28 May 2012

BlogPodium II: The Rundown!

This weekend was a super-busy one around the Money Pit: we bought a new fridge (yay!) after the old one cacked out on us again (and since there are only so many straws this camel can take, it was time to give it the old heave-ho and replace it with one that won't give us the botulism any time soon). Littlest got her social butterfly on, and the house was a revolving door of giggling, screeching, bouncing, babbling 9-year-old girls. We cooked, we cleaned, some of us played a lot of video games and oh, did I mention? I also attended a little event called BlogPodium on Saturday; maybe you've heard of it?

The brainchild of bloggers extraordinaire Lindsay Stephenson {Aubrey + Lindsay's Little House Blog} and Jennifer Flores {Rambling Renovators}, BlogPodium is a one-of-a-kind conference series specifically for Canadian design bloggers (though bloggers of any stripe would find the content helpful and worthwhile), designed to build, support and promote the blogging community. It was by sheer good luck that I was able to squeak in to the inaugural seminar (held in January at IDS2012); I was wait-listed for a ticket and by chance another blogger dropped out with just days to spare. I was beyond excited to attend, which Lindsay can attest to: I stalked her pretty much every five minutes for two days straight to confirm my registration and that there would, in fact, be a ticket in my name and that I wouldn't be turned away at the door. My ticket was indeed waiting and the very first BlogPodium was, if possible, even better and more worthwhile than I had hoped. Every bit of information was valuable, and being in the same room as so many accomplished bloggers made me start thinking very differently - bigger, and more seriously - about the Money Pit. So when Jen and Lindsay announced a second seminar to take place in early summer, I knew I was going to be first in line for tickets.
BlogPodium's sophomore efforts did NOT disappoint! It sounds cheesy, but I honestly loved every. single. SECOND of it. First up to the podium was the incomparable Nicole Balch, author and curator of uber-blog Making it Lovely (and striking one off of her life list, no less, with her very first trip to the great white north), whose keynote address was honest, engaging and hugely informative.

I took pages ~ literally, pages ~ of notes, ranging from the fundamental (types of advertising/sponsorship; basic ad sizing; general guidelines around when to begin soliciting advertisers) to the detailed (pros vs. cons of utilizing the services of ad networks). Here are some of my key take-aways:

  • On content ~ "Anything I would want to read on another blog is fair game for mine."
  • On getting started ~
    • 10,000+ page views per month is a solid threshold from which to start courting advertisers
    • Offer inexpensive rates (or for free!) until established
    • As traffic grows, increase your rates correspondingly
    • At 50,000+ page views per month, consider representation with an ad network
  • On ad types ~
    • Direct sales (to boutique companies {ie.Etsy}); generally buttons sized 125x125 or similar
    • Network Co's (under contract; larger blogs only); generally buttons sized 300x250 or similar
    • Text links
    • Affiliate links
    • Google ads 
    • Sponsored posts
  • On rates ~
    • Collaborate with other bloggers to create pricing consistency (see what others are charging, and charge approximately the same)
    • Placement matters: ads located "above the fold" ("ATF," or before the jump) may demand a higher price than those located below the fold ("BTF," or after the jump)
    • By employing shifting ad positions, you can ensure all ads share an equal amount of time ATF and therefore can charge the same {higher} rate to all advertisers
  • On contacts ~ It never hurts to ask for what you want! The worst a vendor can say is no, and rejection is never personal. Take the rejections and move on; take the acceptances and move forward!

And while we were still scribbling furiously to commit all of Nicole's hugely helpful advice to paper, the stage was taken up by the expert panel: fab bloggers Christine Dovey {Bijou and Boheme} and none other than Lindsay Stephenson herself, Cheryl Kozoriz of Gluckstein Home, Laura Muirhead of Tribal DDB, and moderating the whole she-bang, the always lovely Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault.

Conversation was lively and all four ladies were brutally and beautifully honest; there were more than a few moments of "calling it like it is," which, at least for me, were some of the most rewarding moments of the discussion. Key take-aways (for me) from the panel were:

  1. Approach vendors that match the editorial arch and aesthetic of your blog
  2. ALWAYS identify yourself as Canadian to brands/sponsors (especially to Canuck companies)
  3. Brands are looking for true partners: what you can offer them in terms of amplification (your "reach" to your audience, including the blog and other social media outlets [twitter, facebook, instagram, pinterest, tumblr])
  4. Don't be shy: REACH OUT! If brands aren't coming to you (yet), go to them
  5. When approaching brands/vendors, put the time and energy into creating a quality pitch. Take your blog (and your requests) seriously, and potential partners will too
  6. Build relationships with the vendors you'd like to partner with before you ask to partner with them. Cold calling is a flash-in-the-pan touch-point but established relationships keep you top of mind
  7. Understand the analytics of your blog, and be prepared to communicate them (both formally and informally)
  8. If you're a young blogger, "fake it 'til you make it." {refer to point #5)
  9. Expand your brand/blog by reaching out to other bloggers and building/maintaining relationships within the community
  10. Giveaways are win-win, but avoid being an advertising reel for vendors. Important to find the balance between ad info and original content
  11. ALWAYS be 100% transparent about what you're doing, and who you're doing it with/for. Label sponsored posts and identify advertisers, so your readers are aware. Authenticity is the key to building your brand, and your brand is the key to advertising partnerships. Everyone needs to feel good about these relationships, and honesty is always the best (and most ethical) policy
  12. Stay informed: check out womma.org for appropriate disclosures around giveaways and compensation
  13. Don't forget about Revenue Canada! They like a little piece of your blog too (at least, the part you're earning money on). If you're accepting income, either in advertising dollars or as gifts-in-kind, it all needs to be claimed

Of course, what stylish blogger event would be complete without a stylish reception? Following the formal presentation component of the day, Lindsay and Jen outdid themselves in planning an superb cocktail party. The food, the drinks and especially the company were absolutely fabulous. Here's a little photo montage of the festivities, which I may or may not have put together to make you a little jealous:

Awww, yeah baby! And those little tartlets in the third photo? Um, to die for. Just sayin'.

And last but certainly not least, a BIG SHOUT OUT to all the aws-mazing sponsors of the BlogPodium event. Not only did they arrive with some fab giveaways in hand (because really, let's be serious for a second: who doesn't like free stuff?! No one, that's who) but their genuine interest in connecting and fostering relationships with bloggers is as much exciting as it is {potentially} lucrative for all parties. Opportunities for partnership abound and it's fantastic to engage with vendors who not only support the blogging community but actively seek to forge partnerships. So THANK YOU to each and every one of the sponsors: it was wonderful meeting you!

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There's so much more to tell you but if I give away all of BlogPodium's secrets in the recap, what would incite you to come? And you definitely should come: rumour has it there will be another seminar in the fall so if you haven't already, click over to the official BlogPodium page and sign up for the BP newsletter. It pays to be notified early as tickets go lightening-fast!

And if you've been admiring the beautiful photos in today's post (as well you should: they're incredible), you might be interested to know they're the work of Mango Studios. There are some incredibly talented artists at Mango so if you've got a mo', click on over to their website and give them some love. They deserve it.

Thank you again to Jen and Lindsay for all your hard work, and especially for your commitment to the blogging community. BlogPodium truly is an inspired series, and I look forward to being part of the phenomenon for as long as you'll have me! (or at least, for as long as you'll sell me tickets :)

xo April

PS - Have you noticed the new pages? No? My sidebar reading list was growing a titch out of control, so I've made a few changes in the form of dedicated pages for my blog roll links. Check out the Canuck Style page for my list of fave Canadian blogs, and International Style for all the blogs I {heart} in the US and overseas. And of course it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway): if you're not on the list and you want to be, just shoot me an email! I'm all about the community, 'yo ... :)