Is My Integrity Tarnished Because I Have Sponsors?

Posted on May 23 2011 - 2:15am by Mike Lieberman

In the beginning of the year I started to partner up with some sponsors. I wanted to discuss with you whether you think that I’m still maintaining my integrity and remaining true to this site with that addition.

My reasoning for starting this site in 2009 was to inspire and empower people to start growing their own food. At the current time, I’m pretty much dedicating myself to to this full-time.

Since I’ve partnered up with these sponsors, I’ve been mindful not to turn the site into an infomercial. That’s not why I started this and it’s not what I’m going to turn it into. Doing that would totally turn me off and I would think turn you off as well.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty much a DIY kinda guy – making self-watering containers and hanging soda bottle planters. The DIY thing ain’t for everyone. I understand that.

Often times people will ask me about products or what they can buy instead of making. So I’ll turn them on to one of my sponsors or put them in touch and be fully transparent about it.

While seeking and speaking with potential sponsors, I do my due diligence in regards to checking their relationships with companies such as Monsanto and Scotts (Miracle Gro). I’ve actually turned down a few companies that were about to write a check out to me because of their relationships with those companies.

I’m not sacrificing what I’m doing and stand for because someone breaks out George Washington.

Moving forward I’m going to be integrating my sponsors more into the site and what I’m doing, but I’ll by no means become Billy Mays. My goal is to do it in a way that helps to expand the scope of what’s already being done.

I’ll still keep doing what I do and this site will not become an infomercial.

Ultimately this site is about you, so I want to hear from you. Do you think my integrity is tarnished because I have sponsors?

  • Psxkeeling

    No-you’ve done a great job of integrating your sponsors into the site without losing yourself or your message. Besides, it’s ultimately your call how you choose to run your blog! Keep up the good work! 

  • http://wannabelocavore.wordpress.com Jecka

     Definitely not! I think as long as you hold true to your original mission, that’s all that matters!

  • Anne Hogan

    Quite the contrary, actually.  I am so not a DIY gardener, and I really really really appreciate that I can come to your site and find companies that I feel proud to support.  To be quite frank – I don’t have the time to research every gardening company to find the “good” ones, and I feel confident that if you put their link up on your site, they’re one of the “good guys”.  I can shop with confidence and know that I’m not helping to line Monsanto’s pockets.

  • Kip

    I won’t lie, I have become half-expectant that a new feed from UOG will be some new product advertisement.  I’m not saying the products are bad or that I will be removing you from my feed anytime soon.  I’m just trying to give you the data you are asking for.

    I would like to see more posts on you actually using and reviewing the products – like you did with the mushroom grow kit.  I think this best serves your sponsors by showing exposure and uses of their product as opposed to just posting their marketing stuff.  When you don’t use a product and just push it, that is when I squint my eyes at the post and the inkling of doubt goes through my mind.  It’d be moreso if I hadn’t followed your blog for a long time already and just happened to stumble on your site and see some of the ads.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

     Thanks for the feedback. Yes it is ultimately my call, but what you and others think definitely matters.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Word. Doing my best to. Thanks for the comment on this one. 

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I hear ya Anne. Everyone isn’t into the DIY thing and that’s cool. Glad you have found the sponsors to be useful. 

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Definitely appreciate your response and plan on incorporating some of what you said. Thank you for your honest comments. 

  • http://twitter.com/spirithorseherb Spirit Horse Herbals

    Hi Mike,

    I think a great suggestion was made in terms of using some of the products yourself so you can speak from your own experience. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but when possible, lovely~ It will provide your readership with a more embodied offering. I’m happy for you that you are receiving support from some great companies and that you can offer a mutually supportive thing back to the Companies as well.  I for one, have already checked out one of your sponsors “Compost Mania’ whom I had never heard of before and already sent friends that way to purchase compost bins. The fact that it was on your site  made that whole circle happen!  So, long story, short, good for YOU! ~ Kristie

  • http://woodstreetsgardens.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Hey Mike. I’ve been reading through the comments here and found several things I agree with. First, thanks for doing your homework before signing on with sponsors. That’s huge.

    That said, I have found that most of your updates are product links – especially on FB. I  agreee with Kip that it would be helpful to read your personal take on the products you are promoting. Let us know how they work. I don’t think you’re selling out – and I totally get the need for sponsors.  I don’t think you need to choose between the two. Find a good balance in which you promote products but still give us all the good stuff we’ve come to know you for.

  • Jenny Peterson

     Hey Mike–I think your sponsorship is great. You obviously are thoughtful about your choice in sponsors and are very transparent about the relationship, so I think you are staying well within your integrity. I’m also with Kip–I always like to see writers actually use the products from their sponsors; that just ups my confidence in you as a blogger.  Nice!

  • http://polishmamaontheprairie.blogspot.com/ Polish Mama on the Prairie

    Absolutely not!  I think if anything, it helps those of us who are looking for products NOT from Monsanto & Scott.  As you said yourself you are making sure they are companies who’s integrity jive with yours.   Bravo to you!

  • http://www.EcoSnobberySucks.com Jeffrey Davis

    Hey Mike. I say rock the sponsorships. Making a living through this site will help the site stay around, grow, and become even more of a resource for the readers here.

    Sponsorships rock. Responsible sponsorships that you’ve done due diligence on rock even harder.

  • Joey

     yes! go for it Mike. unfortunately, the need to make an income is a simple fact of life and the universe is trying to support you for using your gift and doing what you love. what everyone hopes for themselves right? I think the important part is to be careful and like you said, maintain INTEGRITY by not supporting evil empires like Monsanto. I bet you can still make a living by supporting smaller independent companies with more planet friendly things like non gmo heirloom seeds etc. you know, like the stuff you and the people that come to this site seem to care about. its seems to me that when greed sets in, thats when things always start to get ugly for everyone in the end. after all, we reap what we sow right (no pun intended there ;) Good luck mike!!!

  • http://profiles.google.com/kmeyermdihs Kate Meyer

    It’s awesome that you’re able to think about making a living off of the blog! I turned to this blog BECAUSE of your DIYness, and I’ll have to admit, the ads do turn me off to the site a bit, however, that could be only because you haven’t fully integrated them into your posts (before this post, I wasn’t aware that you did “background checks” on your sponsors – something that I personally appreciate!). While I would like to see integration, I wouldn’t like to see you hocking products, but I have a feeling you’ll be able to walk that line just fine.

    That said, I find your blog inspiring and will continue to read it!

  • http://www.chiotsrun.com Chiot’s Run

     I don’t think your integrity is compromised.  I have a few ways that I make money from my site – after all I have expenses associated with it and as my traffic increases I need to make more to cover my costs.  I believe that if you only take sponsors for companies you love and would actually spend your money on then by all means do it.  I think it’s great if you can find a way to make money from doing something you love.  I think often those that are propagating that myth are jealous because they don’t have sponsors or their sites do look like the weather channel site because they have so many crazy weird ads.  

    Rock the ads, just keep the feedback honest and you’ll do fine! 

  • Marta

    As long as you’re being honest and transparent with your readers, and as long as the companies you align yourself with are ones whose business practices you can say you fully support, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It’s a great opportunity for you to make a living off of what you love, and having sponsors may even allow you to do more than you already are. Just don’t sacrifice your principles, or the content of your blog, and it will be fine.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks Kristi. I’m going to be incorporating them into the site more, but also don’t want to turn my posts into an infomercial. Might mention to some of them providing me with products that I could suggest, but don’t want to turn all of the posts into product review or mentions.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for the comment Julie. Appreciate.

    I’ll need to work on how to do that and figga it out. 

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

     Thanks Jenny. Will see if I can work that in.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

     A thank you very much.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

     Appreciate the comment and support bro.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Right no pun intended ;-) Thanks for the feedback. 

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks Kate. I absolutely don’t want to turn this into an infomercial and product review site. Not at all. I’ll need to figure out the balance. Appreciate the comment.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Hahhaa. True dat. Love the Weather Channel analogy. 

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Certainly will not be compromising any of that. Thanks for the feedback. 

  • http://marysgardeningendeavors.blogspot.com Mary C.

    I don’t know how it would appear to a person new to your blog.

    I’ve been following you long enough to trust that you’re not going to push any products other than briefly review them. Also that you won’t let products you don’t believe in slide by because you get paid. It’s also very obvious that you’re still continuing with your posts basically as you did prior to sponsors – a mix of what’s going on in your garden, comment on national issues related to food, cool recipes, etc… It’s a very balanced blog and a person with any critical thinking skills should see that.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks Mary.  I couldn’t constantly do product reviews. Would be mad boring.

  • Trey

    I don’t have an issue with sponsorships. Good for you if you have companies that want to advertise with you. I do have an issue with the way some companies are “using” social media, and using people in garden  media. It’s a bit old school, but some have a hard time not trying to control the message.  Be honest and truly support your sponsors, and you will do fine.  

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Appreciate the response. Trust me – no one is controlling my message except me.  I’m very up front with my sponsors about that when I begin discussions with them. If any of them follow me here or anywhere else on social media, they would see that very quickly. 

    If I’m anything less than me, I think it would be pretty apparent to the people that I interact with on these channels. It would ruin my overall goal and message.

  • http://www.fantasybaseballdugout.com Jonathan Bentz

    If the ads weren’t relevant, or served by a network that had no affiliation with DIY or organics, or not approved by you – then yes, I guess that could tarnish your integrity. But your ads are pretty minimal in comparison to some sites, you have 100% unique content that is relevant, and you have a passion for this. Even the fact that you’re willing to check your own integrity means you’re likely not compromising it.

    Keep on, keepin’ on Mr. Lieberman.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thank you very much J-Beezy. Def didn’t want to through up AdSense or non-sensical affiliate links up there. I keeps it real by keepin in real.

  • http://elephantseyegarden.blogspot.com/ Elephant’s Eye

    What if you add just a sentence or two above the sponsors badges? Telling your readers  the backstory.  Not Monsanto. Due diligence done. Or a link to this post?

    I tried AdSense and had to kill it off. Choosing your sponsors is an enviable way to go.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Yea AdSense is wack. It’s a bunch of garbage served up. Good idea on linking to this post. I’m currently in the midst of reworking the site and will include that. Thanks.

  • kelliinkc

    Actually, no, if you do your background research on these sponsors. If I know that the blogger only puts up sponsors whom they have researched and who fit their ethics and mission statement then I will look at the sponsors myself as legitimate. But if someone’s blog is full of money making sponsors then typically I just ignore the ads and don’t consider purchasing anything from them –even if they are promoting a product I am looking for.

  • http://groovygreenlivin.com/ Lori Alper

    Hey Mike-I think the fact that you posed the question to your readers says so much about you and your high level of integrity. Your site is tastefully designed and the sponsor ads look great.  They are an added resource for your readers-companies that you hopefully believe in and stand beside.  I think you are doing a great job.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks Lori. Working on cleaning the site up some more. Appreciate your feedback.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Yes I definitely look into the companies some and also some of their products as well. I don’t have the capacity to fully research every detail, but do a good job. I also speak to nearly all of them on the phone as well.

  • http://yardfarm.realmountainvalues.com Brianna

    Just my two cents:  I always wonder how completely ad free blogs survive.  Most people are going to need at least a little bit of currency in order to pay for things like hosting etc.  I appreciate an upfront approach.  You are clear when describing them as sponsors.  What more could people ask for?  Looks fine to me.

  • http://yardfarm.realmountainvalues.com Brianna

    Just my two cents:  I always wonder how completely ad free blogs survive.  Most people are going to need at least a little bit of currency in order to pay for things like hosting etc.  I appreciate an upfront approach.  You are clear when describing them as sponsors.  What more could people ask for?  Looks fine to me.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for your feedback. It’s appreciated.

  • Vicki Schoenwald

    I trust your judgement. It is your blog, and I am sure that you being true to your heart and soul, and do your research about the companies that you make an alliance with, you are not betraying the stand in which you make.
    I too, would like to see product reviews that you could do, there isn’t much in the way of reviews in the container gardening area, which a lot of us do.  It is a different way of gardening, and its nice to see or talk to people who container garden to give no frills reviews and advice to this area of gardening.
    I love your blog and recipes, and your dirt in the skirt approach to all things.  Keep up the good fight.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for the feedback Vicki. I’ll definitely take what you said into consideration. 

  • mika

    I think it is wonderful that you are able to monetize to blog so you can keep doing what you love full-time.  Your posts are so helpful for me as a new container gardener so keep on doing what you are doing.  I trust you and therefore will actually click on your sponsors ads to see if there is a company that I would need to buy goods from in the future.  You and your sponsors are just the type of small businesses that I want to support.  

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Appreciate the feedback and support. Thanks!

  • susanafreeman

    I think its great!, I love it. I am going to try the pop bottle planter. Good for him the sponsors, I agree with you.

  • susanafreeman

    Mike,  how do you grow onions ?  I am lucky enough to have lots of garden space yet I cannot grow them. I bought the  onion starts at the nursery and they did not grow. I live in the pacific northwest, thanks for any advice.
    Regards, Susie

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I’d assume like everything else…just stick em in the ground and water. Give it another go and do something different this time.

    I’ve never grown onions before, so I’m not sure. 

  • Wendy in CA

    Not at all.  That could only happen if your site DID turn into an infomercial, and you’re not that kind of guy, and plus, your readers would see right through it.  I think what you’re doing is great.  Keep up the good work!!!:)

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for the feedback Wendy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1199105981 Rose Keppler Moradian

    Get over it! We’re all tarnished b/c we need to make the moola!! If monsanto were to sponsor you, that’d be another thing…

    RE, pacific NW Susan Freeman and her onions: First, were they onion sets or seeds? If they were sets, try seeds, its very easy to grow onions by seed 2) they may have rotted in the ground. Try raising the soil and use sand to increase drainage. Also, are they day neutral, day short or day long varieties? Thats important! Try Johnnys Seeds for all that specific info.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1199105981 Rose Keppler Moradian

    BYW, whats wrong with doing an infomercial? Using recycled things and posting on You Tube? Sounds great to me.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Ain’t nothing wrong with informercials. Just not my thing.

  • Skgreenwell

    More power to you.

  • Mark Gaines

    The real question would be why a hoodied bucket-grower would be considered to have any integrity to begin with. You’ve got people thinking you are an actual gardener anyway, so why not capitalize on it. At least you don’t have to worry about waking the neighborhood up roto-tilling at 7am!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    That’s a great question Mark. Wonder why no one thought of it earlier.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002778422461 Moja Mujaden

    Mabuhay!

    More sponsors more staying power.