Let’s Play “Reviews for Dollars”!
Posts for pay, reviews for cash or whatever you want to call them are a part of the blogosphere and have been for quite some time. The amount of attention that it gets is often directly related to the amount of other news that is happening in the space at the time. Well, we are in the middle of the summer and other than Twitter running around with its security briefs around its ankles there has little news to truly examine.
Enter Ad Age and its video feature “Three Minute Ad Age” which interviews BlogHer co-founder and COO Elisa Camahort Page on the eve of their 5th annual conference in Chicago. While many turn up their noses at the idea of ‘mommy-bloggers’ there is power in numbers whether it is real or perceived. Ask Motrin. BlogHer.com is a online community that gets 15 million unique visitors per month so there is nothing to sneeze at there from a pure quantity measure.
The focus of this interview is ‘blogola’ or the practice of being paid for a review of a specific product or service. Others like Chris Brogan have gone through some significant debates about the merits or demerits of this practice. BlogHer’s Page is anticipating that the subject will be top of mind during the conference because many influential mommy-bloggers can help sell a lot of products for companies if they mention and / or review a product on their blog.
While everyone agrees that full disclosure is paramount, Page is seeing that the context of the review is critical as well. In other words, disclosure is not enough. To that end, the BlogHer community cordons off the reviews in separate review logs where there is no advertising sold. These ‘sponsored conversations’ are clearly defined as such because Page that not only disclosure but context matters when it comes to paid posts.
I agree for the most part. The only real crime to me in this type of environment is if there is literally no mention or a very weak mention of ‘blogola (which by the way is a dumb name, anyone have anything better they would like to ‘coin’ here?). As long as the post is clearly marked as a paid discussion or whatever at the start and the conclusion of the post then there should be little trouble. Where you get into trouble is if the mention is brief and buried in the middle of the text or simply non-existent. Having a title that reads “You Have to Get Brand X!” may be all that someone reads so there needs to be the best shot of someone seeing that the post is paid for. Otherwise, we are in a gray area where a blogger can say they mentioned the nature of the post but didn’t make it really obvious. Starts to sound like a sleazy sales practice at that point.
So Pilgrims, on this fine Monday, what is your take? Should bloggers ever take pay for posts? If they do how should it be handled? What are best / worst practices you have seen? What are the potential consequences? Not surprisingly, the government has chimed in through the FTC on the matter so we better pay attention (I guess).
A discussion amongst the type of readers that come here could beneficial to all so please let us know your thoughts.