Is charging for blog topics cashing in on peoples’ insecurities

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Would you pay for blog post ideas? Chris Brogan thinks some people will. In fact he’s already put a price on them — $9.97 a month for a weekly e-mail of 10 or more blog topics plus “some other inspirations built in.” And there is a precedent here. Chris has authored several posts in the past where he’s shared a variety of blog topics, including one of his most infamous posts — 100 blog topics I hope you write — which he says is one of the top posts on his site years later.

Since reading Chris’ post and engaging in some side side conversations about it over the weekend, I’ve gone back and forth on whether I find this approach valuable or victimizing and seen folks share POVs on both sides of the coin. There’s one camp that is all in and hopes this type of an idea succeeds. They see it as just another form of sharing ideas an inspiration and say “If the marketplace shows the demand for it, then it’s all good.” The other camp sees an approach like this as playing off of peoples’ insecurities. An example of identifying a need — that we all must blog — folks aren’t able to meet in their lives/at their jobs because of time and resources and selling a quick-fix solution that doesn’t provide the whole picture. And that whole picture would be that you shouldn’t just blog to blog, but consider how blogging can help you achieve your overall business objectives and goals. I even heard one person compare it to an infomercial. Yikes!

I see both sides. And there are far too many “social media consultants” out there charging money to build blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, etc. without any conversation about strategy or how the actual channel you use is only a small piece of the puzzle. What’s scary is that people buy that stuff. They really do. Companies fork over money to the wrong people for the wrong solutions because they think they need to “do social media” and they don’t really know what that means. Or because they buy a slick presentation or piecemeal solution from a sales person doing social media consulting.

So after thinking about it for a while, I’m not the biggest fan of Chris’ offering. But only from the standpoint that I have a personal list of 25-plus blog ideas I’m always adding to that I haven’t had time to write. I wouldn’t pay for Chris’ blog topics, but I think a lot of people will. And I believe he has every write to sell them.  Here’s why:

  • Sooner or later we have to take responsibility for the business decisions we make and research we did/didn’t do. If you or your company decides to pay someone to help with your blog solely because someone, probably a high-ranking exec, said “we need to do social media,” that’s sad. Do your research, set your objectives, develop your strategy and don’t take shortcuts.
  • It’s his content and he’s earned the right to sell it. No matter your opinion of Chris, you can’t say he doesn’t generate a ton of content and conversations. He’s not one of those “slick” social media consultants who never add value or engage and are only out to make a sale no matter what. I don’t read his blog that often, but I know from when I have  read it or heard him speak that he’s always generating ideas and sharing them with his community. Many of them he has shared for free, but at the end of the day he runs a business. Selling the blog topics may make a bit of money, but it also gives him an in to generate client leads. It’s a business strategy, one that makes sense in a lot of ways.
  • Demand exists. I guarantee you people will buy these blog topics. In my 7-8 years as a communications consultant, every time I have done an education session with a colleague about how they might employ social media to do their job better, I hear two questions — 1) How do you find the time? 2) What will I write about? Plus, agencies and consultants sell ideas all the time that our clients buy because they trust us. Is this really that different?

Now let me be clear — buying blog topics from anyone because you think you should be blogging since everybody’s doing it is NOT a strategy. It’s just plain STUPID. But if a business, small or large, chooses to make that decision, it’s not anyone’s fault but their own. It’s certainly not Chris Brogan’s fault. We’re all adults here.

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Ike 103 pts

I think you guys are thinking too small on this.

The benefit to Chris isn't that he gets a sawbuck a week from each subscriber to his topic list. (and the benefit to the subscribers decreases the more there are, as each person finds themselves in an increasingly crowded arena, in a race to be the first out of the gate to blog about the same topics...)

No, the benefit is that in six months, Chris will have hard evidence of how a subscription model works for influence. He can show how certain topics exploded with activity, just because he crowned them. He'll have all of that tracked.

The secondary effect I'll want to observe is how much competition there will be to whip out those posts. And will there be some who quit, because they can't jump on the topics at 11 o-clock on Monday morning, and are hopelessly behind?

JGoldsborough 227 pts

Ike You raise a great point. Chris is not just selling blog topics, but trend watching. My guess is some will never blog about the topics he suggests, but use his e-mails to keep an eye on the latest trends.

And you are spot on...He can see which trends generated teh most conversation, subscriptions and reocgnize those are areas to show thought leadership that may lead to new business opportunities. Pretty dang smart when you think about it, huh? :)

JasMollica 10 pts


Well-written and smartly thought out. I saw a post that lashed out on Chris Brogan, so I thought about this much the way you did. Would I buy it? No. Do I fault or feel outrage because he's charging? No way.

Chris has shown he knows a thing or two. Say you have the nearly 10 bucks a month to spend for topic ideas? Go for it. Because six months down the road you may not need the advice any longer. Chris isn't going to cry about it. He's made his money and is running a business.

As you said, there are plenty of so-called "experts" out there. But, people trust Chris' ideas. I may not be buying in for ideas, but there's going to be many who will.

JGoldsborough 227 pts

JasMollica Couldn't agree more re: Chris has earned the right to sell by how much he participates, shares with the community. We shouldn't fault him for his business accumen. If anything, as prtini noted on chuckhemann's FB post the other day, many of us agency folks have been or should be suggesting blog topics to our clients and helping them understand how/if blogging makes since for them.

In addition, we as communicators can't emphasize research enough. Time for the hand holding to stop. If somebody does social media just to do it, well, what did Forrest Gump say: "Stupid is as stupid does."


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