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What’s so bad about paid posts?

December 16th, 2008 · 6 Comments

Georgetown CupcakesThere’s a tremor in the force this week. There, did you feel it? The blogosphere, Twitter and Friendfeed are rumbling with the worst case of blogdrama since Motrin and the mommybloggers. What’s it about this time, you ask? Paid posts.

You see, marketers are always trying to find a way in to social media and web2.0. They want a magic bullet, something quick they can buy, rather than the old fashioned, long way around of building relationships over time with social PR. The latest studies tell us advertising on these social sites doesn’t work. Marketing giant (and my former employer) P&G is struggling with social marketing with mixed results. What’s a marketer to do?

The latest trend is buying paid posts on influential blogs in the hopes of reaching their readers with a call to action. A company called Izea is getting huge amounts of attention right now for spearheading several paid posts campaigns, the latest of which is for Kmart. I’ve scattered lots of great links about this campaign throughout this post, so be sure to check them out.

Honestly, I can’t deny that this approach works to some degree. There are bloggers I respect and admire so much (*cough* Chris Brogan *cough*) that I would definitely go out of my way to try something they recommend – within reason (more on this in a bit). So I’d say yes, reaching consumers through bloggers in this way may be a good idea for brands. But does that mean it’s a good idea for bloggers?

Part of the beauty of blogging is that we’re not restricted by the rigid rules and confines of journalism – we can share our opinions openly, we are not at the mercy of set deadlines, we can say what we want, we can accept freebies. We’re wild, we’re free, we’re bloggers. In the immortal words of PeeWee Herman:

I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.

Yet, at the same time, there are good things we can borrow from the pros. I fear that if bloggers start operating out of greed and desire to make a buck, we’ll lose some of the great rogue qualities that made us start blogging in the first place.

I mean, doesn’t a blogger lose credibility by publishing a paid post? I think so - maybe a little. And I’m not the only one who thinks so – Google has started cracking down on paid posts and punishing bloggers who do a lot of it.

I also think there’s a fine line here. For example, I blog about PR and social media here on my own time, and I also do that as my day job. So if I write here about work I’m doing for a client, is it a paid post? I don’t think so, but some might – and either way, I’m always very up front with disclaimers so there can be no doubt about my allegiances.

Also, here’s another grey area – sometimes bloggers are given an opportunity to test or sample products or services, and then they write about them. You know, like Jeni’s ice cream or sweets from Dublin. For some reason, this doesn’t bother me as much as the all-out, cash in hand variety of paid posts.

For example, when I came across Chris Brogan’s recent paid post for Kmart (part of the Izea campaign), I’ll admit that I didn’t read it. As soon as I saw his disclaimer and realized what it was about, I immediately blew it off. Why? Because Kmart is not a brand I’m interested in. I don’t feel any connection to it, so in that instance it didn’t matter to me how much my favorite blogger raved about it – I was not going to be influenced. Marketers would do well to keep that in mind: paid influence only goes so far. I’m far more likely to be swayed when I know a blogger or friend is passionate about something for no reason other than its inherent value. (Spoken like a true PR person, right?)

Summing up, I’m of the mind that it’s okay to do a paid post very occasionally, and with absolute full disclosure, but do it more often than that and you lose some credibility. Interestingly, this online poll seems to indicate that’s the general consensus for now among other bloggers, too.

What do you think? As a blogger, would you accept a paid post assignment? As a reader or consumer of blogs, does it bother you to see paid posts in your favorite blogs? I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter.

And at least for now, this space is not for sale…although I would consider reviewing cupcakes if anyone wants to send me some. Kidding. Sort of. Not really.

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Tags: Blogging · PR · social media

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dawn // Dec 16, 2008 at 11:56 am

    This is actually a very old, ongoing debate. I was working on a blogger database in maybe early 2006? It was called Get Them Blogging and grew out of the occasional help I gave Mother Talk (they were one of the first to do blog book tours for PR folks at publishing houses). Anyway, it was going to be this minor little project with a database of bloggers willing to do reviews in exchange for samples. I’m one person so I was keeping it small (I think I had 175 blogs in the database). But launched the week before I was set to launch and they were more than one person with angel funds AND they paid for reviews, which was a place I wasn’t willing to go. Trust me, I watched the blogosphere light up around THAT! And never did make an ounce of money. This was coming hot on the heels of pay-per-post slashing and burning through the internet.

    My take is that any paid for posts should be clearly labeled as such. (I think any solicited reviews — paid or otherwise — should be labeled as such.) I also think that the blogosphere is so diverse that likely there’s room for different bloggers to do it differently.

    On the marketing end, I think marketing and PR people need to get more clever about how they do things but they’re (understandably) scared. They need to be smarter, more targeted and more creative. and their online marketing efforts need to be focused on more than just getting face time.

  • 2 Paid to Post « Andrew Miller // Dec 16, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    [...] he knows about marketing but whatever, that’s another issue all-together. Local

  • 3 Cynthia // Dec 27, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    I do paid posts… though not as many as I used to. Mainly to support my dog habit. :) I don’t mind them.. but of course I wouldn’t, since I do them myself. And I’ve even found some interesting things through them!

  • 4 Kelley Bell // Jan 13, 2009 at 11:44 am

    When I was a kid, marketers gave a way free t-shirts and hats to anyone willing to be a walking billboard for their product.

    Today, my daughter begs to BUY t-shirts with big company logos scralled across the front. (Abercrombe and Hollister are the favorites in her school.) Something is wrong with that.

    Consumers want REAL reviews and opinion. Marketers want an easy way to BUY reviews, and bloggers just want to EARN a buck or two for their hard work and *valuable* skills.

    The problem is some bloggers will be willing to sell out and post disingenious reviews for money, and if the blogosphere calls them out on it and the culture of paid posts becomes taboo, marketers and moneybloggers will find ways to hide their relationships.

    If we support the power of an individual blogger (Like Chris B. for instance) to do the occassional paid post, we keep power in the hands of the people. If we don’t, then the process will go underground, and the honest voices will not be heard, or rewarded.

    I think disclosure is the key. I LOVE the Thesis WordPress Theme by Chris Pearson. So I joined his affiliate program and have his ad on my site. I intend to write a review on it after I have worked with it for a few more weeks. I trusted the brand enough to buy it because of the review Chris B. wrote. That review was from a real user, and that’s exactly the reason I trusted it too.

    If the bloggers do this right, we could put an end to advertising as we now know it. Product marketers will be forced to listen to their customers and improve their offerings in order to earn the trust of blog reviewers.

    That puts the market in control of the consumer, and gives bloggers like me a way to earn some money by sharing my experiences. I like that.

    P.S. I love the design of your site. I noticed it’s a Chris Pearson Theme. (That’s a free endorsment btw.)

  • 5 Paid Blog Endorsments and Writing Professionally // Jan 13, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    [...] Applesassy is thinking about paid blog endorsements and writing professionally.

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