On Monday I (no, we) received an email purporting to be from a woman called Sally. I won't dignify Sally by mentioning (or linking to) the merchandising company she works for, because I reckon her email was probably carefully-targeted spam. But Sally wondered whether, perhaps, it might be a natural step for me to corrupt my blog by entering "the ever-dynamic world of online marketing". Sally's an "Affiliate Marketing Manager", you see. According to Sally, "affiliate programmes are the small operator's tool of choice". Or in other words, why not climb on board now and make money out of the more stupid members of your readership. According to Sally, adverts "provide a valuable service for site visitors". Or in other words they're the perfect exit strategy for misdirected readers who've Googled their way to my site by mistake. According to Sally, online adverts "can even add an aesthetic element to the page". Or in other words, she reckons my site could do with tarting up to provide a dollar-driven visual experience. And most importantly, according to Sally, now is the perfect time to get involved in "seasonal affiliate marketing". Or in other words, let's all screw Christmas until it squeaks.
I despair at the continuing creep of the mighty blogad. This feeling is especially strong on days when I log in to what used to be a nice homely blog with quality content, only to find that it's mutated overnight into a tacky cheapened blog with 80% quality content and 20% ugly advertising. Up below the blog title, look, there's a row of Google-based text ads related vaguely to the content of recent posts. Halfway down the screen there's an intrusive advertising panel which (scroll scroll scroll) interrupts the flow of the page. Over there in the sidebar, high above the original blogroll, there's a distracting animated rectangle linking to some distant and irrelevant site about lipstick or car loans or something foreign. Somewhere high up, probably in the zone of greatest click-through profitability, the page is blighted by a series of finely-tuned 'sponsored links'. And, lurking off to one side, some whizzy Flash-based graphic has added invaluable extra seconds to the time it's taken this newly ad-infested website to download. According to Sally, this is the future.
Now, I'm not here to name and shame any individual ad-bloggers out there, because incorporating adverts into one's own website is a matter of personal choice. If you want to earn a bit of money as a reward for your writing, then good for you. And if the adverts you display are for yourown merchandise or for a book to which you've contributed, then that's great. But I'm saddened every time another blogger succumbs to the lure of effortless conscience-free blogad cash. A newly ad-splattered website both feels and looks cheaper than the pre-ad original, and all for a meagre monthly income. It's like watching a favourite programme on Sky, only to find that it's been ruthlessly sliced up into incoherent segments to make way for unyielding commercial breaks.
Rest assured that I have no intention of abdicating responsibility for my own blog's content. I shan't be violating my integrity just to have some nasty adverts shoved where the research says they'll have the greatest visual impact. I want the links on my website to be those that I choose, not links that a commercial robot has chosen on my behalf without my consent. If for some reason I choose to write about laminate flooring, for example, then I don't want a row of cheap adverts for laminate flooring suppliers cluttering up my website for days to come. I'm not out to earn pin money from poor misguided readers who'd rather click on my adverts than read what I have to say. In short I want editorial control, not a paltry income and diminished respect from my regular readers. And I'm delighted to see that the great majority of the blogs I read still choose to operate in the same profit-free environment. Sorry Sally, but you'll have to look elsewhere.