Mar 6, 2014 Blog & Social Media Stuff
If you’re a blogger, you’ve probably written about some kind of pop-culture news at some point and wanted a picture to go with it. If you had a big-ass lens, time to sit outside of a hotel in Hollywood, and no sense of shame, you could get your own picture. If you had a ton of extra money, you could buy the right to use an image from one of the big photo sites. If you had no sense of fairness, rules, or karma, you could just steal one.
But now, there’s another option, and it’s kind-of amazing. Getty Images is allowing many of its pictures to be embedded on blogs, for free. There’s also code to tweet the pictures, and embed them on tumblr (so far, nothing for facebook).
But of course, there’s a catch. Actually a couple.
The first is, I think, reasonable. From their TOS:
Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.
Once you embed their viewer they can basically use it however they want. They can put an ad in there, and you have no control over what they’re advertising, whether it’s guns or butter or porn. No control, and no compensation.
But hey, that sounds like a fair exchange for a picture of a celebrity.
The second catch, though, is the one that’s a bit more troubling:
Not all Getty Images Content will be available for embedded use, and availability may change without notice. Getty Images reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images Content from the Embedded Viewer.
Basically, they can yank the pictures at any time, leaving you with a blank space where the picture used to be, and these words:
Image not found
This image is no longer available for use.
Find more images on gettyimages.com.
One day you could have a picture of Hugh Jackman staring out dreamily from your blog page, and the next day you could have blank space and a free ad for Getty Images.
The problem with embeddable viewers
I’ve mostly gotten away from using embeddable viewers because of this very problem: they go away. I used to use a similar kind of celebrity picture service that let you post the pictures in exchange for an ad running under the pictures. When that company went belly-up a bunch of my posts had broken links and weird formatting where pictures used to be. I also used to embed these really great slideshows, and then the company ceased to exist, and the slideshows didn’t work. I used to use a great plug-in for embedding twitter statuses before twitter provided embed codes. Yup, that one’s gone too. And I had to go in and fix every one of those posts. The ones that I found, anyway! Who knows how many messed-up posts are in my archives?
Other cons with this Getty service
Another downside: You can’t change the size of the photo. You need to buy a license for that. Also, you can’t crop it. Or photoshop yourself in.
And, so far I don’t see any way to filter out non-embeddable images when searching. You need to hover over each image and see if it has a symbol that looks like this: </> (no, the symbol does not yet appear on the search results page – you have to hover over or click on each image; I’m hoping that changes soon).
So, the bottom line is that using this service is a risk. I don’t think that Getty will just capriciously decide to remove certain pictures. I think a more likely scenario is that after a few months or years they will decide that their experiment didn’t work, and they’ll get rid of the embeddable player, and all embedded pictures will disappear.
Still, I don’t think that will stop me from using it. Because, I can now do this:
And as a blogger with almost no budget for photos, that makes me happy.
Feb 12, 2014 Blog & Social Media Stuff
At least once a week someone tells me they want to start a blog. Five years ago I would have excitedly invited them over for coffee and walked them through it.
At some point my enthusiasm gave way to just giving interested people links to sites that might help them, and wishing them luck. But I would politely decline to help them myself – except for one person, every single blog I’d helped start had gone nowhere. The reality of how much work and dedication it takes to keep up even a simple hobby blog would usually hit people in the face after two or three posts, and they’d drop it.
And that tells me that they never really wanted to write in the first place. They just wanted to be a blogger, which is different. Its kind-of why I took up flute in high school: I wanted to say I was in the band, but didn’t really want to do the work. I finally dropped it in college when “being in the band” meant hours and hours of practice. I didn’t really want it once it got hard.
At this point, when someone tells me they want to start blogging I look them in the eyes and ask “What do you want to get out of it? What do you want to be the blog’s purpose?”
And the answer is usually not “I want to share my story” or “I want to express myself through writing” or “I want to help people (craft/travel/whatever).”
It’s usually more along the lines of “Bloggers get to do a lot of fun stuff. I want to do that.” Or, “Bloggers get free stuff. I want to get free stuff and write about it.”
And I’m here to tell you, those are completely shitty reasons to start a blog.
I’m sure that the next great blog is just waiting to be written, and it could be written by you. But for every great blog that starts on a whim and grows into greatness organically, thousands and thousands more get started by people who have nothing to contribute, who just want to take. Don’t be one of those blogs.
I can’t even tell you exactly why I started to blog. I just fell into it, first writing about our house renovation, then about movies and TV shows that were filming near my neighborhood, then finally here on Selfish Mom, about whatever I wanted. If someone asked me now why I’m blogging, I’m not sure I could give them a good answer, and that’s a problem every time I have to pitch myself to a client.
But I love what I do. I’ve been doing this for long enough that I can be very choosy about which events I attend, which trips I go on, which products I write about. But it took years to get to this point. If I didn’t like was I was doing, those years of scrambling would have been torture.
So have a reason. Have a point of view. Have a plan.
Write about what you know and love, so that if having a few readers and a small community is all you ever get out of it, you’ll be OK with that.
Because the free stuff and trips? IF you ever get to that point, you’ll find that all of it comes with massive obligations and takes a lot of time to deal with. And if you’re actually trying to make money blogging, you’re going to spend way more time dealing with the business side than on the writing. Know that going in.
Reasons To Start A Blog
|You want to tell your story||You want likes and retweets|
|You love to travel and want to write about it||You want to take free trips|
|You love writing about and reviewing products||You want to get free shit|
|You live and breathe Disney and want to blog about it||You want to get free Disney shit|
|You love TV and movies and would be excited just to be near a celeb – you’re a total fan girl!||You think getting your picture taken with celebs will make you famous|
|You’re a coupon goddess and want to share your money-saving knowledge with the world||You heard somewhere that coupon bloggers make a shit ton of money|
|You love writing about parenting issues and want to connect with other parents||Your kids are the cutest kids in the universe and you want to write about them because OMG who wouldn’t want to read about your special snowflakes?|
|You want to help people||You want people to help you make money|
Feb 11, 2014 Blog & Social Media Stuff
[This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my site.]
I did what I could to solve the problem myself. I disabled all of my WordPress plugins (no change). I called Go Daddy, my blog host, to see if the problem was on their end (it wasn’t).
I ate M&Ms and tried not to panic.
I waited, thinking it was one of those things that would correct itself a few hours later if I just left it alone.
It did not correct itself.
That evening, Techy Dad contacted me and offered to help. Before we started I didn’t even know what a MySQL query was, but he talked me through everything. We explored different possible problems: Had I been hacked? Was my database size over the limit? We kept checking out different things until finally, he found the problem! And walked me through a really easy fix.
And if none of that works, or things get too complicated for you, you can contact him for tech support.
I’d assumed while Techy Dad and I were troubleshooting that he was on the clock and charging me for the excellent help, but he didn’t charge me. So I’m writing this as a thank you, and hopefully if you have the nightmarish problem I did, you’ll go to him for help.
I spent a good part of that day thinking that my posts were gone. My web designer did a free scan of my site, and found that it had been blacklisted on some search engines due to malware. That wasn’t good, but it also wasn’t clear that that issue had caused the problem.
Still, after the whole disappearing posts thing was solved, I decided to have my site cleaned up so that I could get un-blacklisted. I didn’t have to do anything (except pay). I think $89 per year is a fair price to pay to know that my site won’t infect someone else’s computer.
So my problems were all fixed, everything was restored, and blogging life went on as normal. But what IF I had been hacked, and some pimply fifteen-year-old had deleted thousands of posts just for fun?
I highly recommend that you back up your posts regularly, so that if disaster strikes, they’re stored somewhere.
Or you can do what I do, and use a service that automatically backs my blog up for me, every day. Why? Because I can never remember to do basic things like this with any kind of regularity, and the automatic set-up I linked to up there seems too complicated for me to bother with. So, the $5 a month I pay to have this done every day is more than worth it to me. I’m a set-it-and-forget-it kind of person.
Whichever method you choose for back-up, just do it. I wasn’t paying enough attention to website security and back-ups before my posts disappeared. Now I can at least rest easy knowing that if disaster strikes, I’m covered.
Feb 5, 2014 Blog & Social Media Stuff
I just wanted to give you an update to this post. In a nutshell, I was very aggravated that the subject line of an email claimed to be offering a paid opportunity for bloggers, but after a couple of clicks I discovered it was actually only a paid opportunity for the ten bloggers who reached a certain benchmark first – the rest (who had already done the work and posted the post) would get nothing.
In addition to writing that post I also contacted the people behind the “contest.” Normally when I get a bad pitch I do not contact the sender, but this went beyond being a bad pitch – it was deceptive. And I wanted to tell the sender that. (I ignored the other issue – that the offer came in a newsletter that I hadn’t opted into – grrrr.)
I’m thrilled to report back that after an email exchange, the format of the campaign has been changed. Now it’s more in line with what I think is much more fair to bloggers. The assignment is laid out, and bloggers can apply to be a part of it, with all of the bloggers who are accepted getting paid for their work. No “contest” aspect to it.
I’m glad I said something, and I’d encourage you to do the same when you see this kind of thing in your inbox. It’s a fine line between bitching about something you don’t like and pointing out when something is unfair, so I’m not saying to go forth and yell every time you get a pitch that isn’t up to your individual standards. But when something is egregious, say so. That’s how things change.
Feb 3, 2014 Blog & Social Media Stuff
Last week I participated in an excellent Brand to Blogger chat on Twitter hosted by Type A Parent. The theme was how to get on marketers’ radar. After blogging here for six years, sometimes I want to get OFF of marketers’ radar, because the number of emails I have to dig through to find the truly good opportunities is ridiculous. But I knew I would enjoy a chat with PR people who cared enough to participate.
I don’t know how relevant all of this is to my non-blogger readers, but I’m guessing everybody, no matter what their profession, has to deal occasionally with people trying to take advantage of them in some way. For example, if you’ve been asked by someone to do them a “favor” that would normally come with a consultancy fee. “I’d like to buy you lunch and pick your brain!” is how that favor is sometimes asked for. Or, “We’d love to work with you in the future when we have a budget, but for now we were hoping that you could post this.”
This happens all the time to bloggers, multiple times a day. Some brands just want to get something from you for nothing. Some think that their offer of products or “exposure” is worth your time. These get ignored.
Anyway, back to the Twitter chat. One theme from the blogging side was that when good offers do come in, we don’t want them to get lost in the sea of press releases and offers to write in exchange for coupons.
— Estelle S. Erasmus (@EstelleSErasmus) January 29, 2014
Best subject line “Paid Opp inside” #typeaparent
— Cindy Schultz (@MomMaven) January 29, 2014
They’re absolutely right! Nothing gets my attention quicker than an offer of money in exchange for work (crazy, right?).
So I immediately opened an email that came through today with the subject line “Paid Blogger Opportunity” and read this inside:
We are looking for 10 bloggers to engage their readers around the topic of comfort food. You don’t have to be a food blogger to qualify; you just have to love comfort food! Compensation is $XXX. To learn more, click the button below.
I clicked. Heck, I live for comfort food.
So, I was rather pissed to see this (among other rules) after I clicked the link:
- You must have an active blog that can achieve at least 500 uniques per post. You can participate in this opportunity but you will only be compensated if you are one of the first 10 bloggers to achieve 500 uniques for your post.
They were not, actually, looking for ten bloggers to get paid to write about something. They were looking to get as many bloggers as possible to write a post, pin some things to Pinterest, and install a widget on their blog. FOR FREE. All of which would get the brand traffic and attention.
Sure, the first ten bloggers to reach 500 unique views would get paid. But if you were number eleven to reach the goal? Nada. If you wrote the most spectacular post in the history of blogging and got tons of comments and engagement but ten other people got better numbers? Zip. Zero.
[Edited to add: In an email conversation with someone from the site in question (I'd emailed them to express how offended I was by their misleading subject line), it was pointed out to me that everyone who participates gets entered into a drawing for $100, and everyone can offer their readers a giveaway. These were seen as pluses by the sender, but I see them as huge minuses. Being entered into a drawing is not a form of payment in any way, and I charge to post giveaways, so adding a giveaway to a post does not sweeten the deal either - it means more work for me.]
I’m not against holding bloggers accountable for giving brands a certain return on their investment – that seems like good business to me (although it can get tricky). I’m in a long-term contract right now where I have guaranteed certain statistics to the people paying me (and I’m on track to meet them, thank goodness).
But this is not that. This is pitting blogger against blogger in order to get mostly free work for your product. Nobody wins. Except, maybe, the ten people who do manage to get paid, but in my eyes even they lost the moment they put up their posts.
Know your worth. Say no until you find a good fit, where both sides are going to benefit.
Jan 27, 2014 What's Going On
I would like to state up front that by posting this, I have doomed myself to making some kind of horrible, embarrassing email mistake in the near future, because karma is a raging bitch with PMS.
Now that that’s taken care of…
I’m guessing that most of you know how to use email. You know what goes into the “To” box and the “Subject” box and luckily for you, the “From” box is usually filled out for you (what a time saver!).
But for some people, when they want to write to more than one person, things get tricky.
Yesterday I got an email from someone I didn’t recognize, saying she was leaving a company I’ve never worked with. I archived it and didn’t give it another thought.
Earlier today, a bunch of emails came in replying to her, wishing her well, this person I don’t know.
Ah yes, there it was: HUNDREDS of names in the “To” box, plus another dozen or so in the “CC” box.
Now, for those of you who are too young to remember typewriters, “CC” stands for “Carbon Copy.” If you wanted to make TWO of the thing you were typing at the same time, you put carbon paper between two sheets of typing paper and voilà, an original and a carbon copy. Isn’t it cute that whoever designed email used that anachronistic term for sending out copies to more than one person?
There’s also a “BCC” box, for “Blind Carbon Copy.” This is for those times when you don’t want other people to see everybody’s email address, like, oh, I don’t know, when you send an email to every single person in your address book.
More emails rolled in, asking people to please not hit “Reply all” when writing back to the original sender. And then a bunch of Mensa candidates wrote in asking to be removed from the list, as if it were a newsletter, and OF COURSE they all hit “Reply all” as well.
And then there were more emails asking people not to keep replying to everybody, and then other people asking everybody to just stop writing, period, and the madness would stop.
It hasn’t stopped.
At this point it’s more entertaining than annoying, but just barely.
And this happens fairly frequently. The funniest part is, it’s usually someone who works in PR, who should know better. But hey, I love seeing who else has been invited to the same event I have, especially when I’m being told that it’s “exclusive” and yet there are two hundred other bloggers on the invite list with me.
So now, I have hundreds of email addresses that I could do whatever I wanted to with. It’s a good thing for those people that I’m not an asshole. But maybe some of them are, and they have my email address now too.
Find the “BCC” box, and use it. Don’t be an idiot. Email isn’t new.
Sep 20, 2013 What's Going On
Last week I met a really great blogger from my part of Brooklyn, Sarah Fader of Old School/New School Mom. She wanted to interview me for her blog, and offered to bring me muffins, showing that she knows exactly how to get me to say yes to something. (By the way, if you’re anywhere near Blue Sky Bakery, the pumpkin/banana/chocolate chip muffin is to die for!)
After getting to know each other a bit more (we’d only been acquainted on twitter) , we settled into my back yard to start filming. I swear, I never ever notice the airplanes that fly over my house every couple of minutes. However, when recording video outside, they suddenly become very obvious! Aside from dodging airplane noise (which I felt terrible about, after offering her a nice quiet place to film!), the interview was a pleasure.
I found out that the video was posted while waiting for Fiona to get out of tap class yesterday. I was dying to see it, but I didn’t have any headphones with me, so like the narcissistic blogger that I am, I watched a few minutes of it in silence to make sure I looked good. Except for the fact that I can’t sit up straight to save my life, I look OK!
After a full evening at a work event I got home and went to bed almost immediately. I finally had a chance to watch the video early this morning, after I’d gotten Jake out the door but before Fiona was downstairs, that golden hour when I make myself a big breakfast and enjoy the quiet. I was apprehensive, I’ll admit it.
After I’m done filming something I usually have no recollection of what I’d said. I was relieved to discover that I love the final product! Sarah asked great questions and got some good stories out of me. And I was rather candid about a couple of blogging-related things.
If you want to get an idea of what I’m all about, I highly recommend that you check out Sarah’s post and watch the video!