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Wednesday, 13 January 2010


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Good grief, this sounds a lot like capitalism to me.

And I still will miss affiliate links to amazon.fr. Still nothing you can do about it?

And is that a good thing or a bad thing?


You definitely deserve the cash Mike, great writing should be rewarded.

But from my limited perspective, it just saddens me that your site is becoming more and more commercial, as if some sort of mythical purity has been lost (maybe it's just all in my head). It seems that most of the blogs now are somewhat covert attempts to move product instead of the great material from your magic pen that drew us here in the first place.

I'm aware of economic realities, and I certainly don't begrudge anyone making money, but I worry that the emphasis of the site is slipping away from what you do best, or at least becoming watered-down in commercialism. FWIW. JMHO.

I think I could / would better support the affiliation with Amazon if it were possible to do so. I live in Canada, there is a .CA Amazon and I am prevented from purchasing products from Amazon.com because of, what?, the internal accounting policies, organizational proclivities, tax structure, whatever, that are a feature of Amazon's version of... e-tailing (really! the English language has its limits.)

I would suggest that you somehow include a link to .CA Amazon plugs -- they are almost always identical except for the .CA instead of the .COM URL if the products are available in Canada -- but I don't think affiliation is a feature of .CA Amazon at least for entities outside Canada. And, I have to think, there is a limit to the extent you should have to nickle and dime yourself with html editing in order to satisfy me for a minuscule return. There's globalization and then there's globalization for the rest of us, Mike. All the best.


You can use our Amazon Canada link any time. The link is always readily available under the "Use Our Amazon Links" banner in the right-hand column.

And, thanks--


Reader's statement: I, Jim McDermott of Woodford Halse, Northants, UK would like to state that I am one of the indolent SOBs who visits this site far too often when I should be earning a living, having been seduced by the often-coherent ramblings of said publisher. This is in no way an endorsement of indolence or, conversely, of wage-slavery, though any potential future employers of myself should note that I would put behind me all such frivolous pursuits if they offered me tenure. Honestly.

It's that, or I go sell shoes.


Thank you for the very clear statement of position and intent. You obviously put a lot of time into your posts and should receive some compensation, especially since the affiliate links you use don't add to the price of products bought through them.


I suggest above statement include a link back to this exact post.


LOL! "Signed virtually". I know this is something you have to do, Mike but you always seem to find a way to make such things funny. It is almost like the having to put a text "Hot" on a coffee cup or the "don't put your cat in the microwave to dry"-warnings.

Basically you're telling us your site is connected to the real world, whatever that may or may not be.

And you as owner of said site...you too migt be connected to the site, right?

Documentation and extraneous paperwork were never my forte.

Somehow don't think it's yours either.

I don't know about anybody else, but I certainly will sleep better tonight knowing the crack staff of the FTC is (finally) addressing this widespread problem.


For the record, the FTC didn't give me any trouble. I just spent some time catching up on their guidelines and recommendations for bloggers, is all. I'm actually in agreement with their efforts and I honestly do try to keep everything transparent. One basic principle has always guided me as both a magazine writer and editor, and now as the host of TOP: readers first. That is, you look out for the interests of all parties, including selfish personal interests, but the best interests of your readers should have pride of place.




Mike, as soon as you mentioned selling shoes, I knew who you meant.

Half of my photo-library is bought via you affiliate links to Amazon. I even have bookmarked it because if not TOP then Amazon gets that bonus. The other half of my library is via Alibris because it had those books cheaper or had them at all. Why don't you affiliate with Alibris? ;-)

LOL, Mike, that shoe selling gig looks pretty good :).

Al Bundy was putting the moves on this drop-dead gorgeous blonde receptionist, saying he was Joe Namath the Super Bowl QB (figuring she'd never know the difference). This angel was filing her nails before she finally looked up and said, "How come it smells like feet in here." haha

Yeah Mike, agreed, you better hold onto to the rock star writing job. :)

During the past several months I have been reassessing what publications and periodicals are genuinely important to me. I do not live in a palatial mansion and magazines quickly become clutter, particularly since I tend to subscribe to many things as I'm in the heat of a special interest. So reality audits are periodically essential for me. Thus far during this pare-down campaign I've jettisoned four subscriptions to photo-related periodicals, with a fifth being on the bubble. (OK, I also initiated one new subscription.)

But my support for TOP wasn't even close to the pare list for three reasons.

(1) I very much enjoy visiting TOP every day. It's a fertile site of mature, thoughtful photo (and a bit more) topics and has grown a community of similarly mature, seasoned minds. It's not the typical manic adolescent, self-referential "awesome digital photography" blog so common on the Internet these days. Nobody's going to get an acne breakout reading TOP.

(2) Congruent with (1), I am pleased that Mike permits me to contribute an article or two to TOP each year. But all I do is write them; it's Mike who makes something readable from the messes I sometimes send along and, of course, it's Mike who supports the TOP platform daily.

(3) For all the enjoyment and enlightenment I get from TOP it leaves no clutter in my home. (Unless, of course, you consider all the damn books I end up buying as a result of their coverage here.)

So what's not to like?

If your impressions and experiences are consistent with mine, I encourage you to support TOP just as you would a subscription to a magazine. (Hey, back-issues here are always free and online.) Yes I realize that times are tight for a lot of folks, some of whom may be TOP readers. So why not save a tree (and transit energy) and swap one of your periodical subscriptions for a subscription to TOP? You'll never have to schlep boxes of old issues to the recycle bin.

… re selling shoes
I can see you will be having to make a Clarifying Post (CP) soon as to wether that link constitutes and endorsement and whether it is an affiliate or not. There ae those who might be asking themselves after all "why is he not selling shoes!!!"
btw can't help but notice two posts in a row that have led to eighties big hair… what can this mean? :)
virtually yours, jkt

Must be official; he's using his middle initial.

The most interesting thing about this post (for me) is the concept. I didn't realize the FTC had published guidelines for bloggers. Like Mike, I agree with them in principle. I don't think bloggers should be REQUIRED to publish a statement (after all, this Web is the wild, wild, west), but by recognizing the guidelines publicly you're sending a message to your readers that you are legit and intend to be honorable.

I don't think it's enforceable, and there's nothing to prevent a scam site from posting a similar pledge, but I still think it's a good thing. After all, just because we're in the wild, wild, west it doesn't mean we should all act like cowboys.

FWIW, I've had my blog's commenting policy and endorsements policy available on the main page (links in the sidebar) for years. Didn't have to do that, but I felt it was the right thing to do. (Oh crap; I just realized they're not there now; must have vanished with last Wordpress update. Will re-establish tonight...)

Re what Player said: I sympathize. I've bemoaned the commercialization of the internet for many years, but I think Mike and TOP do a very good job around this. The affiliate hotbadges are off to the side and not overwhelming (as much as that can be), and when hotlinks are included in a post (to books or sites or whatever) I find them as much informative and additive as anything. The blogging biz is pretty young yet, and strategies to make it pay are still evolving, so, to borrow an unfortunate phrase from another post, the fat amoeba has yet to sing (let's see if I can get away with it this time). In any event, I think that in the posts themselves, Mike, and the other bloggers, stay pretty true to the intent of the blog.

I don't think there was anything I didn't already know there, but putting it neatly in one place no doubt makes it easier to satisfy the FTC rules if that's important. I suppose I should check, since I have affiliate links on my own site (with amazingly little result).

Anyway, you appear to have been meeting these standards and then some already.

Mike, I see the Amazon Canada link, but I want equal billing with the USA and UK. A quick link at the top please.

"Nobody's going to get an acne breakout reading TOP.".
A tad too late, I´m afraid.



This post sounds like a "bloggers manifesto" so to speak. Everything you have said is pretty much what I would have thought is a good definition of what a publicly available blog should be. That is, if you publish to the world and have a point of view -- it should be fairly transparent to everyone what incentivises you to do so as well as what influences your point of view.

I would say that there is room to define such a manifesto -- and your letter sounds like a reasonable starting point for a set of rules to start a following of people to be rewarded for their insights and thought leadership in a way that's fairly neutral (without having to directly monetize their content by say subscription or pay per view).

After all, if you think about it: aren't newspapers and publishers still looking for how to handle the electronic medium? And their writers as well?


Mike, I think Capitalism is a wonderful thing. I am just amazed when people have to state the obvious to make others happy. If you are reviewing something and getting paid to do - by all means tell me. Otherwise - 'ad' away and good luck to you.

You mentioned that you monetize the site in several different ways. What are the other ways?

Ken T.

Ditto (insert image of house and garage).


"What are the other ways?"

Advertisements (I guess that one's obvious), "subscriptions" (i.e. recurring donations), tips (direct donations), and print sales. I would also count gifts, which are infrequent but can be really nice.


Dear Jeff, Barb, Ed, et al.,

The sad truth is that there are increasing numbers of websites and blogs that are purely disguised advertisement--that is, the author claims to be "personally' recommending something, but what they're really doing is hawking merchandise and getting paid for it by the manufacturer.

This has generally been a no-no in all "broadcast" media since the payola scandals of the '50s.

There's nothing inherently immoral about advertorials, infomercials, and their ilk, when they are labeled as such. What the FTC is doing is telling people the same rules will apply to the Web--if you're de facto running commercials, you have to tell people that's what you do, instead of disguising it.

The rules have no effect whatsoever on normal journalistic or review practices. Some alarmists have claimed otherwise, but the FTC has a very clear FAQ and statement of intent in the white paper that refutes said alarmists.

As for the notion that this is the "wild and free West"...in the Old West, people got shot or hung for defrauding others. I prefer the more civilized not-so-wild modern life.

pax / Ctein

Ya know what? I've used the Amazon and B&H links (when it has occurred to me - hope you got a few dollars when I bought my 5D MkII BEFORE the discount :) I've really come to enjoy visiting your website and the way you manage it. But...it didn't seem to me that I was carrying enough weight to encourage you to continue to keep doing what you do, so I signed up for a subscription. I really enjoy visiting your site, and hope you make enough money from it to continue to prosper with it and make it worth the effort. My heartfelt thanks for a job well done, and best wishes for ongoing success in the future. I've several magazine subscriptions that don't bring me as much enjoyment as your site and its active contributors. I believe the quality of your content deserves my humble support.
Best regards,
Jim A.

Am I glad the human world totally collapses in 2012. Disclaimers everywhere, FCC rules, readers are clearly stupider today then in the past. We've come a long way in degeneration since the Greek philosophers proclaimed that 'today's youth is lazy and stupid' - seems to hold true for every generation, the next one is one step below.

Disclaimer: This posting may contain satire and remnants of nuts, possibly even a hint of lactose to stretch an otherwise perfect message.

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