Cassidy Tuttle: Sen. Mike Lee’s digital advertising bill will hurt my bottom line

Small blogs competing with established national magazines should be celebrated, not dismantled.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Sen. Mike Lee, right, joins Rick Larsen, President and CEO of the Sutherland Institute during a speaking engagement at the conservative public policy think tank on the University of Utah campus on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023.

I am grateful to make a living from my passion — running a website and blog devoted to the planting and care of succulents, a popular type of houseplant. Thanks to various digital platforms like Google, Facebook and YouTube, I can educate people about these plants and earn a decent income through advertising. However, policymakers may not be aware of or consider how proposed legislation could impact my small blog’s ability to generate advertising revenue.

I never thought I would become a professional blogger, but after graduating with a photography degree, I started a blog to highlight my commercial photography work. One day, while joining my mom at a local nursery, I bought several succulents and quickly fell in love with caring for them.

I began posting pictures of different succulents on my blog, and the response was overwhelming. I created tips and tutorials on my blog and even started a YouTube channel to share my knowledge on how to grow and care for succulents. My audience wasn’t very large, but I knew that people would find us if I could create great content. Advertising on Facebook was also a huge help. With just a small investment, we found new readers interested in our blog. I now have over 100,000 monthly blog readers, and over 100,000 YouTube subscribers.

After growing my audience, I started earning revenue by selling ads on my website and YouTube channel. My primary advertising partner, Google, made it easy for advertisers to find me and reach my audience. Ad partners can use audience data to show ads to specific individuals based on their recent searches and location. For example, a nursery in Nantucket can advertise on my site just to people that have previously searched for a particular plant and are within a certain radius of their location. Advertisers get their business in front of the audience I want, and I can make money doing something I love. It really is a win-win.

I also have an app that reminds people to water their plants and offers guidance on maintaining them. I worked with an app developer, and within a few months, it was available on Google Play and the Apple Store. Both platforms simplify the app development process, have built-in data privacy safeguards to give consumers a safe and pleasing experience and allow us to reach millions of plant lovers!

Policymakers may not realize how well the current system works for small bloggers and publishers like me. New laws like Sen. Mike Lee’s Advertising Middlemen Endangering Rigorous Internet Competition Accountability (AMERICA) Act might make it harder for me to make money selling ads. If Google and Facebook are forcibly broken up, that might mean I have to work with a dozen partners to reach the same number of advertisers, costing me time and money. That might be good for the other advertising platforms, but it’s bad for my business.

I understand the policymakers’ intention to create a fair and equal environment, but they must acknowledge that the current system already does that for me. The ability of a small blog to compete with established national magazines like Better Homes and Garden should be celebrated instead of being dismantled, as it is a testament to the current system’s effectiveness.

Digital advertising has been a game-changer for me, enabling me to reach out to readers and monetize my content. Before implementing any law that could disrupt online advertising, I hope Congress will listen and consider this.

Cassidy Tuttle

Cassidy Tuttle is the author of the Succulents and Sunshine blog. She lives in Lindon, UT.