I’m glad you’re here! “Disclosure” is my middle name (do I need to say “not literally”?). The FTC requires a disclosure policy on blogs, but I agree it should be required.
So here it is! First the nitty gritty, so you understand what might go on in this business of running Zero Cost Kids, and how the money-making side does not affect the editorial content, and then I can’t help but give some larger commentary below that. Enjoy! If you have any questions, you can reach me at shira (at) zerocostkids (dot) com.
Zero Cost Kids was founded and is written by myself, Shira Boss.
This policy is valid from 15 May 2016
I intend Zero Cost Kids to make money, both to support the costs of designing and hosting the site, and as compensation for the vast amounts of time and effort I put in to think about, research, write, and promote the free content that I hope is very helpful.
In other words, Zero Cost Kids is a passion of mine but also a job to earn income to help support my family, and to help donkeys in need, as a tithe on the profits of Zero Cost Kids are donated to The Donkey Sanctuary non-profit.
How is money made?
Money is made through one or more of the following:
- Advertising or sponsorships – I might sign up with an ad network to display ads. Or, I might sell ads directly as a sponsorship. Either way, advertisers or sponsors will have no say in or affect on the editorial content of the site. As with The New York Times and other respected media, advertising will remain an entirely separate operation from editorial.
How will readers spot potential conflicts of interest?
If I ever accept a free product or take money from a company to sponsor a post, that freebie or sponsorship will be clearly disclosed at the top of the related article.
I’m a professional, and you can trust me
I would never write something positive or try to influence readers because I had received a freebie or sponsorship. That would be entirely against the high journalistic standards I learned in graduate journalism school at Columbia and have strictly followed for my entire 20-year journalism career. Plus it’s common sense (I would hope).
- Affiliate sales – I intend to sign up as a sales affiliate for Amazon and perhaps others (I will update this list going forward). For Amazon, some articles contain links that go to a product on the Amazon site. If readers click through such a link and purchase the product, I will earn a small commission on the sale (as well as, kind of strangely, other items purchased at that time). Articles that have such links will be clearly labeled with a disclosure at the top of the article.
Again, this relationship would never influence editorial content.
Required notice from Amazon:
Here’s what the Amazon program requires us to state: “Shira Boss is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.”
- Ebook sales – I might write an ebook or offer an ecourse I think would be helpful to Zero Cost Kids readers and offer it for sale on the site. In that case, I would be advertising my own product.
Nobody likes legalese, but to cover all the bases, I should tell you that the views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question. (Thank you, disclosurepolicy.org for that wording.)
Thoughts on bloggers making money
When you read articles in The New York Times, for example, you assume that the journalists who have done the reporting and writing are honest, trustworthy, and ethical. They’re trained, have experience, are overseen by multiple editors, and held to high professional standards of fairness and ethics.
You also expect them to be paid – but to be paid by the newspaper, not any third party. The New York Times does not allow its journalists to accept anything for free. (Although I believe it does accept free review copies of books, which is an industry standard.)
In any event, bloggers or independent journalists do not have this infrastructure and name recognition behind them. Nor the corporate paycheck. If we want to produce and distribute quality content, as I do here, we do need to be compensated, somehow. Otherwise, who has time to devote to a full-time job that’s not a real job because it doesn’t earn any income?
Readers should understand how that income is being made, and what standards we are being held to – even if we must hold ourselves to them and build a trustworthy reputation as an individual.
Staying with the example of a major newspaper, we see, and expect to see, advertisements both in the paper and on the paper’s website. We fully understand that’s how the company makes money and is able to pay its people and produce useful content.
Likewise, writers of blogs have skills, experience and creativity to offer, and both need and deserve to make a living from offering our content, like any other professional or tradesperson. It shouldn’t be seen as icky – bloggers should be making money from their websites. Nobody would apply for a job and go to the job interview not expecting a paycheck if hired.
I read (from the very helpful blogger/businessman Bjork at the food blog Pinch of Yum) that every time a blog reader sees an ad, it chips away at the trust they have in the blog author.
Wow, is that true? When I read the most respected publications, The New York Times or The Atlantic for example, I see ads. That’s the business model – it does not affect my trust in their reporting whatsoever.
However, I agree that bloggers should disclose. Not every writer is naturally scrupulous, nor every reader so savvy as to suspect or spot a paid placement or other potential conflict of interest. Everything on Zero Cost Kids should be clear, and I hope what’s most clear is that I am a trustworthy resource and have my readers’ best interests at heart.