{{ searchResult.published_at | date:'d MMMM yyyy' }}

Loading ...
Loading ...

Enter a search term such as “mobile analytics” or browse our content using the filters above.

No_results

That’s not only a poor Scrabble score but we also couldn’t find any results matching “”.
Check your spelling or try broadening your search.

Logo_distressed

Sorry about this, there is a problem with our search at the moment.
Please try again later.

I received an email the other day, which caused me some significant concern. It was a request, which came out of the blue, asking me to consider to be paid for featuring certain content on my personal blog.

For me, this is a very unwanted and somewhat scandalous approach and I sincerely hope other bloggers feel the same way. If you think about it, it is a very seedy means to encourage independent people who take the time to blog about subjects they care about, to succumb to the incentive of money.

It is akin to paying for link placement in link directories, but in a much more underhand and devious manner. It's nasty, and any blogger who is tempted is in danger of losing all credibility and damaging their own personal brand. Any trust that may have been built between blogger and reader will be damaged. But how can you tell which blog is credible and which has fallen for the temptation of money?

It would be heart-warming to believe that every blogger resists such an approach. However, it would be naive to think that it doesn't happen. So, will this emerging trend result in a degree of consumer scepticism when seeking advice or opinion? One can only assume it will, but how can anyone tell which blog is genuine and which is being tainted?

Will Technorati and Wikio authority rankings be affected? Will the search engines be able to tell? (Ultimately the reason for this approach is to achieve higher visibility within the engines for these 'sponsored' posts...) I very much doubt it. It will be very difficult to tell and probably the only clues would be posts which appear 'off topic' or out of context to the previous posts. Probably only to be spotted by regular readers of such blogs. 

Anyway, I thought I'd post the email approach with the hope that 'outing' such activity will help put a stop to it. So here it is, and it would be good to hear from others who have had similar approaches.

This came from one such firm:

Hey Blogger - My name is XXX, 

I have been searching the Internet for blogs that fit our criteria. Yours does. I wanted to invite you to become a paid blogger at XXX. (Please understand that I do not send this invitation to every blogger I come across.) 

Roughly 25% of bloggers are now being paid to write postings on their blogs, that are linked to websites. The value here is that, when a blog posting is linked to a website, that website will get higher rankings in the search engines, such as Google and Yahoo.  You can write anything you think about the website, positive or negative. 

Here is a link that describes how it all works in a little more detail: 

[link]

Our system is set up so that bloggers can make more money with us than with any other blog-for-pay firm. In short, we are the middle man between you and the advertiser. We match the correct blogs with the correct advertisers, who pay us to do so. And then we pay you, the blogger on behalf of the advertiser. You only take the advertisements that you want and are comfortable with. In no way does this alter the ownership of your blog. You simply get paid to write postings on your blog that you choose to write. You do what you want, when you want. You decide what content to accept or decline.

To submit your blog, go to [link]

If you have any questions, do visit the FAQ's area of the site: [link]

If you have more than one blog, you are more than welcome to sign those up as well. If you have any other questions, please contact me at [email]. I know some people might be worried, getting some random e-mail, so please do write me if you have any questions or concerns. Also do a search for us on Yahoo or Google and look for reviews.

P.S. - I should note that we take great concern in the blogs that we allow into the system, so it's not possible for a full evaluation of the blog and/or its content until it reaches our categorizers.

Thanks,

XXX

Finally, credit is due to this blogger, Bete De Jour who decided to make a stance when contacted by a third party to promote a ladies bingo website on his blog.

Karl Havard

Published 12 October, 2009 by Karl Havard

Karl Havard is a trainer and contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter and connect via LinkedIn.

21 more posts from this author

Comments (20)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Robin Gurney

Robin Gurney, MD at CRE8ORS

karl

I am sorry but this is balderdash.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a blogger being paid to promote something provided he/she follows some pretty obvious ethical guidelines.

be transparent about the fact it is a promotional/marketing/advertising post. disclose it as such.

be honest. dont write anything you know is not true or what you dont know to be true.

And another bit of balderdash is the fact that 25% of bloggers are being paid. No way José.

over 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Rhys

I've had similar approaches myself. Generally I high ball their offer (If they offer me $80, I'd say I'd do it for $80,000, that usually gets them running).

I'm interested with the "25% of bloggers". What sort of figure is that? I mean, I do reviews of video games on my video gaming blog, some of which I do get for free. Is that paid content? Particularly if I mark it saying that I did receive it for free?

I guess it's not up for me to decide, but my readers. If I am allowed to say that something sucks, even if they have been nice to me, then I guess that's okay. What you, me and Bete De Jour have recieved, quite clearly, isn't.

over 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Andy Beard

I have done paid reviews in the past, but they were good enough to receive editorial links and lots of positive comments from my readers.

It has been a long time since my last one because none of the blogging services offer any kind of insurance for their bloggers, and companies paying for something are much more likely to be upset by a poor review.

I used to write the reviews as a form of "open consultancy" - I rarely do direct consulting as it isn't scalable.

I also write reviews as an affilaite, which can be more financially rewarding, but I take equal care about what I write about, and don't hold back on criticism where it is due.

The idea of paid insertions for me just doesn't work, though Izea if anyone is doing it the right way. I doubt that email came from them, they use nofollow on all links and full disclosure.

over 6 years ago

Robin Gurney

Robin Gurney, MD at CRE8ORS

I would add further:

As an independent blogger I would say you can promote third party products and services. In exchange you can receive products, services, money or other things of value to you.


For example, let’s say a (new) hotel wants to attract attention and clients so a number of bloggers are invited to the hotel for a weekend and get access to everything free: food, accommodation and treatments. Then you go away and write an HONEST review of the experience.


Honesty is critical. 

If you lie then people will find out and then your reputation is on the line. It is far better to write that the food and treatments were great but the rooms are a bit small and the pool was too cold.
The “negative” comments are valuable feedback for the hotel anyway – at our agency we say that we learn more from the clients who complain than the ones that don’t.

If you had a really really bad experience (at the hotel) then in our opinion
it’s fair (to both parties) for the blogger to give extreme negative feedback privately to the client (and therefore not publish any post) and still claim the reward.

After all, the objective (this is marketing after all) is to promote our clients and they probably wouldn’t be especially happy to pay for a really negative post. Of course you could refuse this suggestion and post your super-negative review anyway but it would very likely mean the agency/middleman/advertiser would not use your blog again.

Of course this last element is contentious as it amounts to gagging.

over 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

The dubious '25%' figure is from that email. I think it's probably nothing more than a random percentage plucked out of the air.

Paid placement is a bit sucky. In newspapers and magazines there should be an 'advertorial' label somewhere on the page. But I often think that certain publications publish what amounts to advertorial. Andrew Marr's book 'My Trade' has some interesting observations in this area. 

As to the notion of 'honesty', I'm not sure all reviewers are equal, or able to retain an objective view of a service or product. It somewhat depends on what's being reviewed, but consider that a travel reviewer from a top magazine, who is placed in the best suite in a hotel, treated to the finest levels of service and stuffed full of lobster and champagne is perhaps more likely to say good things about a hotel than the undercover (or citizen) reviewer. 

Most reviews should be taken with a dose of salt. Unless you have actually bought something and experienced the kind of service levels received by the average consumer then it can be impossible to accurately judge a product / service, much less award some kind of 9/10 rating to it.

over 6 years ago

deborah_collier008_300px.jpg

, Managing Director and Chief Strategist at Echo E-Business Ltd - Learnebusiness.com

I think that Bloggers should not take money to cover a subject.  If they want to generate money from their blogs, they can implement online advertising quite simply through established networks and software that allow them to integrate into their blog. Alternatively through other other online revenue generating opportunities.

On a similar note, I was recently approached by a magazine asking to write a story about our business (but paid for).  I was really offended.  That goes completely against the grains and ethos of journalism.  Give backhanders to the bloggers, then to the journalists, and then to the BBC, and then to the government....where would it stop. Its all about integrity.  

If they want to generate money through web sites or blogs, I can show them how ethically.

over 6 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Karl,

I understand your comment but think that paid for blogging can be appropriate provided both parties have clear guidelines and are open and honest, as Robin alludes to.

If a company approaches relevant industry bloggers to position a product/service, then provided the review is authentic and the blogger is expressing their actual opinions or an objective review, then I don't see the problem. I do think out of courtesy to readers there should be an acknowledgement of the payment.

However, if a blogger accepts money to publish a blog article on something that is not relevant to their blog and/or audience and the content is written according to a brief from the people paying, I would consider that unprofessional.

So I guess what I'm saying is that it can't be as clear cut as 'payment for blogs is a bad thing' and sometimes you have to leave it up to the integrity of individuals.

thanks

james

over 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

So this post (about paid for promotional blog content and not reviews) has turned into a debate on blogger ethics, which I find interesting. Some of the comments above have tarnished my opinion of the blogosphere. I'm not here to judge, but here is my opinion.

Firstly, if a blogger has been asked and paid by an independent body to review a group of products or services that is within his/her sphere of expertise than this is absolutely fine. It's independent and has no bias. All for that.

Secondly, if a blogger has been asked/paid by an independent body to review a group of products or services outside his/her sphere of expertise (off topic for the blog) then this again is not so bad...but by being tempted by the money and undertaking such a review, is the blogger risking a reduction in "authority" around the core subject matter of the blog? Authority in readers terms "Why is this blogger reviewing this?" and potentially in search engine terms as well.

Thirdly, and this is where I really struggle, a blogger being asked to place biased opinion (due to being paid) on a certain product or service which is within their sphere of influence is just plain wrong, wrong wrong. It's misleading the reader. Dampening down the negatives and emphasising the positives because of some extra money in the bank is akin to "cash for questions" in the Houses of Parliament. To then be "honest" and state that this review was paid for completely blows credibility and such blogs will lose following...guaranteed.

If, as some of you suggest, this is ok, where do you draw the line? Does the highest bidder get the best review? Can the enticement of money cause you to suddenly change you opinions?

For a blogger to gain and sustain credibility they should stay 100% true to their own opinions and feelings. Then you are offering genuine insights to those people who take the time to read the content.

Finally, Chris is right, the 25% in the headline is a direct extract from the email I received. And to be totally open, I created the post with actual email addresses and links still contained within the email. Econsultancy felt this should be made anonymous.

over 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Alison Cort, PR Director at Browser Media

From a purely PR point of view - this is not dissimilar to the age old practice of 'colour separations' or 'colour seps'. (A pre-digital idea that was a way for less-affluent magazines to make money by charging a small amount to cover the cost of featuring colour pictures.  Some dubious mags still charge colour seps today and if you don't pay, your story won't get featured.)

What is quite clear is after years of charging for colour seps there is a natural segmentation of the market where some mags that write independent editorial are simply given greater credence.  They in turn can charge more for advertising and don't need to bother with colour seps.

I'm sure this will happen in time in the blogosphere - it will become clear when a blogger continually writes review after review.  They'll pretty much have to be positive otherwise they'll never get approached by anyone else to do another one and it will become obvious that this person is not independent.

There will always be a fine line... press gifts and trips are fair game in the PR business but any practioner worth their salt, prefers not to pay for coverage, as it devalues any third party endorsement.  The FT haven't been able to accept press gifts for years and we're never going to get to that point with bloggers but I'm pretty sure it will be self policing. Bloggers that acknowledge payment (or don't take any at all) and write fair reviews will always have greater authority and credibility.

over 6 years ago

Rob Innes

Rob Innes, Director at Wyoming

Hi Karl,

I think you're taking 'blogger ethics' too far and in danger of not living in the real world. People are free to write about what concerns and interests them and their reputation and profile may rise as a result. They are also free to write about what earns them a commercial return. Too much commercial activity may dilute their reputation, but it's up to them.

Many brands, in Finance and Utilities for example, go out of their way to obfuscate and confuse with terminology, tariffs and offers, making it tough for individuals to compare like for like. To hold individual bloggers to a higher standard of ethical behaviour is, to me, a strange position to take, in a commercial world. 

Buyer beware.

over 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

Rob, As for not living in the real world, naturally I'd beg to differ.

I totally agree with the PR Director from Browser Media.

If independent bloggers wish to be paid to write biased reviews which favour a product or service unfairly, then let them do it. It's quite clear a lot of people do already. But this is receiving cash for false opinion. So...isn't that lying?

And...if such bloggers think they can sustain this approach and maintain credibility, influence and authority, let them think it. As it is them who are not "living in the real world".

Independent bloggers, like organisations, are a brand. If their values are such that they are happy to take money to write what others want them to, then so be it. But don't be surprised if they quickly tarnish any reputation they may have attained.  

over 6 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Karl

You've stirred up a good debate! 

It would appear there is a common agreement between most of us - that paid for blogging is not necessarily a bad thing provided you have a reason for doing it and maintain your integrity.

I agree that it can be fraught with problems if your audience start to perceive you as a cash mercenary who will write for the Devil himself is there is financial reward. I guess, as you point out, that is the decision each blogger must take - credibility v financial reward - I think the two could work together in balance if you are open and honest. Which gets back to the heart of social media, engaging with people in a transparent way.

I've enjoyed following this discussion, has given me food for thought.

thanks

james

ps How is the real world?

over 6 years ago

Neil Warren

Neil Warren, Publisher at 2N Media Ltd - ModernSelling.com

Surely the "issue" here will be firstly to determine what it is we mean by "blog"?

As an ex-Sales Director Karl (we gotta shift the product folks), and offering services to get commercial firms to establish, and own, their own social media presence - do you not envisage sales-oriented people having "conversations" with customers and prospects (some might say "blogging") but obviously nearly always offering their own, fully paid, highly remunerated "slant" on what it is they say? I don't mean to say that any "independent expert" blog you might be running these days (don't know, haven't read it) cannot be exactly that - independent, expert, unpaid - just that for the rest it could well be horses for courses.

Clearly we do already every version of a "blog" from "All the Presidents Men" style journalists earnestly seeking the truth, through to more feature-based presentations, magazine style (with supportive advertising) and including purely commercial "this is our website, these are our products and services, please discuss" type presentations.

It might be helpful to the average punter if these were clearly labelled - but I think there will always be rather fuzzy lines separating them out.

over 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

James,

It has been an interesting debate, I agree. It's a fine line to tread, but for me I won't add posts to any blog for money, even if it is classed as independent. "Mercenary Bloggers" or "Blogvertising" may realise a short term gain, but the long term credibility issues will be very difficult to recover from.

Being philosophical...I'm not sure what "The Real World" is. Could it all be a dream? And I think I'll stop right there, it's been a long day.

over 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Rakeye

I can't believe this thread... The company that approached you isn't interested in the content of what you write, they're SEO link builders. They're only interested in your page rank and your sites relevancy to their clients.

This is easy money, and personally I can’t see any moral question involved.  They don't care whether the post they pay you to write is positive or negative, just as long as you have a link going to their client's site, ideally on relevant anchor text in a keyword heavy post.

Your blog will be one of many in a blog network solution that they'll offer to their clients. The chances are that their clients will not even look at your blog.

So, you can write whatever you want, and get paid for it. Where’s the problem??

over 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

Rakeye,

I think it is very obvious the approach is from link builders and they couldn't give two hoots about the content. They, as you say, want the link authority. And it sounds as if this is the world you operate in. 

Where's the problem?!!! The problem is ethical. I, and many other people who write blogs independently and for other organisations, do so because they are pretty passionate about the subject matter they CHOOSE to write about. 

The "easy money" and "they don't care what I write" are quite revealing statements. The people who make the approach, who are after the link juice, don't care about subject matter, but the blogger and the regular readers of the blog do. If subject matter changes at whim based upon the easy money that is put a blogger's way surely this dilutes the blog content; misleads and turns off the reader; and therefore diminishes the authority. A downward slope.

It is clear you are looking at this from a link building point of view. The blog would become a glorified link directory. I can't believe there are "SEOs" out there who still wish to adopt this style of approach to improve search engine rankings. It's a bit dated, old hat and sneaky. Whereas contributing in the right way, to an on topic discussion within an authoritative blog does.

over 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Rakeye

Sorry, I've obviously made my point badly... and yes, I do operate in online marketing, and link-building is one of the many tools that I have sufficient understanding of to use effectively and ‘ethically’, whether you think that’s possible is another debate altogether ;-). I don’t have any experience dealing commercially with blogs, however. This is obviously an emotive subject! These link builders are suggesting that you write an article in the doubtlessly inimitable style that attracts your readers in the first place, regarding a subject that’s relevant to your blog (as it gives more value to the link) and their client, and they’ll pay you for it.

I don’t know this company, but from what I understand, they're giving you complete freedom, but are willing to pay you to place a link within this content to a company’s site that is relevant to the post’s subject, therefore adding value to your readers by giving them a link to further information. So, it’s a relevant link, in relevant, well written content, on a relevant blog that adds value to your readers experience... if they want to pay for that, I repeat, where is the problem? I assume you’re writing about relevant subjects all the time, so why is there an ethical problem in accepting money for a link that is of value to your readers in that it leads to a site that is relevant to the post and your blog in general?

That’s if it’s done correctly. They could quite easily be a bunch of amateurs, who are looking for random links with no relevance, in which case you would be crazy to take them up on their offer, but to say that this kind of business is wrong per se is not right.  

I’d say the measuring stick for what is wrong or right is traffic volume... if through placing these links on your blog you would lose traffic it would be ‘wrong’, but if it provides value to your readers and keeps them coming back it’s good!

As I say, I have no experience commercially with blogs so maybe it’s the case that this is tried and tested, and blog audiences are hyper-sensitive to any kind of commercialisation of content in which case I take everything back and you’re right. My own feeling is that a lot of work goes into a good blog that provides value to its readers and audiences shouldn’t react negatively to a well placed and relevant link.

over 6 years ago

Neil Warren

Neil Warren, Publisher at 2N Media Ltd - ModernSelling.com

We've also got parallels here with the murky "real world" of politics haven't we?

Like we vote in our chosen representatives and expect unbiased representation of our interests, until "cash for votes" and Prime Ministerial funding by dodgy Lords ripping off expenses muddy the waters a bit over here, and the pharmaceutical billions somewhat mess up the debate about medical care for all in the US.

Or, nearer to "media" debates, what do we make of tobacco sponsorship of Formula One, or product placement in our favourite soaps?

(Just in case you thought this topic was running out of steam Karl ;-)

over 6 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Chief Strategy Officer at Econsultancy Small Business Guest AccessSmall Business Multi-user

Rakeye,

I like your last comment as it provides a lot more substance and I have a better understanding of where you're coming from. I guess sensitivity is an issue (I've obviously shown that in previous comments.) and maybe I could be guilty of being over sensitive, but I still come back to the point of the payment. Is the draw of money making me write about something/topic I wouldn't normally write about? If so, then I believe I shouldn't do it. If it's asking me to write something I would normally write about, but to bias my opinions to include links, anchor text and positive sentiment...no chance. 

Neil,

I think politics is another big subject, and probably tinged in some quarters in the same way. However, sponsorship, product placement etc. are slightly different as this is advertising and won't tarnish an independent blogger's credibility.

over 6 years ago

Neil Warren

Neil Warren, Publisher at 2N Media Ltd - ModernSelling.com

I think the closer analogy Karl is that an advert for Coke in the middle break of Coronation street is advertising. But, having the "editorial" characters slugging a can in the kitchen or ordering it at the bar is "tainted" editorial or the blogging equivalent.

It just quietly says "Coke is a good thing to order" without pointing out to viewers/readers that ITV were paid to say that.

over 6 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Daily Pulse newsletter. Each weekday, you ll receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.