I don’t normally rant, but tweets like this really irritate me. Sponsored blog posts are nothing new. Even the biggest companies give out cash and product in exchange for content on big-name sites. It works well, but bloggers are all but stoned to death for the practice.The tweet I linked to clearly states the content isn’t a paid post, but why should they have to say anything at all? It shouldn’t matter whether the writer receives payment or not. Honesty is the only thing that should matter.
Working to Provide Free Content
I don’t care whether we’re talking about Brian Clark, Darren Rouse, Michel Fortin or Joe Blow from down the street. When these people publish blog entries, they’re providing a service. This service provides readers with all kinds of thoughts, ideas and information they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. And once armed with this information, they use it to improve their lives, businesses or themselves. (Depending on the topic of course.)
Now, many bloggers cover their costs by selling advertising, using affiliate links or making use of ad networks. For example, I have several affiliate links on this site. I don’t hide it. I have even provided readers with an alternative, non-affiliate link in some occasions. However, readers know I only choose products that I would use personally. In many instances, they’ve helped me get to where I am today.
Honesty and Transparency a Vital Characteristic of Successful Marketing
Honesty and transparency are important values for me, but it isn’t just me. These traits have become a mainstream marketing trend whether we all like it or not. Consumers demand this from every company they buy from. And they should!
I think, as a whole, we’ve had enough of the sleazy marketing types that could ‘sell you the wedding ring from your own finger’. I agree wholeheartedly with this trend and feel it’s a positive result of the recession. (Because money has become tighter, buyers are more careful about where they’re spending their money.) I also think the increasing popularity of social media has driven this trend.
Where Sponsored Content Goes Wrong
I get irritated when bloggers get roasted for publishing sponsored content. I could understand if the writer often puts money ahead of readers and fails to mention the payment, but not if they’re open and honest from the start. I see things a bit differently. The people who generally get the opportunity to publish sponsored content are big names that have been around for a long time. A number of their readers already trust them.
How can some of these readers then get offended when the writer takes some form of payment to write a post? Hello? How much do they expect to get free? The money isn’t coming out of their pockets. No one has to read the post, and no one has to buy. What’s the issue?
I do think there is a reason, but it’s not what most people think. Michael Martine of Remarkablogger hit the nail right on the head with a single statement. ‘Readers don’t adjust well to change, so you really need to start monetizing your site right from the start.’ (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.)
Regardless of what anyone says, blogging comes with a big cost especially for those who write professionally. First, there’s the time it takes to create a quality post. Then, there’s design, development, hosting, domain costs, upkeep and even repairs and maintenance. Bloggers shouldn’t have to apologize for trying to recoup some of these expenses and even make some profit.
Am I being irrational here? Should bloggers refuse to publish sponsored posts? Should it only be done under certain circumstances?