How to slowly kill a website you love

RIP to that website you totally liked. By: liz westCC BY 2.0

Last week on Offbeat Home & Life, we published a sponsored post about gender-neutral baby clothes, angled toward the gifts market. Within a couple hours, several readers commented on Facebook and the post itself that the products featured were out of their budgets — which I totally understand and respect. I also understand and respect that the format of sponsored posts can cause some friction (it's like a post? but it's an ad? but it's a post? but it's an ad?).

I'm less understanding toward readers feeling the need to post insulting comments (describing sponsors' pricing as "laughable" and "obscene") when they can't afford a product. As I reminded commenters on Offbeat Home & Life: if anyone's wondering why Offbeat Families ceased publishing new posts for lack of fundsthis is why.

Back when Offbeat Families was still actively publishing and trying to support itself via sponsored posts, we had numerous instances of Offbeat Families readers being openly hostile toward our sponsors (most frequently over issues of pricing). Understandably, these businesses then stopped sponsoring the site. Understandably, the site was then unable to cover its operating costs. Understandably, I eventually made the decision to stop publishing new posts. Understandably, this made a lot of readers really, really sad.

I'm certainly not arguing that we should all like or be able to afford products featured in sponsored posts. I completely respect that we're all working with different budgets, especially those of us with children. (You're talking to the lady who works from home in a 1br with a husband, a kid, and a dog. Believe me, I get it.) The issue here is NOT that we should all be able to afford a $46 onesie — the issue is that we should respect that while if we can't, maybe someone else can. And that if we like the content being provided for free by a publisher, we need to be aware of how our comments might impact that content continuing to be published.

Moral of the story: If you enjoy a commercial website and want it to stay online, be thoughtful when commenting on sponsored content.

  • If a sponsored product isn't a fit for you, just click over to read a different post on the site. Not every post is going to be relevant for every reader, and that's cool!
  • If you have significant concerns about the sponsored post or product (and it's up to you whether "I can't afford it" feels significant), directly contact the publisher or the advertiser by email to share that feedback.

Again, this advice assumes you like the website in question and want it to remain online — if you don't like a website, THEN STOP READING IT! Your pageviews are hugely valuable. Stop giving them away to sites you don't like.

It's too late for Offbeat Families, but if you have other sponsor-supported websites you enjoy reading, it's worth keeping their business models in mind. I'm not saying this for Offbeat Home & Life — I'm speaking mostly here to former Offbeat Families readers who don't want to lose other nontraditional parenting websites they may enjoy.

    • YESSSSS.

      I think this is so related to the (bizarre, imo) feeling of "everything x site posts is targeted at ME, and if I don't like it/aren't interested/can't afford it, then no one else likes it, is interested in it, or can afford it – and I must make my displeasure heard!"

      I just… I dunno. I don't care about big area rugs, they aren't relevant to me, so I skipped that recent post and went on my merry way, reading something I was interested in. This (Offbeat Home and Life) is a niche lifestyle blog- but there are a LOT of niches, and I don't fit in them all. I happily engage in my niches and let others enjoy theirs – why should I rain on someone else's parade?

      65 agree
  1. Thank-you for this behind the scenes, honest, post. It's important info for readers! I trust that your team will filter sponsors and only advocate for companies that fit with the Offbeat Empire's standards. I'm sorry you faced such negative feedback.

    34 agree
    • I trust that your team will filter sponsors and only advocate for companies that fit with the Offbeat Empire's standards.

      Thank you for this! We try do our best, but of course it's extremely subjective and we DO make mistakes.

      What's most amusing to me is when there's a sponsor that I'm *extremely* dubious about, that readers end up LOOOOVING. I'm thinking especially here of Aberrant Ornaments on Offbeat Bride. I barely approved that sponsor, concerned that readers would see it as yet one more unnecessary wedding thing they felt pressured to care about and buy, and was worried that the post would generate a lot of negative comments.

      …Instead, it went on to become one of the most pinned sponsored posts we've ever run: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/171418329540173424/

      So this is all to say that while we do our best to filter sponsored posts by who we think readers will genuinely appreciate, sometimes we're totally wrong — in both directions!

      22 agree
      • Subjective for sure! I guess my expectations aren't that high. I mean, I assume you won't have Barilla pasta advertising on your site. Other than that ads are expected. Sometimes even helpful when I find out about something new I'm interested in.

        6 agree
  2. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

    I believe if you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all. There's a bucketload of things on all the Offbeat sites that don't appeal to my tastes, but I don't sit there slating them! TBH I'm too busy moving on to the things I DO like! (my pinterest can vouch for that! 😉 )

    I respect the variety shown, and love the fact you don't adhere to a DIY/Frugal stereotype in what you choose to promote. Keep it up 🙂 x

    35 agree
  3. I think posts like this are super important. There was a past one along the same lines that made me recognize the effect of negative comments on sponsored posts, which I assume most people haven't had to think about before, myself included. Keep it up.

    16 agree
  4. I'm so glad you spoke up. Negativity in general is unpleasant on OBHL, so I don't know why some people think sponsored posts should be treated with less respect than other posts. I hope that Baby Blastoff continues as a sponsor, because I thought their stuff was awesome.

    23 agree
    • "… I don't know why some people think sponsored posts should be treated with less respect than other posts."

      I'm calling this out because I agree with you and I really think there's something to this. So many people think of all online ads as "the enemy." As though having any ads, ever, is an affront to their sensibilities. I get being annoyed by a *lot* of ads and I fully understand people using ad blockers, but advertising in and of itself isn't evil. I think that idea, that advertising is inherently bad, is kind of generational and really interesting. Also, unfortunate in the way it effects smaller, non-corp businesses like the Offbeat Empire.

      32 agree
    • Yes! THIS! "I don't know why some people think sponsored posts should be treated with less respect than other posts"

      If the post was about someone's giraffe-themed bathroom, I doubt anyone would write "Gah, I hate giraffes – I would never do this!" But in the end, the message is the same: "This doesn't apply to me, thus it's lame."

      13 agree
        • Ooh… is this a new bathroom decor challenge for me over on Home???

          18 agree
    • Right? Would these same commenters have spoken up if someone had written a post in which they mentioned buying these products or would they have just thought "wow, nice to have that kind of budget?" Why is it okay to insult the vendor when you wouldn't insult the patron. And if you WOULD insult the patron, well, then this is the wrong community for you.

      I sincerely hope to one day have the kind of budget where I can just buy things I like with out checking the price. Will I ever think an article of clothing that a child will fit for 3 months is *worth* $40? Probably not. But one day, someday, I like to think I won't care.* Today is not that day, but mad props to those people who are there already.

      *especially if that "extra" money is going to support the overhead of an independent business whose ethics and business principles I believe in.

      20 agree
      • And if you WOULD insult the patron, well, then this is the wrong community for you.

        You bring up a really interesting issue that actually surfaced in the original comment thread itself, with one reader saying she DID have the resources to buy the products featured, and she was sick of feeling like she somehow didn't belong in the community because she wasn't broke.

        That's where I get really uncomfortable with this kind of "too expensive!" commenting… because it's not just insulting to the sponsor, but it potentially alienates fellow readers. One-lowmanship doesn't make anyone feel very good.

        33 agree
        • I can sympathize with that commenter. I have no regrets whatsoever about becoming a patron, but it's weird to see the posts about sponsorship and patrons with all the comments that say "I can't fit it into my budget but one day I really want to." Meanwhile, I'm working in a field that pays really well, and have no trouble affording it at all.

          It's different than complaining about a sponsor's prices, but talking about money is just weird all over and I'm not sure there's a way for it not to be.

          9 agree
        • That was me and I've been a reader since 2009….I'd felt this way for a long time, glad I finally said something.

          7 agree
  5. THIS is why Offbeat is one of the best online communities out there. I have argued until I'm blue in the face why groups/forums/communities need no-drama commenting policies and everyone goes back to the "freedom of speech!" argument (to which I read a GREAT counter-argument that I use all the time by one of Offbeat's commenters in the "How not to be Lurker" article).
    Ariel, and the Offbeat family, you are pioneers in this respect that you are actually dealing with troll-ish behaviour and making ppl accountable to their words from behind the safety of their screens. Push on, warriors!

    19 agree
  6. This times a million. Fucking hell it can be exhausting when people are so "me"-centric that they forget the business side, the side where people are trying to keep providing them this service that they want.

    18 agree
  7. I've noticed that since the offbeat families stopped publishing, that most of its posts, and with it, the drama, have migrated to Offbeat Home & Life.

    Since the business model for families didn't work, it would seem to make more sense to leave it as an archive, and leave the baby/parenting stuff off of Offbeat Home. I know i enjoyed the blog a lot more before all the regular parenting and baby stuff showed up.

    14 agree
    • This is absolutely an option we're considering. (That said, currently only a small fraction of Offbeat Home's content involves families or children — we're only talking about 10%.)

      8 agree
    • I would be sad if all the family-related stuff were removed from Home and Life, since I really enjoy reading it. The proportion seems about perfect to me. If that content has to be removed to keep Home and Life going, then I trust the editors to make that judgment, and it's better than not having Home and Life around at all… but hopefully it won't be necessary!

      51 agree
      • I agree, I *like* the family-related stuff on Offbeat Home & Life. I would be sad if it went away. Not all of those who migrated over from Families are drama-llamas.

        28 agree
      • I don't have kids, but I like a lot of the family stuff. And where do you draw that line? Like only kids = family stuff, or does partners and mothers-in-law and sibling stuff go too? Can we not talk about the lesbian triad's pregnancy? Because removing any one of those things would make me a sad panda.

        And as some one thinking about having kids down the road, it's nice to know that there are other people out there tackling the parenting thing differently. I haven't noticed an uptick in drama,but I have noticed (and appreciated) the small uptick in family stuff (AKA &LIFE).

        10 agree
        • You're toooootally right, it's a total slippery slope when it comes to Families content on Home. Something we've have editorial conversations about all the time. So my solution to line-drawing is "would people without kids be interested in this article?"

          6 agree
          • I don't have kids, I won't ever have kids, and I love all the family content – I would be sad to see it go.

            18 agree
    • I don't understand leaving the kids/family stuff off of the blog because kids are a part of life and home! Not that I would want *every* post about those topics, but it is nice to see it once in a while.

      18 agree
      • Kids are not part of everyone's lives and homes though, and part of the reason Offbeat families shut down was because it didn't make money and there was a lot of drama. Since the drama has migrated over with the posts, far moreso for the ones about baby/preganancy stuff (the stuff that used to be relegated to the Families page), it would make sense to curb it.

        4 agree
    • If it's got to do with babies/ children or parenting I don't even open it. I am sure there are decor things and such in there that I would like but I knew that drama would come with it when it came over from families. Family and parenting in particular always seems so ridiculously competitive (as an outside observer) I mean who really cares if your six year old can spell mesothelioma and the next door kid can't, it doesn't mean that your way of parenting is the only right way to do it. Drama Llamas are bringing the internet down.

      12 agree
  8. This post made me realize that since my computer was overhauled and reset up, my ad-blocking add-on is set to block ads on all sites… which means i haven't been seeing any ads that weren't posts… I may not have purchased anything over the years from the advertisers (because i'm broke! ha!) but I do like to click through when i see something interesting!

    2 agree
    • psst, can I assume you also saw the Ad-Block relevant post a few weeks back? I have ads turned on (off?… uh. I set it so I see the ads). Because I LOVE to click through to the ad, bookmark, perhaps mark something for a gift for later, or maybe just to add to my *swoon* list.

      (I'm not in a place where I can support OBE with a donation, but I can with ad-clicks, and perhaps a purchase or two. )

      2 agree
  9. How sad that a website built around the standard of diversity and which tries to cater to its followers is getting overwhelmed by these negative attitudes.

    The Offbeat Empire is without a doubt my favorite corner of the internet to visit when I have downtime, and I can't think of a single post anywhere on it that I wasn't excited about, whether it was promoting another business, someone's awesome funky wedding, DIY home decor ideas, etc. It's not because I have felt deeply connected to every topic/brand/picture/idea on there but because I have complete respect for the writers and admins and their dedication to bringing such a variety of stuff to the table and striving to make EVERYONE feel included.

    If a post or ad didn't apply to or appeal to me, I never had to wait long before something else did.

    It's so hard to find genuine inclusiveness in the world, much less on the internet, and I hope that nothing like that happens to the rest of the Empire.

    19 agree
    • YES! It makes me sad that it might turn into Offbeat Home & Life but Never if You Have Kids/Parent/Love Babies because of some dramaz that happens. I loved that sponsored post even though I couldn't justify buying it for MY kid. But I would totally pony up for someone else's kid as a gift. And when the giant penguin rug post popped up I scrolled, thought things were neat, but quickly moved on. It makes me sad that the inclusive parenting type part of Life might just get cut away completely…

      23 agree
  10. Hate reading is lame (even if we all do it). Trollish comments are lamer.

    I saw the post, read it, went "oh cool! not for me though" and moved on.

    As much as I hate to put it this way because it makes it sound like y'all are uncaring (which I DEFINITELY know is not the case), if the service is free to you, then you're the product. Our dollars and our revenue-building abilities are the product — the advertising is geared to us as a product and we need to remember that not every advertisement is going to be relevant to every one of us.

    Remember, we're the product, as icky as it sounds. We're an awesome product, and a valuable product, but still a product nonetheless.

    So, all that to say, why can't people just go "oh, ok, not for me!" and roll on with their lives. It's not like we're being strapped to chairs, with eyelids held open for Offbeat Reeducation.

    9 agree
    • if the service is free to you, then you're the product

      This is absolutely the cold hard truth, especially when it comes to the publishing industry. Hell: your eyeballs are the product with magazines, and yet they still charge you to read the ads! I would love it if I could charge every reader $3/issue, in addition to the advertising income!

      As some readers know, we're experimenting with moving toward having Offbeat Home & Life be more reader supported, but I can't say it's been an immediate success: http://offbeatempire.com/2013/10/tugboat

      tl;dr from that post: roughly 0.000065% of Offbeat Home & Life's monthly readers have chosen to become supporters. I'm immensely grateful for that 0.000065%, but it's certainly not going to pay the bills… so reader eyeballs do indeed remain the primary "product."

      7 agree
      • I wish people would consider sponsored posts like TV commercials during their favorite shows. You wouldn't write a letter to CBS telling them their ad for something during, say, Big Bang Theory is for a product that's too expensive for them. Why do it here?

        33 agree
      • I don't know if this is helpful, or just beating a dead horse, but here I go. I have not contributed to OHL but I totally would have coughed up the funds for OF. OF was truly something that (I feel) does not exist anywhere else, and I learned a ton from the postings and interactions — that's worth something. While OHL is interesting and fun to look at, I can also get a good amount of the content elsewhere. In response to the comment above about maybe not doing any more OF-type posts, even as an avid OF reader, the posts to OHL just aren't the same, and I'm not sure I would notice if they weren't there anymore.

        11 agree
  11. i am so glad you posted this. there are times i read comments on the sponsored posts and think 'what are you thinking?!?'. And i believe the answer is 'people aren't thinking.' It is good to put this out there in black and white.

    4 agree
  12. I have to admit I was one of those that posted to the sponsored post mentioned, but I missed the part where it was from a sponsor (either from my distracted reading with a toddler tearing around, using my phone to read or it wasn't clearly stated, whatever.) My beef with the post was that it made it sound like there were no real options for gender neutral clothing out there. I posted a response that mentioned the cost of the advertised clothing, but was meant more as advice to others that there are more options out there. I don't mind seeing sponsored posts, I look and move on or check out the sponsor's site usually. But the way this post was presented bothered me enough to say something.

    5 agree
    • Just a quick note about the issue of sponsored posts being clearly stated: Our policies require that all sponsored content is noted at least four times on the page. More info: http://offbeatempire.com/disclaimer-for-sponsored-posts

      It's hugely important to me that sponsored content is clearly and repeatedly marked. I understand that disclaimers can still be overlooked, but I do want to note that we work very hard to make it as clear as possible.

      13 agree
  13. I've just arrived from Offbeat Bride. Is Offbeat Families dead then? 🙁

    1 agrees
  14. Sorry but this really feels like you are trying to silence the people who point out that your ads are not affordable for many offbeat parents. Where are the more reasonably priced items being advertised? Why the focus on such expensive baby-gear? That kind of thing is alienating, and so is this post, IMHO. By asking people who disagree with your posts to privately message you, you are HIDING their responses for your OWN benefit. I valued Offbeat Families when it was available and miss the content but frankly "no drama" sometimes means "no dissent"… and that's no good.

    4 agree
    • you are HIDING their responses for your OWN benefit

      For the site's benefit, yep. Commercial sites that don't benefit, don't stay online. That's why I noted, "this advice assumes you like the website in question and want it to remain online." If you like a site and want it to stay online, then that means that you probably want the site to, well, benefit.

      If you don't like the site (which I totally respect!), then the advice doesn't apply… and it's probably not worth reading that website any more. I think Offbeat Home & Life features a fair number of reasonably priced sponsors, but if they're consistently not a fit for your tastes or budget, then that's totally ok. It's a great big internet out there. All I would ask that you allow others (who might enjoy the posts and/or DO want the site to benefit) to continue to do so.

      43 agree
      • I get the impression with sponsored posts that its either one of two situations:

        The company has approached the empire to do a sponsored post, in which case the empire doesn't really have much control over the pricing, or;

        The empire has approached loads of companies, of all price ranges, but the ones who have taken them up on it just so happen to be in a slightly higher price range for whatever reason.

        I certainly don't think its some kind of conspiracy. They're just doing their best to get revenue

        29 agree
      • Yeah, it's not like I'm ever going to see my local super cool thrift shop becoming a sponsored post, ya know?

        21 agree
    • IMHO, given that most of the Empire's advertisers are very small businesses, if they are also selling very inexpensive product they are less likely to have built up room in their advertising budget to invest in a sponsored post vs, say, a sidebar ad.

      I think it took me two years or so before I could afford to buy "real" ads anywhere when I launched my business, since I was a shoestring launch and not a 8K of starting capital launch, and I still can't really do the big ad networks like Blogher.

      9 agree
  15. I've heard a social media expert touch on this topic recently … he said the folks who slam posts or products for being 'too expensive' or similar complaints represent a tiny fraction of a site's overall audience. In a sense, we shouldn't give them too much oxygen. It's a shame the companies in question did just that – a well written, thoughtful sponsored post certainly has value, and if it keeps a blog afloat monetarily, all the better.

    9 agree
  16. Wow, I must have read that post before all the drama started. I usually think of sponsored posts like these (which was clearly marked) as supporting the supporter of my favorite team. At the very least, if the product presented is out of my price range or not quite my style, I use it as inspiration, or post a related item that Offbeat readers may never have heard of in the comments.

    And as an independent designer myself, I'm all for supporting independent makers here in the US.

    8 agree
    • this strikes me as kinda weird: "if the product presented is out of my price range or not quite my style, I use it as inspiration, or post a related item that Offbeat readers may never have heard of in the comments."

      how does it help the sponsor or the empire to post a competing item?

      4 agree
      • I think it's a double-edged sword.

        On the one-hand, yes it does strike down a little bit of the "uniqueness" of the sponsor and what they're doing, while also giving free and unsolicited advertising to a company which doesn't support the blog/company taking the sponsorship.

        On the other-hand, the company should know who their competition is already (in an ideal world) and if it helps people who like the products in the post, but is outside their price comfort zone, then it helps that industry/niche as a whole.

        In a certain sense, it's like when people on OBB talk about things they saw on A Practical Wedding — Ariel and Meg know each other, but they are technically competing properties. The traffic back and forth may not directly hurt Ariel (or Meg, for that matter), but the post could cause some readers to jump ship. Ariel needs readers, or at least eyeballs, to say in business. The readership on both sites can overlap, but are slightly different and so one may resonate more with one than the other.

        2 agree
        • This is a great point — although I will say that if I bought a sponsored post for Offbeat Bride on another site, I would be miffed if the comments on that site's sponsored post were about APW. I haven't been in touch with Meg for a few years, but I imagine she would likewise be a bit disappointed if she purchased placement somewhere for APW, and commenters responded to the placement by promoting Offbeat Bride.

          In fact, even for me as the competing/benefiting business owner in that second scenario, I'd be a little aghast if one of my readers did that…

          6 agree
          • I definitely wouldn't do it myself, but I do see the dual aspect of it. If I had paid for the sponsored post, I'd probably be really miffed at the whole thing.

            I do make some comments about relevant things I've seen other places, but I try to keep them to advice and philosophizing posts, as I think it's the most appropriate place to put it. I'm a proponent of citing where I got the idea from and those posts are designed as a way for the asker to fish for ideas on how to handle something going on in their lives.

            I don't, however, direct link, which is an ethical choice on my part.

            2 agree
  17. Thank you for this.
    I completely agree and sympathize. Working as a professional belly dancer and burlesque performer is a completely relatable experience. Really nearly any creative paid hobby or profession is.

    Consumers often look at prices for photography or for a performance at a wedding/party/reunion and scoff. While we as the providers understand their concern for the pricing, there is simply a state of sustainability and respect that need to be addressed.

    Is it right that as a dancer I have to pay hundreds of dollars a month and drive two hours each way to get dance lessons that I am actually learning something from; then spend even more on my costuming and prep work, only to make pennies, or a bar tab? Is it right that Photographers pay to get degrees and buy equipment and take time to take your amazing photos and edit them, and you want it for half of what they ask? Is our time worth less than someone else's, than your own?

    You, the consumer get paid a wage that's deemed appropriate, or you don't do the work, or you ask for a raise. We talk a lot about sustainability, but it doesn't stop at food and the planet and our way of living. It extends to our culture which includes the arts, and websites like this.

    Is it respectful to degrade someone's ambition or dreams because you can't afford to pay four figures for your wedding photos, or fifty dollars for a onesie? No, it isn't. What if that was you on the receiving end of those comments about something you have worked so hard for?

    Sorry, this is an issue near and dear to my heart, so I had to rant a bit. I love what you folks do, and support in anyway I can. So keep on Keepin' on. ^_^

    18 agree
  18. I think this whole problem is just silly. I can understand being displeased with pricing, been there, done that, living it – but even when I can't afford it doesn't mean that I can't look at it, like it, pass it on, or at least ignore it.

    I personally found some of those items, while out of my price-range, to be adorable and I shared with several of my friends with a cute face in hopes that I would one day be able to gift myself with one or two items or when LO3 comes around I might have a generous buddy lol.

    7 agree
  19. The anonymity and FREE SPEECH!!! chest-thumping of the internet has made us forget (or sadly, never learn) a very important lesson: tact. Yes, we are entitled to our opinions, and yes, we have the right to express them, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we SHOULD. We are very quick to make things "all about me" but rarely stop to think, "What if this WAS about me? How would I feel if someone said this comment to/about me?"

    So if this was about me… 😛

    As a small business owner myself, I struggle with pricing. I've been told both that my prices are too high and that I need to raise them. Promoting my products online is a somewhat scary proposition, as I never know what kind of response I'm going to get. My business is my baby, and I can't help but take the comments personally. I admit that I have been seriously considering a sponsored post on OBH&L in part because of the no-drama policy. And I admit that this post and the comments it is referring to give me pause. I invest a lot of myself into my products, so insults and attacks of them feel like insults and attacks on me. I totally understand that my products aren't for everyone (that's kind of the point!) but it still hurts when someone disparages them.

    I think we tend to forget that there are real people behind the products we see. And we forget that these people don't have the resources of the big box stores that have trained us to expect super low prices. And sometimes we forget to ask ourselves, "Would I say what I'm about to say to my best friend if this was her/his business?"

    I'm part of a Facebook group that has a rule not to say "I wish I could afford that!" because it's a negative remark on the artist's pricing. This rule has had an interesting affect on me, because when that phrase pops into my head, it's made me stop and think about the price and recognize the value of the artist's work. It's also removed some of the negativity about money in my life, as I've moved from "Waaaah! I'm too broke to get everything I want!" to "I really want that. How can I work it into my budget?" It's also prompted me to leave real compliments on an artist's work.

    Speaking of real compliments, thank you Ariel and the rest of the Offbeat staff, for creating and maintaining this Empire. I think you are all doing a fantastic job. Quite honestly, your sites are the only ones (outside of my own social media accounts) that I've really looked into advertising on and that is partly because of my desire to support you and keep you going. I'm definitely working it into my budget. 🙂

    20 agree
    • THIS : I really want that, how can I work this into my budget ?

      Personally, I strive to add a level of : do I really want this ?

      2 agree
  20. Oh, I'd wondered what happened. I had just discovered Offbeat Families shortly before it shut down.

    What's wrong with disabling comments on ads? Most websites that have ads don't have any place to leave comments on them.

    2 agree
  21. I would also suggest disabling comments on sponsored posts. I know that great content comes out of the comments on those posts, but if the alternative is losing sponsors, I would cut the losses of potential coments and close the comments.

    2 agree
    • Long time OBB sponsor here (since 2009 and counting!)… The comments on Offbeat Bride lead to bookings. Don't know why, but when lots of people are commenting positively, even if it's not about the photography- which is the product I'm actually advertising- the return on investment soars. Even if people comment just to say, "How cute is the crinoline on that bride in the second photo?!?" more comments = more traction. Disabling comments on sponsored posts, at least for OBB, would be terrible.

      4 agree
    • To piggy-back on Angie's comment above, a lot of times on Offbeat Home the owner of the sponsoring company will comment in response to reader concerns (like no shipping to Canada, or a coupon code that isn't working). I definitely think more highly of companies that do that, because it shows that they listen to their customers and try to give good service.

      5 agree
  22. A year and a half ago, I re-did the main living areas of my home including the kitchen, a powder room and what was supposed to be a living room but is now the game room/art gallery. The project was 10 years in the making, and I worked very hard to blend my husband's love of ultra modern black and white and my love world design color explosion. I've considered submitting a home tour because the space is very cool, and my husband and I were very creative about how we went about it. But I've hesitated because I'm worried about comments about how much I spent. We did some amazing penny pinching, but I know it is still a big chunk of change for most folks.

    4 agree
  23. Do these people get offended if an ad for a BMW or Mercedes comes on TV? This kind of mentality must make life very difficult.

    7 agree
  24. Late to the party, I wanted to add : I appreciate that the posts all across the OBE show me all the wonders of the world that are available online, for purchase or in people's minds.
    It's certainly helped me to see, dream and do more.

    1 agrees
  25. I just want to say, if it hasn't been said already, that offbeat does not equal frugal and or cheap and or living in a hut on a farm in Africa. It can MOST DEFINITELY equal those things but it does not exclusively equal those things. I've seen some pretty crazy expensive weddings/ideas/homes/etc and I've also seen some fantastically economical weddings/ideas/homes/etc. Offbeat is not concrete, it's abstract. Stop trying to shove us into your box labeled Offbeat.

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    • Yeah, it's always interesting for me as a publisher when people come to me and say, "This post doesn't fit *MY LIFE* so therefore, it's not a fit with the Offbeat Empire." Lots of us are reading these sites!

      More importantly, usually the folks who try to brand-police in this way haven't actually read every single post on the site (very few people have!) so they don't always have the same big-picture view as those of us who know the full content of the sites… like, say, the staff. Ultimately, these kinds of complaints usually come down to a lack of trust about the folks running the website, which I sympathize with… but doesn't always feel especially great.

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  26. Hi!
    So when I first found OHL, I was super excited. It had great articles about renting and studio apartments, which still took small rental spaces seriously as a home. It made me feel better about my Peace Corps/grad school state of perpetual broke-ness and had awesome tips.
    Over the last year or so, I feel like this website has gotten a bit tougher for the cash-strapped, with more and more articles featuring really expensive items and home ownership and fewer awesome articles on renting or raising a family on a budget. Sure we can click past, but if feels sucky to do so, particularly when there's nothing to that I can click to that offers real advice for the less than well off.
    This does not make it OK to rip into sponsor posts. I understand the need for income and will absolutely never say mean things on sponsor posts.
    However, could we please get a few more of the awesome posts about renting, budget keeping, travelling on the cheap, etc? Particularly, I loved that posts here used to (and sometimes still do) even spoke to people who were below middle class.
    It's actually really hard to find decorating, pet care, travel, parenting, articles that don't seem to presume middle class status. Poor people get shamed in this country and I love how OHL works hard to avoid that. In short, I don't think there's anything wrong with featuring pricey items (sponsored or not), but it would be awesome if they were balanced with positive thoughtful articles that everyone could appreciate regardless of income.
    OHL generally does an awesome job with this, so please just do it some more. Thanks! 🙂

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    • could we please get a few more of the awesome posts about renting, budget keeping, travelling on the cheap, etc? Particularly, I loved that posts here used to (and sometimes still do) even spoke to people who were below middle class.

      Ooh ooh, first did you notice that today on Home we have a post about how renting can be better than owning? When that submission came in I thought "Ooh yay, finally! We haven't had one of these posts for a while!" So I featured it asap. Because…

      The thing with Home & Life is that 80% (or more) of the posts are reader submissions. So it's mostly a reflection of it's most active readers, and myself (a middle class chick who HATES renting, blows her budget on expensive shower curtains, and whose only cheap travel tip is "I just keep staying for free at my parents house on Maui"). So our number one response to people asking for more of a specific topic (especially if it's one our editors don't have experience with) is "start submitting!" Because we've learned that content is contagious.

      If you start submitting posts about renting, budget keeping, and traveling on the cheap, it'll inspire other people to remember that they too have thoughts about this topic, and they'll start submitting posts about renting, budget keeping, and traveling on the cheap. That contagious content is the reason we have so many posts about polyamory. It's also the reason that, when I post one article about parenting, I get six more parenting posts submitted that very week.

      All that to say, I hear you, I agree with you, and, luckily, you have power to change this situation!

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      • Actually I did see that post. It was awesome! Thanks! I totally understand about submissions. One day I'll attempt to write something that's not for grad school or work, but I think that day might still be a ways in the future.

  27. Ariel – Don't know if you'll read this among the masses of other comments that hit your site every day, but I wanted to tell you, I've learnt so much from the way you handle these kind of challenges with your online community. I manage a social media site too, and I've taken more than a few pages out of your book with respect to your level of transparency and your respectful 'call-out-the-BS' attitude. It's genuinely refreshing. Thank you for doing whatever you need to do to keep this website running. It was a real help for me when I was planning my offbeat wedding, and in working out how our offbeat family would work through society's expectations. Thank you.

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    • Thank you so much for the sweet words, and you are so very welcome! Transparency comes with its own challenges, of course (the feedback can be overwhelming, and readers can develop a sense of informational entitlement), but I still think the pros outweigh the cons.

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  28. I have to laugh …. you post this: "You're talking to the lady who works from home in a 1br with a husband, a kid, and a dog. Believe me, I get it." in regards to budget, but at the bottom, pops up a message about the Offbeat Empire retreat in Maui. How tough your life must be.

    • Oh my. That's actually pretty funny. You're totally right.

  29. Oh this makes me so sad. I was recommended your Offbeat Bride website by a friend when I got engaged, and it has been one of the best pieces of wedding advice I have had. I love the community there, and was so excited to see that there were other Offbeat websites so the joy and awesomeness could continue in other areas of my life.

    I just discovered Offbeat Families link today, and was wondering about the different format. I'm so sorry the haters won on that one. I'm looking forward to reading the archive library, and want to say a big thanks for keeping those available.

    I love the perspectives on your websites, its obvious you and your team work hard to bring the stuff you feel is relevant to the hugely diverse off-beat community. I think you do a fantastic job xx

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