What’s in a Name?

I had something goofy-fun planned for this blog, but as it goes with blogging, writing, and ideas, I got an inspiration. It starts with my eventful yesterday at EEI Communications. The morning began with me being let go.

I’m only “mostly unemployed” as of Tuesday. I’m still a freelance instructor. I’m still available for public speaking events. I’m still working as a consultant. A problem with the freelancer’s lifestyle is if I’m not working, I’m not getting paid. Over the summer, one of my best clients — EEI Communications — came to me with a part-time position working logistics for all the trainers. It was a “trained monkey” kind of job, but it was income. In the end, I took pride in the fact I accepted a job nobody wanted and fixed a system that was severely broken. I was let go from this part-time gig not because I couldn’t do the job, but because EEI needed to make cuts.

So now I’m working on booking speaking engagements, landing freelance gigs, and finding a creative full-time position that would provide security. In my search-and-surf of opportunities, I came across Magpie. This service, in brief, puts ads into your Twitter stream. You set up how it works (i.e. for every twenty tweets, one ad with a Magpie hashtag is sent), and then are paid based on the reaction to the ad and how often ads enter your Twitter stream. The site offers you an estimate on how much your Twitter stream can earn, so I punched “TeeMonster” into my iPhone to see what would happen. According to Magpie, I could make somewhere around $7000 a month.


GeekMommy‘s screenshot of Twitters using Magpie

I was all set to give this service access to my Twitter account; and then I thought for a moment about my last Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy, in particular my Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Moment. I had recently railed on an author for being a Twitter spammer. All this supposed writer does is pitch, pitch, pitch, and link, link, link in his tweets. This individual didn’t start out that way seeing as I block the TwitterBots that do nothing but spam TinyURLs. If it weren’t a hassle to weed through my followers, I’d drop this self-proclaimed weblebrity, but I’ve learned instead to tune him out. That’s how I regard Twitter if a post from this individual pops up. I zip by it because I know the tweet is simply pitching something and contributing nothing. This is an issue I’ve always talked about with Twitter and Social Media: If you want to use Twitter as a marketing tool, the secret isn’t pimping, but participating. You need to build a community, be part of the community, and actively contribute to the community.

That was bandying about in my brain as I thought long and hard about signing on with Magpie.

How would it look if every twentieth or, if I was feeling particularly aggressive, tenth tweet an ad related on something I was tweeting about suddenly popped up. How does that reflect back on me? This wouldn’t be like the free version of Twitterific where ads are interspersed throughout the stream. These would be ads with my handle, my face. Magpie is relying on the network and reputation I have fostered to help promote their sponsors, sponsors that I personally cannot vouch for. Did I really want to be associated with other free blogging sites or online services that I myself didn’t (or wouldn’t) use? Yes, when I call for sponsors on my podcasts, I pretty much will consider everyone and everything; but in those instances I know who is sponsoring me, I’m the one in charge of the ad, and I’ve got cash in hand. With Magpie, I’m offering up my stream and the frequency of ads, leaving the rest up to Magpie. That’s a lot of control I don’t have.

Apart from the mystery meat of sponsors that could latch onto my Twitter stream like remoras on to Great Whites, I lingered on how the Twitter community regards me. Let’s face it — I tweet. I tweet A LOT. I have, at the time of this posting, over 23,400 tweets. All that tweeting, and I blog, podcast, and do puppet shows for my kid’s school. (By the way, George and I are coming back for a Christmas show. I’m thinking a two-“man” Christmas Carol in twenty minutes or less…) I love Twitter, and those who follow me on Twitter know that. I don’t call my followers “Followers” but my network. It’s old friends, new friends, fans of my podcasts, and Social Media experts and enthusiasts. Yes, I get picked on a lot and tend to be the punch line to many jibes … but there is also a lot of respect out there granted to me. People ask me on both TeeMonster and ITStudios (my professional Twitter account) advice on podcasting and writing. The Crew (fans of MOREVI: Remastered) playfully pester me when the next episode is coming, and then give me assurance when things like my MacPro failing on me (yeah, that happened the day before the layoff…) occur. There was, at the time of my layoff, an outpouring of support, love, and — for a few in my network — resources offered freely and openly. My network respects me. In turn, I respect them. What is that respect worth?

I then returned to my WTF Moment from SGWF #41. Is that what I wanted to become? Less signal, more noise?

Magpie wants to put a price tag on my reputation and my name, and I am flattered that they put my potential worth so high. (I am confused, though, how my value dropped by $3000 when I performed their evaluation a second time on my laptop.) Even if I were to earn half of what Magpie estimates, it would be some nice fun money for me. I could travel a bit more with my books. I could take care of a few bills. I could spoil Sonic Boom with some fun tech toys. But is my reputation worth that? My Twitter Persona under TeeMonster can be described as many, many things, but the term “spam” has never been associated with my tweets. I tweet a lot, but it is always with my voice, my thoughts, my passions.

“What’s in a name?” my boy Will Shakespeare once asked. Quite a lot, it turns out. What’s a name worth to you?


  1. You made the right call, in my opinion. I see the backlash against Magpie as being both fast and furious.


  2. It would be interesting to see how many followers you might lose, and then your ‘value’ to Magpie would drop. It’s tempting, money always is- but if you put yourself in the followers spot, how does it pan out? How would YOU feel about someone you had a relationship with you, suddenly changing into a mouth for hire? Doesn’t taste right to me.


  3. Tee I was so surprised and happy to find my favorite podcast authors on Tweeter, Of course u are one of them. You inspire me with your conversations and quips with Philippa Ballantine and in general when I have a question that u can answer you always do. I am sooo glad u did not use Magpie. When I click a link it is find the type of though provoking blog post you have written here. This is where twitter pays off for me. Thanks for being a stand up guy.
    Your fan always


  4. Since you had the courtesy to post an explanation and some of your thoughts on the issue, I would still follow you if you chose to adopt Magpie. However, in terms of my personal use of Twitter, I click on links in my stream because people whose opinions I respect have tried the product or liked the story and felt the need to recommend it. Magpie, on the other hand, hijacks your stream and injects advertisements based on their guesses at your network’s demographics and reach. Google Ads is supposed to do the same thing and I personally find something that looks good enough to click on maybe once in a few months.

    Now, you also get paid to put featured promos in your podcasts, but half the time you perform them yourself and they’re hilarious. They add entertainment to my life even if I’m not sufficiently interested in the product to check out the link. For example, I don’t drink alcohol so I have no need to listen to the ScotchCast, but I love hearing the promo and I would definitely try them if I did imbibe. I also like to think that if you thought a potential sponsor was bad news or was antithetical to your values or your vision for your podcast, you wouldn’t accept their business. Because indeed, you are putting your reputation on the line when you endorse the content of others.

    Then there’s the question of what happens after someone actually clicks on a Magpie link and maybe adopts the service or buys the product. They’re still going to see that link every X number of tweets, but they’re already converted. For example, J. C. Hutchins’ MINE links only became really annoying for me after I had already subscribed to the blog in my feed-reader. I’d accepted the pitch, I was already enjoying the content in my preferred setting, but the promotion continued; and rapid-fire, given the rate at which MINE posts appeared. If he hadn’t posted about it at all, I probably wouldn’t have found it; but what do you do when you’ve reached a critical number of your audience, and how do you know when you’ve reached that point?

    It’s one thing to get paid to promote something you would have endorsed for free. Heidi Miller was talking up Oprius long before she became an affiliate. The hosts of Escape Pod, Pseudopod, and Podcastle give personalized recommendations in their Audible sponsorship spots. I’m not saying that the companies using Magpie to promote their products and content wouldn’t have good products or content. But with Magpie, you would be allowing someone else to take advantage of your reputation to promote something that you may have no experience with. The personalized nature of Twitter, podcasting, and social media in general is what I like about the whole thing, and I think Magpie does not reflect that at best and actively sabotages it at worst.


  5. I have to tell you that I was tempted mightily by Magpie, and my estimated worth was only about $65 a month. I know what it is like to be unemployed and willing to try anything to bring in extra cash. Luckily, you have a myriad of skills and the confidence to put yourself out there so you don’t have to resort to using services like Magpie.


  6. Wow – great post!

    I kept away from the reputation aspect because I’d already managed to offend a number of friends by unfollowing them when they started using magpie – adding the ‘and your reputation will suffer’ seemed to be heaping coals. Honestly, it is a matter of reputation.

    As someone pointed out to me if you invite me over to your home for dinner, I don’t want to get surprised by a tupperware party.


  7. Thanks, everyone, for the discussion. It’s interesting to get the perspective of how would you have reacted if my Twitter feed were suddenly featuring keyword-based advertisements. Again, thank you all for your respect. A lot of interesting things have come to light since Magpie suddenly hit their stride today, including one of its supporters discovering it was going to take her ten months to reach the monthly potential Magpie estimated.

    Thanks for the comments!


  8. Wow! I can make 2.26CAD per month if I sign up! YAY. I have the off feeling I would stop following someone if they used this feature, it would just get annoying.


  9. Greetings,
    I forget the movie which said it, but the line goes “You only have your reputation to go on.” Or something like that. As of right now I don’t twitter at all. But I have looked at blog directories for a friend of mine who wanted to spread her blog around. So many accepted you, once you placed their banner on your site. But from there it was usually just random link sites or things a bit more “interesting” depending on your taste.

    My friend didn’t get her blog off the ground but if she had I would have told her to avoid those sites. I don’t see this as being any different. It is all about your potential. And either with Magpie or the directories, I don’t see anything good happening either way. Other than lots of garbage you don’t want or associations you didn’t ask for.

    I am glad you stuck with your guns. Sorry for the long winded post,
    Thomas Garza


  10. I don’t mind ads on Twitterific because they offer a paid version without ads, and I’ve accepted a few ads in exchange for using their program (which takes time for them to develop, continue developing, troubleshoot, etc.) for free.

    However, it’s not like I could (or would even want to) pay Twitter users so that I could follow them without seeing Magpie ads from their account. It’s a conversation, not one-way communication, and paid ads have no place in a conversation.

    I could (and have been) go on about Magpie all day, but I did manage to put most of my thoughts on Magpie into a post, so if you want to check it out: http://thefutureofads.com/2008/11/03/magpie-tries-to-make-twitter-an-ad-network-fails/


  11. I use a service called Twittad which allows you to monetize your twitter account in a much less obtrusive way. There business model isn’t as sound as Magpies but the service is much more palatable (and probably profitable).


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