The Joy of ‘Blogging for Exposure’ vs What Magazines Get Paid

Bloggers are ALWAYS asked to work for free, for the exposure. I wanted to take a look at why, and the disparity between how much magazines get for advertising and their actual value, vs bloggers.

One of the joys of travel blogging is the amount of exciting emails I get. I have to limit my looking or I’ll just keep dragging down on the iPhone to refresh when I should be working away at the never-ending to do list.

In among the press trip offers, reader requests, newsletters and spam there are always requests from companies presenting me with a once in a lifetime offer to blog for them for ‘exposure’, despite the fact it’s obvious they’re up to their armpits in cash.

Getting paid for travel blogging

– I’ll get my name in lights on their Facebook page which, yes, has an impressive number of likes, but where’s the interaction?

– I’ll be featured on their site, which has millions of views, yes, maybe the site does, but the blog? Nada.

– And of course if I want to link back to them to promote the article once it’s done, on all the social media feeds ever, that sure would be swell.

I don’t even have to give them any money for this level of exposure, wowee!

Opportunity vs free labour

If the company contacting me are genuinely of interest, and the contact knows this because they’ve researched me so well and seen the genuine ‘synergy’ they speak of, I get it. If they absolutely, genuinely think it’s a golden opportunity and we’re going to have a long and happy life together, cool. Let’s have a look, maybe a go, and see how it works to benefit us both.

Travel blogging

– From The Oatmeal

Most of the time though the requests arrive from a PR or content agency – already a sign that there are tens of thousands of pounds in someone’s pot, somewhere – and they want me to write about some vaguely linked product, app or service in return for said ‘exposure’.

Basically they want to use my work to advertise, for free.

This post has created quite the conversation in the comments below and on message boards –
make sure to read them too to get a fuller picture! 

Social media shares for pay

I think of the person who’s got in touch.

They must love PR / SEO / marketing, I presume, that’s why they managed to bag that job and pursue careers in competitive worlds. I love my job too. That’s why I’ve worked so hard to create this blog that companies now want to use as a free advertising platform.

But no matter how much anyone loves their job if you don’t get paid for services given, you’re not going to last very long.

Love doesn’t pay the bills.

Travel blogging

What if the person responsible for paying those guys for their time turned around and said:

“No salaries this month employees, we’ll just talk about how great you are on the Facebook page. We have 20k likes!”

Nothing to pay for the technology you had to use to do your job, or transport costs, or even the electricity to power your work. In return for all those years you spent in training, the hours you spent building up your blog, and time spent answering their email you’ll get a mention on their Pinterest account.

This video from Zulu Alpha Kilo puts the whole working for free thing into perspective by presenting the concept to restauranteurs and personal trainers, who find it ridiculous.

“Do you do what you do for free?” – personal trainer

“Err… no.” – customer

“So, why do you want me to?”– personal trainer

Travel blogs vs travel magazines

There are a lot of variants in comparing travel blogs and travel magazines, I can see that, but as an interesting benchmark I thought I’d have a look at how much it is to advertise in the UK’s leading travel magazines, and note their circulation.

The prices I’ve listed below are for whole page ads.

As a blogger what we’d put together could better be described as an advertorial, which, for example, Lonely Planet would charge an extra £4,100 for, taking the money up to £10,600 from £6,500. Their circulation listed below is less than my average unique visitor count.

Most of the figures come from six months worth of ABC stats – the independent assessor of the UK magazine industry – so I’ve done the same. My circulation figure is the average unique visitor count from the last six months (May-October 2015) on my blog.

MagazineCirculationWhole page ad
Food and Travel27,000 (source)£4,950 (source)
UK National Geographic219,254 (source)£24,598 (source)
UK Conde Nast Traveller78,060 (source)£12,626 (source)
Sunday Times Travel Magazine56,624 (source)£27,040 (source for the paper)
Lonely Planet46,000 (source)£6,500 (source)

It is a difficult industry to put a price on sure but that’s upto an individual blogger. The fact that the post can last forever, and gather momentum as the years go by means that, if I was an advertiser, I’d see blogs as a much better investment of cash.

If you want to know more about how much travel bloggers earn, click through that link. And compare that article, to how much being a travel blogger costs, and you’ll see why I can’t just work for ‘exposure’.

Mobile advertising platforms obviously bring a whole new platform to the table too.

How I do ads on my travel blog

I’ve worked with a few companies to advertise their wares. InnTravel wanted to give me a Kindle Fire to give away to my readers and write about ‘switching off’, IHG wanted me to talk about their new business gadgets and wanted me to go ‘unrooming’.

I label them, as required by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) in the UK, and am happy to work with a company I know and like.

“The ASA requires bloggers who are paid (directly or in kind) by a third party to write reviews or comments about a product or service and who cede editorial control of the blog to that third party to be up-front with their followers by making clear that it’s advertising” – from

Sponsorship and advertising is a personal choice for bloggers but for me it’s one that allows me to carry on travelling and to provide all the free content that I do. It makes up a notable part of my income. 

Doing this often gets discussed negatively at blogging conferences, or bloggers like to give it a different name to make them feel like they haven’t sold out. In reality, pretty much anything worth advertising on, gets advertised on, from films to festivals to buses to blogs.

Sneaky magazine advertising

travel blogging

It annoys me that bloggers come under fire for advertising products they like, especially as it’s just accepted that magazines do too.

I’ve worked on a few leading UK magazines but my first job in London was for a different kind of magazine company. They’d pick a topic, for example beauty, and then sell as many ads as possible pandering to the advertisers requests just to get the money in. Then, the flatplan for the magazine would be created based on the ad space and what the advertisers wanted.

I was shocked and thought it a sketchy way of working. It was only when I moved on to more credible magazines that I realised that’s what they all do, base their content around their advertising. How else would they survive? The £2ish cover price barely covers production and distribution – it’s the advertising that brings in the cash.

Even though advertorials are labelled in magazines, and the adverts tend to be fairly obvious, often the content on the opposite page has been written specifically to keep an advertiser happy. The content is meant as a taster for the ad, which is what they’re officially paying for but the ad will need context in the form of editorial.

No matter how much free stuff a magazine gets it needs money to survive, and the same goes for blogs.

3 examples of ‘blogging for exposure’ requests

I’d imagine any bloggers who are reading this to nod along.

Any non bloggers who’ve made it this far by curiosity may be wondering what exactly these requests look like. Here are three of the most common examples of ‘blogging for exposure’ I’ve received over the last week. Some concepts and companies have been changed but you’ll get the jist.


You’re included in a round up post of the ‘best travel bloggers ever’ by a company that boasts millions of pounds of profit. They now want you to write a post on your blog about the fact you’re included in the list.

I’d always share these lists on my Facebook and Twitter feed – it’s an honour to be included. At the moment though I have one particular company who included me in a round up – which was liked and shared by me – and now they’ve sent me approximately six emails wanting me to write a post, for free, about the fact I was included in the round up. As I said, this company claims some of the biggest profits in travel.

I may have done this naturally, who knows, but the fact they’re hounding me to do it is driving me crazy. People who give to receive do my head in, so I’m not writing about them.

If you freely decided to do a round up post of the best plumbers in your area, and then asked the top ones on your list to come and sort your plumbing for free, would they? 

Just in case you don’t know, here’s a little lesson on how the internet works to explain why they want this.

For most people in the UK the internet is Google and Facebook. They want to know something so they type their query in Google and the answer appears. Google’s job is to find the page among the millions on the internet that will answer your question. They’re here to serve their customer.

Google uses thousands of indicators to determine how relevant a webpage is and one of the key ones is how many people have linked to that page because it shows that it’s a good page. This is why the company in question wants me to write about them – to link to them so that Google thinks they’re a knowledgeable page about the top travel bloggers and so shows them as a top result and they get more views.

I won’t go into it further but one of the best sites on the internet for learning about all this stuff is The intricacies of the internet will blow your mind.

blogging for exposure


A new start up wants you to review their app on your site, host a competition to give 5 away to your readers and write about them on the App Store. In return you’ll get to be one of the first to try the new app. You go back and tell them that’s advertising and will cost but they ‘don’t have the budget for that’.

So, they want a good few hours work, and access to your audience, in return for an app you didn’t ask for or want?

If it’s a new company and they haven’t budgeted for marketing, that company will not be around for long making any inclusion pointless. If they had the money to build the app they should have the money to tell people about it.

If you take them up on the offer you’ll need to pay for a tool to host the competition, take time to encourage people to enter via social media, to pick a winner, email them, stay in touch with the client and to write the review. And to download the app and try it out. I’d estimate about 5 hours work, in return for downloading an app you don’t want. No thanks.

Why should a blogger do this? If I really like the product, sure, sure, but if I don’t then pleading ‘we’re just a small start up’ doesn’t really work for me.

I’ll bet I’m a smaller start up than them! 

Blogging for Exposure


You’ve been sent a 600-word brief to write about whether you prefer Berlin or Munich. The company is one of the top 5 in it’s industry. You’ve been asked to cover 7 specific points in the body text, to use brand messaging, link back to them, to promote on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and to use the designated hashtag. If you could include the video that they’ve provided that would be good too. When you checked back there was no budget for this advertising, but they can put you on their mailing list for press trips in 2016. Oh and could you get it done in the next week? 


I probably get something along these lines every week. I despair and don’t want to waste time answering but they keep on with the ‘have you had chance to read my email’ emails. This request is clearly advertising and I wouldn’t want to pretend to my readers any different. They want a very specific message written on my blog, which I’d be happy to do as long as it’s marked that it’s an ad and they pay me. And I wouldn’t even charge the £6500 that a magazine of a similar circulation to me would.

And as for the offer to be on the ‘press trips list’ I’d rather have some money so I could afford to go on the trip myself.

Turn the request around Mr ‘Advertiser’, would you do it? 

Sometimes, just sometimes, it can be worth it

Blogging for Exposure

Of course, there are a few brands and / or opportunities in the world where it may actually be worth working them for free. You’ll be rewarded for giving your time in return for genuine exposure to the right crowd or an incredible experience which you can leverage to make money a different way. Those particular brands will change in reference to where you are in your travel blogging career with the pool getting smaller as you become more established.

Money travel blogging

5 ways to decide if it’s worth it

1. How many social shares do the company’s blog articles have?

They might be big sites, but how big is the platform your work will feature on? Do your research.

2. Have you heard of the company before? 

If big brands like Lonely Planet, National Geographic etc want to work with you and genuinely give you valuable exposure for your time, you’d be mad to say no.

3. How big is your following? 

If you’re just starting out as a travel blogger one of the best things you can do is to get yourself noticed on other, bigger platforms. And because every platform is bigger than yours it makes sense to carefully select who you’d like to work with. Anyone in the same field, with a bigger following than you, could provide value to you in working for them for free but just check the terms and conditions of what you’re getting yourself into.

iceland blogging

4. What will you get out of it? 

I recently wrote for the Travelettes ( I approached them, they weren’t asking for free content) and when they shared my post on their Facebook page I got a good boost in Facebook numbers from people interested to know more about my experience and work.

Travelettes is a site I love – I was proud to see my work on there – with people who were cool to work with, and I got some new readers out of it. I’d be happy to write for them again.

5. How long has the company been around? 

I’m not saying it’s not worth it if they’re new but so many start ups fall down fairly quickly, especially if they’ve got questionable work ethics, like not paying people. The best way to find a company who’ll be around for a few years is to find one which already has a few years under its belt.

Do you work for free?

Blogging for exposure

Blogging for exposure is something that’s been around from the start and is bound to continue into the future. On one side if companies know they can get you to work for free they’ll do it. Look at it a different way and if you manage to skilfully manipulate bigger company’s audiences with your witty and intelligent writing that they share across their genuinely large, engaged, relevant audience groups, then you can make it work for you.


  1. some interesting stats in there Vicky and I HATE it when people ask for shit for free or low ball.
    That being said if I can see why people would be cheeky enough to ask…if you don’t ask you don’t get!haha!

    I dont dismiss everyone that pops up in my inbox but I think it’s all about the upsell from a blogger perspective. I recently had an email for running a free contest…quick Skype meeting and some emails later and it turned into a 3 month photography contract doing product images.

    …again if you don’t ask you’ll never know!haha!

    1. Yeah that’s the attitude Chris. If you can turn the initial freebie finder into some actual business you’re a pro! Good on ya!

  2. What an interesting insight into the world of magazines v blogs. It’s funny because I just volunteered at Van Fashion Week and there were so many girls (mostly girls, about three guys) giving up their free time to get a foot in the door. It’s pretty terrifying if you look at how much unpaid time is given up for experience and exposure. Here’s to value!

  3. I love this. You’ve absolutely nailed it! I would also add the offers of a flight and accommodation to a resort in return for you to write about them, add images, links, provide social media updates, because they know how active you are… and surely you’d be dying to stay there (on your own). I’ve passed this post onto the PR who contacted me 🙂

  4. Wow, those are some mind boggling numbers for magazine advertising! I don’t agree about doing free work for exposure for big names like LP / NGT however – they are the ones who well afford to pay. Anyway, this is really an amazing post Vicky, and a much needed reminder to all of us.

    1. You’re right Shivya, they should pay. And that’s the corner that companies have you in and the control they have over well-meaning wannabe travel writers and bloggers. You see a cool, established name like those guys and just want to be involved. Big companies know this and can use their name and audience to get you to do what they want. It’s happened to me!

  5. I wouldn’t really compare print circulation vs online pageviews (in comparison, Lonely Planet has 700K+ monthly online pageviews even though its print circulation is about 40K+) but other than that, I 100% agree that advertisers should be aware that Bloggers are Publishers that *should* charge companies for content creation + the sharing of said content to the Bloggers’ audience.

    Sadly, this isn’t the case and there’s many shady companies hiring Bloggers for freelance writing for the company’s websites and then demanding the Bloggers to link to said content in their blogs and promote it non-stop on Social Media (which is essentially Marketing and should be charged too).

    1. You’re right in your first point, they are different, but I just wanted it as a benchmark to show the difference. And yep, agree with your other points too. I hate it when companies add more terms and conditions after the initial agreement. Especially because they’re taking advantage of new bloggers who don’t realise what this means for their blog and integrity.

  6. Great article, Vicky. I agree with all you have written. Some brands and PRs value bloggers enough to want to work with us but not enough to want to pay us which is both immoral and disrespectful. I always think if they’ve contacted a blogger in the first place then they’ve seen some value in what that blogger can offer and monetary value should be offered in return.

    Love this article and will be directing any PR’s or brands who think it’s fair to ask bloggers to work for free. Sadly, it’s not just bloggers who are expected to work for free, but often just writers in general…all for the magic ‘E’ word. It’s good to see bloggers and writers starting to realise their worth and being prepared to stand up for it.

    1. Hey Donna, yeah you’re right. I think it extends to anyone in the creative world too – I know designers and artists who are expected to do the same. We need to stamp it out, but it will need us all to be in it together to get anywhere I think. I agree that if they’re approaching us, they need to compensate us for our time fairly. I’m also just going to reply with a link to this next time someone wants to exploit me and my work.

  7. Thank you for writing this.

    I have over 130 000 readers per month and over 260 000 followers on social. I really struggle. I am invited to visit many properties but everyone disregards the fact that someone has to pay for transportation and expenses. I hate how they make you feel ”honored” because you are visiting them. Sad to say but this is the world we live in, and unless everyone starts to charge, I don’t see how it will change.


    1. Hey Ella, nice blog! Loving your look. Yeah, that’s the trouble, if you don’t do it someone else will. Guess you’ve just got to weigh up what works for you. As someone pointed out above though, if you accept a hotel and have to pay to get there you’re as good as paying to work, and who wants to do that!

      It’s difficult to stick by your guns, especially in times of a low bank account, but I like to think it’ll pay off in the long run.

  8. Amen!!! Vicky your honesty and insight is priceless… I’ve been trying to explain to my landlord that an infographic about Acai Berries is just as good as cash, needless to say they’re not as keen as the person pitching it to me. I love the way you and a few other respected bloggers are taking a stand, it’s about time professional bloggers reaped the rewards for their years of effort – well said and well done.

    1. Rob! Your comment really made me laugh 🙂 I wish landlords did take infographics as payment – might be able to afford London then!

  9. Exactly. And re: print ad prices – I can’t believe advertisers haven’t figured this out yet. A blogger can show you exactly how many people have seen the ad, and whether it spurred some action, like a click, or even a booking. PLUS, readers come to your blog post oftentimes because they are already interested in a destination, so you have an audience of people who are ready to take action on an ad for a hotel or activity in the destination.The other thing is, the magazine may have that circulation, but there’s no guarantee someone will actually open the magazine and see that advertisement. As an example, our website about visiting Belgium with kids gets a lot of traffic from the UK, most likely people that are about to travel there with their kids for a weekend and have no clue what to do. What if a fun hotel had an ad there about their great children’s lounge, or a chocolate tour, or bike rentals? Click, click, click. But the Belgian travel market, for the most part, just like the rest of the travel market, is focused on getting a story in Travel & Leisure or something that might take years to show results. We can show direct and immediate results from a focused demographic. Why don’t advertisers get this?

    1. It just seems a no brainer to me. Someone’s just commented on this post in a Facebook group and said magazines are much better because you can’t track retention virtually?! I’d totally agree with you – on a blog you can take your readers on a journey to help with their travels and provide information and recommendations every step of the way. That’s just not the case with magazines, as we all know.

      I think it’s still that age old thrill of seeing your name in print. Even bloggers, including me, love to see their names in magazines and on books, so no wonder the advertisers buzz off it too!

  10. Great post – it astonishes me how many places do try the exposure angle. Unless there really is something else worthwhile in it for me, why would I want to? The best ones are the typo and error-ridden messages promising me they’ll provide me (a professional writer) with ‘quality’ content for my blog…. er, let me think about that.

    1. I hear you on that one! My favourites are the people who spell my name wrong while telling me how much they want to work with me, or, even better call me by another blogger’s name. I’m that special hey?!

  11. Yes! I’ve been saying this for a long time. With the RARE exception (for example the time the BBC travel show wanted to ask me a few questions to appear on their show which was a no brainer) I NEVER work for free. And what annoys me even more is the fact that when bloggers DO demand money (even ones with huge audiences), it is a fraction of what traditional publications ask (and get!) And the PRs still balk at it!

  12. Great post. And I will share the best one that happened recently – one of the world’s most recognisable champagne brands for a social media campaign, promote an app and more. My payment? A case of their non-vintage bubbles. I said ‘I don’t work for free champagne and that I had just bought 2 cases of their main competitor, but vintage of course’. I then asked every person in the chain if they were working for free champagne too. Surely I wouldn’t be the only one? 😉

    1. I’ve found it was difficult to move from getting all excited about being offered things for free to realising that my blog was actually valuable and had some worth. I guess it’s our job to make advertisers realise that too and to work in partnership with appropriate companies is an honour on both sides and we should be fairly compensated. Viva la blogger’s revolution!

  13. Yes, yes, YES!! Nodding my head vigorously along to every single word of this, Vicky. I still haven’t got around to writing a template reply to all the emails I get in this vein, but now I might just link them to this article and be done with it!

    1. Crazy aren’t they! I couldn’t believe how low they were when I found them at first – that’s why I felt the need to link to all the sources. Pretty sweet stat to tell people!

  14. Love that you looked up the advertising rates for UK magazines. I’ve been planning to do that for Belgian ones but haven’t found one all-comprising source yet. Maybe bloggers should just put a table like that on their “work with me” pages:)

  15. Thanks for this post Vicky.

    All you state here is so true and happens every day. Lots of companies approach us and, although many are willing to pay for our work, most of them think that our time worths nothing.

    I will be sending this from now on to those advertisers that simply don’t get it or don’t want to get it.


    1. No worries Inma! I’m glad I’ve created a post that will come in handy for lots of bloggers when they’re trying to explain why they shouldn’t work for free.

  16. Thank you for this post! I will copy here a recent facebook status I wrote, as I felt the need to rant a bit. I hope you don’t mind!

    Marketing companies that invite bloggers to take part in a contest to then travel to a specific country probably are very smart.
    Here’s how it works: they get a bunch of bloggers and social media influencers to apply. The same ones then have to invite their audiences to vote for them, by posting on their social media profiles a post that directly links to the marketing company’s site. There goes the “free exposure” – for the company and the destination, not for the bloggers – that bloggers are willingly providing for free.
    Then, the few “selected” bloggers who get selected have to travel to said country, most likely at their own expenses (which, depending on where they are flying from, could be anything from 100 to X+ USD), in order to WORK. Because really, it is work: bloggers are not getting anything for free as in reality whatever accommodation, meals and attractions they get is paid through hard labour (a number of blog posts which is disproportionate to what is offered, and a number of social media passages which also is disproportionate).
    What do bloggers get in exchange? Oh, the famous “exposure”. Come to think of it, given that most bloggers will have to pay for their flights to reach that destination, that “exposure” isn’t even free at all. It is paid for.
    In other words, if bloggers fall for it, they are literally PAYING to work – paying to write posts, paying to visit a city, paying to actually exposing the company and the destination.
    My view? If I want to see that city, I may as well pay for it and do my own little city break and have the choice to write about it on my blog, or not write anything at all.

    1. Thanks for your comment Julia. It’s ridiculous to think you pay to work, but you’re right. I’ve definitely had offers which have seemed exciting at the time but when you work out how much you’ll have to invest to take them up on it it seems ridiculous. I guess you just need to learn what you’ll do and what you’re uncomfortable with. And what you think you can get out of the trip content wise. There are more ways to make money than just selling ads!

  17. HA! Love this post. I think I may have been approached by the same app startup company as you, too. Am honestly sick of the “exposure on our blog and/or social media channels” pitches. I think it still comes down to the fact that many companies and PR firms think that blogging isn’t really “work” and therefore they’re unwilling to pay for it. They see it as a hobby and that you should be proud to have been approached by them. If only they knew all the work that goes into it and the fact that most bloggers spend more time on their sites than they would have spent working for a corporation in an office!

    1. Yeah definitely. Especially as travel bloggers bring stories back from around the world so they think we’re just on our jollies all the time. It would ruin the illusion to know how long we spend working on and thinking about our sites! Not all bloggers are the same – there are plenty that do do it for a hobby which is different but when you manage to get your numbers up and it becomes your life, and a valuable platform, the exposure offers are offensive!

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