This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

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.

  • @lisdom:disqus agreed. and for what it’s worth, I read the post in question and never even registered that it was sponsored.

  • Yeah, Chuck first and foremost. I’ve grown an attachment to that dog and I’ll never meet him. <3 him.

  • Amy Peck

    Ditto!

  • I like to say post a lot.

  • ambertz06

    seriously^^^ me too

  • Amy

    People must have too much time on their hands to complain. I read for pictures, stories about your family and to see things from your perspective. Keep being you!

  • It would be worth the reads and laughs even if it were totally easy, painless and didn’t take much time for Heather to blog. In other words, it’s not the effort, it’s the end product. She’s at the top of her game and I imagine sees the stats. As long as people come and read, who gives a fart what else happens (just wanted to throw in something about farting).

    BLOG ON!

  • Samantha

    I’ve never commented here before, but I am now because I am glad you posted this. As I read the other day, I did feel put off by the Clorox post when I got to the end. It would have been better to know up front, so I’m glad you are making that change. Otherwise, I don’t mind the sponsored posts at all. Your work is fun to read and you deserve to make money for the time and effort you put into it.

  • Kat

    I hope you’re making a lot of money from your sponsored posts and I will gladly continue to read them, even if every other word is a hyperlink to that brand’s website. Because one thing I know is this: Glad and Hyundai have a lot more money than I do, so I’m happy to let them pay you so that I can continue to read all the funny shit you have to say and see the awesome pictures you post.

  • Leigh

    I have been coming here since 2007 i believe, when i came across you and was so glad because I was pregnant, have always struggled with what I though then was depression, now know it is actually bi polar II, and was feeling so alone…even though I was surrounded by people I loved and adored and who loved me back. I remember going through all your archives in a night and getting to bed when the sun was coming up. All along these years, I have been so thankful for you honesty and humor with every thing, most especially the hard stuff. I am so glad you get paid for doing this, and dont understand why any one would have a problem with you getting paid to do what you love. Isnt that what we all want?

  • Sara Pellicori

    I think advertisers are smart to work with you because you have discerning taste. I am sure that your audience trusts your lead and often clicks then converts/makes a purchase based on your implied recommendation. You’ve always made it clear that you don’t work with brands that aren’t consistent with your voice/audience, and that really shows. I’m glad that you have an income steady enough to be a strong, independent and supportive Mom for your girls and a voice for all of us on this end. Haters gon’ hate, but 99% of us are huge fans — cheering you on.

  • Marianne

    Your voice is so strong and sincere, I didn’t even notice that the post was sponsored. Keep up the great work. xoxo

  • Mommy of Four

    Um…you rock? Thanks so much for caring enough to clarify, though I personally needed no clarification.

  • I’m thrilled that you get paid.

  • I have no idea how you balance all this craziness and still create an entertaining and emotionally authentic product. I can tell this was hard for you and that you take your continuing education about how to produce this site very seriously. The amount of personal investment demonstrated in your readers’ comments speaks to your success in creating something original and compelling. I just wanted to say thanks for working so hard and being so honest. You’re awesome.

  • AbolishingIgnorance

    Virginia, there are many different types of people out there reading. I don’t think anyone was blasting Heather – some people speak up, some people don’t-some people understand that not all criticism is negative, and much of what was said in the comments on the post that was references IS NOT negative, mean-spirited criticism, it’s people asking questions about the content and how it is presented.

  • Ashley

    I’m get surprised at how passionate and critical some people are about things I didn’t think twice about though I suppose I shouldn’t be because I often I notice things that others don’t…anyway, I love your blog and appreciate the tough decisions you deal with every day. You will never make everyone happy and it kind of sucks to have to hear so much from the people that feel entitled to tell you they aren’t happy. I didn’t care so much that I, after reading your interesting post, saw it was sponsored. I felt like the sponsorship and your story fit well together and within your life. What I do wonder about though, is the ad under whatever your most recent post is on your main page (strange that I see it when using Firefox but not Chrome? It’s currently a Threshold ad from Target). It seems like it’s styled to look like it’s from you but it’s not. It’s labeled clearly that it is an ad so it shouldn’t be confusing but it’s a bad attempt to integrate advertising in your site whereas I see your sponsorship posts as more successful ways to integrate!

  • I just can’t believe you used a hyphen in the phrase “emotionally-fraught.” It’s a fucking adverb, Heather! [Sigh… smh.] I feel so duped. You’re, like, the valedictorian of… Duh Elementary, Class of Nothing. [Don’t you hate people like me? I know I do, but I’m just astounded at the asininity that has prompted the need for this post.]

    As to the rest, I think the visceral reactions come from the [perhaps] overly invested [note the lack of hyphen] people who read the post, eventually realize it was sponsored, and conclude you must have somehow fabricated the whole entire thing to satisfy your need to shill shit. People are weird.

  • I love your posts whether they are sponsored or not… keep on keeping on. Love your writing, your photos, love it all! Thanks for doing what you do!

  • AmyK

    I didn’t read each one because Comments sections are scary, dark places but there are overwhelmingly more positive comments here (and I am sure on other posts) than negative ones. I guess I just wish you would focus on that fact more. Yeah I know the negative ones seem louder and stick around in our heads always…but I am still wishing. I read all your posts no matter what. And if I am being super honest, it is CHUCK who makes me come back every day 🙂 Hi, Chuck!

  • Megan

    What you did was talk about an experience you had. You started a conversation about a topic related to a brand. You never even mentioned the brand that had sponsored your story. You just left it there as a little tagline at the bottom. The fact that a brand sought out that kind of sponsorship, the wonderful messy human kind of marketing only you can provide, elevates that brand in my eyes. They could have paid any number of people to directly glorify the brand and all of its many benefits. They believe that is ineffective, which is giving us a little credit for being smart consumers.

    That’s the best kind of marketing possible. I’ll take that over a television ad or a paid search engine result any day.

  • V

    *Gasp* SCROLLING DOWN? How dare you torture us that way.

  • Heather, I did not read the comments from the new house post, but I did “notice” the sponsorship shout-out more than normal at the end, so I have very much appreciated the articulate and earnest explanation you have presented here. I completely understand the storytelling choice you make with your writing and that you are aiming for continuity and integrity. I think this post clears up any possible question of your intention or process being somehow unduly influenced by the sponsor. Also appreciate the commitment to new reality of your’s and Jon’s lives going on separately, and that in both abiding to the need for privacy, you are both actually showing the rest of us how to behave on the other side of a divorce. Been there sister. Hang tough. xo

  • If it matters whether a post is sponsored or not then maybe the complainant should just stop reading your blog, and while they’re at they might as well give up television and radio to avoid any close encounters with commercials.

  • Until this post, I honestly didn’t know that the referenced post was even sponsored {as I suspect that many of the blogs I read are sponsored posts and I tend to just gloss over that part, be it at the bottom or top of a post}. I enjoy the content regardless. I was more annoyed with the comments that instead of answering the question you asked, choose to complain. Would they have answered had it not been a sponsored post? Probably not, they would have found something else to complain about.
    So I’ll answer the question now: I have a 100 year old house. It needs a lot of fixing up. Would I like a brand new house? Absolutely not. In this day and age of cookie cutter construction I hear more complaints about new houses than I do previously lived in homes. Next time I buy, I’m looking for a foreclosure built in the 80’s. How’s that for specific?

  • Wowsers! Not come across your blog before but Tara Cain tweeted it out tonight and I felt compelled to pop by. Do people really feel that strongly about sponsored posts? I think if you just write the stuff that a client has written him/herself then yes, declare it straight out but if you’ve taken the time to write it all yourself with a link, then why should you? Your story is still the same….Interesting post.

  • becca

    i think you are great and i’ve laughed and cried with you since i’ve been reading for the last 4 years, and the post that got me hooked was the great washer/dryer/social media fiasco that resulted in washers and dryers being given to charity (a series of posts where I both laughed and cried). you are compelling, your stories are compelling, and if someone wants to pay you to write those stories, i’m all for it. frankly, I’d like to UNFOLLOW all of the jerks who commented so rudely about the sponsorships. you and jon are raising some really awesome kids, and you are navigating an incredibly difficult situation with grace and honesty, and that is all we can ask for. keep doing you, and we’ll keep reading!

  • Megan

    Amen!

  • JFC… people that complain about someone else’s contribution to the artistic world makes me want to punch a narwhal, and i adore narwhals.

  • whom do i call to get your butt to sponsor my blog? i’ll take my answer off the air.

  • Holy Baloney, people will find anything to bitch about. You should feel lucky you have leisure to time to read Heather’s blog. People need to chillax!

  • Allen

    Print out the haters comments with your BRAND printer using BRAND paper and ink and drive over them in your BRAND vehicle that runs on BRAND gas and a bumper sticker that says “I’d rather be BRAND-ing!”

    There is more good than evil in the world and there is stronger love for you than hate.

    Keep on keepin’ on 🙂

  • Desiree

    Keep doing what you’re doing. Your sponsored posts are equally authentic and entertaining as your non-sponsored posts. Let the haters hate. Us faithful readers are in line right behind you, cheering you! And as always, eagerly waiting for that next post about constipation, child-rearing, fashion hankering or animal wrangling!

  • The great thing about your posts are I can’t tell if they’re sponsored until the end, and it doesn’t feel dirty, it feels like I’ve just sat down, been told a great story, and now been told who’s made it possible for me to see it.

  • Amanda

    Thank you for the clarification. I like the back-end information of what goes into a sponsored post, and I like that you’re open to changing it based on feedback from your readers. Haters gonna hate, but there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. This was a great post.

  • kittykerri

    I’m sad you even “had” to write a post like this. I find your sponsered posts to be quite insightful and true to Dooce without the feeling of the sponser being shoved down my throat. Maybe not all of them have been so subtle but I don’t roll my eyes when I see a sponsered post. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. I’m just glad you are back to posting regularly and seem to be finding your voice again after all the um… changed of last year.

  • Danielle Smith

    More than anything, I hope you are able to take the bulk of comments you have here as the true endorsement that you are doing something right. This is the first time I have commented. Good for you for a) forging the partnerships with brands b) choosing those relationships carefully and authentically and c) having the talent to tell a story that matters to you, your life and your readers that FITS with that brand relationship. THAT is a talent and should be recognized as so.

    Keep it up.

  • holliepollard

    Heather, I too have been blogging for years- over 10 to be precise, and well darling I post sponsored at the bottom of my posts too. Only now by one brand have I been asked to do it up front. There is no difference to the content or my opinion. Just where I put who paid me to write the drivel (words) Now I don’t have the HUGE audience you do, and as just once who has read you off and on for well say 7 years I come for the words, the pictures and as one ex mormon to another, that was what brought me way back when.

  • shambolicliving

    I think it is insane that you have to justify your sponsorship decisions. We are surrounded by advertising and sponsorship everywhere we turn. At least on blogs it is usually entertaining! Everybody has a right to earn an income.The shame is the loss of great blogs because they cannot take the constant snarking criticism when they attempt to earn an income from the many hours of time they put into creating interesting, amusing, informative blogs. It also worries me that there are women out there devoting large amounts of effort to creating blogs but fearful of stepping up to asking for monetary compensation for their work, everyone has bills to pay, if you have developed a successful blog you deserve the right to earn an income from it.

  • Josey S

    Rock on, Heather. You’re doing great!

  • Heather Armstrong

    Duly-noted!

  • teebopopp

    Jealousy rears its ugly head when people (you) are successful. These are the same people who, if you gave them a million dollars for free, they would ask why it wasn’t 1.1 million dollars. Keep going forward with positive energy and frak the nay-sayers.

  • Lisa

    I think you achieve your stated aims with your sponsored posts artfully and in spades. If disclosing the sponsorship at the beginning removes some criticism, so much the better.

    If you and Jon have agreed to never mention the other on your websites, then that is between the two of you. There’s probably a logical difference between stating facts versus “discussing” each other. Sometimes it might be more awkward to *avoid mentioning each other. But an agreement different from “never” would involve drawing lines, gray areas, and other such wearying considerations. Time will probably take care of a lot of this.

  • Carrie

    Bertha,

    This is the internet; of course there was mean-spiritedness. “Brutal” wouldn’t be an adjective in this post if the criticism was all positive and written with hearts over the “i”s. I just want Heather to know that there are readers out here like me, who are mostly silent. She is WELL AWARE of the readers like you.

  • Kara

    Agree!

  • pictou

    Congress, brought to you by Exxon, BP and the NRA.

  • Sarah C.

    I think it is fantastic that you are paid to write. You should not be writing for free, anywhere. As a society, we often undervalue self-published work, and I am so glad that you (& others) are helping to break that stigma. I rarely comment, but I happened to do so on the post you are referencing, partly to combat the wave of criticism you seemed to be receiving. You are an entrepreneur who happens to be in the publishing space. Kudos to you for developing & maintaining such a strong brand!

    I could not help but wonder when I saw that some people commented about “I” versus “we.” You responded to them so kindly in this post, and I am sure that you are handling the situation with utmost care in real life. It’s an area where the internet can simply make people…dumb. I wanted to remind those commenters that divorce is a legal proceeding, and there is no way that you, brilliant & intelligent woman that you are, did not make sure that how either one of you can or cannot reference each other online is not written in STONE. Read between the lines, folks! It’s not rewriting history, it’s showing respect to the current situation, both on an emotional level & a legal one.

  • Heather, you are the reason that I started blogging. I saw your amazing stories and what this blog has done for your life and I figured that I wanted to experience something…even if it was just a miniscule bit of what you have experienced. And I have! I have had some amazing experiences because of my blog. Now, I know that I will probably never make any money off of blogging except for a little here and there but you can and it is awesome! I just believe that some people are going to be hateful no matter what you do. I am sure most of it is jealousy.

  • Jean

    If everyone in America would put on their damn big boy and big girl panties, you would not have had to make an apology like this. When did we become a nation of whiny asses?

  • JRSF

    I admit I’ve never understood why people get all hot and bothered about a “sponsored post.” WTF do they think a banner ad actually is if not a microfunded version of a sponsored post?! I will continue to be here reading even if every other word ultimately becomes Hyundai or Ziploc. Separately, your divorce is your business, not ours. What is our business is whether Dane is actually living in the basement (yes, please) or if that was just when his family dog was visiting.