Cash crosses a line.

Cash

So, Forrester think it is OK to pay for blog posts, so long as the relationship is made clear. This is so unhelpful to the passionate people at companies who have been trying to get employees more involved in Social Media.

I think that there is a huge difference between giving an experience at the company’s expense vs paying someone cash. It is the difference between someone who is generous and thoughtful vs a person who thinks they can literally buy your attention and affection.

I’ve been pushing for some time to encourage people to engage in and with Social Media in the “right” way. The reality is that this is tricky, uncontrollable, and time-consuming. But the benefits can be huge if it is done well.

Paid posts are never going to have the same impact in the long-term as genuine people blogging voluntarily about a Brand because they have deemed something is newsworthy and interesting. Paying may get the news out, but in the long term it discredites all the other efforts.

My biggest concern is that busy marketing managers will take the easy route, and will think it is OK to just pay bloggers rather than doing things right. As someone who is trying to get these same marketing managers to “get involved”, a report saying that it is OK to pay bloggers is unhelpful, to say the least.

The idea that people can be “editorially independent” while accepting money for the post is just nonsense, and very very unhelpful. Since Banner Blindess is real, perhaps the issue is that we need advertising space where people actually look. Maybe advertorials are something that we could consider?

But please, let’s not ruin this thing that we are so passionate about.

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5 thoughts on “Cash crosses a line.

  1. Ms. Jen says:

    Let me comment from a blog reader perspective:

    I find it creepy on the reading end to find out that a blogger I like and respect is getting paid to review a product, as their tone usually changes. And how do you trust the authenticity of the review?

    What do we call pay? Where is the line? Is it receiving money for the blog post on the product or service? Is it receiving the product to keep? But what if it is a service? How does one ship a service back after you write about it?

    I was a part-time music journalist from 1996 – 2005 for a variety of print and online magazines. I received a ton of free cds, of which I was expected to keep, listen to and review, as well as put on the guest list for many gigs/concerts. On occasion a publicist would invite one out to dinner before the show or an interview and ply one and all (other writers) with food & alcohol. But money was never offered, nor would it have been accepted.

    But it is a fine line, as I didn’t like it when Dooce started to have a daily product that she blogged about. I found it odd, as the Armstrongs have been very open that they make their living from the ads run on their blog, so how different would it be to receive and keep products? But Heather Armstrong has since been transparent that she is blogging about stuff she bought herself and likes enough to let the world know about it. Now most of the time, I skip reading the product reviews, as I don’t like most of the stuff she is reviewing. I skip to her “real” posts, the ones that caused me to start reading her blog in the first place.

    Yet when Fussy.org reviewed a Sony camera that Sony gave her to keep, it did not seem odd or weird as Eden was very open from the beginning of the blog post that Sony gave her the camera and wanted a review. So reviewed away she did and was honest about her thoughts.

    I am not also naive to think that companies don’t give products to keep, regularly or occasionally, to bloggers or magazines that are good to them. Do device manufacturers ask C|Net to send every product back after review?

    The other question is how often does review for pay or keeping the product happen? If it is all the time, then the blog is just a product flog. If it is occasionally, then does it mean that the company trusts the blogger’s perspective or just wants their readers?

    What we are talking about is a multiple way trust relationship as it flows between the company and the blogger as well as the blogger and their audience.

    Much of what the line being crossed is about is how much trust is abused or not abused in the name of commerce and lazy marketing? And from the other side, how much trust is gained by marketing done right?

  2. dagood says:

    @Ms Jen
    Great stuff. Interesting to read your opinion as you are a reader, a blogger and a former journalist (et al)so you are able to see this from multiple angles.

    I think you’re right, it boils down to trust: Is this a medium that we want to be about trust and genuine engagement, or is it going to be just another way to interrupt someone’s day?

  3. Molly says:

    Amen to everything here Dan. It’s so disappointing to see people trying to backtrack on the good work that’s started to happen and to reformulate the brand / consumer relationship back into one that is all about financial power play.

    @Ms Jen I absolutely agree that trust depends on the relationship the brand has built up with the individual. Allowing someone to keep the occasional trial product or pay for them to come along to an event if they’re engaged in some honest and sustained feedback about the brand is a very different thing to throwing free stuff at them to get them to talk.

    But this kind of creeping acceptance of pay per post is a very depressing thing indeed.

    http://209.235.234.217/?p=340

  4. Ms. Jen says:

    A rhetorical question: How many of the pay to play marketers are also the same folks who would be slogging whatever at whichever job they have? How much of this laziness or lack of care for one’s job/product/company is a result of being at a job not because one is passionate about one’s craft but because one needs to have a career and one thought that business and marketing were probably better majors at college than art or sports therapy?

    Some of the best publicists and marketers I have worked with may not have been passionate about the products/services there were working with before they got the job but they cared enough to learn and develop care/craft.

    What we are also talking about here is craft and integrity as well as trust. Craft like art, requires love not just money.

  5. Molly says:

    Absolutely. It is completely alien to me that you could spend your day doing something that is not only pretty meaningless, but actually erodes the good things that creative people are doing in our new mediascapes, actually trying to effect change for the better. It’s easy to sound smug when you’re lucky enough to be able to do what you want to do, but I agree that I’d probably rather do a good job on the checkout at Tescos than a bad job somewhere with exposed brickwork and a cappuccino machine.

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