“Sponsored conversations” are a dumb idea …

… even if the august analysts at Forrester have convinced themselves that as long as the bloggers disclose the payment and are permitted to say whatever they feel, that pay-per-post sounds better redubbed as a “sponsored conversation.”

I still think it is one of the dumber marketing manuevers in the social marketing bag of tricks.

Call me a purist but I like my critics to be objective and my reviewers to be uncomped. Product changes hands to be reviewed, not as gifts. Cash is spent on advertising, not on payola.

As long as bloggers don’t hide who’s paying them and have the freedom to write whatever they want, we think sponsored conversation will fit in well with the other forms of marketing through blogs,” writes Forrester analyst Sean Corcoran. The report – written in conjunction with Forrester analysts Jeremiah Owyang and Josh Bernoff – also includes advice for interactive marketers considering using sponsored conversations in their marketing arsenal, much of it centered on the critical issues of authenticity and transparency.

Whether you agree with Forrester or not, we’d love to have you (and your readers) engage in this dialogue with us. Please let me know if you would like a copy of the new Forrester report, “Add Sponsored Conversations To Your Toolbox.”

There are so many more intelligent ways to get a blogger or group of bloggers to talk about your brand without resorting to cash payments. And I don’t buy this re-tweet/give away for charity dodge either.

I will continue to unsub from “posties” and have long given up following analysts and experts who condone these tactics. The world is slipping into the Idiocracy quickly enough without the “experts” undoing all semblance of objectivity and honesty in the higest potential communications channel ever invented.

Links withheld in protest.

update: Owyang is determined to bait me into a pissing match on this one, now by citing Lenovo’s Voice of the Olympic Games program as an example of a “sponsored conversation.”  I am not going to get semantic with him on “sponsored” and “conversation” definitions. Lenovo did not pay any athlete to blog nor once suggested, demanded, hinted or discussed that the athlete mention the word Lenovo. We gave them free laptops and FlipCams with no strings attached. The point that just won’t sink in with him — no matter who huffs and puffs, is payola is wrong, cash-for-blogging sucks, and Forrester is on the wrong side of the whole pay-per-post debate. I revert to Mark Cahill’s pointer to the concept of journalistic ethics. I suggest every blogger with a shred of dignity read it. And yeah, yeah, I know. Bloggers aren’t journalists. I’m suggesting they may want to avail themselves of some journalistic best practices and take the high road. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalistic_ethics

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

5 thoughts on ““Sponsored conversations” are a dumb idea …”

  1. I decided to not publish my review of the report. I share your sentiment but also the report fails to mention the blogger backlash the Kmart reviewers suffered and don’t get me started on the $749 price tag for 6 pages!

  2. David – I agree that “sponsored conversation” is neither an intelligent nor sophisticated means of reaching an audience. I recommend companies follow an authentic approach. But principle aside, the paid blogger approach exists and will probably thrive because it is effective; not effective for you personally, but the vast audience on the Web isn’t as savvy or discriminating as you. Junk, er, direct mail is generally looked down upon but still represents the single largest advertising expenditure industry-wide because distribution is dirt cheap and a minimal response can justify the investment many times over. As long it meets someone’s definition of ROI, it will exist. Same mentality with paid conversations, unfortunately. Let’s hope the collective audience views it with a critical eye.

    Joseph Kingsbury, Text 100

  3. Well said Joseph. There are legions of mommy bloggers and tons of “how-I-make-money-from-blogging-by-blogging-about-how-I-make-money-from-blogging” posties who should have no compunction from getting some schwag and cheese for their efforts. Who am I to begrudge them their due?

    But to my point: I’m not going to launch a PPP campaign anytime soon for Lenovo, won’t cotton to any advertorial commissioned on our behalf, and will squint hard at any brand that uses the “sponsored conversation” channel.

    Trust me, there is a better way than payola.

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