I would no sooner pay a blogger to mention a product or service than I would pay a reporter for the same coverage.
The notion of engaging a third party — agency or individual — to produce content about a brand or product is tantamount to deceptive advertising and a mark of stupid desperation on the part of the marketer who approved it. (clarification: and then publish it as being ostensibly “objective”)
I have no issue with lending a product to a blogger or reviewer affiliated with the mainstream press under the usual terms of a loaner/reviewer program. I would not gift product or services nor pay a fee to the writer.
Note the last word: “writer.” Bloggers, like journalists, are “writers” in my mind. I don’t care if their preferred medium is an audio podcast or a video Vlog — if they publish content publically and with an eye of making money from that traffic via advertising or promotion of their services, they are, loosely, to my mind, a “writer.”
If bloggers want to be accorded the same respect and gravitas of a professional journalist/writer then they need to abide by the same code of ethics. Journalists don’t accept money to cover stuff. Period. They may do that in some backwards nations, but not in the USA. Bloggers who join any sort of program that compensates them for coverage of any kind — positive or negative — openly disclosed or not — are, in my traditional ethical mindset, crossing the line.
Bloggers in the social media space — consultants and theorists — are probably due some excuse if they check out these services and report on them dispassionately. But as an ongoing revenue stream and practice — it’s grounds for not being considered in any media plan. I understand there are many bloggers who need to make some money from their blog and I don’t dispute their right to monetize their traffic, but payola is crossing the line. Contextual advertising, or an overall sponsorship is one thing. But paid posting is a no go.
Bloggers don’t need to behave like a Washington Post reporter: accepting no gifts, no junkets, pay for “free” coffee, and avoiding anything that would indicate a bias. Blogs seem more like oped — at least at a personal level — than the press, but if a blogger wants the respect and authority accorded to the mainstream press then they need to behave like one. Disclosure statements are not enough.
I recently unfollowed one prominent social marketing blogger and columnist for perceived ethical transgressions. I regret that I am unfollowing another today. I am not going public with my unfollow list, but let’s say there is a coterie of social marketing bloggers — not actual marketers but theorists or agency people — who are really pissing me off with their echo chamber and questionable ethics. I am turning them off.
I am not going to call people out in public anymore. This social marketing niche is getting way too incestuous and repetitive and frankly, stupid in its repetitive back slapping, re-affirmation, ego stroking, and over amplification of the same desperate case studies. Rather than squawk and bitch I am simply turning up the squelch. End of rant.
Disclosure: I don’t run ads on this blog, I used to be a reporter, no one sends me free stuff (other than Uncle Fester), and I need to stop being angry so much.