I debated how I was going to respond to this and in the end decided honesty was the best policy. Here goes nothing.
An article came out this weekend that Kath, Heather, Caitlin, Jenna, Tina, and I have been on the look out for a couple of months now. We had a feeling it wasn’t going to be pretty and we were bracing for the worst.
You see we were all contacted by the author, Katie Drummond, last February.
I’m writing a feature for Marie Claire on blog-world culture, particularly how a woman can take a personal blog and turn it into a profitable venture.
I’m trying to figure out how healthy living bloggers earn money, and how much, from:
-Food companies (in sponsorship, and free products)
-Deals to promote a food or product on the blog; or review it
-Sponsorship for events (like HLS)
You seem very honest with your readers, when a company sends you something free or asks you to review it. I thought you’d be a good person to ask how it all works, and how much the most popular bloggers are able to earn. I won’t quote you saying how much *you* specifically make, I know that’s private, but whatever details you can offer on your own blog, or more generally, would be great. And for blog newbies, how can they start getting products to test, review, enjoy?
Seemed innocent enough, right? A few simple questions on how a person can turn blogging ‘into a profitable venture.’ I’d be happy to help.
I agreed and she e-mailed me the first set of questions.
–How much does FoodBuzz pay bloggers? I’ve heard $3/1000 page-views before. For someone with your kind of traffic, that sounds like a lot of money, right?
I know that Foodbuzz payments range anywhere between $X CPM and $X CPM. I signed on early and was able to secure $X CPM with my blog. At first it did not seem like much, but as my blog has grown I’ve come to appreciate the $X CPM payments. With the over 350,000 hits my blog gets per month it adds up to a nice bit of spending money.
-How did it work getting money for the Summit? How much did companies offer, and what costs did you manage to cover?
Since it was our first year putting on the Healthy Living Summit, we had to reach out to the companies for support. We contacted all of our favorite companies and pitched an event where bloggers and readers would come together to discuss staying fit, eating well, and being happy. All of the companies were great with wanting to support our effort. We were able to raise $15,000 which covered the whole event.
-Then what about actual products? Tina was saying she sometimes does "projects" for certain companies, like paid promos. I was wondering whether that’s just her, or more common, and how someone can get those jobs? Also, how much they pay, approximately?
I’ve never been paid to review a product on my blog or to plug a company. They will contact me with a product they would like me to sample and I will give my honest opinion on the blog. There are some cool things that come up like the event with Electrolux where they will cover my travel costs, but I was never handed a paycheck and the event was for a great cause that I would have supported anyways.
-And what about freebies? How much free stuff do you get, and how can a blogger get out there and start getting some? Do companies come to you?
When I first started blogging I solicited companies for samples, but it got to be too much. Now I wait for companies to find me. I probably have 2 or 3 companies a week e-mailing me and asking me to review stuff on the blog or to conduct a giveaway. I think companies know what they are looking for and if they see a good blog that fits their product then they know its in their best interest to get the word out there through them.
–How much, overall, do you think a "popular" blogger (like you) can make in a month, if they play their cards right?
I wouldn’t call my blog too popular. I know there are way better blogs out there than mine that gather enough traffic to make a good living off of. I on the other hand look at the blog as my ‘fun’ money that supports all my passions I blog about like all the organic food, my running, and traveling. I think a blog of my size could easily make a thousand dollars a month.
Then came the second round of questions
-When did you start your blog, and how do you compare your traffic then to now? How much has the site grown?
I started The Inner Workings of a Colllege Graduate in September of 2008 and I remember being excited to have 50 readers that first weekend. My traffic was really small back then, but I kept plugging away and saw my stats increase with each week. Before I knew it I was gathering 1000 views per day, then 2000, and now I easily receive 15,000 views per day.
–How do the athletic goals of other bloggers fuel your own? Do you think you push yourself to take new risks more often, because of the endeavors you see in the community?
I try not to let the athletic goals of other bloggers fuel what I want to accomplish. If a local blogger were to register for a local race, I may be inclined to register it as well, but that would simply be because I know I would have the company. I do admit it wasn’t for all the blogs I read, I would never have been inspired to run my first marathon. I kept reading about all these women who were just like me that were able to run this great distance. If they could do it, then I knew I could accomplish that goal as well!
-How do you handle the balance between concern and support with bloggers who aren’t displaying healthy habits? When VeggieGirl had to stop reading blogs, it elicited a major response. But it seemed like a lot of bloggers knew she was struggling — do you think it’s part of the community’s "job" to intervene? I guess it’s just hard, given that we’re online rather than in-person. It sort of creates a different dynamic. I was hoping you could comment on that.
Truthfully none of us blog about every aspect of our lives and we do try to keep some parts private. There is always a missing piece to the story where speculation tends to come into play. Sure there are times when concern may be appropriate, but I know from my past experience that people generally jump to conclusions on what they really know nothing about. Its better just to show support and know that the blogger is making the choices that are right for them.
This is where things started to smell fishy.
After the two rounds of e-mail questions she requested a phone interview this past April. I again agreed expecting much of the same type of questions, but was thrown for a loop when she started in on me with what felt like a personal attack.
She immediately questioned me on people who read my blog who might develop eating disorders. She questioned the Healthy Living Summit. She asked about my period (I promise to do a separate post on this later). She asked my opinion on fellow bloggers. She asked any and everything. I was left shocked, scared, and completely unprepared. I stumbled through the answers and immediately e-mailed my blogging friends to hear we all had similar experiences.
What did we do? We played nice.
We sat back and waited. One by one our Healthy Living Summit Sponsors informed us they had been contacted by the magazine, as well as Caitlin’s book editor.
Finally, right before the 2010 Healthy Living Summit, Katie sent us an e-mail asking if she could attend this year’s summit. We all agreed. We knew the article was painting an unrealistic picture of our blogging world and we wanted to prove to her that this wasn’t what our blogging community is about. Our community is about acceptance, it’s about love, it’s about being healthy and living everyday to the fullest. This is what the Healthy Living Summit is about and this is what we wanted to show her.
She came and we all met her face to face. She was so sweet in person and knew a lot about all of us, talking to each of us like she was a fan of our blogs. We encouraged her to mingle. We encouraged her to listen to the positivity around her. And we encouraged her to participate in everything.
That was it.
I received an e-mail from Katie congratulating us on a successful event with a couple of last minute questions. In the reply I sign off with the following message:
I have to admit I’m a little nervous in seeing the finished article. The other girls I’ve spoken with have said they were contacted by fact checker on quotes and stuff, so I’m assuming I’m not quoted. I just don’t want to see this community that I love ripped apart. My trust is in your hands.
When the article start surfacing online yesterday I was at Disney World eating my way around the world showcase with my sister. Chelsea was kind enough to forward a PDF version of the article through e-mail and on the bus ride back to our cars, my sister and I read the article aloud to each other.
My first response? Shock!
Third? Self Pity
I had to sit back and let it sink in. This wasn’t a friendly look into how to turn blogging into a ‘profitable venture’ this was an outright attack on all six of the bloggers who started the Healthy Living Summit! The big six? Please! We’re all normal girls who decided to come together to plan an event, not once did we think of ourselves as the ‘big six’ nor have we heard ourselves referred to as such.
The article takes everything good about our blogs and throws it down the toilet. What happened to being objective? What happened to telling both sides of the story? What happened to all the good we’ve done?
Katie was at the Healthy Living Summit. She watched as blogger after blogger expressed how much healthy living blogs had changed their lives for the positive. She listened as Katie from Sweet Tater Tot gave her beautiful speech on how Kath’s blog changed her disordered view of eating for the better. How she now believes in real food and lives a happier, fuller life because of it.
I could go back and personally defend every little detail of the post that was a attack against me, but I feel like that would be a waste of breath. Everyone who reads my blog knows that everything was taken out of context. I’m not a girl that starves myself or encourages people to starve themselves. I eat. You see that I eat! I’m not this crazy exercise girl who pushes herself to death. Ok, so I may be a tad bit crazy, but not to the extremes they portray. I mean, sure running a 5k, 15k, and full marathon in the same weekend sounds crazy – and it is – BUT, it’s also being crazy with the 5,000 runners who also took on the same challenge! I wasn’t doing it alone out there.
I need to take a breath.
Thank you for all of the countless amounts of tweets, e-mails, facebook messages, and love the past two days. Your opinions are the ones that really matter, you are the ones I blog for, and you are the ones that inspire me everyday. Maybe if we show Marie Claire there’s another side to ‘Healthy Living Blogs’ besides what is mentioned in the article, then maybe they will reprint an article that is both fair and objective and shows BOTH sides of the story. Not just that we encourage eating disorders, but how about how we inspire others everyday?
Three years ago I was overweight. I didn’t run, I ate too much, and I was lonely. I started running. I learned to cook, ate what was good for my body, and I started reading blogs. I learned how to make friends and I learned to love life.
My cousin posted a link to this post on Facebook last night with this message:
“Meghann, you should read this. A really cool blogger wrote this and inspired many.”
Maybe, Marie Claire needs to read that post as well. That post paints the portrait of the real me, not the one the article is trying to create.
I plan to write a letter to the editor and I encourage everyone to do the same. Let’s get both sides of the story out there. Marie Claire wanted a story, so let’s give them one. The real version this time.
You can contact the editor of Marie Claire via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org