultimately view as not valuable. Our budget is reserved strictly for my job, my colleagues, our Facebook Intern and for standard print placements that most people don't read or interact with.

You should be grateful for the opportunity to promote our business at your own expense, and showcase that gratitude by writing a full page story about my brand, remembering of course to cross-promote that on Twitter and Facebook and then pay for shipping out of your own pocket. (Oh, and we'd like a comprehensive report at the end of the campaign, outlining the awareness you raised on our behalf.)

Just think of the traffic you will get from this! 500 valuable professional contesters will spam your database and you can reap the rewards by monetizing that traffic, which is worth at least $10!

I think that's a reasonable request for being associated with our fine brand, don't you think?

In magazine world, editorial -- all the product stories and recommendations -- are supposed to be kept entirely separate from the advertising side of things to maintain the integrity of the publication's voice. Editors aren't supposed to feature products just because someone advertises. Doing so turns the magazine into nothing more than a catalogue. It's a tough policy to stick to, but editors try very hard to keep the two worlds separate. We want to feature things we love and that we think you'll love.

So what do we do? Beauty blogging's roots are in sharing excitement over the latest find, giving true evaluations of stuff we love -- or don't. How do we continue to do that without eventually feeling that we're doing a lot of work for some folks who get to put their rewards in the bank while we left putting our "rewards" into our makeup drawer or shower stall?

I don't have an answer. I'm struggling with this myself. What do you think?

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