Best way to roast the broomstick. Must try. Five Stars.

I’m listening

Today I’m going to pull back the veil a little bit and address some very vocal, at times brutal, at times totally helpful criticism that was left on a recent sponsored post. I read through every comment, even the ones that made me wince, and I wanted to let my thoughts simmer a bit before I put anything down in writing. That doesn’t sound like me, does it? To stop and take a moment before reacting? Where’s the Heather who would start this post out with SPONSORED BY MY BUTT and tell everyone to suck it? That Heather is napping on my couch in her underwear and I just drew a swastika on her forehead with a black Sharpie. SHHH! NOBODY WAKE HER. Otherwise she is going to lose her shit all over twitter.

Many of you know that I have been making money from this website for close to eight years. In fact, this website has been my family’s primary source of income for almost that entire time. I was one of the first authors to sign with Federated Media and have remained a loyal partner with them ever since. Together we’ve enjoyed the growth of this industry and weathered the unpredictable nature of it’s ongoing transformation. I mention them here because I looped them in over the weekend, showed them what the response to that post looked like, and asked if they would go on record about why it’s good for people like me to work with big brands. I’ll get to what they had to say in a minute, but first I want to address the biggest complaint I heard:

Why don’t I label a sponsored post at the beginning of the post?

This is a very valid question. Many authors do label sponsored posts right at the top, but my personal policy is to disclose the sponsorship at the end of my story. I decided on this policy for a few reasons. There is a very fine line that authors like me have to walk when working with brands. I don’t think traditional publications have to deal with this complexity as much as someone like me who is an independent voice. I don’t work for a large corporation or answer to a board of directors, and the authenticity of that independence is at the core of why bloggers like me have an audience.

So when my ad partner comes to me with the chance to work with a big brand, I have to weigh several factors. Does this brand fit my voice? Does it make sense for my audience if I work with this brand? Will this brand in any way disrupt the way I tell my story? Add to that the increasing impossibility for blogs like mine to make money with traditional banner ads. If I don’t work with sponsors, then I can no longer afford to run my website.

I take my authenticity very seriously because it’s fundamental to my relationship with you. And when I sit down to write a sponsored post, my thinking goes like this: if I can tell my story the way I’ve always told my story, if I can share my life with you in the style that I’ve been writing for twelve years, if I can do this without the sponsorship affecting how you read my words, then I’ve done my job. Then I have been successful.

If I label the sponsorship at the beginning of the post, I’m wary that it will impact the way you read my stories. I am in no way trying to dupe you or deceive you or trick you. In fact, I work tremendously hard to do just the opposite, to preserve the genuine spirit of my voice. I make every effort to show that *Heather* is still here. Perhaps I am more successful in one post than I am in another, but I assure you that I give every word and paragraph the same seriousness.

However, I am open to changing this policy since there were so many objections. Going forward I will alert you immediately to the sponsored nature of a story and hope that you will read it knowing that I have done my best to write the content that you have come to expect from me.

Another complaint I heard was that there are too many sponsored posts. I think I’ve elaborated a bit already as to why I need to work with brands, but here is what Federated Media has to say about this component of the evolution of this industry:

Federated Media Publishing’s mission is to champion an ecosystem where independent and influential publishers thrive. To that end we support building relationships between these online voices and the brands that these publishers chose to partner with. We believe that the most high quality conversations online occur when both the brand and the publisher chose to collaborate. Just like print media, digital publishers cannot afford to create content on an ongoing basis without advertising dollars to support their work. Delivering content that inspires, informs, and delights readers day in and day out takes time, staff, photographers, research, materials, etc.

Just like any article you may come across whether in print or digitally, if the content doesn’t resonate with the reader, it’s their prerogative whether to engage with the content or not. Time, effort, research goes into all pieces of content that our publishers produce. And if an article happens to be sponsored, we believe publishers have an obligation to always disclose that so that readers understand the nature of the relationship between publishers and brands. If they chose to read the content, fantastic. If not, they can return to the site knowing that the content they enjoy will return because advertisers recognize the immense value of independent voices online. 

If you ask any professional blogger about what it’s like to run their business, I’m willing to bet that every single one of them will tell you that the amount of work and the hours spent making sure that their content is fresh and compelling and entertaining (plus bookkeeping, back-end work, and the mountain of administrative minutia required to keep things up and running) is all far more intense than they ever imagined it would be. I’m not saying that any of us are asking for a pat on the back as I’m sure that other small business owners in any other industry would say the same thing. Working with brands and writing sponsored posts are now what makes it possible for me to continue to spend these hours developing this product for you. These posts keep me in business and allow me to continue to tell stories.

Finally, I wanted to address the accusation that I was rewriting history and taking credit for all of the work and renovations performed on the homes that I have lived in. If you go into my archives and read about the kitchen remodel or the sewer line or the raccoon who lived in the chimney, you can see that I have not changed a word. I have not removed Jon from my archives, and he will always be there. He was an integral part of my life for eleven years. Going forward, however, he and I wanted to give each other the courtesy of not mentioning each other in any way online. That is the only reason I used “I” instead of “we” in that post. Of course I did not do all that work alone, and it was not my intention to give anyone that wrong impression. Again, I’m walking a fine line here of what is respectful as I navigate this very new, emotionally fraught territory. I may get things wrong from time to time, and I’m hoping that you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt.

I hope that I’ve explained why and how I approach working with brands, and even if you still disagree with me I wanted to give you my side of things. I’m going to open up comments in case you have any further questions or concerns that I can address. As always, thank you for reading and taking the time to share your opinion.

  • Cassie

    I come for the pictures and your unique take on life. Don’t care one bit if you got paid for the sentence that made me happy.

  • deanajo

    please keep doing what you are doing as you have been doing it.

  • Virginia

    Heather, good for you. You’re a great mom, writer and friend. Please don’t let people saying angry things take away from what you love to do and from what the rest of us love to read. Wishing you health and happiness.

  • Kate

    For as long as I’ve read your website, I’ve known that you have sponsors and will occasionally write sponsored posts. Just like every other professional blogger out there. I’m always free to turn away if I don’t like what I read. I’ve never understood why people bother to whine on a website about the content of the website – no one is forcing you to read.

  • Krista Holloway

    I come for the fart jokes… can we slap a sponsor on those???

  • Hang in there. There will always be people who loudly shout about how they think you are doing, but as long as you stay true to yourself they can go F off!

  • Laura Matthews

    Be yourself. The first rule of blogging is it’s your blog. You make the rules, you create the atmosphere, you are the voice we come back to hear day after day. Whether you had a family to support or not, this dooce thing is yours. You’re putting yourself out there; we’re just being entertained. The price of entertainment is either a ticket, a subscription, or a sponsorship. Anyone who doesn’t get that is forgetting the world we live in.

    The other thing that’s important to me is that since you are a woman, it is especially important that you are fully valued for your work. I hope you’re making money hand over fist. You shouldn’t have to justify that. I wonder how many male bloggers have this question thrown at them?

    Live long and prosper, baby.

  • From one small business owner to another, keep up the good work. People are crazy, dude, you know that x

  • Kate

    America: where we criticize bloggers for having sponsors, but turn a blind eye about who is behind sponsorships of bills in Congress.

  • I’ve been reading your blog for years – 98% because you’re funny. 2% out of habit. Couldn’t care less if you’re sponsored as long as you’re still interesting.

  • And you ARE. 🙂

  • lisdom

    In my experience, any blogger worth reading who makes their living off the advertising associated with their blog is generally smart enough to work with good people, and not alienate their readers. I wouldn’t expect anything different from you, and I don’t feel that your sponsorships have in any way taken away from your content. I also think that advertisers and product-makers could learn a lot from bloggers like yourself in figuring out the real-life ways their products are incorporated into people’s lives. Finally, I don’t care if you post the sponsorship at the bottom or not, doesn’t bother me at all. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  • lisdom

    truth.

  • RemarkablyMommy

    I love all of your posts, sponsored or not! You are an inspiration in my writing and I look forward to hearing more about your life, whatever it entails.

  • My butt wants to sponsor a post, however, Federated Media Publishing would probably be wise to decline on that offer. Your readers should be glad you’ve partnered with a company that has such good discretion in that regard.

  • EJoyner

    Girl, shake them haters off. Moving forward, onward and upward!

  • Paul Roub

    I’d say “don’t worry about it”, but you tend to make “worrying about it” interesting.

  • Paula

    I could care less that your posts are sponsored. I have never thought a single post of yours was inauthentic and I know that your website is your livelihood. It is my choice to come here, again and again and again, as it is anyone else’s. So what if I’m exposed to an ad or two. If I were concerned about that, I’d lock myself in a closet and never read a magazine, website, or newspaper and never watch TV again. Do what you have to do, I’ll still be here. 🙂

  • LizLemon

    somebody get Gas-X on the line stat!

  • People complain no matter which way one turns … in this case direct them to the Heather sleeping on the couch.

  • Lisa

    Agree with Cassie. I could give a rat’s ass. It’s obvious to me that when you write a story, it’s YOUR story. You’re not spinning it to fit a sponsorship…you’re finding a true story that gels well with that sponsorship. Without those things, no stories would be told. And that would be a bad thing indeed. Carry on!

  • Heather Armstrong

    Chuck could be their mascot!

  • Laura H.

    Well said, Heather. I don’t mind the sponsored posts because you have succeeded in doing exactly what you set out to do: maintain your voice regardless. I’m often surprised to see a post is sponsored. I admit having questioned whether or not you’d have experienced or written about certain things without the push of a brand partner, but in the end, it doesn’t matter to me much. If you are supporting your family, happy, and daggumit ENTERTAINING ME, well, whatever. Do whatever, whomever, wherever. I don’t really care. What I’m saying is, I SUPPORT YOU. ROCK ON. and THANK YOU. xo.

  • Lesley

    Good God, I hope you are getting paid for this. You are so intentional with your posts and it shows. Keep it up and get some sponsor cheese in the mean time 🙂

  • Andrea Bott

    You do a great job with sponsored content, and you’ll hear no complaints from me. You’re doing a great job. In everything. Remember that.

  • Samantha

    Hell yes! I agree with you over and over. I have been following Heather since damn-near the beginning, and I’ve enjoyed every moment. She deserves the money that she makes, as the effort required to do what she does day in and day out, whatever that may be, to contribute to this brand of hers is monumental. I’m grateful for writers like Heather (and GGC, etc) every day.

  • According to the FTC, you have to disclose the sponsorship in the beginning. Most brands are actually requiring it, so you may have to change your stance on that. The rest of your post — right on!

  • Jennifer Vincent

    I am a long time lurker and this is my first comment. I am enraged at the responses you seem to be getting to your sponsored posts. I say if you can entertain me AND make more money, why the hell not? This is a blog. Readers are lucky to have stumbled upon your comedic genius… Why anyone thinks that they have any reason to judge you or that they have any sort of legitimate insight into your life is beyond me. I say keep up the fantastic work. I’m sorry that you have to deal with the likes of these navel-gazing, entitled children. I say we wake up other Heather… I can’t wait to read the Twitter rant that ensues!

  • I never really notice a difference between your sponsored and not sponsored posts. They are still about kids, dogs, and sometimes poop.

  • Kim Funk

    Freaking cow. I like your stories. I like your photos. I like them when they’re sponsored. I like them when they aren’t. I adore your children and want to have Marlo over for tea.

    And there are post police to make sure that you still give credit to your former partners when it really doesn’t matter? They need to step away from the keyboard and discover that there’s a whole big, wide, wonderful world out there just waiting to be discovered. And the world you enter via electronics really isn’t all that and a bag of chips.

    Heather, go outside with Chuck and lay in the sunshine.

  • Molly

    I’ve read here for maybe 8 years and never commented. I just wanted to speak up now to counterbalance those folks who were critical of the way you’ve handled the sponsored posts. I know that this website is what feeds your kids and pays for preschool, and I think that creates a special and different relationship between you and us, different than a blogger who doesn’t depend on her website (and therefore her audience) for her livelihood. I don’t mind you mining me for pageviews or however it is you make money here — I know that, without my participation, you wouldn’t be able to live as you do or maintain this website about your life. Your sponsored posts keep the website up, and that’s the only issue I care much about.

  • mrsgreener

    I love reading your site regardless of the sponsored content. I admire you for taking something that started as a hobby and turning it into a business, and I appreciate your opinions.

  • Katie

    It’s strange to me that this is even an issue. One of my favorite posts of yours *ever* is the one about taking the girls to Arches National Park you made last month. It was sponsored and it made absolutely no difference tot he quality. Well, except maybe you talked about butts less.

  • krendybluth

    I continue to be supportive of bloggers making money off their blogs. I am also one of those who asked for the ad to be up top – thank you for listening!

    I would also like to add my voice to those clamoring for a Gas-X sponsorship. NO FARTING!

  • Sully

    I was sharing one of your recent entries with my mother and I told her that she can tell if the post was sponsored or not by simply checking the bottom of the post. I love that you keep it uniform. I check your blog at least 5 days a week. Thank you.

  • Snee

    Ad rep here: I think people get uncomfortable with the idea that content isn’t completely separate from advertising. We run into this a lot in newspaper industry. “I run x many ads, how come my competitor got an article/photo?” So in an effort to curb that, we end up avoiding talking about businesses, and completely separating advertising from influencing news. I previously worked at a newspaper where you could have a reporter write a profile on your business, and it was sponsored, paid advertising. People loved that shit, even when they didn’t know it was paid.

    In short, people will get over it. There’s no duping going on.

  • Rebecca

    I think you do sponsored posts perfectly. It’s obvious it’s your voice and not that of the sponsored company. And because of that, I take your sponsored posts more seriously than any others. And consider the brands you sponsor rather than writing them off or ignoring those particular posts. A “free” blog would never be able to maintain your level of quality.

  • and never mind all the sponsors attached to pro athletes that people don’t say boo about as their logos are flaunted in interviews, etc.

  • I’m thrilled you get paid. Your posts have gotten me through some hard times and made me laugh when I needed to remember not to take myself too seriously. I hope you get paid more and more and more.

  • Debbie A-H (Editdebs)

    I agree completely.

  • I thoroughly enjoy your blog and your posts, and thank you for sharing your personal lives with us, the public ether of the world wide web. Also, I have to say I found the Clorox sponsored post to be pretty clever. I think that was a very well done post and it didn’t read as a sponsored post at all to me. I mean, just a fyi.

  • Grammatically Correct Paula

    yeah… COULDN’T care less. Thank god *I* don’t write a blog. Jeez.

  • Terra.J

    I was never into reading blogs until I came across yours. I love your humor, the realness of your life, I just wish like hell I was your neighbor. Keep it up, I dread the day you decide to stop blogging…

  • Tiffany

    Why do people have to be so freaking critical. I never jumped to any conclusions about Jon and I also like the sponsored posts being labeled at the end (AS ALL OF YOUR POSTS ARE.) because I probably wouldn’t have read them if I knew they were sponsored. But I have read quite a few of them and I loved the post about your trip with the girls to Moab and the one about how Marlo used a whole tub of Clorox wipes. I am glad I didn’t skip reading those simply because they were sponsored posts. I think you have found a great way to keep true to your voice and if you want to make a little extra money by writing about your life and time that you spend with your kids and friends. Awesome! Good for you, because most people don’t/can’t,

  • Carrie

    I think I have commented on your posts once or twice in the many years I’ve been following you. I never read the comments section (hello, this is the internet: danger in the comments section!), and faithfully read each post you write. I feel like I know you and we are in some way friends, though we’ve never met. It’s always strange and surprising to me when people who are famous for their online content write posts like these because it doesn’t occur to me to blast anyone for the free entertainment they provide me on a site that is voluntary for me to engage on/with – besides the fact that you share your private life with us. I don’t know why anyone would feel the need to ridicule, insult, or degrade you when they can just choose to stop coming back to your pages instead. As one of the silent readers, I apologize for the assholes out there, and want you to know there are many of us out here who read each of your posts, enjoy each of your photos, and are completely quiet about it. We enjoy and then move on with our day, because we have better things to do and think about than to care about how you make money while you are entertaining us for free. Thank you for letting us be a part of your life.

  • Terra.J

    and Chuck….I read your blog because of Chuck.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever commented here before, but I have to say how impressed I am by this post. I have never minded the sponsored posts; I read them because they are interesting, in the same way I watch movies and TV shows I find interesting, even though they are sponsored by whatever product placement is within them and whatever commercials play during the breaks. I think it is rare that someone is able to respond to criticism so concisely and politely, and I applaud you for achieving that.

  • Megan Smith

    I kind of like the sponsored posts because I don’t really see them coming, and then I’m always surprised how you work it in the end. It’s kind of like a mystery novel…

  • Hi Heather, I’ve been your reader from the beginning and I met you briefly at Camp Mighty. I just wanted to tell you today, keep doing what you’re doing. You are a brave and funny girl. I really appreciate you sharing it all, the good, the sad, the depressing and the delightful. Your pregnancy with Leta and subsequent year helped many a mom face down PPD, myself included, and I will be forever grateful for your honesty. It takes a lot of courage to keep sharing the way that you do. I never feel like your sponsored posts are heavy handed or insincere endorsements. I also sincerely want every writer, every artist, to have access to a good living.

  • I love everything about the fact that your blog is sponsored and that my clicking and buying stuff can give you money because I believe your writing deserves financial compensation. I admire your authentic,unique and early entry into blogosphere, and you are rightfully influential. If I had a testimony anymore I would say , “in the name of Heather, amen.”

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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