Ms ZIYou Manifesto
Money

My anti monetisation manifesto – for me it’s about community not profit

Monetisation. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I feel seriously icky at the thought of making money out of something as fun as writing a blog.

Moreover, I have structural problems with the concept.

I feel the concept of monetisation suggests money should be prioritised at all costs.

Where is this coming from?

As I read reports from fincon (a big financial media conference that lots of my blogger friends went to) last month I am conflicted. I want to go and meet some really cool bloggers, the people I interact with on a regular basis. Not to mention the flamingos looked great fun. Drinks with people that inspire me – that sounds awesome.

But the actual fincon program just doesn’t appeal to me. There were very few talks that I think I’d really want to see. Not to mention that none of the keynote speakers appealed either. It feels far too profit oriented and pushing people towards monetisation. And those are concepts that make me uncomfortable.

So where does that leave me? I have bitten the bullet and bought a ticket, with the aim of meeting as many fellow bloggers as possible. And enjoy a holiday in the US.

I don’t want to sell you things

Ms ZiYou Binary

Anyway, back to my blog. I have no free download and no freebies for you. As in reality lots of those freebies and downloads have little value. Frankly, I am assuming my readers are able to see through simple marketing ploys like that as attempts to capture email addresses and grow email lists.

My personal approach is much less money focussed. For me, the ethics of monetisation and selling can get murky very quickly – how are you sure you are selling something people truly need? Moreover, sales funnels and landing pages feel really suspicious to me – if someone needs convincing to buy your product, maybe it’s not for them?

Moreover, I believe no means no. And the getting past no or overcoming objections narrative in sales is really, really problematic to me as well.

I’d rather you read and connected

I consider this blog a hobby, an interest and a fun way to spend my free time. I’m here for the people and the writing as an expression of ideas. Not to gain financially.

I don’t intend to recommend products as I truly don’t consume many products. On the other hand, there are however likely to be travel stories and theatre reviews I like to share with you – as there are the pursuits where I spend money.

What I do appreciate is when people read the blog and leave comments. Tell me you agree, tell me you don’t agree – all opinions are welcome, even those who *gasp* don’t believe the patriarchy exists.

This blog is not a business

Ms ZIYou Shovelling Money

I’m British. We aren’t as make a buck as Americans. We are culturally conditioned very differently and money just isn’t such a big driving force in our society.

Moreover, I come from a very non-entrepreneurial family and background, where everyone works for an employer – it’s just the norm.

Emails more and more regularly appear in my blog inbox offering various combinations of guest posts / buying link / affiliate deals. Obviously, I never respond to them but their frequency is increasing. Yet I am never tempted to take them up on their offers, as this blog is not a business.

I have enough money

Another key reason that I don’t feel the to try and monetise is that I am already very comfortable financially. I’m not quite financial independent yet, but I am far along the journey and expect to be there in a few years.

I’m not an advocate of growing wealth for wealth’s sake. When I have enough money, which is quite a Lean FIRE number for me, I will stop trading my time for money. There are no aspirations to become mega-wealthy here – it just doesn’t appeal to me.  I don’t need a lot of money to be happy.

Keeping the mask of anonymity

Ms ZiYou Mask

And yes  – I’d like to retain the mask of anonymity. To continue to write behind a pseudonym so my real life identity cannot be easily linked to my blog identity.

It’s not as I’ve got anything to hide – far from it. It’s just that in reality, as someone who still trades time for money it keeps things much cleaner. And our society is not yet comfortable discussing money openly.

Variety is Good

I’m also wanting to build community and give readers the opportunity to see a different opinion. Henceforth I am widening the voices on the blog, and starting two new series to showcase other awesome people. Some of whom are very much aligned with my values and beliefs and other much less so.

Let’s meet financial feminists #financialfeminists
Ms ZiYou Lets meet financial feminists

As you may have guessed, I am very committed to equality. I aspire to make the world a more fair and equal place and help other women break down the barriers they face. This new series will allow other people, both men and women, who identify as a feminist to tell their stories and their journeys to feminism. And share what feminism means to them in the context of their life.

 

Let’s meet UK Personal Finance Bloggers #ukpersonalfinance

Ms ZiYou UK PF Bloggers

Another community I’m keen to showcase is the UK personal finance world. I’m conscious as a FIRE blogger aiming for financial independence that I have a very specific niche, that does not appeal to all. Hence I want to hear from other finance bloggers and see their approach to life and managing money.

The Anti Monetisation Manifesto

For all the reasons above and many more, I hereby state that Ms ZiYou is not and will not become a monetised blog. There will be no:

  • annoying adverts
  • sponsored posts
  • affiliate links
  • freebie offers
  • pop-up banners

You do You

Please Note: This is not intended as a criticism of other’s choices. I aim not to judge others and the libertarian in me believes you are free to do as you wish. Moreover, I am very aware of both my privileged position money wise and understand other people choose to live their lives a different way. And that is great – You do You.

Related Posts

Over to you

  • What are your thoughts?
  • How do you feel about monetised vs non-monetised blogs?
  • Is your blog a business?

Thank you for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or contact me privately.

29 comments on “My anti monetisation manifesto – for me it’s about community not profit

  1. How do you square that with choosefi that is definitely monetised.? To me as long as you are providing links to products you actually believe in (travel reward cards in their case and others) why the hell not make a buck?

  2. Once again Ms ZiYou I applaud and admire your standing up for your beliefs.

    I think there are a several different styles of PF blogging, and I don’t think any of them are necessarily wrong or broken:

    1) the personal diary/journal style blog (e.g. QuietlySaving, FIREvLondon, RetirementInvestingToday), where the writer is just tracking their progress and perhaps exploring their own thoughts, while perhaps seeking to have their thinking reviewed/validated by an audience.

    2) the thoughtful and well written content as a customer magnet/brand building style blog (e.g. Morgan Housel, the Ritzholtz crew)

    3) the “educate the masses / raise awareness” style blog. These have the potential to evolve into a sales funnel as the readership increases, should the blogger so choose (e.g. Tim Ferriss, Paula Pant, Farnam Street)

    4) the blogs who are in the “business of blogging”, where the goal is maximised revenue and SEO over all else.

    Each has a particular target audience in mind, a defined goal, and a specific funding model.

    Personally I don’t think much of the intrusive mid-post adverts, the RSS feeds that only publish a snippet, and the obstructing pop over email harvesting boxes. However I respect the blogger’s choice to try and make some money from their hard work, and simply exercise my right to not read those blogs.

    As for FinCon, I quite admire PT. Conceptually selling expensive conference tickets into a audience who generally preach (if not follow) a theme of considered consumerism (even frugality) must be a real challenge! Without dangling the carrot of helping bloggers make more money, I can’t see how he could attract the audience required to cover the costs. Many of the post-FinCon write ups mentioned how few of the formal sessions the attendees actually went to, they simply used FinCon as an excuse for an extended meet-up with their fellow money geeks.

    Finally, as you invited dissenting opinions: “and money just isn’t such a big driving force in our society”

    *cough* bullshit! *cough*

    😉

    1. Hi in-deed-a-bly – yes I agree there are many many different styles each with their pros and cons. And yes, they are all aimed towards very different readers.

      On the fincon point, I don’t believe the focus of the majority of attendees is frugality – indeed I think they are a tiny portion of attendees.

      I see you are in the side if money being very powerful in society…..

  3. I had another blog once (in times long gone by). It started with a hobby of mine, which was composing electronic music. As I got better and learned a few tricks I decided to blog about it. And here it comes: I rented a server and programmed an entire blog platform myself. This alone cost me 1 year! In hindsight, that was insane, but I did end up with a system that was 100% tailored to my needs. It also had a lot of shortcomings, but never mind I was engaging in 3 hobbies at once: 1) Making music, 2) Programming and 3) Writing. It actually cost me a small fortune in time and money, but I did it.

    I did one particular thing to monetise: Bundle all my tutorials and other posts in one giant Word document and sold that for £5 or something like that. People could read everything for free online, but if they wanted the convenience of having it all in one document, they could buy it for a very low fee.

    Later I also added some Google ads.

    I had this blog for about 6 years. I monetised to cover expenses for server rent, but I never ever made a profit. And I don’t care. I had a great time. I did it because I loved it and learned so much in the process.

    I am not against monetisation. But you need to be authentic and love what you do. That’s where it all starts for me.

    So I admire your manifest Ms ZiYou. It shows you are authentic and passionate.

    1. I have a relatively interesting story on making money from a blog. I made a fansite for a local band at the time, they ended up signing to a record label and playing arenas! I had seen them play a greenhouse! Their label contacted me and i ended up working for them, getting free tickets, meeting the band a few times etc. I had hit the jackpot as a student!

  4. A commendable philosophy Ms ZiYou. I don’t see anything ‘wrong’ per se with monetisation (see Indeedably’s comment). The key is whether such monetisation enhances or detracts from the philosophy behind the blog. For example, if you write a blog about the benefits of minimalism, I think it is highly detracting to have ads on your site advocating spending. On the converse, if you write about matched betting, it would seem beneficial to have affiliate links if that helps your goal in encouraging more people to try it.

    The most challenging aspect for me as a reader, is when a website is promoting a self-described vital message (like many in the US FIRE community do) but then dilute that message by a bombard of ads, pop-ups and all manner of clutter. If your message is as important as you say, then anything else that gets in the way is a distraction and a tax on your readers.

    If you’d indulge me to talk about my blog – it’s sold as ‘my thoughts’ and a place for interesting and, hopefully, helpful personal finance and investing information. Given that premise, I’d consider it philosophically wrong to have guest writers or content farms produce stuff – it would no longer be my thoughts! Likewise, ads are troubling, as they are no longer ‘my message’, rather that of a third party. I extend myself to amazon affiliate links for book reviews, because it encourages me to share what I read (with the insidious concept of trying to convince people to read the books I like!)

    p.s. Mrs YFG also writes on the blog, she’d beat me up if I didn’t let her.

    1. Hi YFG, thank for sharing your thoughts and yes, I so agree you need to match your blog message to any ads or affiliates, and for some niches they work well.

      And yes, please keep talking about your blogging philosophy – I love how you are keeping it pure and just yours and Mrs YFG s thoughts.

  5. Hi MsZiYou

    It’s really admirable how passionate you are about your principles and stick by them!

    I monetise my blog to essentially pay for the running costs and also because I do need a little extra help to boost my savings as I’m not a high earner. The small amount I earn from Google ads and affiliate links all gets documented in my monthly updates as it gets invested and added to my pot.

    I’ve only ever accepted one guest /sponsored post on my blog (a UK P2P company), for which I was paid a 3-figure sum – I was an existing customer of theirs and was happy to promote and recommend them. The same company approached me again a few months ago with a similar offer, but as I’m now exiting P2P (as part of my portfolio simplification), I turned it down as I felt there was a conflict of interest – accepting the money would have felt wrong when P2P was no longer part of my ongoing investment strategy. My affiliate links are only for products/services I use and continue to use or for companies which I purchase from or have invested in.

    Each blogger to their own, I’m amazed at how much income some blogs can generate but the people whose blogs are a business and who rake it in, I guess they’ve put in a lot of hard work. But like you, blogging is a hobby and something I still enjoy after all this time. Making it a business is not something I’ve ever been interested in. Imagine if you actually come to rely on that income – you’d have deadlines for posts, customers to ‘sell’ to – well, that’s just like work then, isn’t it?

    I think you will still enjoy FinCon, if only just to meet and chat with other bloggers and visit another country!

    1. Thanks weenie, I love to hear your thoughts on it. And yes, I love how strong your principles are in selecting affiliates and publishing your income from them.

      And yes, I’m very much on that page too regarding making it a business. That would kill all the fun, and I think you’d end up writing what people want to read rather than what you really want to write.

  6. Interesting post, Ms. Ziyou! I also bought a ticket to FinCon, but like you, I wasn’t sure how much value I would be getting out of it. I’m happy with how I run my blog, and I don’t want to get yelled at how I’m under-monetizing (which I know I am). Anyway, I ended up selling my ticket, but I bought one for next year.

    I didn’t monetize at first, but I started after 6 months or so, because of how much work I put into my blog. I’m not someone who can bust out a post in an hour. Some of them take over a week to research and write! So I couldn’t justify the time sacrifices (I have a family and stuff) to do it all for free. My blog isn’t really for me at all, because I don’t have real money problems or anything. I consider it to be a public service, and I don’t think people mind because I try to add a ton of value to people’s lives. My monetization level is limited by what wouldn’t annoy me as a reader. I set the ads at the lowest setting, even though I’d make more money if I increased their frequency, and I refuse to promote products I haven’t used myself.

    There are blogs now that are monetizing since day 1, and I do not engage with those blogs. My personal stance is that you have to earn the right to monetize. And readers are pretty smart–they know which blogs are there for a higher purpose, and which ones are just there to make a quick buck. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that there are ways to be genuine and true to yourself and still monetize. It doesn’t have to be either/or, but I respect people’s decisions either way.

    1. Hi Luxe, fabulous to hear your perspective – your blog is awesome and highly rated so I can only imagine how much effort it takes. That’s really interesting that you say your blog is not for you, but a public service.

      And I do agree that monetizing since day 1 can come across as a bit icky.

  7. Everything you said is exactly what I would say. also, you should go to FinCon. I went this year and did not attend those sessions you are referring to, but I did hang out with and meet a bunch of the people I ‘know’ from the internet. I will be going back next year. It was a good time.

  8. I am with you. Not so much for moral reasons but for the others. I have plenty of money, or at least much more than I’ll ever spend. I like to blog, I’m a nobody compared to you of course, you are amazingly talented in my humble opinion, but I have a voice and life experiences to share and a few readers who seem to like what I write. I have no ads, no click through’s, I could care less about using the right keywords or whatever. In fact not a single person I know even knows who I really am. But it is a fun hobby. I believe as someone who did things mostly right I can say some things that people early in their journey can’t say yet. Great post Z!

    1. Hi Steveark, thanks for the kind words, pretty sure I’m a blogging nobody just like you!

      And glad to hear we are on the same page re monetisation and having enough. It’s a good place to be in my opinion.

  9. I don’t mind if people make money off their blogs. But I do mind if it interferes with my experience interacting with the blog. I’m turned off by too many ads, popups asking for me to join an email list, etc. – anything where it looks like I’m aggressively being sold something the moment I land on your web page. I like to think I have a pretty good BS detector and can quickly pick up on the voices who aren’t genuine, and I definitely avoid those. Luckily, I feel like this is a smaller problem in the FIRE community than it is in a lot of other blogging niches.

  10. You know that I’m with you on blogging NOT as a business, though I do have the occasional amazon / Airbnb type referral link. My biggest stop on turning my blog into a business is that I DO NOT have the time to treat it fairly as such. That, and I never ever want to go down the rabbit hole of writing/recommending products just because they have great referral fees. I think there are some really great bloggers/podcasters that toe the line well, and I absolutely understand ads because this blogging thing is a heck of a lot of work and it is providing value, so getting some income in return is more than fair. That said, no ads for me at this time 🙂

  11. It’s an interesting one. I don’t mind passive affiliation such as Amazon linking etc. I think it depends on the tone an sincerity of the blogger how far they can go with it.

    When you look at a lot of american finance blogs they all have a ‘how to make money from affiliate marketing’ or ‘how to start a blog’ courses – which they seem to make most of their income from these courses/affiliate links within them.

    I have just started my blog as a hobby – so it feels good to just post what i want.

    1. Indeed Iain – and yes, even I agree affiliates can be done well when they truly align with the message of the blog.

      And yes, I also find it truly liberating to post exactly what I want!

  12. Hi Angela, love to hear your perspective that it’s not a business but you do use affliates occasionally. And I agreed, there are some people who do it masterfully without going full Tim Ferriss.

  13. I couldn’t agree more with you!

    I hate – despise – blogs who are trying to sell me something. Popups – another absolute turn off. I have no intention of making money with my blog and I wished more people adhere to the principle you mentioned. I’m all for SEO and more readership (even though I don’t actively engage in even that!) but constantly reminding me that their free pdf is worth so much makes me gag.

    And the anonymity is great to have!

    Keep blogging. Loving you giving platform to other up and coming blogs.

  14. Hi MsZiYou,

    I went to Fincon in Dallas last year and had a really great time. I did go to a lot of the talks, but the ones I picked were more around ways to get set-up and building readership because my blog was new. I enjoyed meeting lots of other bloggers in the money niche, and got tongue tied when I met one of my favourite bloggers Liz from Frugalwoods! The best part for me was getting to hang out with other UK bloggers. There were only about 7 of us and it was a great time to really get to know each other, because we naturally hung out together. I’m sure you’ll have a great time.

    Re monetisation, I use affiliate links in my posts when the subject I’m discussing naturally leads me to talk about a product or service which I use myself. I also put a couple of affiliate banners in my posts & sidebar but these are all relevant to my blog. In reality I’m not sure whether it’s worth it though because so far I think I’ve made a grand total of about £1! I do occasional SEO posts which I receive a very small payment for, but I do not include these in my main blog feed, so my regular readers do not get bothered with them. Finally I *gulp* do have an email list sign-up pop-up, which should only display as someone is about to leave my site, so hopefully it’s not too much in people’s faces. I would like to earn some money from my blog because it takes me a lot of time to run it which I can’t justify spending on it, when that time could be used working on creating more books for my publishing business. I am trying to reach financial independence not just through investments but through a diversified multiple income stream approach as well, of which the blog makes up a tiny element. My view is that I want to help as many other people as I can be able to hit FI and quit their 9-5 day job, and the blog is my main method for being able to communicate with people on ways to make money. My approach is (and always will be) to serve first and foremost, with low key monetisation where it fits/complements what I am doing. Plus I always disclose when I use affiliate links in a post.

    I completely agree with you, each to their own. Thanks for a thought provoking post that has helped me to reconfirm my own strategy in my head.

What do you think?