Open Sky Lets Bloggers Open Bloggy Storefronts
By Melissa Ford on May 20, 2010
BlogHer Original Post
Most bloggers who self-host their sites need to find a way to meet those minimal hosting bills, and others are trying to monetize their blog in order to have some cash for all their work. Advertisements are an easy way to earn a bit of money. Others have expanded into doing reviews, usually in exchange for a free product. There may be a new way to monetize a blog on the horizon.
But a year-old project still in beta called Open Sky may be the solution for those who wish to monetize their blogs beyond advertisements. According to the Open Sky Web site, the company skips reviews and instead makes it possible for bloggers to sell the items that mean the most to them and probably their readers. Food bloggers can sell cooking equipment, tech bloggers can sell gadgets, and style bloggers can sell clothing or make-up. The items are an extension of the blog itself.
Open Sky starts with a question: "What if we lived in a world where the people we trusted had the ability and desire to seamlessly connect us to the products they use?"
How it works: You can either choose from the products in the catalog or you can tell them any item in the world, and they will negotiate the relationship between you and the merchandise provider. You sell the product via your blog, deciding how hard you want to push the sale and direct readers to the merchandise. And then you split the profits 50/50 with Open Sky.
An example: Michael Ruhlman's store within his cooking blog. A link to the "shop" opens up a page explaining the products he uses and recommends. There are links to each of the products so people interested can purchase them through Open Sky. In the end, readers get the tools which create the dishes they've admired on his blog and Michael Ruhlman gets 50 percent of the profits from the sale.
ShePosts quotes from the chief social marketing officer, Ted Rubin. While the site makes it sound as if you will be selling the all the same products you already have and use in your home, Rubin states that the point of Open Sky is to connect bloggers with small businesses who might not have the stature to get their product sold in a brick-and-mortar store.
The bloggers can sample the products and then become the suppliers' champion. Meanwhile, the blogger also gets to earn money by doing something they would do anyway -- talking about products they love.
Which returns to the idea of authenticity. Am I really getting the tools that Michael Ruhlman loves and has used for years, or am I getting a product he tested from the Open Sky catalog and is now telling me about it so he can monetize his blog. It's a fine line.
And this is the question that needs to be asked: Is it possible to have an authentic blog that is appealing to readers and participate in a program like Open Sky?
I don't doubt that Open Sky will have a lot of interested sellers -- who wouldn't want to make some money doing something they love? But I wonder how many bloggers will have interested buyers. Like most things online, the reach of the blogger will play a large role in the possible profits and the reach of the blogger will not be a guarantee of any success. You can have thousands of readers per day and put out a large effort trying to sell products, and there is still no guarantee that just because someone likes your writing, they'll want to buy a set of steak knives.
In fact, bloggers may be doing more to turn off readers to their blog the harder they push to monetize.
How do you feel about the Open Sky program and are you inclined to buy products recommended by bloggers?