Flipgloss Media… Good for Bloggers?

Flipgloss home page

There is no question that the current advertising structure does not work…

Banner ads don't produce much revenue unless  you really push ad sales, affiliate marketing delicately teeters the line between editorial and sales content at the best of times. Flipgloss Media plans to change all of that. Funded by Forbes Media, FlipGloss.com is marketed as a ‘New York Times Magazine’ service for bloggers… Just as NYT mag gets inserted in the paper each week, FlipGloss delivers ‘Digital Glossy Inserts’ to blogs.' as quoted by CEO Kerry Trainor.  Looking at the site, I could definitely see the potential. Much of the digital inserts reflects what many fashion bloggers post about anyway, though, Flipgloss goes a step further by creating mouse over links that give you more information about the items in the photograph, including links on where to buy.

Concerns About Copyright

As an alternative to the current ad structure, FlipGloss certainly opens a new realm of possibility in affiliate marketing and advertising sales. However, the first question that came to mind were issues of copyright. Here on IFB we had talked before about which images we can use on our blogs, which images we maybe/probably/might get in trouble if not for a legal loophole  for using and which images we really should NOT use (hint… when you're told to take it down by the copyright holder). I understand the internet makes some murky waters for sharing intellectual property, but when there is blatant money exchanging hands these legal issues must be cleared up, not only to protect the blogger, but to protect the photographers and the company who is producing the distributable content to begin with. So when I asked Mr. Trainor about the copyright issues, he stated: ‘FlipGloss manages copyright clearance requests/fees for the content we distribute to other sites.'

Digital Inserts that Generate Revenue

So I then signed up. Upon signing up I was given the introductory offer of $2.50pcm for the first 90 days. All I  had to do was post a slide show from this list of inserts, and then I would start making money.  It all sounded great, I went browsing through  the list, and found one that I was interested in, one called Takin' it to the Streets. They had images from Trendy Crew, Street Peeper and Style Sightings, and out of curiosity I contacted them to see what kind of deal they had worked out with FlipGloss and if they were happy with it. The emails I got back were disturbing, TrendyCrew and StreetPeeper had not heard of FlipGloss, and Stylesightings had been contacted by them, but was not told that the ‘inserts' were monetized.

When I asked Mr. Trainor about this, he said:

‘We are not monetizing any of the street fashion slideshows at this stage… we also love the idea of promoting them, and we reach out to as many as we can… and link to them as promotion if we have not reached them.

The rev share we pay as part of our intro offer to distributor sites is to build our network… essentially, we think of this as us paying to promote this content….at this stage, FlipGloss only collects ad revenue on branded content inserts (like those for Target or BMW)…'

This sat with me in a funny way. Am I missing something here? First of all, it took me all of 10 minutes to contact all the street style photographers I could find on FlipGloss including Jak&Jil (but we got no reply). And that's from the long way of going to the site, looking for the ‘contact me' link and you know, the hard work of getting blogger details. Second of all, when I asked about the slideshows that use their images, he said the shows weren't monetized but they would pay us to embed them on our sites anyway. So doesn't that mean the slideshows are monetized?

(Here's a video tour of the site and insert discussed in this post. Sorry for the crappy sound.)

Is FlipGloss Good for Bloggers?

If this is how FlipGloss deals with bloggers, how do they deal with the people I didn't contact? And if they did get permission from the other copyright holders, then what does that say about the level of respect FlipGloss has for bloggers?

The reason why this doesn't even fall under the murky fair use clause is that we're making money from other people's work, blatantly. This type of advertising without proper clearance isn't a great thing for bloggers, it's a liability.

Payment by Exposure

If you've been working in the Web 2.0 environment for any length of time, you've heard this before. To be honest, the whole ‘exposure' form of payment some companies offer bloggers is wearing thin. It's wearing thin on me, and I use it on myself! Especially since some companies use blogger content to make money for  themselves and not give anything in return. It's one of the reasons why I don't give permission to publishers to use my photos to books anymore, after the What I Wore Today fiasco, which not only was a blatant rip off of wardrobe_remix, didn't give me any kind of ‘exposure' I can measure. And they got a free image to use, and a post, and I got a cheap paperback book that looked like it was designed by a 2nd year graphic design student. I don't know, that one will probably end up in the discount sale bin anyway. (Tricia, if you're reading this, I think you should make your own book, I'll submit photos for you any day!) Anyway… that's another post…

Are We There Yet?

FlipGloss certainly has potential, but it's not there yet. They've taken a step towards finding new ways to generate income for independent publishers so we can continue… but they've taken a step back by not securing permission to use the images, another step back for saying they secured all copyright permission, another step back for using blogger content and using a link as form of payment in a monetized application and being too lazy to contact them about it, so where are we? I don't know, it's Friday.

[UPDATE 06/28/09] Due to this post, FlipGloss media has contacted me to inform that they are now in process of installing a 100% contact policy. That's all the details I have confirmed for now. But I'll keep you updated if this turns out to be an interesting development for the community.

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14 Responses

  1. Erica

    Wow – this is very informative. Not only does it introduce us to a new way to monetize our blogs, but it discusses the possible legal problems that could be associated with it. I do think, however, that Flipgloss is on the right track…still not sure if I plan on signing up. Maybe I’ll try it for a few days and see how my conscience feels about it.

    Thanks for posting!

  2. Ashe Mischief

    To be honest, I think this is kind of disheartening to read. Perhaps in a few months, or a year, Flipgloss can be a medium and platform that is respectable and covering its tracks well, but from the ramifications you’ve shared… well, if I were one of the Street Style bloggers, I’d be really upset and angered to find out about this….

    I’d definitely be interested in a follow-up post at some point to see how and if things change!
    .-= Ashe Mischief´s last blog ..Things I Love Thursday! [June Edition] =-.

  3. thefatandskinny

    GREAT ARTICLE! I think after reading your post, I love this site and hate it. I don’t think I will use it until it makes some changes. This is why the web is so tricky.

  4. Jennine

    Yeah, I’m with you on this… it’s a mixed bag for sure. Ashe, I totally would be mad if I were a street style photographer, actually I don’t know how they handle this stuff…

    thefatandskinny, i would be also open to using the site after changes they made… but at this point I wouldn’t, personally…

  5. Sophie

    Sounds interesting but I’m glad you investigated a little deeper to find out what was really going on there. The concept is really neat and hopefully if they can get enough people on board this will be something used by a lot of us in the future.

    For fashion blogs though there are still several options out there. Getting into a larger ad network (Hydra for example) is possible but not likely for new bloggers or if you have little traffic. There are other networks like Buzzlogic that seem to have a decent cpm payout but not always seem to have the best ads.

    Affiliate programs work pretty well but as you mentioned in terms of banner ads people don’t tend to click-thru and buy…this works better when links are blended into the content/posts. Chitika works pretty well for search if your blog has an established base for SE traffic. Glam network is out there, of course Adsense and in text ads like InfoLinks and Kontera but those can be annoying for readers so I don’t always recommend that type of advertising. Shopstyle has something called ShopSense that pays about 5 cents per click and you can pull in 3rd party content and put looks together….love doing that although they are strictly supplemental income. New programs like Pixazza and GumGum seem interesting but I haven’t actually tried them yet.

    Any of you girls have experience with any of the above mentioned programs? Your results?

    .-= Sophie´s last blog ..Bras Exposed – Let Them Show! =-.

  6. Kerry

    Thanks, Jennine, for the update to the post, and for chatting over the weekend. I also wanted to reach out to IFB with a few more thoughts directly from the FlipGloss team. Hi, everyone.

    Our primary goal at FlipGloss is to help all online publishers break out of today’s low yield ad models. We appreciate the comments and questions and are glad to see real interest in new approaches.

    We’re a young company which means we’re learning and that we can be responsive to feedback. I want to touch on Jennine’s concerns to let the community know we’re listening and suggest ways we can adapt our offering.

    Regarding monetization, FlipGloss makes no money from Inserts that promote blogger content; our goal is simply to test a new model. That said, since the test cpm payment might cause concern, we plan to limit the Inserts available for distribution tests to a few per week, and with no promotional blogger content. (For IFB sites who have signed up in the past couple days, we look forward to working with you, please bear with us as we make some tweaks. We’re a small team :)).

    Regarding copyright, we respect bloggers’ rights to not be featured promotionally, and will pursue a 100% contact policy for promotional spots.

    Finally, we welcome the opportunity to build a regular dialogue between Jennine, IFB and FlipGloss, so your community can have a voice in shaping the evolution of our product. We appreciate IFB’s advocacy for bloggers’ needs and sincerely look forward to continued input from the community. Thanks, Kerry

  7. mary

    Sophie, thanks for sharing the keywords – just making it clear to me, that I have no idea about all that! I don’t even know Hydra or Chitika, I just know Glam and that you can make only very little money with them (as is with Adsense)

    I would really like an overview post on this subject matter – to just get a glimpse of what is possible. Because right now I do think the possibilities are quite bad… no?
    .-= mary´s last blog ..Lei verrà o non verrà? =-.

  8. Eyeliah

    Good on you for being so savvy with your research here. What sounds like a good idea is not always the case. And re the What I Wore Today book, I totally agree as they got a huge amount of there photos right out of wardrobe remix, i don’t even know how that can be okay!!
    .-= Eyeliah´s last blog ..Back in 1999 =-.

  9. Sophie

    Hi Mary,

    Sure, no problem.
    I haven’t personally worked with Glam so I cannot speak for how their program works. I can tell you that Adsense pays pretty well (but that’s all relative really) when you start getting traffic that’s around the average of 500 to 1000 unique hits a day. If you’re not currently using something to track/analyze your traffic I would suggest Google Analytics (there’s an easy WP plugin you can use for this once you have an Analytics account). My experience is that any traffic that is below the aforementioned range tends to be hard to make more than extra spending money….which is completely fine if that’s what you’re looking for and have a passion for fashion blogging! When sites get to 10,000 & up unique hits everyday is when revenue starts to jump even more.

    I think the possibility of making good money with fashion (or beauty) blogs is there but you have to build an audience and have repeat traffic. My partner and I have been slowly trying to build a network of sites that collectively we feel should bring in solid revenue (although that remains to be seen at this point).

    Using a range of different tools and programs for monetization is the way to slowly start building income with your blog(s). Adsense, Chitika, Shopsense (shopstyle), infolinks and/or Kontera will all pay you per click as your surfers visit their sites through ads. Then there are great affiliate programs with top notch merchants that you can use to promote products and earn commissions. Commission Junction (CJ), Linkshare, GAN (Google Affiliate Network), Shareasale, Pepperjam, Clickbank, Linkconnector, Shareresults and even more.

    So, in summary the possibilities are good I would say. However, blogs take time to build and adding quality content isn’t always easy. It takes some time for search engines to index your content before you’ll start pulling in traffic from the likes of Google, Yahoo or Bing. When I talk to my friends that are interested in starting a blog I always tell them to find a targeted niche, be in this for the long haul and do not expect to start making good money in the beginning. The great thing about this is that we all love fashion (that’s why you’re on this site right now) & if you have a real passion for this you will find your way over time. Just be willing to be flexible and have your brain wide open to soak up as much as possible in terms of learning.


  10. Jade

    Hi, I was wondering if anyone has any information about whether flipgloss is still around? I have been searching for it and cannot seem to find it anywhere!