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LaKita Anderson Opinion: Online Advertising Gave Me Financial Freedom But Florida Lawmakers Might Take it Away

I have always been a foodie. Some of my fondest memories are of family meals featuring recipes passed down through generations. As a food blogger, I get to share these memories and my family’s recipes with the world. And thanks to selling ads on my blog, I’m blessed to earn a good income doing something I love. But I am worried that elected officials in Tallahassee will take it away by passing new laws that hurt my ability to sell ads.

I grew up in the kitchen around great food. I learned how to bake by standing on a milk crate to reach the counter to help my grandmother make cakes, pies, and biscuits. As a young child, my mother taught me how to read a recipe and the proper way to measure ingredients. It wasn’t long before I could follow recipes and cook on my own.

I started my recipe blog in 2013. I had hundreds of handwritten recipes, including many tried and true family favorites, that I wanted to share with the world. The blog started as a hobby, but by 2016 I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to food and cooking, so I quit my job and threw myself into making the blog a success and a source of income.

Making money with the blog was easier than I expected. Data about how many people read blogs is readily available, and once I had enough readers, food and cookware companies started offering collaborations and sponsorships. I never imagined I would become an “influencer,” and many of the opportunities were exciting. But suddenly I was spending way too much time in meetings and negotiating deals and not enough time cooking, creating tasty recipes, and sharing my inspiration.

Luckily, there is another way that bloggers make good money that doesn’t require any of my time. I started working with Mediavine, a Florida company that helps thousands of publishers, and soon I was selling ads and earning money. Now my 600,000 readers, including my 15,000 Instagram followers who click through to my website, see ads for products that are relevant to them, and advertisers get anonymous data about our readership so they know their ads are delivered to the audience they desire.

Data-driven advertising is really complicated in the background, but it’s remarkably simple for small publishers and advertisers and makes it easy to provide for my family. Without me having to do extra work, small cookware startups know my audience will appreciate their ads, a Miami mom with a new baby might see an ad for a local pediatrician, and a Jaguars football fan looking at my bourbon-glazed burgers recipe might see an ad for a tailgate grill.

So here’s the problem. Our elected officials in Tallahassee are considering legislation, HB 1547 and SB 262, that will break online advertising by restricting how our ad partners collect and use data. I’m a big supporter of privacy, but I know that online advertising systems don’t share personal data with publishers or advertisers. If my publishing platform and advertising partner don’t know that your phone is a Samsung and your preferred language is Spanish, then my website might look terrible on your phone, and the ads might be in the wrong language. If we don’t know your general location, then we might deliver an ad for a specialty spice store that is hundreds of miles away. Without data, consumers will have a terrible online experience and think our blog is broken, and advertisers will flee. It will crush my business.

I understand that legislators are focused on large technology companies and no one wants to hurt my food blog, but that is precisely what will happen if these bills become laws. Florida travel bloggers and all small businesses that advertise will also get hurt badly, so I hope lawmakers will reconsider these bills or drop them altogether.

LaKita Anderson is a foodie and blogger who publishes Simply LaKita from her home in Panama City Beach.


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