Authored by writer, curator and critic Régine Debatty, we make money not art is a thoughtful and introspective blog that takes you to the heart of art and creativity. For readers wanting more engagement with the meaning of contemporary art, Régine’s blog makes for a perfect read. Fresh from being featured on our top ten art ranking, Régine talks to us about bloggers being compensated for their work, how she likes to work with PRs, and what she thinks about sponsorship disclosure.
What’s new on We Make Money Not Art? The design of the website. It’s already a couple of months old but since it took almost 8 years to redesign its layout, I’m still living on an ‘I got a new blog’ cloud. Also, the blog has just won an honorary mention at an art festival, probably the most prestigious and well-known within my field. I’m not supposed to say which one yet until the announcement is official but it was a total surprise because I had not even submitted anything to their call.
Give us an example of successful brand collaboration. What did you learn from it? I’ve never worked with any brand. I mostly write about art, technology and politics which is not very appealing to brands I suspect.
How do you use social media to promote and share content? What are the challenges? I must admit that I am lame and lazy when it comes to social media. I’m somewhat active on Twitter, even less active on Facebook and almost lethargic on Instagram. That’s what you get when you are surrounded by visual artists, you always feel that any photo you post is not going to be fetching enough. The biggest challenge for me is that my followers are very witty and alert so it’s often hard to match their bright mind when I need to answer their comments and questions. Another challenge is to find the right balance between posting too much and posting too little. I’ve stopped following people who were interesting but who document their every meal.
What advice would you give to a someone who wants to start a blog? Find your niche, and make it a niche that you are genuinely enthusiastic about. Be sincere. Trust yourself. Oh, and be smarter, keener, livelier than I am on social media.
How do you work with PRs? I only work with PR agencies that represent art events and cultural venues. They contact me to offer press trips, previews, and visits with curators or artists. I say yes to the ones that look interesting to me and my audience. After that, there are no requests nor clear expectations from them, no checklist to tick, no demands to tweet, post on Instagram, write a particular type of content or respect any deadline. They leave me free to do whatever I feel like and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I appreciate that they trust me and don’t resent any negative review of an exhibition or festival. I think that there is a lot of mutual respect. They probably wouldn’t keep on reaching out to me if they were not happy with my coverage of the events I’ve been invited to. I guess things would be different if I had a beauty or a fashion blog so I’m grateful to be working in an art context where being critical is valued.
Do you feel bloggers need to be compensated for the work they do? Yes, why shouldn’t we be compensated for our work? If a blogger has a huge following on their website, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter, even if they just copy and paste a press release or publishing a photo of a product it is enough to boost the sales of said product. In this case they provide a service to the product or company featured so I think it’s fair to pay them for that. Bloggers provide genuine and engaging content that their readers value. Since the current model of blogging doesn’t involve readers paying to access content you have to rely on banners or on other ways to pay your bills. I’m not earning much with ads but the blog provides me with a lot of visibility so I get invited to give workshops and talks, or to write essays for exhibition catalogues which leaves me with less time to blog of course but allows me to have a very rewarding life and meet some fantastic people.
How do you feel about sponsorship disclosure? My blog has never been sponsored. There’s a banner space but that’s just about it. A banner has no influence whatsoever on the content of my blog. As a reader of blogs, I find it very important to disclose a sponsorship or partnership. I remember when beauty blogs started to emerge, these girls (and guys) were my beacons in a sea of uncritical magazine articles about lotions and potions. Their honesty and straightforward attitude was refreshing. Now I think many of them (not all) have shot themselves in the foot by wanting to please the sponsors and PRs rather than the readers which means that sponsorship is not always made clear. And even when the blog story is not sponsored, many bloggers still want to stay in the good books of companies and PRs so they will sing the praises of every new serum or shampoo that is sent to them for free. I still trust a couple of beauty bloggers but I read the others with cynicism.
List three best practices PRs need to follow for better blogger outreach? I can only talk about the practices of PRs working in culture. So far, my experience has been really good, at least in the UK (things can be a bit more tense and disheartening in other European countries.) So here’s what makes me happy:
1. Accept that you won’t be able to control everything we publish. In fact, allow us not to write at all about the event you invited us to if we think it isn’t worth a blog post or not suited to our audience. Perhaps we’ll find something great to collaborate on next time!
2. Don’t treat bloggers as being less educated, less influent, less interesting than journalists and critics working for the print press. Some museums invite me to ‘bloggers events’ which are private evening views but with free beers, balloons and loud music. Please don’t assume that all bloggers are party animals who are desperate for a freebie. I’d rather go to the usual press view and get a chance to have a quiet conversation with the curator or artist.
3. Maybe give us feedback sometimes. I’d appreciate hearing how I can improve my coverage of events.
What will be big in your blogosphere in the coming months? The upcoming Venice Biennial of Architecture.
What does the Vuelio Ranking mean to you? It was a very nice surprise. I’m in such good company on this list. Nowadays, if I say I’m a blogger, people immediately assume I’m into fashion, food or beauty. So the Vuelio art blogs ranking will hopefully remind people that blogs can be a vehicle for other types of content. It also means that I’ve discovered Vuelio blog. I’ve just spent hours reading through all your articles and there’s some great analysis, inspiration and ideas in there!