SponsoredReviews.com Jumps Into the Pay-Per-Post Fray, Introduces New Ethics Quandry
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.
Tony Hung is the editor of the BlogHerald. He is also a physician finishing his last year of residency in General Internal Medicine, and blogs at Deep Jive Interests , where he rants, occasionally, on new media topics.
Thanks for the mention.
You make some great points. Your concerns about having no limit on the price a blogger can charge is well worth looking at in depth.
It will be extremely rare though that a blogger would take a large amount of money only to write a biased review. Most bloggers that could demand $1000+ per review have audiences that would never tolerate anything even closely resembling a biased review.
and our required disclosure insures that their audiences will be paying close attention, keeping them in line.
Having no limit on the price opens up the market to sites that might not have considered it otherwise. It also allows bloggers to be competitive, which will help bring prices down. I have seen lots of people complaining that their price in Reviewme is too high and they would like to lower it in order to encourage more sales.
We also have a stats system that will encourage bloggers to keep their rates reasonable.
Another thing to consider is the quality of reviews that have already been produced from sites like ReviewMe. It is very clear that bloggers take their responsibility very seriously. The reviews we have been seeing have all been well-balanced.
We will be keeping our eyes open for any abuses. It is something we take very seriously….
I went ahead and updated some key points that we will be releasing in our official press release on our blog, if anyone is interested.
One example for you. I know online marketers who require a $1000 downpayment just to read an affiliate JV deal, and look to make $50000 for a single email.
Some people really do value their mailing lists that high, it was bound to come to blogging eventually too.
Here is just one example
(link to the Rich Jerk forum, not an affiliate link)
Ah, Andy, I know of where you speak.
The difference, however, is that I don’t believe that people in the Internet Marketing world will actively question the motives behind their gurus to the extent that bloggers might about A-listers.
Which is a pity.
I find that there’s a lot of blind faith out there in the Internet Marketing crowd. I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but I’d love to know if any of the numbers you describe involve JV deals that are NOT related to marketing Internet Marketing products.
And of course, I expect Jim Kukral to jump out of the wood work at any minute to debate the differences between affiliate marketing and pay per posting, but I think you illustrate an excellent point.
At the end of the day, advertisers are paying you to write about something — all that matters is how they compensate you … per post, per lead, or per sale.
Jim would put a different spin on it, but his business model isn’t WOMM. The links his service places are just advertising links, not personal recommendation.
It is easy enough to do the same with various tools and plugins, display affiliate or CPA links on your pages or in your feeds with no personal recommendation.
There is certainly more money being made in niches, outside the IM marketplace than within it, you just have to find those niches.
From a search engine point of view, a paid link should be worse than a paid review. Often paid links have no relevance at all.
If the Blog Herald did another 100 blogs in 100 days, but accepted donations for inclusion for quality sites, at the Blog Herald’s discretion (similar to Yahoo), would the site reviews really be unethical and insanely biased?
In many ways the long-term monetary benefits of reviewing something on a “friendly” site are more significant, if they reciprocate regularly.
Good useful content doesn’t guarantee links, a prime example is my Disclosure Policy Plugin. It isn’t newsworthy to link to potential solutions to disclosure.
It is a very interesting topic.
I, for one, think that this is a good concept. I know that I’m always looking for effective ways to promote products, and I know that getting people to talk about your site in their blogs can be a good thing if they like your product.
However, methods I’ve previously tried seem to be kind of hit or miss. (press releases, digg, etc). This solves the problem – you just pay for the review.
I think for some reason that people have this socialistic, utopian view of bloggers – that all bloggers should not be interested in making money or should just right their blogs for the good of humanity. I think that’s crap. If bloggers want to make money with their blogs, more power to them.