Sometimes the uber-glitzy, sunshiney, picture-perfect, I’m-ready-for-my-close-up world on the internet makes me want to retreat to a snow-covered cabin deep in the woods. I know I’ve said this before, but sometimes the internet makes me crazy.
For a while now I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the future of my blog. Maybe too much thought. For the past couple of days, I have been going cross-eyed reading various explanatory articles and defensive exhortations regarding how bloggers and users of social media earn payment for their work. I’ve been perusing articles which outline the lists of rules and regulations regarding “disclosure,” how bloggers and “influencers” (so-called) must let their readers know whether or not they are compensated for their content, by whom, and what form that compensation takes. And it has seriously put me off the business of blogging.
Not that I intend to stop writing a blog, just that I have decided to shelve, for the moment at least, the idea that I might just possibly consider the possibility of maybe monetising. Ha. Well, as long as I’m certain, eh?
|Why am I up at this hour? Too much thinking.|
But let me go back.
All this started when I decided to upgrade my blog, change the format and get some professional technical help. Ergo, for the first time, I’ll be spending money on my blog. And a germ of an idea began to form that if I could get some small compensation for the blog in lieu of my outlay that would be good. I explored this idea a couple of years ago and shelved it.
So I’ve been doing my research this week. I read a few interesting and informative articles on a site called Smart Blogger, including one called Affiliate Marketing for Beginners. That article appealed to me because I think affiliate links would be the only way to go for me, if I decide to monetise at all. I imagined placing links to sites where readers could buy books, for instance, which I’d read and enjoyed. And if they clicked on the link and bought a book, I’d be compensated in some way.
I’ve no interest in becoming a “full-time blogger.” Mostly because I retired from full-time employment over five years ago, and I don’t want to disrupt my life to go back to work, so to speak. Plus the very idea of managing a blog that is intended to make money just makes me tired. And bores me stiff. As I’ve said before on other posts, I want to write what I want to write, and not worry about the money.
Let me make a disclaimer here before I go on. I read (and admire) several high quality blogs which make money for their creators. I read them because of their content, and am not put off by the fact that the blogs provide an income for their creators. That’s Not My Age, Une Femme d’une Certain Âge, and Not Dressed as Lamb are three examples. I know from reading Catherine Summers’ posts about blogging, how much goes on in the background to allow her to make an income from Not Dressed As Lamb. Promoting a blog, obtaining sponsorship, chasing brands for the money they promised, and keeping track of that side of things is a lot of work. And if bloggers can produce high quality content, love their work, and make an income from it, then more power to them.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from Catherine’s very generous posts about blogging. Including recently a post about the new-ish disclosure guidelines for bloggers and those who use social media to promote goods and services. You can read Catherine’s post here if you’re interested. And you should because she clearly outlines the rules, and what she will be doing in her posts to notify her readers. Although Catherine refers in her post to the guidelines for bloggers and Instagram-ers who live in the UK, I checked, and there are very similar guidelines for Canadian and American bloggers as well. These guidelines are all about transparency and clarity, and those who are compensated for content, whether through gifted merchandise or payment, have to let their readers know that this is the case. And the disclosure has to be clear and appear early in the post, not buried in the small print at the end of a blog post, or in a long line of hashtags at the end of an IG post. And according to the guidelines mentioning the name of the brand is not transparent enough, and doesn’t necessarily imply a compensatory relationship.
Okay. That sounds fair to me. As a reader of blogs and a follower of lots of people on IG who post sponsored content, I want to know which posts are sponsored/provided with some sort of compensation, and which aren’t.
I follow a number of blogs on Bloglovin’. Each day I get an e-mail which includes a thumbnail of the latest posts for blogs I follow, as well as the latest “most popular” posts, most of which are for blogs I don’t follow. So, this morning, just for interest’s sake, I clicked on every one of the thirteen featured “most popular” posts. I spent some considerable time scrolling through each post, looking for any indication that the post had been sponsored, whether the items had been gifted, or whether there was an affiliate relationship between the blogger and a brand. One blogger had a clear notification that the products she was reviewing had been gifted. One out of thirteen. That’s not good.
I went back a second time to some of the more glitzy, obviously professionally photographed posts, and tried to find any indication anywhere on the blog that they had brand relationships… with anyone. No luck. I scrolled back through older posts just in case the latest one was an anomaly. Same result. I found a section on most of the blogs which asks brands and advertisers to contact them if they want to collaborate, but no real information for their readers or followers about which post is sponsored and by whom. I mean, I guess I could draw conclusions from the “shop the post” list of product links which are included in many posts, but I shouldn’t have to. What’s wrong with just being upfront and clear from the outset? One of these very popular blogs included, at the bottom, a link to their “parent company” which I clicked. Turns out Clique Media owns several blogs and according to an endorsement below its header it specialises in “parlaying fashion advice into retail gold.” Uh, okay.
Now, I am highly unlikely to purchase anything found through a link on any of these blogs. So why would I be upset at the fact that brand relationships aren’t clearly disclosed? Live and let live, right? Well… yeah. Except when I mentioned to Hubby a critical comment which had appeared on my own blog a while ago, he shrugged and replied, “You made the choice to put yourself out there, Suz.” Yep. He’s right; I did. And I’m a grown up. I accept responsibility for my choices. And if bloggers are going to be grown-ups about it, they have to accept that if they’re going to play the game, they should play by the rules. Just make the declaration. How hard is that?
So then, because I am a sucker for punishment, this afternoon while I was on my exercise bike, I scrolled through my IG feed, and I didn’t see any of the early and easy to notice “transparent” disclosures that are supposed to be happening according to the new-ish guidelines. I saw all kinds of people on Instagram posting outfits followed by a reference to something called #LikeToKnowIt which apparently is an ap that followers can download, and which will send the follower an e-mail with all the necessary links to purchase whatever the IG “influencer” is wearing. It’s pitched as a “service” with all the links in one easy and convenient place. Ha. Okay. The brand gets a sale and the content creator who featured the item in their post gets a commission. Nothing wrong with that… except… who knew? Not me.
I had to Google the name “LikeToKnowIt” to find out what it is, and whether it is considered an “affiliate link.” Turns out it is. And not to seem like a troll who gets all negative when someone is just trying to make a bit of money for their hard work, but tossing #LikeToKnowIt at the end of a post doesn’t seem very transparent to me. Especially if followers, like me, don’t know what it is.
In my research, I found several articles about “LikeToKnowIt”, and about something called “Reward Style”, a “monetisation platform” which requires bloggers and IG “influencers” to go through a screening process before they can join. This article in Forbes outlines just how lucrative these programs are for brands, and for “influencers.” Now, if consumers are spending so very much of their money clicking on these links, then it’s no wonder consumer protection agencies are looking for ways to make things more transparent.
Then, just for fun, and because my slight enthusiasm for monetising hadn’t already been bashed on the head enough, I read a couple of blog posts which explain to newbies how to use “LikeToKnowIt” to their best advantage, how to “showcase” their work in order to get accepted by “Reward Style”… blah, yadda, yadda, blah. And amidst all the exhortations to fellow bloggers about the need to create “quality” posts, I’m sorry to say I kind of lost it. And I found myself shouting at my i-pad… “To hell with click-through stats, what about the writing? The comma rules? Ever hear of spell check? No, you can’t use that word that way.”
Then I stopped.
And for a few minutes I seriously felt as if I might just pack a bag and head for the hills.
|So peaceful back home in New Brunswick.
photo courtesy of Krista Burpee-Buell
I’m much calmer now.
So, yeah, I’ve learned a lot about the world of blogging this week. Some of which has kind of disillusioned me, as naive as that sounds.
Like I said earlier, I don’t plan to stop writing this blog. But I’ve put back on the shelf, for now, my idea of monetising. I also don’t plan to stop reading and enjoying the blogs of others whose work I admire, monetised or not.
But, I have decided that I will “unfollow” on Bloglovin’ and on Instagram those publications which don’t follow the guidelines, whose creators, it seems to me, don’t respect me as a follower or reader enough to let me know what’s up with their posts.
Oh… and I definitely have to stop reading those blogs which make me all shouty. At least that’s what Hubby says. Ha.
P.S. I hope you don’t think that this post has been too negative. If you write a monetised blog and are offended by what I’ve been saying, then I’m sorry. And if you want to know more about the guidelines I’ve been talking about you can read more about the Canadian rules here, the American rules here and here, the UK rules here, and the Australian rules here. There are lots of further links in each of these posts as well.
Now it’s your turn, my friends. Anything making you a bit shouty these days?
Sharing with Thursday Favourite Things.
59 thoughts on “Follow the Money… Maybe”
Two of the blogs I follow — Wardrobe Oxygen (US) and Midlife Chic (UK) regularly include information about how and why they use sponsored content. I really appreciate Alison's and Nikki's honesty. I agree with you — I have no problem with bloggers making money but I want them to be upfront about it. Thanks for writing this post.
I follow Alison's blog on Bloglovin'. It's great. I wish all the uber-glitzy, often featured blogs that one can find there were as upfront as she is.
I agree. I have slowly unfollowed those bloggers who aren't transparent about how they make their money. I'm totally ok with making money from blogging, just tell me so.
I really enjoy your posts–just keep being yourself. That's what brings me back.
Thanks, Mary Lou. I get angry at some of these glossy blogs, mostly on behalf of consumers, but also on behalf of all those bloggers who DO follow the rules, and are upfront with their brand relationships.
Choir here, sister, but I'll still say "Preach!!"
And like you, I'm stubbornly carrying on blogging, despite my reservations about the way its potential got subverted so quickly, not to mention the way my participation in the enterprise has once again set me up as a bit of an outlier. . . should be used to that by now 😉
At least I'm in good company xo
Ha. I know you're definitely part of the choir. There's a really interesting post on Disney Roller Girl today about the possible backlash at all the consumer hype in on-line publications. Maybe there are more members of the choir than we realize:)
Can't tell you how much I enjoyed and empathized with your posting today. I have been going through a similar journey about my own blog, boomerbroadcast.net. After more than five years of blogging (which I do for the love of writing, not for monetary gain), I've also started redesigning my site and considering affiliate marketing opportunities. The amount of work required is staggering and, like you, I thought it might be a good idea to capitalize on my love of reading by collecting commissions on sales of books I recommend. The more I get into it, the more convinced I've become that blogging for fun not profit is my game. Thanks for sharing your views. Keep blogging.
Thanks, Lynda. I haven't given up on the idea totally. Just for now. Wouldn't it be lovely to have a relationship with independent bookstores who sell on-line? That would be a perfect situation for us…in a perfect world.:)
I, too, have read a variety of material about how to make money through blogging. However, I abandoned the idea because blogging is my only form of social media. I'm not on facebook, instagram, etc. and I don't want to be because of my profession and the negativity that can ensue. It seems that without other forms of social media, your chances of success are lower. I don't begrudge anyone who does choose to try to make money blogging and I'm a bit upset with myself at times that I'm too "scared" to try it out. I keep questioning if I even have enough followers to make it possible. I'm actually happy to hear that you have been considering it as well. I would certainly still read your blog even if there were advertisements or if you worked with affiliates. -Jenn
I hear you, Jenn. I was very circumspect in my Twitter and Facebook account until I retired. Still am, actually. I post more personal stuff on my blog that I do on either of those platforms. And I mostly use them and IG now to promote my blog anyway. Teaching is one of those jobs where one has to be very careful about on-line "friends." Ha.
I have subscribed to a lot of bloggers and there are a few that have disappointed me. I have noticed that more and more, they are writing about clothing lines and products that have been gifted. I understand doing that once in a while, but when that is all they begin to do (rave about these items like they are the holy grail) it turns me off and I lose a little respect for them. I understand blogging is hard work and they should be compensated, but I lose a little trust in them.
I sometimes wonder how many times those gifted pieces get worn after the post.
i appreciate your blog and often follow links to articles of clothing. i dont see why you shouldnt be paid for bringing those items to my attention if i click through. totally agree though that there should be a disclaimer that you get paid.
I post links if I can find one to the exact article I'm wearing. But it's just as a courtesy, and because some readers requested them a couple of times. To me, getting a small commission from a sale of something I valued enough to buy myself, would be fair. But I also wonder if there are demands made on a blogger to post more. I haven't explored fully enough to know the answer to that yet.
Hi and what a great post on a subject that like you I've thought about a lot and researched a bit. And I also read Catherine Summers recent post. There's a lot of regulation out there and all good I think, although it's obviously aimed at the very big 'influencers' who really should say whether they're paid or not – I mean be honest, people, say what you're doing! Well, what's my decision? Every now and then I think, hey, wouldn't it be nice to get something for the blogging I do, but I'm not about to start working on this full time, so no, I'm not going down that road. Just like you what I love is the writing of a blog. Anyway, please keep blogging as I love your writing. Thanks again for a good read – it wasn't at all negative btw, just interesting 🙂
I think that more people are bigger "influencers" than we realize. At least according to the Forbes article, this is very big business for brands. And that I guess is what lead to the stricter guidelines. Not every "influencer" is a Kardashian, though. Thank goodness. Ha.
I am trying to cut down on the shouty but it takes a lot of effort at present…Brexit makes me very cross and I frequently yell at the radio…rude, arrogant BBC interviewers make me incandescent…vapidity, stupidity, obsession with eating cake, wearing lots of make-up, idiotic promotion of snake oil… I mean, I could be here all day. Briefly, I considered monetising my own blog and then decided that I simply could not be bothered to even look into it. After all, what the hell would I be flogging? I can't imagine what products would line up with my blog. And I only write for my own pleasure. I like your husband's reaction btw.
I know… I think that about my blog too. Like I said to Stu yesterday when I was writing, maybe JD Irving (huge forestry company where I come from) would be interested in my post about working in the woods with my step-father that day when I was fifteen??? Ha.
I have no problem with those who work at blogging and clearly identify brands that compensate them. Those blogs that make me go on an Easter egg hunt to find out get shuttled off my reading list. I so look forward to your blogs, and wish there was an easier way for you to monetize the books especially that you recommend, because I do love you and your readers suggestions. As for the shouty thing, well, I live in the US, so anyone who is awake only has to imagine the kind of things in our politics that make me shouty. I do want to live a long life, so have been tuning it out and taking a lot of long hikes with the dog.
That sounds like a good plan… long walks help when you're feeling shouty. I'm still exploring options to see if there is a way to monetise my way. If not, I'm okay with that too.
Thank you for taking the time to explain how it works. I'm probably the worst type of reader for a blogger looking to make money, living in Aus the chances of me buying anything you recommendeded would be small due to the added cost of postage, so you'd make little or nothing out of me! However, I love your work and am grateful that you and others like you continue to provide interesting, thought – provoking and informative reading.
Thanks, Jules. It's kind of the same here in Canada, except not so far to ship. But duties etc make many on-line shopping experiences from companies based in the UK or the States just too much hassle.
More of a tooth-grinder than a shouty (…unless it is about the present US administration–then I am both), but I definitely agree with your views about those who don't follow the rules.
Maybe it's all those years making kids be quiet in the halls or something. I think it must be discouraging for bloggers who are transparent to see others so blithely ignore the rules.
I would like to say that your husband cracks me up. I can envision him, shooting off those one-liners to you and they always are on point and make me laugh 🙂
Ha. I won't tell him in case it goes to his head. 🙂
I definitely see references to sponsors and items being gifted in some of the blogs I read, including two you mentioned, and it doesn't really influence me one way or the other. Seems like truth in advertising, and it doesn't change my reaction to the item that was gifted.. But I had no idea how complex this enterprise is when it comes to the disclosure requirements, and I am glad you are not quitting your blog. I was afraid once I started reading today that you were going to hang it up. I really enjoy your writing and am happy you are planning to stay and do it your way!
Not quitting… actually feeling energized about my own blogging. But it was frustrating to see so many ignoring the rules, when bloggers like Catherine Summers in the UK are so careful to comply
Dear Sue…I empathize with your dilemma about writing for the pleasure/social connections it brings and the idea of earning compensation for your time and effort. Your blog is one of a very few that I follow…many blogs have been eliminated from my devices due to either their lack of content of interest to me, their writing style, or the fact that they flog ad nauseum various compensated products or fashions. You are a breath of fresh air in a world that seem to focus on the almighty dollar…thank you so much for your writings, your humour, your recommendations and your lack of commercialism! Cheers, Alayne
It's too bad that the flogging has become job #1… when it should just flow out of the content. But reading those blogs on how to work with merchandising platforms like #LikeToKnowIt was an eye opener. One commentor on a post asked how to get started, and she hadn't even pressed publish on her first post yet. She said she'd purchased a blog name, and a template, and hired a photographer. That sounded a bit optimistic to me.
Well, I read those blogs you mention from Un femme certain age, Not Dressed as Lamb, etc and they do always mention that an item has been gifted. Some other blogs do it also. I don't think any of the blogs affect me in such a way that I would buy an item. Usually I read these blogs to read about new styles and whether they would fit me. Most items that they sponsor don't work for me at my age now (70) but I do appreciate seeing what other women wear and how they put styles together. I read a blog called No Fear of Fashion. Wow, that woman is not afraid of any garment! I really enjoy reading her blog even though I would not wear about 75% of what she shows.
The only thing that gets me "shouty" right now is our terrible President here in the U.S. Don't get me started on him!
I'm the same way; I look for inspiration not shopping links. And you're right, Greetje of No Fear of Fashion has great style.
I would read your blog regardless of the fact if you would monetize it or not. I simply can't imagine you doing and recommending something you don't love,respect or would not read/wear/go and not being completely honest about it with us. I read only a few of blogs,but can understand how big commitment it is
I appreciate it,as well as coversations afterwards
Thanks, Dottoressa. And thanks for always being part of the conversation.
Sue, I enjoy reading your blog because you are not trying to sell me anything ! I do enjoy seeing your photos as it sometimes reminds me to take items of my wardrobe and team them with different clothes. However, there's no onus on you to provide us with a blog on a set date. I don't mind if it is weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. It is a great pleasure to read your latest musings on a wide range of topics – family, friends, fashion, travel, reading, retirement.
Perhaps you should take a sabbatical from the blog so you don't have any deadlines and reconsider what you want from the next few years of your retirement – not all of the next 30 years but say the next couple. What do you want from this year ? We'd all miss your blog terribly but don't get caught up with us, do what you feel is right for you.
Thanks, Heather. That's kind of what I'm doing, musing on what I want to do. It's just that I find it easier to clarify my thinking if I write about it. Hence posts like this.
Geez…I didn't realize how complicated blogging is! And, I sure do appreciate bloggers even more!! Thanks for enlightening me!
Renee in NorCal
Ah… the issue of monetizing… It’s easy to feel pressured to make money out of a blog, not only because of the time we put into the writing and inclusion of images, but the dollar outlay to many sources — technical, to purchase images, to self-host, and so on.
I’ve been through this same research/questioning, though now several years ago. Ultimately, despite the considerable amount of time and money I have expended on my blog, I recognized that the compromises I would have to make to earn even a small amount of money would sap all the pleasure of the writing process. I suppose these are business decisions that everyone needs to make, and an individual’s financial situation and other responsibilities (time, work, kids) are key to that decision process. For myself, unobtrusive ads in the sidebar, which don’t even cover my monthly out-of-pocket costs, are as far as I have ever been willing to go. A poor decision on my part? Maybe so. But my “daily plate of crazy“ was never started as a commercial enterprise, but as an experiment because for years my days WERE crazy, and the blog served / serves as a place to learn and exchange, sometimes a place to scream (once anonymously) into the universe, and a source of interesting conversation.
If only I could say that I was “in retirement,“ I think I would enjoy the time I spend on my blog more, and cringe less at the $$$ it requires. As for your blog, it is a delightful place to feel welcomed and to enjoy an intelligent, discerning visit with an intelligent and discerning woman. To us, we who read you, I think it feels wonderful.
Thanks, DA. As you know, I've long admired your blog.
I enjoy your blog for its content and lack of affiliate links. Yours is one of the few blogs I still read. I've given up on many others because they are about sales and not content. Thank you for making the choice you have made.
Thanks for saying that, Maggie.
I enjoy reading your blog. It is like a breath of fresh air compared to some of the other blogs. I have some interest in fashion but I enjoy your outlook on life and the discussion on books. If you enjoy what you are doing, keep on doing it. From one Sue to another Sue. Thanks.
Great post! The only thing I have to add to the discussion is that there are several blogs I follow/have followed, where the authors have monetized in some form or another, and are transparent and also claim that their reviews, etc. are their own opinions, the "voice" of their blogs have subtly changed and sometimes no longer speak to me :~(.
I wonder if the point of writing the blog subtly changes as it begins to make money?
Oh, Sue! I feel your pain.
What makes me shouty? I probably couldn't list all the things that make me shouty lately — all while I'm simultaneously, only 37 days after the New Year, trying NOT to be so critical of others. But some people do make it hard.
Some mantras / memes that sometimes calm me down are:
Not my circus, not my monkeys (which always makes me wonder why that isn't spelled "monkies").
Bless their hearts (and the standard Southern translation).
They haven't had my advantages.
They must have had a terrible childhood.
You can't fix stupid.
And then I remember that some people think I've got a few things left to learn, too. Bless their hearts.
Ann in Missouri
Ha. Bless their hearts… I must remember that. 🙂
Sue, as you know, I started my blog anonymous no money, moved on to real name make money, and have wound up at real name no money;). In a nutshell, I think it's quite possible to make a nice medium bit of money by just signing up with an affiliate program – as long as you have a wide readership. But to make any more than a medium bit, you have to work REALLY REALLY hard. I quit monetizing because it took a lot of time, and because it used up a part of my reward system, if that makes sense. I could get a quick thrill from a big day, which meant I was more likely to ignore this trying to write a novel thing.
For books – do you have Barnes and Noble in Canada? They have an affiliate program. So does Amazon, of course, but some avoid Amazon because they are such bullies. For clothes – if you change your mind, let me know. I am happy to talk about it. I now miss style blogging sometimes, and I do miss the money, I'm not going to lie! I just realized that to become a big success I'd have to work so hard I might as well not have retired;). So, if I'm going to work that hard, might as well be for the lifelong dream of finishing an actual book. xoxox.
I've been reading about the Amazon affiliate program. The only aspect of monetising I'd be interested in would have to be passive. I don't want to write what I don't want to write. I take you up on that advice offer. I'd love to know how the whole thing works.
Hi Sue, sorry I’m a little late to the party … hoping this publishes!
Quite simply I would read your blog, regardless of whether you introduce affiliate links etc. I love it exactly as it is but I’m also aware of how many hours of work and research you put into each post and the effort it takes to make it appear as it does, like a friendly catch up with friends 🙂 The variety of topics you write about , so eloquently and with a great sense of humour is what makes it unique and very “you” Most importantly you need to enjoy writing it and feel you’ve achieved what you’re hoping for without feeling stressed or compromised…. I love hubbys imput too!
Anything getting me shouty these days ?? Don’t get me started lol … I try to focus on the positives to keep my “glass half full” attitude:)
Thanks, Rosie. You've been to busy having a lovely vacation to worry about reading blogs. Must have been a bit of a shock to come home from Dubai, weather wise.:)
Sorry! Somehow my reply ended up at the bottom under Michele’s comment!
Smiling because every so often I succumb to that kind of research, and have even piled up about $20/year in Amazon Affiliate income. 🙂
I don't think anyone can afford to pay me for the amount of time and effort I put into this crazy blogging experiment.
I know, eh? I still may look into the affiliate thing, though.
I’ve kept up with the reading just not commenting, unfortunately. It wasn’t as much of a shock as I’d anticipated, to be honest. It was lovely to have a week of warm temps and sunshine. Especially being able to have breakfast sitting outside! I love that! I’m not overly keen on the damp, overcast days we’re having here, but I love being wrapped up in hats scarves, wearing boots etc … so there are some compensations! 🙂
The first day of having coffee on a deck or terrace when vacationing in a hot climate in the winter always seems so unreal to me.
Hi Susan, I'm catching up on blog posts that I missed while on a trip to Mexico and this one is of particular interest to me. Thanks for doing the research and sharing it here! My blog is a lot like yours… a combination of lifestyle, travel, fashion and other posts. Like you, I've thought about following the lead of several of the bloggers that I read regularly and seeking monetary reward, but I also choose not to. I write because I love writing. My following is fairly small, but faithful. Like you, I'm retired and not looking to make more work for myself!
I haven't read all of the comments, but I will bring this up. I currently have a fashion blog and add links if someone might like the look as a courtesy. If anyone purchased anything I would get a commission, but that hasn't happened yet. However, I blogged previously and used AdSense through Google. That may be something you want to look into (I don't know about Canada). You just put an ad widget in your header/footer or sidebar. What will show up is what the reader had been looking at through Chrome or Google. Doing that I got about $100/mo. with about 2000 views per post. No need to apply for affiliates or anything extra.
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