I’m currently watching engaged in a lively saturday morning discussion with Jeremiah Owyang, and Ted Murphy Founder/CEO of IZEA on whether bloggers are going to become more of an advertising vehicle for brands. Though this not neccesarily a new topic, it may be becoming prominent again based on a lot of external economic factors. It started with this:
Jeremiah goes on to say “Bottom Line: Expect more brands to ‘buy’ bloggers and tweeters as the economy dips, this truly is cost effective marketing”
But is it? Will you, as a blogger become more open to being paid by a brand or company to shill their product to your loyal readers who come to your site because of your candor and POV? Won’t that change the scope and the depth of your posts? Is the economy such that we now will come expect that a Chris Brogan is now going to start pitching product? The easy answer is, “just avoid any paid posts”. But what if you don’t know? Chris might be the exception in giving full disclosure of the paid post.
My tweeted thought:
You as the loyal reader will now be the audience to a pitch from your author, full disclosure is not a prerequisite either, although Ted Murphy does mention:
So how do you feel about that? Is it going to change now how you read or what you read from your favorite blogs?
Will full disclosure matter? Will you read a blog post knowing it is essentially a paid pitch for a product? Isn’t that the same as a celebrity spokesperson? What if they pitch but don’t tell, because they know they will lose readers if the readers knew that it was a paid post?
What’s not evident is the post Jeremiah is referring to on Chris Brogan’s site is on Dad-o-matic and not Chrisbrogan.com 2 distinct and very different blog sites. So the questions remain:
So there’s more to this Twitstream but the question is more geared towards the reader, since bloggers have been getting paid for quite some time now for paid posts. It all comes down to the “big bloggers” and theirloyal readers. Will your loyalty wane if you know going forward, that the post you are reading, is a paid, sponsored post? Do you care?
I don’t mind sponsored posts. I do, however, think bloggers need to pay attention to the frequency with which they write them, but all in all I don’t mind them. Maybe I’m naive, but I believe in the bloggers I read and I trust they’re not out and out lying. I believe most would point out whatever positives they felt comfortable with and perhaps frame one or two negative points with some constructive feedback.
It’s definitely a slippery slope. Does anyone *really* know the bloggers their reading? Probably not. Ultimately it’s up to the reader to make that call. Bloggers have to make a living, and readers should understand that, but as Chris is finding out it’s about expectations of the reader from the blogger.
Ultimately Jeremiah is right – it does lessen the credibility of the blogger over time. Want evidence? Celebrity endorsements still mean something to some people but ultimately are met with skepticism. (http://www.cultureby.com/trilogy/2008/06/celebrity-endor.html)
In this case the objective of the campaign was reach, and that was achieved. Will KMart see an uptick in sales as a result? It’s going to be impossible to tell because of the economy and benefit that bargainesque stores, (http://money.cnn.com/2008/12/04/news/economy/Nov_retailsales/index.htm?cnn=yes) including KMart, are seeing.
As someone on the WOMMA Member Ethics Advisory Board, the bloggers disclosed that they were paid. I’m not sure what more you can ask of them.
Hmm lets see I am a big girl, I think I am adult enough to make my own decision on whether I like a product or not. So sponsered post? I say if my favorite blogger can make some extra cash for their family and score some gifts for their readers at the same time I say more power to them.
If you get down to it I will probably stay away from all the whiners and complainers that are posting about this. I say move on! There are bigger fish to fry.
I dont think what Brogan did was bad. He was transparent about it, and told the story of a shopping spree with his kids. What good writers do is tell stories.
The fact is that Brogan has a huge platform. Because of this he has the power to reach a lot of people. When people have such a platform they will have others who want to pay to access their readers. Social media does not change that.
There seems to be a movement of people who want all bloggers and users to be “pure” from business motivations. But there are no social media “rules” yet… it is all too new. Those who follow have the power not to follow if they choose, and that is where the real proof of platform is. Will Brogan still have his reach tomorrow. I think yes. I believe that being up front abotu a $500 gift card does not turn off readers.
Now those who hide such payments for posts will be uncovered and that might cause them problems and see followers flee.
Those who read anything should always be cautious of the motivations of the writer….this is true of blogs, newspapers, books, etc…
Great conversation. Your first question is whether the economy will change the way we blog. I would say “of course it will”. The economy changes everything – both positively and negatively. I am selling my house to become a buyer in this market b/c of the economy. I will do pretty much anything to become a buyer. Without the economy and housing market being in the toilet, I wouldn’t be doing the things that I am doing. I have been thinking of selling my car. I love my car, but it takes premium gas. Of course, now that the economy is down and gas prices with it, it has changed my perspective (along with the fact that I love my car, and can now rationalize it ;). On Twitter I see micro after micro stating “X tips to [insert service here] to weather the recession”. 6 months ago, we didn’t see such rhetoric online. It has already changed the way we blog (and even the way I blog, so I’m no purist).
As far as advertising is concerned, this whole thing of social media that we are participating in is about testing, measuring and optimization. Chris tested a concept out. He will now measure it see if there is something worth doing again and/or optimizing. I say who cares. He was transparent about it, and he certainly has the platform for it. My question is was it relevant? Probably not and because it wasn’t relevant I spent about 2 seconds in Google reader on the post. I didn’t care, I used my internet mute button and changed the channel to my new friends like Marc Meyer. Let social media capitalism win out. We get to talk about it, have some fun, and if he does an paid advertisement for something relevant to me other then K-Mart (c’mon now), then maybe he’ll make some cash off of me. In the meantime, nothing is proven out, so let’s keep testing, measuring, optimizing, and please keep your conversations relevant.
Great post Marc.
First, I think Chris chose “dad-o-matic” because this platform focuses on family and that’s what he did – he went shopping with his kids.
Personally, if he had written a post about shopping at Kmart with his kids on chrisbrogan.com I would not have paid it any attention to it. However, if I was an dedicated reader of “dad-o-matic”, I would have cared because I’m a “dad” too. I would at least found it somewhat interesting regardless if he got paid for it or not.
Don’t get me wrong – disclaimers are a must-have!
Second, I would argue that the concept of “trust” is not black and white and we should not assume otherwise. If you accept this, then the discussion about “trust” being neutralized over the action(s) of sponsored posts is not all that big of an issue given the bigger picture of groundswell.
There are also different degrees of trust and this concept will always be measured in the mind of the Reader. Given this, if the Reader is offended by a “sponsored” post, it maybe reduce”trust” by a degree or two. To lose “trust” completely, would entail a shoe full of sand rather than one big rock in one’s path.
I read Chris’s blog because I find his opinion useful and informative. I do not take everything he says as gospel.
Remember, the “unsubscribe” button is only a click away 😉
Great comments by everyone. Obviously this resonates with everyone in some form or fashion and I’m sorry that Chris is the poster child for this lesson.
@michelle I agree frequency is certainly a key
@david, as long as there is disclosure then who cares, if you care, then don’t read the post? right?
@Melissa there are bigger fish to fry, the mob mentality does rule
@Thom, I think more get paid and don’t disclose than we all know
@Justin, lets keep testing and measuring and optimizing, thats what we’re doing now though like to think that we already have it all figured out, we’re not even close.
@Mark You’re right, take what you want and disseminate what you will and move on, thats it…
I tried to stay away from this one, howeverkeeps coming up so thought I would share how I explained to a long time customer today. Let’s put this discussion in familiar terms for both of us…baseball.
Yup. So I look at most bloggers (the one-and-done’ers to the plain uninteresting) as the high school players. Want to be players who may sit the bench but at least they tried out and are on the team, there are millions of them.
Then some are actually good and play college ball. there are a few thousand. these are the bloggers who actually have followers and comments on their stories (and who’s thoughts can actually stir-the-pot if they want to :-). Everyone knows these players get free meals at the local restaraunt and don’t pay covers, yet is seems to be ok.
Then you have the pros (down to a percent (yes 1%) that actually played high school ball). The definition or a pro here is being paid to play. Once you are paid, you are no longer an amateur. Just because Tiger (yes I know he’s golf) hawks Buicks (at least when they were still making them) doesn’t mean that I don’t like to watch him perform. Same with bloggers, they have a right to “go pro” if they want to however they just have to give up amateur status.
Look at the great products that pro bloggers provide us. Personally, I read PaidContent – Rafat Ali; TechCrunch; HuffPo when it was good, certainly Jeremiah provides great insights. His job is dependent on bringing in revenues (as is mine). People who spend more time with a product or company will have better insights and hopefully be constructive. You only have so much time in a day and you tend to spend time with those things that provide greater personal return.
So to sum it up “don’t hate the player, hate the game”. everyone has to eat and if you can figure out how to feed the family while doing something you love, then good on ya’.
@Jason Love this analogy jason. essentially at the end of the day, we all have to make money, so now all of a sudden we’re going to sit here and question someone who does what they have to do to make money? And yes, some are at different stages of the game…the economy will though, shake out the ones who are in it just because they heard it was what they were supposed to do. But to question ones motives to blog is one thing, but to question whether someone is allowed to make money via blogging is pure ignorance. Great comment.
Bottom line for bloggers: it’s a bad idea. If you’re a blogger it takes SO long to build up credibility, it isn’t worth a few bills to sacrifice even an inch of it. Too hard to get. Easy to lose…
For marketers: really shows the true colors of a brand if you have to PAY people to blog about your brand. Hire a PR firm.
I blogged more about it here:
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