Bloggers Expect to Get Paid for Reviews!

I have to admit that monetizing my blogs has always been something I wasn’t too keen to do.  However, I’m in the minority on that issue.

There have been many people attempting to profit in one way or another from blogging.  There is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, blogging helped me realize that I did want to make my living writing and working on web-related projects.  So don’t misunderstand me. I’ve got no problem with blogs that have ads on them.  I’ve got no problem with bloggers being paid in their area of expertise.  I have no problem with most ways bloggers now make a living from their writing.

However, I do think there is something very wrong with getting paid for reviews UNLESS you disclose that you’ve been paid.  A review gives the impression that it’s an unbiased opinion based on someone trying a product or service.  That’s why reviews by reputable sources are blind reviews.  The business has no idea they’re being sized up.  When money is exchanged for a review there your objectivity is compromised.  I want to know if a reviewer got paid because, if they did, I don’t care about what they have to say. Well, it seems that many bloggers weren’t disclosing that they were being paid. This got so bad that the US government recently passed law requiring bloggers to disclose that they’ve been compensated for a review.

I think this is essential because social media is the new barber shop, hair salon or white picket fence.  People would talk about the butcher or the car shop and let friends know whether to go to these businesses or not.  Now online spots like blogs are the places where people talk and exchange opinions. If you’re a blogger and you’ve built up an audience that trusts you, what you have to say on a product or service has value to them. I know that a few recommendations for places I’ve written about have generated comments and probably customers for a few places.  I didn’t expect to benefit financially.  I just expected to spread the news of a great space, product or service.  However, both bloggers and businesses realized this influence could be used for mutually beneficial profits.

Well, with the economic slow down and this new law, some of the reviewing for pay action has dried up.  I say rightly so.  If a company pays you to review a product or service, it’s a advertisement. You very well might really like the product or service, but I want to know that you’ve been paid to talk up something.  Like it or not, you’re a paid representative when you do that and it needs to be disclosed.

It’s sort of funny to be that some people seem to be genuinely out of sorts that they’re not being readily paid to “recommend” things now.  It’s sort of like the presumptuous blogger who had the nerve to try to blackmail George Smith at BlogHer 2009 to get a pair of Crocs.  What the idiot blogger didn’t realize was as easily as she could bad mouth him, well, duh…he could bad mouth her.  He said as much, and she slinked away. Even if the relation is reversed, it’s the same with being paid to review a product.  Getting paid to talk something up or getting a pair of Crocs to not spread bad stories, is still compensation. Aren’t we glad that George stood up to this woman’s bullying?  I’m also very glad that bloggers are being forced to let people know they’ve been paid to review something.

Here is a piece on the top from MediaBistro’s PRNewser’s blog.  I’m glad they get it.

Blogger Complains Because Companies Want “Free” Reviews

By Joe Ciarallo on Nov 03, 2009 05:01 PM

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ProBlogger, the popular blog that teaches one how to make a living off blogging, published an interesting guest post from a former beauty/fashion blogger. In the post, the blogger talks about how she was so excited to do “product reviews” and get all sorts of free stuff sent to her by companies.

She even signed an $8,000 deal with, “a large pharmaceutical company to write six posts for them to try educating readers on the benefits of their product…the only thing I had to do was to get the copy reviewed by the pharmaceutical company to ensure that I wasn’t using any medical words in the wrong way.”

But then the economy took a turn for the worse and the blogger’s freebie parade slowed down. What did she learn? People were actually asking her questions like how many unique visitors her site had and to send links of recent, relevant coverage before sending products. That didn’t work out, so the blogger got into another niche, “healthy eating and healthy lifestyles,” which she said worked out much better.

“One company (which manufactures supplements) that contacted me to send products for review also wanted to know how much it would cost to sponsor spots on my site. They actually wanted to pay to have banners on my site and not only receive a free review!” she said.

Um, free review? Companies aren’t supposed to pay publications for product reviews, or to influence them. Although it does happen. This post, in essence, sums up the difference between how media has traditionally worked: build audience/content, sell advertising against said audience/content – versus how it is unfortunately working for some bloggers: the content is the advertising.

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