I love Offbeat Bride and have for ages, and one of the reasons why I’ve always respected this site and the Empire overall is due to good business ethics and practices. Which is why I got super sad when I didn’t see an affiliate disclosure on this post. I’m curious if it was just an oversight or if it’s a change in the way the site is approaching affiliate-based content. -Christen
Christen, this is an awesome question, and I’m so glad you brought it up. I love having readers that watch out for this stuff.
First, let’s review the basics
Before I dive into my answers here, I want to review the two different kinds of sponsored editorial posts we run:
- Direct-sold sponsored posts, where the advertiser pays for the placement directly to us. Most of these are very small independent businesses like local photographers. These are paid for before the post goes up, based on our flat rates.
- Affiliate posts, where we have a partnership with a large commercial business (think Amazon, Modcloth, or Minted) that gives us a percentage of the sales produced by the post. These are paid for after the post goes up, based on how many sales happen.
Ok, so now that we know the two main kinds of sponsored posts we feature on the sites. Now let’s talk about how we aim to be transparent about these posts. The Offbeat Empire’s policies about disclaiming sponsored content reveal that we’re, uh, a little obsessive about this stuff. Of course that doesn’t mean that human error isn’t a factor (because it totally was in this case), but our policies are clear and have been pretty much set in stone since 2009:
That post features an older site design, but the disclaimer policies remain the same. If you want to see an example of the affiliate disclaimer in action on a recent post by looking at any of my shoe posts, like this one.
Ok, so what about this particular post?
In the case of the Modcloth post Christen commented on, this was a straight-up oversight. We categorized the post incorrectly, so the disclaimer wasn’t automatically produced. The error has been corrected, and the affiliate disclaimer is now showing up at the top of the post. Whew! Sorry about that screw up.
Christen’s question brings up a larger issue I should address, though. I’ve written about how the Offbeat Empire use Skimlinks.
Having Skimlinks enabled on the Offbeat Empire network means that technically every single link on the sites is an affiliate link — even links that readers share in the comments. This makes the disclaimer at the top of a post feel a little silly. We address this issue by having a disclaimer of every single one of the 20,000+ pages across the Offbeat Empire that informs folks that we monetize the site using Skimlinks, with a link to my post all about how it works for us.
If readers are concerned about monetization and transparency, it’s worth noting that every single post on the Offbeat Empire is a intended as a revenue-driver, and that thanks to Skimlinks, every single URL in every single post and every single comment is monetized. There are, however, specific posts that are more focused on affiliate partners, like the Modcloth one… let’s talk about this: should we have the disclaimer at the top of all posts? (That’s a lot of clutter.) Just affiliate-focused posts? (Does it make a difference, when they’re ALL affiliate posts?) Should we have a disclaimer the sidebar like we do on Vendor listings? More text on the page causes clutter, and I’ve learned in my time on the interwebs that very few people actually read the text anyway… but still: I’m totally open to feedback that we could be doing better on this issue.
Regardless of all else, I’m super glad Christen brought up the issue — I’m always down to talk monetization transparency.