The other day, a longtime reader was apparently dismayed that I was speaking at a workshop sponsored by Ricoh, and announced he would stop reading 360 Rumors. I found that very surprising and frankly bizarre. In this post, I want to give you an inside look on what makes 360 Rumors tick, so everything is clear.
Many of you probably don’t know that I’ve actually been blogging since 2009. Before I started 360 Rumors, I had a photography blog called Better Family Photos, which I operated from 2009 until 2016, when I switched to 360 Rumors.
Chances are, you’ve never heard of BFP unless you are a hardcore camera geek like me. BFP was actually somewhat successful. At its peak, it had over 100,000 views a month, and it has more than 3 million pageviews. That doesn’t sound like a lot compared to large blogs, but not many blogs have stats like that. But BFP’s stats pale when compared to 360 Rumors. 360 Rumors hit 100,000 views a month around 8 months after it started, which was about a year ago. Of greater relevance to readers, BFP had just slightly over 1,000 articles in 7 years. 360 Rumors is about 20 months old and it already has almost 1,700 articles. In fact, with BFP I had a co-author, whereas 360 Rumors is mostly just me.
Why did 360 Rumors grow much faster than BFP? I’ll tell you.
BFP had almost zero affiliate links and had no sponsors or anything. In 7 years perhaps I think I got less than $200 total. It was purely a “labor of love,” intended as a service to the photographic community. It took a lot of effort (and money to buy gear) to run it and after a while, it started wearing me down.
When I started 360 Rumors, I made a conscious decision to use a different approach and make it a business venture. I would try to make money from it so I put affiliate links as soon as I could. Because it was a business venture, I also worked harder at it. My goal was and still is to give back to readers at least as much as I receive from them – hence, the much greater number of articles. I’m writing this at 1 AM, which is very typical for 360R.
I can assure you that if 360 Rumors was purely a hobby with zero affiliate links like BFP, I would not give it nearly as much effort as I do. After all, you can only work for free for so long. Why the heck would I give up time with my family to work my ass off on these articles for free? I may love 360 cameras, but obviously, I love my family far more!
So, yes, 360 Rumors is intended as a business and yes I get revenue from affiliate links. I thought it was already obvious every time I said, “Thank you for using these affiliate links to support 360 Rumors at no additional cost to you so I can do more tests and reviews.” And I don’t know if you saw the banner ad from Gimbal Guru and the GearBest. In case it’s not clear, these are ads, and I get paid for them.
Does this ipso facto mean that my reviews are untrustworthy? Goodness gracious, I sure hope not. Almost all review sites, Facebook pages, YouTube channels depend on affiliate links and sponsorships. Just like me, most of them don’t want to work for free. Put another way, Amazon, GearBest, B&H and other “sponsors” are subsidizing the cost of running this and other sites, making it possible for you to read them for free.
More importantly, when I review a product, I almost always back up my opinions and conclusions with actual data and evidence. In fact, I often say, “DON’T just take my word for it — look at the video or photo yourself.” To me, that’s the best assurance of reliability. I also make sure to specify whether photos or videos are edited (and I try to keep edits to a minimum) so that what you see is pretty much what you will get when you use these cameras. The photons recorded in photos or videos don’t know whether your site has affiliate links or advertisers. This is one of the reasons I pride myself in hands-on reviews based on actual experience and not just armchair speculation.
So, I hope you enjoyed this little peek behind the scenes of 360 Rumors and what makes it tick. What do you think? Do affiliate links and sponsorships undermine a reviewer’s credibility? Should reviewers work for free? Let me know what you think in the comments!