Well, it looks like yet another pay per post service is jumping into the fray, offering to pay bloggers for their posts. SponsoredReviews.com was publicly announced as a service for both bloggers and advertisers by Jarrod Hunt, head honcho at 360 Enterprise Inc., the company behind SponsoredReviews.
While SponsoredReviews is so far closed at this pre-release stage (although their blog states that an open beta is coming soon), it remains to be seen exactly what the gritty details are. And its becoming a crowded field, what with the pay-per-post table occupied by PayPerPost.com, Reviewme.com, and Creamaid.com, so far.
An examination of their FAQ, their blog, and their about page, doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of details except for two seemingly unimportant things, which might put a new spin on the issue of blogging ethics and paid blog postings.
First, it seems like unlike other pay per post services, bloggers will get to set their own pay scale. ReviewMe, for example, creates a fee for your blog based on a secret formula that calculates your blogs’ worth based on Alexa Rank, Bloglines subscriptions, traffic and so on (it is secret insofar as the details haven’t yet been published).
One presumes then, that SponsoredReviews will act as a marketplace, where bloggers set their own fee, and advertisers will select bloggers who they feel are offering a fair price for the quality of their post, the size of their readership and so on.
Second, is an issue of scale for that pay — as SponsoredReviews states that bloggers could earn as much as $10k per review. Now, seeing as bloggers are going to set their own fee, this will create an interesting dynamic, wherein I wonder who will be the first blogger to actually have the onions to set their own fee at … $10,000.
But more importantly, it raises another perspective on blogging ethics.
Now, much of the hubaloo late last year was regarding the ethics of taking cash to blog about a review, as PayPerPost.com didn’t initially force their bloggers to disclose that they were doing a paid review. That all changed as the FTC issued an official statement saying, in a nutshell, that non disclosure in word of mouth marketing was a Bad Thing and punishable with fines.
More recently, there was a bit of a stir in the blogosphere when Microsoft sent “gifts” of Ferrari-branded laptops to bloggers to review Vista, as it was thought that Microsoft was bribing bloggers with gifts.
And I think it brings me to my last point in all of this.
While more details are sure to come in SponsoredReviews, when bloggers set their own price, and it turns out to be a princely sum, how can anyone possibly be expected to write an unbiased review?
I think the ethical issue this time may NOT hinge around disclosure, but an issue of scale. Much like Microsoft and their laptop fiasco (they ended up sending an awkward email stating that you had to return it or give it away), its not uncommon to give small things to journalists to review, but where do you draw the line? Its okay for a lunch. How about a dinner? Or a plane trip? Or an all expenses vacation?
When a blogger accepts that much cash — even if they are the A-list types who are seeing thousands of people per day (and therefore, probably making that order of income anyway) — I think it *DOES* change the way they write about a product or service. The highest paid reviews on Reviewme.com for example, are at $250. That’s fine. But imagine getting paid $1000 for a review. That’s enough to pay many people’s mortgage or rent, with lots over besides.
Its the simple law of reciprocity come into effect. When someone showers you with gold coins, how is that NOT going to affect what you write or how you’ll write it? The flipside, of course, is that once your readership learns exactly how much you’re paid to write the review, they’ll ALSO suspect the real authenticity of the piece.
Will 2007 be the year that disclosure becomes moot, and pay scale becomes the real issue?
Perhaps. After all, no matter how you might gnash your teeth about the whole idea of advertisers paying for blogging buzz, PayPerPost and their bretheren seem like they’re here to stay.