Brands Should Not Pay Bloggers


If bloggers want to make money with their blogs they should sell advertising – or charge readers for their content.

But they should not expect brands to pay them for writing or producing content.

This is an issue that has been around for years – and it never seems to go away.  Yet it’s my observation that more bloggers than ever are asking to be compensated for reviewing products or for participating in events and brand campaigns.

Here’s the problem.  Sponsored content simply isn’t as valuable to brands.

The power of public relations is that it is independent third-party validation.  It is a recommendation, observation or commentary that is provided without any strings attached.  That is the power of PR and word of mouth.  People recommend it because of their experience with it – because they liked it.  Not because they were paid to.

Sponsored content is no different from an advertisement.  Only it’s worse because most bloggers want full editorial control of their content.

So basically bloggers are asking to be paid for reviewing a product or service – without any guarantee that the review will be positive.

Hm.

What’s the upside for a brand?  Why would they pay for that?  And, yes, I understand that some brands are willing to pay.  But it really doesn’t make much sense.

On the flip side sponsored content is bad for the blogger in the long run.  If a blogger is continually being paid to “like” products and/or write about them he will slowly erode his own creditability.  Who wants to read a blog that is basically filled with paid-for content?

My point of view of this has changed through the years.  Back in 2009, I supported bloggers being able to charge brands for their efforts as long as they were transparent about it.  I compared sponsored blog posts to the advertorials that are often found in magazines and even in newspapers.

But the comparison isn’t accurate.  Advertorials are written by writers hired by the company buying the advertorial.  The content is separate and distinct from the editorial copy in the rest of the magazine or newspaper.  But sponsored blog posts are written by the blogger – who is also writing other blog posts that are not paid for.

This intermixing of “advertorial” and “editorial” doesn’t work.  It’s messy.  Bloggers should not be writing both types of content anymore than we’d want our journalists writing the copy of the ads in newspapers.

Fifty-two percent of bloggers consider themselves journalists (according to a 2010 study by PRWeek and PRNewswire).  If they want to be journalists and/or perceive themselves cut from the same clothe as journalists – then bloggers should begin to adopt their standards and professional ethics.

This means an end to sponsored blog posts.  It means not being “paid” to write specific blog posts.

But it doesn’t mean that bloggers can’t sell advertising on their blogs or charge readers for content.  They can also be treated like journalists by receiving “free” review products or services.  They can expect to have tickets and/or travel expenses paid for if covering an event or if a story requires them to travel.  They just need to be transparent about it.

What do you think?  Should bloggers be compensated?  Should brands pay bloggers?

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Will Blog for Food

10 Responses to “Brands Should Not Pay Bloggers”

  1. George,

    I agree that bloggers being ‘sponsored’ devalues their credibility, and the game of ‘product review’ is a sham not only by bloggers but also the entire category of specialty sites/magazines that are still standing like automotive and home and garden, This is the ‘biting the hand that feeds you’ trap.

    Positive or negative reviewing aside, direct connection between a brand and a reviewer taints the objectivity of any review. This goes double for the pros, who should know better. The Social Media PR loons are trying to sidestep the connection with smoke and mirrors with faceyspacing, twittering and B.S. Liking campaigns. And brands are buying it.

    If brands really believe their product is better there is a simple way to find out. Say you have a 3/8” cordless drill and you want to find out if it is better that the other guys.

    Send me yours and send me the competitions. Let me beat them up and then report my findings. This is a risk but they will find it a hell of a lot cheaper in the long run than an advertising campaign written by folks who write copy for a living and don’t know a chuck from a battery.

    this makes no sense
    “The power of public relations is that it is independent third-party validation. It is a recommendation, observation or commentary that is provided without any strings attached. That is the power of PR and word of mouth.”

    PR is independent third-party validation? Seriously? PR is wax jobs, white washing, or damage control. There is no ‘validation’ in any of those scenarios, only mission requirements and troop deployments.

    Except for the PR nonsense, not a bad posting.

  2. Hi Alan:
    Thanks for the comments and the observations. You’re right that I wasn’t clear in what I meant about PR. Part of public relations is media and influencer relations. Getting journalists and influencers to write about or review a product. That’s the independent third-party validation I’m talking about. Consumers believe and trust this type of commentary found in newspaper, blogs and on TV news casts more than advertising. That’s the third-party validation. That’s why when you pay for a good review it is really just an ad.

  3. I actually think that this is why blogger relations can’t remain the domain of PR. For the most part PR don’t understand the culture of bloggers and cant get past the idea of “cash for comment” to find other ways to compensate bloggers. Media/digital agencies are better at seeing the need for this and hopefully will come to find ways to make it work. Bloggers absolutely need to be compensated for the work they do, but though the most popular approach, sponsored posts are a very limited way of looking at it.

  4. Hi Louisa:
    I disagree wholeheartedly. Digital agencies don’t understand content – or syndication of said content. They have no experience in maintaining and refining relationships. They also don’t understand how to pull content through every channel, including traditional media. That’s why they’re losing and PR agencies are winning when it comes to executing on social media.

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