A Blogging Dichotomy

Gaiam.com, Inc

Many of us in the blogging community like to talk about sustainability, shopping locally, and leading a wholesome lifestyle. We believe in what we write, and we do our best to support our local economies ourselves.

Some of us have gardens, chickens, goats, and go to extraordinary measures to lead healthy, sustainable lives.

Many of us also participate in affiliate programs for Amazon, and other massive online sellers to make a little (or a lot, depending upon site traffic) extra money to help with the family budgets. You see ads at the top of this page, as well as along the side – I don’t have most of those here out of the kindness of my heart; they’re ads that generate a small bit of money when people click on them or make purchases from them (and I do mean small; I’m no power-blogger.)

I support buying goods locally, yet there they are, and they are nearly everywhere else, too.

How do we reconcile this dichotomy?

It’s not easy, at least not for me. I don’t have solid answers for myself, and I likely can’t provide any for you, either, but perhaps this post can start a thought process for some.

It’s hard to beat walking into Rae’s Yarn Boutique and being recognized by the staff, who are very happy to help me with problems and questions, because they know I’m not a freeloader who will suck them dry of expertise and then trot off to buy from KnitPicks online.

Still, I’m an affiliate for major online businesses.

My mom made sure I’m really good at rationalizing things – she’s the Queen of Rationalization. I try to root out this behavior as I notice it in myself, and “monetizing” my blog is one of those areas I go back and forth upon.

While I’m not holding a gun to anyone’s head to force them to buy something from my affiliate links, I am enabling this behavior, making it appealing. Do I think these ads will sway people who would normally go out and buy something from a local vendor? Nope, not really.

Too, some folks don’t have local access to the kinds of products I’m affiliated with, and would have bought online without my links. My income from affiliate links thus far is negligible – pennies, really. So is it worth having the ads up at all?

I’m no Cheeseslave, no Dooce, no traffic powerhouse – I have my few dozen readers per day. If I got off my bum and did some more writing, perhaps that would change, but for now, it is what it is.


Personally, for things I can get locally, I buy it in town. There are some things I searched for high and low, though, and could not find. Take, for example, this nylon strainer for my kefir grains, and this lid for sprouting. I looked in every store that sold kitchen supplies to no avail. Finally, I ordered it from Amazon, as my grains were circling the drain from being run across a metal strainer every day.

Likewise, there isn’t anyplace locally I can buy cultures for kefir, and the yogurt cultures at the local health food store don’t produce as good a result as those I get from Cultures for Health.

Other services, such as online meal planning, aren’t something I would buy locally – I need it to be online to access everywhere.

We can find some items cheaper online, especially if free shipping is involved. There’s a reason for that – local businesses have to charge sales tax up-front, whereas online businesses are often exempt and consumers make up for it by paying “use tax” when they file their taxes. Local businesses typically deal in less volume than online dealers, which means their prices are higher out of necessity.

I buy locally, anyhow, whenever I can. In fact, I’m working on writing up a post about a wonderful yarn shop in Lansing, which I love. I’m getting to know the staff, they’re getting to know me, and it’s pretty great.

Some of the ads appearing on my site are for KnitPicks, an enormous online knitting supplier. Does that take business away from my local shop?

Honestly, probably not – people all over the country read this blog, some internationally, and they surely will not be buying from Rae’s Yarn Boutique in little old Lansing, Michigan, USA.

(That’s not an affiliate link, by the way – another aspect of local businesses is most of them don’t have affiliate programs.)

Many of us put hard work into our blogs; is it fair we get something in return, even if we’re linking to national corporations?

Writing a good post takes time, thought, and effort – moreso if it’s a tutorial, recipe with photos, or other piece requiring additional non-writing time. Some bloggers take hours, others days, to put together their posts. This post has been knocking around in my head for weeks, but I haven’t been able to put my thoughts together in a cohesive fashion – I’m torn.

If you’re a blogger in the same dilemma, how do you work it through in your head?


Posts at least a little bit like this one:

Commercialism, Community, Lifestyle, Personal Responsibility, Product Recommendations, Shopping, Sustainability , , , ,

4 responses to A Blogging Dichotomy

  1. Great post, Erin!

    When I started blogging I swore I wouldn’t have any ads. Especially any that “moved”….But you are right. It takes a TON of time. I am gradually moving towards ads that reflect my mission, but even changing out the ads and finding advertisers to match my mission takes a lot of time. It’s a whole lot easier to just get a banner add that pays so much per view, slap it up there and earn some money. But when scantily-clad women and other things start showing up on my blog I have to deal w/ asking the ad company to take them down…and then my revenue suffers anyway —sigh. (And that’s not even mentioning other kinds of ads that are distasteful in other ways).

    I do not shop that much, truthfully, because so much of our “extra” is spent on alternative health care right now. But I would love to just support local folks. I do that with most of my meat and eggs and some produce. But some things just can’t be done locally.

    I’m with you 100%. Bravo.

    • Erin D.

      I think having ads which are in accordance with our themes is important. I just dropped my Google AdSense ads – it’s taken over a year to get to $25.00 through them, and I really hate some of the content (even though it’s supposedly tailored to the reader’s interests.) The payout is $100, so I still have a loooong way to go. It’s not really worth it. So, Google got over a year of free advertising out of me. Ah well, no real harm done.

  2. Well said Erin!

    I’ve come to pretty much the same conclusion you have. People from all over visit my blog instead of just people in Central Wyoming. While I do offer a local resources page (without any affiliate links) it is unlikely that many people have a need for the best beef in Wyoming that needs to be picked up at the ranch. Lot’s of people, however, have a need for online cooking classes so I share those on my ‘regular’ resources page.

    Another place in my life that balance is needed.

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