My Soul Isn’t For Sale

A while back, I wrote a photography article with the intention of sharing it with an overseas based website. Sort of a favor to the owner, something I felt was worth doing.

I posted the article on my own blog and forwarded it to the owner of the other website, with my permission to use the article on their site without compensation. Their readers weren’t my readers and I saw no problem publishing my work in a foreign country.

It was no big deal to me. I like sharing my work. It was an interesting article that I felt had some literary value somewhere out there amongst the plethora of Internet ramblings. So I thought.

The response from the foreign website owner was something to the effect, “I can’t use this, you’ve posted it on your website and Google will penalize me for it being a duplicate.” They went on to ask me to rewrite the article into something more of a technical gear-head piece that didn’t resemble what I had originally wrote.

My first thought of course was “who cares what Google thinks, I don’t work for Google”, “They’ll penalize me as well if that’s the case.” I was also a little miffed about the fact that I wrote the article specifically with the intention of fulfilling a commitment I had made to the foreign website owner, and now they were irritated that I didn’t write some canned techno-jargon article that is so common to the internet photography press. None of this was elaborated upon prior to my making the commitment. If they had indeed read any of my online literary masterpieces, they should have been quite aware that I write human interest stories, often with a photography theme. I don’t write canned technical or commercial articles designed to get web hits from consumers. After a few less than collaborative words between ourselves, it soon dawned on me that we had no common ground on the issue of what my writing was about. They wanted some commercialized drivel from me that they could use to promote their own web presence and I wanted to write about my view of the road in the photography world. Ultimately, it ended our relationship and on a sour note.

No good deed goes unpunished. Lesson learned. I moved on.

More recently, I took a position as a writer for a large Internet Photography Website. I had submitted samples of my previous work, expecting to be ignored. To my surprise they took me on and even published my first article without hesitation. I made the commitment to them to write more articles on a schedule and was looking forward to seeing how commercially viable they would be in a world filled with redundant writings on the same subject.

Well, the publisher sat on my articles and never published them. That happens. The problem with the articles was that they were human interest pieces with a photography theme, not photography articles with the hooks needed to sell photography gear. Obviously, they didn’t read my previous writings and were expecting me to bend my writing technique to meet their need to get web clicks. I should have known better too. I knew the Website was geared towards fluff pieces, depicting the wonderment of new photographic equipment and how to photograph lightly dressed young women in a studio. Their editorial content wasn’t about older people living a life in photography away from the environment of faux fashion and gear worship. Different demographics.

The point of me reliving these disappointments is to emphasize how the Internet publishing world has become straddled by the need to present advertising to the consumer and not really about finding interesting or unique literature to read on any specific subject.

A large reason for this stale status-quo is Google.

Google and the other Internet behemoths, have taken advertising into a new realm, to the point that if what you are publishing on the Internet doesn’t meet certain Google requirement or you aren’t handing cash over to Google to get placement in web searches, you’re not going to get a lot of search hits no matter what you do.

When you think about it, just about every electronic gizmo that connects to the Internet is designed to deliver advertising to your face. You can’t control it. Log on to Facebook and check your news feed. I’ll bet you have something thrown in there in the form of paid advertising.

Years ago, I jumped through Googles’ hoops, modifying and configuring my websites to adhere to the current Google standards. Those standards would change frequently and with those changes I’d initiate a new round of hoop jumping. Nothing I did ever changed the amount of traffic my websites generated. I quickly discovered that I could get a page one Google search listing on any workshop advertising page I generated, a link nestled in among other paid placements. They would generate a few more page hits, but what they weren’t generating was actual income. It was a lot of work, this constantly jumping through Googles’ hoops. I now refuse to give them money for AdWords paid listings, money I had realized was wasted on my endeavors, but quite lucrative to Google.

Did you know that over 70% of Googles’ 110 billion dollars of revenue comes from AdWords paid advertising? They make billions of dollars, the rest of us pay up thinking it’s going to promote our business, but for the vast majority of the small publishers and business owners who live and work in niche markets, it’s a waste of time and money.

Google has rounded up all the cattle and put them in a pen. They want to control what your website looks like, what content you publish, and all of your advertising exposure. And website operators pay for them to do it.

To this day, I get occasional emails from Google Analytics telling me what’s wrong with my website according to Analytics. They point me to a page on one of my sites that has been fairly static for years, just an online brochure. But something about their analytics has changed and they want me to jump through some hoops to make it more friendly for their search engine.

Thanks Google. I’ve been patiently waiting for more guidance on how my website is supposed to help you make money.

The fact is, most people on the Internet aren’t there to read for enjoyment. Unlike the days when a magazine or publication could provide interesting and unique points of view without having to resort to marketing blitzes and advertising saturation, today, we are on our own to find our readers and our place in the world. A place where we aren’t pushing products and services. A place where we simply do what we do for artistic and literary freedom, away from consumerism and fake promises. A place where you won’t be seeing the same thing, wrapped in the same package, and sprinkled with the same glitter. A place free of click bait.

As for large corporations with millions in sales and with a large consumer presence, they may have the advertising revenue. In the wide array of competitive products, keeping your name on the minds of the consumer is mandatory.

Small Website operators, publishers, and small businesses around the world have given into Googles’ need to make billions in profits. Google isn’t the least bit interested in what your website is about. They just want you to give them money.

Nope, no paid advertising for me. No paid Google ad placement for me. No Facebook advertising for me.  I’ll continue to rely on organic web hits and being who I am on the Internet without shouting louder than the next guy.

Why? Because my soul isn’t for sale.