Hey guys, so some craziness went down in the blogging world yesterday. Mode Media, the billion-dollar valued company (that I was a content contributor for) abruptly shut down yesterday. No warning to staff or influencers; they held a company-wide meeting with their staff and let them know the doors were closing effective that day (WSJ). WTF?!
Companies come and go everyday, but this closing has ROCKED the blogging world since the news broke, and will continue to do so over the next few weeks because there are levels to who + what this affects. Not only did Mode have an ad network, but they also had a network for content contributors (which is what I was apart of) and it appears they had one for branded campaigns as well.
If you were just a content contributor, you pitched stories during 2 monthly sessions + were paid for them. If you wanted to opt out of a session, you could-you just needed to let your rep know. If you were part of the ad network, however, you were tied to an exclusivity contract for at least a year and couldn’t be a part of any other networks. In some ways this was fine because depending on your reach, you could rake in thousands of dollars a month from the ads + campaigns. You had to miss out on outside campaigns, though, which hurts like hell now for some bloggers because not only did Mode close without notice, they were months behind in payment. What I lost in unpaid invoices (around 1k) is pennies compared to those bloggers that were in the ad network and lost anywhere from 5K-15K for original, branded content that they created (and which has effectively disappeared because Mode.com has been taken down within the last few hours). Holy Sh*t.
Do you know how crushing it is to know that you will never be paid for your hard work???? I know that some people think that blogging is just playing in clothes + makeup and hanging out in your pjs all day, but this is REAL work. What we do is like any other form of marketing + advertising. We have to come up with a concept, style + take photos, write + edit copy, and promote our work in order to have any type of real ROI so that we can keep doing what we do. Sure, some posts take less than an hour to create, but others that are part of a campaign can take WEEKS depending on what you have to do. There were between 10,000-12,000 bloggers within their entire network so this has impacted a LOT of homes.
Hopefully the community will be able to bounce back as a whole, but it has opened the eyes of many on the practices of 3rd party networks that work as middle men between bloggers + brands. The ease of being a part of a network makes you look past the commission that you will have to pay them, however, something has to be done with the payment schedules. Most operate on a net 30-net 120 cycle, but considering the ever-evolving shift in digital media, this model won’t be sustainable that long. Mode Media was one of the top networks that bloggers wanted to be a part of; they were slated to profit almost $100 million this year, but for them to shut down this way? Something stinks, and it’s not the kitty liter.
I behoove any blogger that’s looking to work with brands and ad networks moving forward to keep these things in mind:
Freelancing income isn’t the same as 9-5 income.
What I mean by this is, when you work a 9-5, you know exactly when you will be paid + how much. While freelancing may allow you to charge more, depending on your client, you will have to wait a minimum of 30 days AFTER the completion of a project to be compensated, so make sure you that prep + protect yourself financially. I was lucky that my schedule with Mode was only 30 so I didn’t get sucked into creating too much content, but others were 120. Moving forward, I can’t say that I will agree to anything that is more than Net 30. I would prefer to be compensated upfront (which I have been 95% of the time) but Net 30 is the max. The risk just isn’t worth it.
Have your Media Kits ready + know how to pitch to brands on your own.
I regularly update mine, but I’ve never pitched to a brand on my own. That changes today. After reading a lot of the commentary under the #ModeMedia hashtag on Twitter, it reaffirmed that working directly with a brand is the way to go. It may seem easier to get sponsored work via a network, however brands seem to be paying anywhere from 2x-4x more when they work with you directly. It may take a little longer + a little more work, but it will be worth it.
If you DO join another network, skip the ones that require exclusivity.
This is the most crushing thing about the whole fiasco. A lot of bloggers were only able to be a part of this ad network, so this was their ONLY form of revenue from their blog. For the ones that lost 5k or more, you KNOW that brands were probably emailing them up a storm to work with them, and they couldn’t because of this clause. There are ad networks that don’t require this, so make sure that you do your research before you sign on that dotted line.
Always try to have multiple streams of income in the works, even if it means creating your own products.
What happened with Mode sucks, but unfortunately, this is a part of the game. Even with a contract, nothing is guaranteed, so always keep your options open. Figure out ways to make additional income if you can. E-Books, E-courses, podcast, hosting services, branded products (tees/mugs) etc. If you have an idea for something, now is the time to get your ducks in a row + launch it.
If you were part of Mode Media + lost income as well, I am so sorry. Making a living doing what we love is a joy, and I hate that this has put a damper on the blogging community. Just try to stay positive, surround yourself with good people + fellow bloggers (this fiasco has helped me find some new cool bloggers so there’s a small plus side) and keep creating!