PopSugar Stole Influencers’ Instagrams — Along With Their Profits by Hilary George-Parkin (Racked)
The lifestyle website stripped bloggers’ affiliate links from their posts and added the site’s own.
This has me thinking about the dangers of algorithms and the role of social media silos in the blogging economy. I have been watching hobby blogs become businesses for about 15 years. Affiliate links have always been one of the top ways to monetize a blog or website, but I think social media has changed how that traffic moves. (I haven’t paid as close attention to this sphere in the past 5 years or so but I’m sort of always a little bit aware of it.)

I’m thinking about the relationship between this phenomenon and the IndieWeb, of course. The thing is that all of the bloggers quoted in the article have their own domain names and seem to run their own independent blogs, but clearly get a lot of traffic from Instagram. Publishing on your own site and syndicating on Instagram wouldn’t protect you from this kind of content scraping. The way this affiliate economy seems to work, telling these creators to just wean themselves off Instagram seems like telling them to stop having their primary source of income.

If I were in a position to give them advice (as, say, a librarian whose job it is to advise young people on smart practices for information creation and dissemination), I’m not sure what advice I’d give them.

This has illuminated for me several issues I want to research/revisit, though:

  • The current state of affiliate marketing
  • The difference between a blogger and an influencer
  • The relationship between an influencer’s blog and social media presence (Is their content being syndicated or do they publish different things in each venue?)

My friend who is a fifth grade teacher told me that all her students are already YouTubers and expect to monetize their content and support themselves full-time. Once of the bloggers quoted in this Racked article, Nita of Next with Nita, finished law school and then moved to LA “to pursue [her] dream as an influencer.” (She has over 210,000 Instagram followers. I can’t imagine telling her to just quit Instagram would be good advice.)

Those jobs that didn’t exist yet that those of us who were teaching 10 or 15 years ago were preparing kids for? Influencer is one of them. YouTuber is one of them. Educators and technologists need to think about how to talk to youth about their creations, how they are monetized, and who gets to monetize them.