Reader Question Session: Paid Posts with the Wall Street Journal
This week’s reader question comes from none other than the Wall Street Journal. Journalist Simona Covel wrote in with a very interesting question on the topic of paid or sponsored posts. This was for her piece in today’s paper titled Paying Bloggers for Online Reviews Can Fan Fame in which, yours truly is briefly quoted. While you can read a small portion of my response in the article, I figured I’d share with you my entire response and as always, get your take on the issue. The question I was originally posed was this:
One question that’s coming up is the issue of advertisers being able to “rank” posts one a one to five scale. If an advertiser asks for a neutral review, will a blogger be afraid to be critical for fear of earning a low ranking? Or will the blogger trust that if someone asks for something neutral, they’re not afraid of a little constructive criticism?
Now, as you know, I’ve not yet participated in any paid or sponsored posts on this blog. Not only do most paid blogging services have an age requirement of 90 days for blogs, but this site also does not yet have visible Google PageRank which is another measure used by most services. However, I have written several posts of a sponsored nature on other sites and blogs. I just wanted to establish that so I didn’t sound like I was just pulling this answer out of my ear or something. Anyway here’s what I said:
Personally I think that most of the blogging community wants some type of ranking system. I know that any paid reviews or paid posts I write, I put a lot of effort into to give both the advertiser and my readers the most value. However, there are plenty of bloggers out there that run what I would consider spam blogs or splogs. They don’t care about the quality of their work and are just out to make a buck. Personally, I would welcome any system that helps differentiate myself and my blog from the sploggers.
You mentioned the idea that some bloggers might be more reserved or less likely to critique an advertiser and I think that’s definitely an issue to consider. However, I’ve been critical of advertisers in the past and all but one of them thanked me for my input and suggestions. “Fluff” posts, or posts that are purely promotional don’t do anyone any good. Blog readers will see right through it and lose respect for both the blogger, and the advertiser. However, an advertiser that receives some criticism and eagerly accepts it, or better yet acts on it, stands to gain a lot of respect.
Also, I think any system that openly rewards quality will help legitimize the practice of paid or sponsored posts. Readers will realize that the bloggers that participate aren’t “selling out”. That in turn will give advertisers that do get positive reviews even more bang for their buck so to speak.. So, overall, yes I would expect SOME people using these programs to be upset if or when a ranking system is put into action. However, I would expect the majority of the blogging community, as well as advertisers, to welcome the move and even offer up suggestions for improvement.
That’s my take, what’s yours? Do you think some sort of ranking system would be good for the industry of paid posts? Do you think there would be less criticism for fear of getting a bad score? Weigh in! I’m off to add “quoted in the Wall Street Journal” to my resume (no not really, but I have to admit, I was pretty stinkin excited to get my hands on a copy today).