I have blogged since 2015. To be honest with you, I started blogging because of money. Before that, I had been totally innocent about blogging and online marketing. I had thought that people blogged because they wanted to kill their time and that there were lots of people who had too much free time in this world.
Then, someone told me, “They are writing because they can make money from blogging.” I said, “Really!?”
So I was aiming to make money through writing online when I started my first blog. I wrote any kind of topics which I can talk about. I learnt SEO (search engine optimisation), white hat, black hat, social media. I tried everything that I could and any tactics which I thought of.
However, I realised that I cannot always be free for writing in terms of ‘expression’ as long as I cling to earning money.
You always have to ‘consider’ your sponsors
I have a blog about languages. I posted lots of stories about learning different languages because I love learning new languages. In this industry, there are many companies who potentially support your website, but it is not all of the companies that are smart marketers.
One day, I wrote an article, “You don’t have to go abroad to study in order to improve your English,” — I am Japanese and I blogged in Japanese targeting Japanese readers, by the way. The next day, one of the study abroad agencies which supported me, sent a message saying ‘we cancelled our affiliating contract.’ I couldn’t believe their ‘sensitiveness’. It was just one of my hundreds of posts and I had already written other posts like, “7 recommended cities to study English overseas”.
Another time, I wrote an article which said: “You don’t have to learn Chinese before you travel to China.” Then my affiliation with the online Chinese school got cancelled .
I thought that they were stupid because they didn’t understand online marketing. I just wrote those articles in order to get more traffic on my websites.
My blogs got a lot of Google penalties
I was also doing Google Adsense; the advertisement program. It is very smart, but Google has a strong policy which was changed some times, and you could get your Google Ads stopped to be shown if you violate their policy — if you also are a blogger, maybe you know it well.
I don’t know about blogging in English, but in Japanese, it is just that they are very ‘sensitive’ to some specific words related to adult, porno and violent contents, for example. I imagine that when their robot finds some ‘grey’ keywords or when they have someone’s report of policy violation, they just stop the ads and give a notification to the site owner. If you are the site owner, I will have a heart attack moment when you get up and check the status the next morning. I am sure that it is an automatic function by the robot and it is not checked by a human being.
When I had that kind of notice, I checked my content and I revised it if I could. It was not a present moment, but after a few times of these unwanted ‘notifications,’ I no longer want to spend my time looking for possibly flagged words in my stories which sometimes I had no idea at all. I would rather create new contents.
Now I do not care about Google and my income through them is not also big anymore. A couple of days ago, I wrote: ‘the honeymoon of bloggers and Google has ended.’ I don’t want to have that stubborn boss or husband.
There is no real journalism in Japan
So who kills our expression? — it’s advertisements and sponsors.
We, writers need to have sponsors to live. We need to earn some money to buy tomorrow’s bread (or rice). However, when the sponsors are too powerful, the information could be distorted.
In Japan, I have worked in a small cosmetic company which became bigger now. When I had just started working there, I had to go to the training sessions as a new employee. The presenter told us an interesting story;
“There are four giant cosmetic companies in Japan which provide make-up colours, beauty products for skin or hair. Everybody believes that their products are safe to anybody, but those companies are the ones who are most often sued by consumers.
Have you seen the news that those companies were sued in the newspaper?
Their cases are never reported on the paper because every time a writer is going to publish a story about their court cases, the newspaper company gets a whole-page (the biggest sized) advertisement from that cosmetic company, and the story will never be published.
It is a mystery in this industry; nobody knows who leaks the information to the giant cosmetic companies.”
The sponsors are so huge and powerful that real journalism cannot exist.
Ads steal your freedom of expression
A few years ago, there was also a capitalistic phenomenon on Twitter. Lots of tweets were deleted by the Twitter team because they tweeted a negative comment against big companies which were obviously their sponsors. Maybe it was only for the tweets in Japanese, or maybe they changed the policy afterwards or maybe they are still doing that, I don’t know.
Anyway, as long as you are trying to monetised your blogs or websites with sponsors’ ads, you have to flatter your sponsors. The thief of our ‘free’ expression online is the advertisement.
The search engine result pages on Google are filtered by Google which is one of the giant tech companies in the U.S. — a loyal capitalism country.
Advertisements are everywhere online; banner ads, movie ads, native ads, sound ads. We need to be smart consumers. People’s stories could be native advertisements too.
If you read an article that the government pension system is going to be corrupt and you find investment or insurance companies’ ads, the article is not a neutral story; It’s an ad.
If you are reading someone’s story which is saying that most women have a lack of calcium and there is a banner for a dairy product, it is an ad, not just a personal story.
Where should we go?
Neutral writing cannot co-exist with the advertisement. If you want to write truly honestly with your soul, you have to break up with your ads.
Online business is going towards ‘subscription’, like this platform, Medium. I imagine that more similar platforms are coming too.
So, how long are you going to blog with your ‘moody’ bosses?