Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 25, 2009 8:35 AM

This Space (Is Not) For Sale

Marketers are going to be using Social Media a lot more in the coming year. Some of it will just be a re-direction of their advertising dollars, and some of it will be in trying to figure out what other ways they can use to either buy their way into the space or try to participate.

Just this week, Forrester Research announced at their Marketing Forum...

"Marketing budgets are following the innovation trail - social media spending in the US will grow from $716 million this year to more than $3.1 billion in 2014, a 34 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR). That's a significantly higher rate of growth than the future spending on other interactive marketing channels. Overall, interactive marketing spending in the US will grow from $25.5 billion in 2009 to nearly $55 billion in 2014, a 17 percent CAGR, according to a new Forrester forecast previewed at the Marketing Forum."

What will marketers be spending it on?

From the sound of this press release it reads like a shift from advertising on the major traditional web portals and online newspapers to environments that have more social media-like attributes to them. These types of statements always make me wonder if they're talking about less banners on, say, Yahoo! and more on YouTube (but until we get more specific insights, who knows)? On top of this, Chris Brogan (co-author of the upcoming book, Trust Agents with Julien Smith and co-host of the  Media Hacks podcast) had another provocative post this week titled, I Support the Future of Sponsored Posts:

"I support Ted Murphy and IZEA. I support their intent to deliver quality content marketing with appropriate disclosure and clear delineation. That's why I joined the advisory board. I want to help shape the way I feel content marketing should work. I want to be clear on disclosure. I want to help shape how this impacts blogging, and be sure that we keep all the various iterations for how and why people blog clear."

Personally, I have no appetite for the pay-per-post model (when an advertisers pays a Blogger to Blog about them). You can read my in-depth thoughts about it here: Ethics In Blogging For Dollars, Trust In Non-Transferable and Transparency Is The Starting Point - Credibility Is The Finish Line. That being said, I can see why some Bloggers would accept this type of advertising and why some brands would want to pay Bloggers to write about them. As with everything, your mileage may vary.

It's about nomenclature and positioning.

Calling pay-per-post a "sponsorship" seems like a bit of a stretch. Usually when a brand sponsors something, they are simply attaching their name to an existing event in or order to create an alignment in the public's eye. If Nike sponsors a woman's marathon in San Francisco, they are not influencing the content or context of the event, they are simply helping to finance it through paying for visibility to that group. If Nike were to sponsor a Blog (or a post) the content does not have to be Nike related at all. If Nike buys some pay-per-post Blog postings, they are expecting the Blogger to write about them (and expecting it to be good). We can say that "Bloggers have the right to say whatever they want," but I would be curious to see how many brands re-engage a Blogger who says something even mildly critical of them.

Another way to reconcile some of this is for the Bloggers to make a clear visual distinction in the content (not just disclose it in the copy). Much in the same way Google and Techmeme use both color, font, borders and overall placement to make a clear and clean distinction between what is editorial and what is paid content. A few of those tactics would go a long way in validating if pay-per-post is, indeed, a viable advertising media.

If Bloggers really want to use the pay-per-post model to build revenue, why not call it what it is (pay-per-post) and position it either outside of their regular editorial content or make it visually different? 

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Heather Kennedy
    Mitch Joel

    I was driving in the car the other day and had the local AM station on and it struck me that some of the sponsored posts I have seen lately are more along the lines of radio spots read by familiar radio hosts. The hosts are trading on their (voice) literally to give credibility to a product endorsement--in this case a gutter product, but it is in no way related to their regular work. It comes off as advertising as well it should.

    The Izea/Kmart stuff is certainly intriguing, but if Kmart goes bankrupt anyway, will it have really been all that effective in the way the company needed it to be? Because honestly it's still my grandma's Kmart no matter how much new/social media you throw at it.

    Reply
  • Posted by Nicole Filiatrault
    Mitch Joel

    We can look to the so-called traditional publishing world for a model on this one.

    Publishing has always had sponsored editorial supplements, where although the media outlet has editorial control and final say over the content, it's absolutely true that outright negative material about the sponsor rarely, if every, shows up in those items.

    Most (reputable) media outlets don't do a lot of them, because although they may still be of value to the subscribers, they're also clearly not quite as unbiased as straight up editorial content.

    There is a distinction, however fine or blurry, between that and an advertising suppliement or "advertorial", though. In that instance, the sponsor is just buying space and completely controls the message. That, to me, is what would be called pay for post (or adverpost/adverblog?).

    So, technically... "sponsored blog posts" is a perfectly accurate description - but then, not everyone reading a blogger comes from the media world and so may not understand these nuances.

    Reply
  • Posted by Josh Chandler
    Mitch Joel

    To a certain degree a blogger who believes that pay per post business models work in their favour are really mistaken, as you correctly mentioned in the article the influence of the company sponsoring the post is far greater then the opinion of the blogger.

    I don't agree in any way we as bloggers should be tied down by the interests of one company, just for our own financial gain, and to be honest if bloggers feel this is the only way to make money online, then we have well and truly hit a brick wall in the blogosphere.

    It's a matter of continuing to talk openly with companies, and justifying how blogging is helping on many levels in the corporate world, it's a bit of a handholding exercise, taking them through step by step, I certainly think we have progressed hugely in the last few years, and more companies understand the value of blogs!

    Reply
  • Posted by Mike Proulx
    Mitch Joel

    For me, it comes down to trust and credibility. I like your analogy, Nicole, to the print world’s “advertorials� – often times when thumbing through magazines I find myself drawn to content that looks and feels like part of the magazine and the minute I see the disclaimer “paid advertisement� (IF I see it), I suddenly trust the content less, if at all.

    Ultimately people have to make up their own minds around the content they choose to consume. I’ll tell ya, Mitch, that if most of your posts were written because you were getting paid, I, personally wouldn’t want to read your blog because I’m interested in hearing what YOU think – not what you’re artificially influenced to write. You’re an open book about your own personal ethics on where and how your content is generated – and it’s because of that, I am far more inclined to trust what you say.

    I don’t have a problem with bloggers who accept pay for post as long as they are very clear which blog posts are sponsored. But I have to admit that I also don’t trust them/their content as much -- and I also don't have to consume their content.

    Reply
  • Posted by Daryl Tay
    Mitch Joel

    I was just reading Andy Sernovitz's posts from last weekend who said paying bloggers is just wrong, and it's interesting to note on the other side of the coin, Chris Brogan has no issue with it, if disclosure is ensured.

    So many factors that come into play here, and to be honest, I switch back and forth between opinions. On one hand, I wouldn't want to read a blogger's posts that are all paid for (or "sponsored"), on the other hand, I can't begrudge bloggers who want to earn some cash, or companies who are trying ways (good or bad) to dabble with social media.

    Reply
  • Posted by nike outlet
    Mitch Joel


    This article has great reference value, thank you very much for sharing, I would like to reproduced your article, so that more people would see it.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I was just reading Andy Sernovitz's posts from last weekend who said paying bloggers is just wrong, and it's interesting to note on the other side of the coin, Chris Brogan has no issue with it, if disclosure is ensured.

    So many factors that come into play here, and to be honest, I switch back and forth between opinions. On one hand, I wouldn't want to read a blogger's posts that are all paid for (or "sponsored"), on the other hand, I can't begrudge bloggers who want to earn some cash, or companies who are trying ways (good or bad) to dabble with social media.

    Reply
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