Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Shaking My Money Maker

Do you know what I've been researching lately?  Blog monetization.  I have been thinking about it for a while but researching actively only recently. 

To get a few things out of the way: I think blogs that have advertisements on them are fine.  To feature products received as samples free of charge is also fine.  To run sponsored posts is a-ok to me.  As long as disclosures and policies are clear and a reader knows with what lens to view a post, I have no problems.  This is how I feel as a reader.  (if you don't disclose, well then, you are on my POO list!)

The idea that I can make a few pennies off of my hobby is very appealing.  Right?  I get to do what I already enjoy, write about something I have a level of legit passion about and then somebody cuts me a check?  After all, I spend a lot of moolah on buying makeup and being able to recoup some of those costs sound amazing!

I realize that as a reader, I read other media (whether other beauty blogs, or any other sites) with a certain lens.  For beauty blogs for instance, as soon as I know a post is sponsored I take everything with a grain of salt.  The blogger is being compensated to feature a product so any positive information, I think of it basically as I do all ads. 

Take "freebies."  I know everyone that discloses receiving press samples also state that she has no bias.  I'm sure to some extent, and within her control, she is.  But for new, smaller or less-established blogs, it can be kind of exhilarating receiving products.  Is it possible that such feelings can somehow influence the content on a post?  I think it is possible.  Where financial gain and relationship building is involved, influence is possible.

These days, I view a lot of content with a bit of side-eye and a bit of cynicism.  And to be completely fair, I think it's only right you do the same when you read my blog.  99.9% of my posts are with product I've purchased myself.  I don't feature stuff I wouldn't buy myself (be it brands or specific products) but when you see my disclosures in a post, make sure you are wearing your lens.

Back to Shaking that Money Maker, I was thinking about different ways I can make money.  I can run ads, use affiliate links and do sponsored posts.  Knowing I have a generally weak backbone for temptation (hellooooo, have you seen my blog?) I was thinking more and more about how the motivation for making the dough would influence my blog in unintended ways.

Would I feature brands I have zero natural interest in?  Sometimes I get pitches from brands I either don't know or don't have interest in to provide product.  I always say no thanks to those.  But if they offered money would I want to feature "BACN, a brand made completely from pork fat?"  Maybe I would do a whole color story on pork-grease based lip glosses and rave about the fragrant nature of BACN perfume?  (Yum, a little barnyard.  A little smokey.)

Would I change my natural interest to brands and stores that participate in affiliate programs so that every click you make to a retailer from my blog will generate a few pennies?  Maybe I would want you to click to the MACCOSMETICSFORCHEAP website!  Why, I can dedicate whole posts that look like a beautiful collage for you to click.  Clickityclickclick...click.  Cha-CHING!

Would I want to feature posts on Lysol because, why because makeup looks and feels better when your bathroom is extra clean!  I'm sure I can find some tenuous link between beauty and Lysol.  Or why not hair extensions on the blog?  (Maybe because my hair is mostly in a messy bun all week long)  I can get to love hair extensions... over time.

For me, I see that it's a slippery slope ...uh, greased with lip gloss from BACN.  I actually don't think I can remain consistent to my (low) blog standards if money were to be involved.  Keep yer hair on.  I don't mean for your blog or other people's blog.  I just mean for me and my blog.  I think over time I can convince myself how doing all those weirdo things above is something I think is great for the blog.  So no more google searching on "retire on blog making money" for me.

*Shaking my money maker*  *looks sad that zero pennies fall out from cans*  *daydreams about high-flying, money-making career as a BACN model*

35 comments :

  1. Hahaha Belly, you made me laugh so hard.
    I started getting products only 6 months ago and I can say that it does effect the content. Whoever says it doesn't make a change is not being honest, First of all companies don't always ask and they send. These are almost all the time not the color I would opt for or not the product I would reach for. I have to put these on my face and smile because I got them for free. This unfortunately doesn't show what I would select from a collection if I would go to the counter. On the other hand publishing each day or each second day with high-end makeup content is not affordable. So this is a hard hobby. I am still searching ways to make it work lol.

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    1. OK so what I do is I always disclose. There is no way I'd ever pretend I bought something when it was sent to me for free. I know that's not what always happens, especially when local laws do not oblige bloggers to.

      I see what you mean, which is why I seldom call anything a must-have. I try to be objective when I review a product. This shade might not work for me, but the formula is solid. I seldom actually wear a gloss, but the formula of this one is good. I am not a fan of glittery eyeshadows, but if you are, you might like these. That's how I work. Also, honestly you cannot say yes to every brand that offers to send you something. Your blog has a distinctive vibe. I don't think Lysol would work with it LOL

      So far the only source of income is the ads you see on the site. I almost never use affiliate/referral links. I also wouldn't advertise for cosmetic surgeons, build SEO for anyone, or accept "guest posts". I'd just rather not make any money than having to do that.

      So yeah, this is tricky business indeed. I don't think I'll ever make a living out of my blog, nor do I intend to. I say maybe start with Google adsense and see how that works for you?

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    2. Sara,
      I agree it's a hard hobby in many ways! I am so agog and completely impressed how you post such extensive posts frequently and I know your personal and professional life is busy. Do you even sleep?! <__< Even with not-ideal color choices (except maybe really off foundation color) you can put together a good post on formula and wear, but you're right, I didn't think about potential changes to content in that regard!
      I was thinking more so about the blogger's stance on the product shifting or softening to accomodate the relationship she might have with the PR or the brand.
      So hey, how we go about not going broke with this little hobby we have?

      xoxo

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    3. Hi Sunny! Thank you for your great comment. I appreciate your take because your blog is so established and I always know when your feature samples. Regarding disclosure, I do see why bloggers without the disclosure regulations in their respective countries WOULDN'T disclose, but it doesn't give readers the opportunity to put on the right corrective lens. Or god forbid a sponsored post without the disclosure is being force-fed an ad having no knowledge one is reading an ad. I really despise that.

      What's wrong with Lysol? <__< I give you the side eye because I suspect you've seen my master bathroom needs a good scrubbing.

      I do think ads can be ok for lots of readers. Again, it's completely obvious to a reader that an ad is an ad. Adsense was what I was thinking would be a good entry point for making a bit of dough, but wonder how long before I fall head long into those weirdo scenarios I described! I can see how without a good moral compass for me (or just more self awareness of how I am influenced by money) I can end up being less true to the blog and my own real makeup inclinations. Thanks for letting me noodle through my thoughts and thank you for your thoughtful comment, Sunny!

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    4. I know, that's the thing! I've seen local bloggers flat out pretending that they bought something when I know for a fact it's a sample. It disgusts me! I guess I just read more blogs from the US and Canada, so right from the start I have always disclosed honestly.

      Try Adsense first and see where it leads. If a brand you don't want to feature approaches you, say no. If a sponsorship deal that looks fishy comes along, say no. I'm sure you will make all the right decisions because you are YOU!

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    5. :) Well, it's a good thing, Sunny, that 99% of contacts from brands are for things like Toilet Scrubbers and less, say Guerlain. It's very easy to say a polite no thank you.

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  2. DUDE. I have been having exactly the same thoughts! And I've come to exactly the same conclusions, at least for now. I'm worried about my funding situation for next year and would love to squirrel away some extra money, but I don't think the paltry $$$ I'd make from monetizing my blog would be worth the ambivalence I'd feel. If I had a huge readership, I might make a different decision, but as it is I doubt I'd earn very much. Freelancing, though, is something I have seriously considered. I don't mind whoring myself out as long as my personal blog isn't involved!

    I agree that compensation, whether with money or with free lipstick, always changes how a blogger reviews products. I don't judge anyone for accepting either money or lipstick, but I do read those posts differently even if the blogger promises that her reviews are objective. Is it psychologically possible to hold free products to the same standards that we use for products we purchase? Maybe, but I doubt it.

    Is the Belly pig using lipstick made from her own melted-down fat?!

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    1. DUDE. I think there are so easy passive ways for a blogger to generate some $. For instance running ads through a network or just doing adsense wouldn't require a lot on your end or my end. If it gave you $10, that is better than nothing. For me, it's a question of if that first little step would make me do things completely untrue to my blog identity (full of swill and BACN, as it were).

      Belly pig is wearing a DISGUISE. A fake pig NOSE. Actually, all her appendages are ACCESSORIES, easily removed and sometimes EATEN. She is majority snow and does herself carry no excess fat, though with her ROUND curvature, I can see how you would have been mislead. *firm nod*

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  3. BACN! I admire your honesty in this post, and I think your viewpoint closely mirrors my own. I agree that as much as we like to say 'completely honest, unbiased opinion!', in a way, all opinions are biased. We're humans. We have bias.

    I too was thinking that maybe one day, it'd be nice to get a few pennies from the blog. I'm still toying with the idea of maybe having ads in the sidebar, or doing an odd sponsored post; because when it's clearly disclosed, I treat it as an ad, and I know most readers would too. I think as long as I would have full control over the content and subject matter of these ads, I should be ok. I've already had offers of featuring casinos, mattresses, feminine hygiene products and custom dresses, and I've declined all with a laugh and a shrug, so I'm trusting myself not to give away all my hard work for... I don't know, whatever is the going rate for these things. I'm mostly offered 'unique opportunities', 'exposure on social media', and unicorn farts.

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    1. You make the best point of all, Monika! All opionions are biased!

      Lmao. XD I seem to be receiving some of those same offers. Party in LV (or just write about it), wedding dress (I hope never to wear a wedding dress again), eye glasses (I do need glasses!). It always do it and we will offer you exposure on social media. And some of these places have even a smaller audience than I do! I Unicorn FART on them! >:)

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  4. This is a good post. I think that PR samples almost always have some kind of effect - the NonBlonde wrote about this once, she said something about how while she tries to remain objective, having a positive relationship with a PR person inevitably colors perception. I think this is true (well, at least for everyone who isn't Temptalia - Christine clearly has brands and items she prefers/ feels positively about, but I don't think that PR samples affect those - she is RUTHLESS with the negative reviews at times).

    I am pro-sidebar ads though. I've made a significant-to-me amount of $$$$ off those - not a lot in concrete terms, but enough that when I was blogging regularly, the ads covered the cost of hosting + the majority of my makeup spending. I prefer reading blogs without ads visually, of course, but I don't think random sidebar ads tend to affect content, so I guess I see it as by far the best way to monetize and remain honest.

    this comment is not very coherent but it's almost time to go home and I'm tired.

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    1. Emi, you are chock full of coherence, actually. :D I recall several conversations we had about ads & monetization. Your blog is significantly bigger in stats so I can see how you would generate the kind of income that makes it worthwhile! I really have very little realistic hope to ever recoup the price of a fanceh lipstick! That might end up being the decision maker.
      Can I just say that Christine's F rated reviews are some of the most interesting reviews out there? In all the ways that a product can fail, she can describe it. I wonder when brands send out truly subpar product, they are expecting good reviews?! Mind boggles.

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  5. I did the same merry-go-round of thoughts for years, and recently I decided against ads and went for affiliate links instead. There are too many ads directly pointed at me as I hop from site to site, and "passive" as ads can be, I resent its presence in a place I designated for my personal and uncensored thoughts. Affiliate links are okay to me because if someone is persuaded enough to buy something at my referral, that's THEIR choice (they click the button, they go through the steps of logging in and checking out). No one is paying extra or more, and if they don't like it, there's always returns.

    From all the whining that I saw across the board about how pitiful money from blogging can be, I thought I wasn't going to see even $40 within a year. Not so the case. I don't try very hard to push products and drop the links where they are appropriate, and it is kind of a drag watching like $0.30 of commission slowly roll in. But I can also see that when it's done more aggressively or "done right", blogs can do pretty well. I initially had this notion that whatever I made from the blog should maybe go back into the blog (domain, PhotoShop, new camera) but F it -- I need to go to the dentist and get a hair cut.

    As for sponsored posts, I'm fine with them from people/sites I trust and respect. But personally, the only offers I've received were strange and possibly even sketchy, so I haven't done any yet. And for as long as bloggers provide free reviews, we'll rarely be paid to talk about relevant products/subjects. But there's absolutely no reason for bloggers to not charge for a brand to temporarily make use of our words, influence and reach -- especially when some bloggers have more followers than the company does! The word "collaboration" is starting to kill me a little. It's nice to get free stuff, sure. But it doesn't mean we become permanent mouthpieces for just anybody. I think what's missing from bloggers is a sense of pride when it comes to reviews and sponsorship. We're working hard to build something here, be it commercial or relational or just personal. And if someone wants to employ that for their gain, they're gonna have to think about compensation. I don't think it's wrong at all to be thinking about money. It's just that that can't be ALL that you think about.

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    1. Dang Liz I think your money is your money so you get to spend it on whatever (blog related or fab haircut related)! It's interesting hearing the experience of bloggers that have done it in a way that doesn't seem intrusive to me. Actually, maybe I have a weird bias against things like affiliate links because I've seen so many posts that push REALLY hard in a way that rubs me the wrong way. Eh, I must be stuck or mired in the older way of blogging. It is a ridiculous statement to make since I'm not a very long-term blogger to begin with. Or maybe I'm just nostalgic about my days as a faithful beauty blog reader and how each post I read & loved felt like a peek into someone's personal makeup journal and not like an ad. Sorry, I hope not to rankle you or any other bloggers, but just thinking about whining about a simpler time.

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    2. Oh, no rankling at all! I think it's nice that we get to talk freely about this sort of thing, and I don't feel like there's any sort of judging going on in this space. There's a cozy scent of bacon in the air and I'm just making myself comfortable here in Bellyhead HQ. ;) Blogging landscape has definitely changed and I had major nostalgic feels about the past as well. Right now I'm a little tired of watching all the judging and fingerpointing going on in the vlogging/blogging sphere. There's a lot of blame placed at the feet of YTers and bloggers, but no one says anything about the marketing/PR machine that creates the temptations that trap so many people. In fact, we as a whole still support that very industry with our insatiable need for new things and more news faster and swatches now now now. I think the conversation about commercialization of blogs can use some new perspectives, because let's face it: the old days are gone. :-/

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    3. I'd love the scent of bacon and grilled lobster tails wafting through the blog as it does on your IG page, Liz. ANd OOOOOH, such good point. I've often framed this conversation on Big Blog vs. Little Blog or Blogger vs. Vlogger or Money Maker vs. Haz No Penny Person but it is a much more apt way of framing the situation where the brand/marketing/PR machine wields a lot of responsibilty and power. And actually, it's a bit of a Goliath vs. David match up isn't it?

      I still reminisce on the modem dial-up tone from when I had my first internet connection. I am really backwards about a lot of things. Maybe I am stuck in ways that are no longer relevant in the same way as before. Yes, the old days ARE gone.

      Don't care! *dials up my America On Line connection* bbEEEEoooooooPPPEEEEEEEgggKKKGGRRRRRRR

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  6. ALSO in unrelated news I think you should do the "beauty scenario" tag that liz @ beauty reductionista just did. if you do, please include illustrations!

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    1. UGH! No way am I going to ponder about someone breaking in & taking all MAH STUFFS! NOOOOO.

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  7. I think that for most bloggers, although they say that "all opinions are their own", I feel like there's always ALWAYS sugar-coating there. So I read between the lines and try to state some of the words a little bit harsher when I'm reading posts about stuff sent for PR consideration. Ha!

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    1. :) Unless it's Christine from Temptalia. When she gives out an F rating, she does not hold back!

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    2. I can't agree to this. We never know what is going on in the background of things. It might be that her relationship to one of the PRs is not that good and she punishes her in her own terms. I also read many times in her blog that she gives bad rating although the product is not bad at all. That happens with Chanel a lot and I know why because I know how Chanel approaces PR issues.

      That doesn't mean I don't like her blog, because I do and I appeciate all the hard work she puts into. Hers is one of the most systematical and well organized blogs (fitting to my engineer brain!). What I am trying to say is that, there is a "behind the scenes" to every blog who deals with PR and we can never know what is going on.

      I don't agree to the fact of "not reading blogs who receive samples".
      For a blog to feature enough high-end products, it has to have a way of financing things in one way or another and I know many bloggers who wouldn't sugarcoat. I have just given Terracotta Orange Powder (sorry what was the real name?) a bad review although it was sent as a sample. And I know many bloggers who only write positive, doesn't matter if they receive them or buy them. Those sugar coat all the time, which I also don't like.

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    3. I'm not sure that she's doing it to punish a PR or a brand. (It's definitely not my place to speculate, since I have no purview into what goes into such things between two other people) One thing I do believe that it is easy to trust her very low mark reviews especially is that her photos of swatches and looks back it up without a shadow of a doubt. When she says it falls out, or swatches poorly, or doesn't apply or blend well, proof tends to be in the pudding. I must not be remembering her Chanel posts, but I remember some epic MAC posts that she's done.

      As you say that it is impossible to see what happens behind the scenes, it would be impossible to know as a reader what really is going on any blog, even ones where we think the bloggers are not ones to sugarcoat. My point is more personal than about other blogs though.

      I DID really enjoy your Orange Bronzer review. :) It was a bit more tangerine than bronzed. I appreciate very much your honest appraisal because otherwise, I'd be fooled to lem after such an oddly hued bronzer.

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  8. As an observer with absolutely zero blog monetization prospects of my own, I found this post fascinating and the conversation about it in comments similarly fascinating. Blogging is really hard work, and much as it is a labor of love, it is also…well, labor. Building a following takes such incredible dedication, hard work, and talent. As an avid reader of beauty blogs--the beneficiary of so much wonderful content that so many bloggers have worked so hard to publish--I respect and appreciate the work you all do tremendously. Thank you for considering the implications of various monetization options so carefully, for providing your readers with transparency via your disclosures--and for this insight into your thinking and decision making. I think your work is amazing, Belly, and you're in amazing company with your beauty-blogging peers.

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    1. Hi Bunikins! Thank you so much for taking time to comment. If you are interested there are oodles of guides that can teach you ways of the SEO & monetization. Really, it appears we can make a full time career of it! You do the exact same work and in a beautiful and thoughtful way also. And you are not out there just reviewing every new product that lands in the mailbox or shopping bag so you do it with a lot of creativity, too. :) So glad that you are out there making a beautiful space out there in the beauty blogosphere.

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  9. I am disappointed at the lack of tata pictures. I came for the mammary glands party. Your title is very misleading. I very much enjoy the candid, refreshing thought processes I have come to associate with your blog. I am surrounded by some of the slimiest, crudest and ruthlessly brilliant p.o.s. on the earth in my professional field, and like a moth to a flame, your blog beckons. Sure, you create lemmings and desires like no other, but that's to be expected of a MU aficionado. /stuffs face with eclairs while ordering another Wulong. Regardless of what path you take or if your views on the matter change (as they are entitled to ofc), I will continue reading bc who else am I going to get THREE or Suqqu swatches and insight from!?

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    1. :D IT IS BELLY CLICK BAIT! HOW YOU LIKE? YOU FELL FOR EET?

      I am just as slimy and crude, it's just I do it with sparklies!

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  10. I don't get sent press samples since my blog title has two particular words in it that most companies do not want to associate themselves with, so I'm not sure if I would behave differently if I did. I have some referral credits from some companies that has led to my featuring them more frequently, only because I can afford to test/review their products without spending real money. But there's no human connection with a PR person, or anything, so I don't feel obligated to praise the stuff. When I was using affiliate links, it was true that sometimes I would use the link I could get commission from, rather than maybe the most informative link (so link to Amazon rather than brand website, etc.). I'm not sure if that made much difference to readers, but it was a thing that happened.

    I actually prefer affiliate links to ads, because the idea of companies making free money off of bloggers who are doing it just for fun is a little weird to me. If I am interested and want to look into buying something, I'm usually happy for the blogger to get 5 cents or whatever. I do have a problem when they are undisclosed, however, and I absolutely refuse to click on baity links where the blogger is withholding information in order to get you to click (e.g. "I love THIS MASCARA" and you have to click it to find out the brand etc.). I think that is shady. I also don't like people affiliate linking things they dislike.

    Thanks for the post! It definitely got me thinking. Using affiliate links started to become a bit of a chore, so I stopped, but if I needed a few extra bucks in the future, that would probably be the route I would go again.

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    1. Lyn, I bet it's because brands can tell right away that you don't hold back on crap products &/or crap service. Surely that can be frightening for a lot of PR firms and brands! ;P right? Thank you so much for coming by to comment! There are so many different perspectives & experiences for this whole monetizing topic and I love reading it all. You mention the chore aspect of affiliate links. I think that would also bother me as well. I am so lazy I don't even both putting it retail prices for products I feature (among other reasons) I can't imagine I would want to be embedding affiliate links consistently! I R SUPREMELY lazy.

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  11. You tricked me. *sniff* I wanted to see some booty shakin'.

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    1. BBN, once I had a series with Half Assed in the titles and it brought in ALL SORTS of not good traffic & spam comments! >:D At least stuff I wouldn't want to pop up on a beauty blog. I wouldn't want to exeperience that again any time in the near future.

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  12. I've re-read this post a few times now because it perfectly describes my feelings on this issue! My favorite blogs are the small ones that don't get free products or sponsored posts, affiliate links, etc. Thats just my own preference and I don't judge the really nice folks that have blogs with those features. I just find it easier to judge a review that way, because my brain is usually fried. But I do really love certain blogs that I feel are really ethical in disclosing things (examples include ColorMeLoud, MostlySunny, Temptalia, etc I'm forgetting some). I do find that YouTube can be absolutely horrible in disclosing things, apart from the blessed Lisa Eldridge. ;) Don't even get my started on Charlotte Tilbury tho....I have such major issues with her marketing and YouTube stuff...but thats an entirely different issue I guess! :) Anyway, great post and super refreshing to read this!

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    1. It really is a much simpler (and purer) reading experience to read those blogs that don't feature samples, affiliate links, ads, sponsored posts, but I think those are not as easy to come by. Or they are small and with less exposure that they are not ones to pop up easily. If you have some good blogs you can recommend, I would love to hear about them!!

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  13. Maybe the key to your millions and billions lies in creating the BACN brand? Perhaps with a flanker for vegetarians called CHZ? ;)

    Seriously, it's hard for me to imagine your incredibly distinctive voice being muffled by sponsors. Sunny and others seem to manage the situation satisfactorily (as they said above, and as I've experienced as a reader of their blogs), and I'm sure you could find a balance if you wanted. On the other hand, I love your decision not to go down that route for now. We get to hear your opinions and yours alone--and it's great!

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    1. *snort* *giggle*

      I wish I had just the entrepreneurial spirit to start that brand. CHZ. Hah! I really did snort and laugh when I read that. You're so right, we need to make sure there is the right representation and appeal for all parts of the consumer spectrum, not just the porky ones. The problem with the foundations from the CHZ brand (which is actually vegan) is that it is all colored with annatto and all the colors run orange. *shrug*

      :) The voice of deranged spending. Thank you SoSuSam for being such a wonderful reader, commenter!

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I would love to know what you think! What say you?

Feel free to link to your own or other blogs posts that are relevant to our discussion here. That is always encouraged. I love finding new great blogs to read! Relevant is the key word here! I reserve right to delete!

But for all our sake, no promotions or referrals to your blogsales, swaps, contests and the like.

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