More on bloggers trying to justify selling out

Here is the lastest exchange I had on people trying to justify taking money from sponsors to blog about their

products.

This is in response to an email from someone I won’t mention.

> Jason’s arguments are all predicated on the fear of losing advertising

> revenue. Every one of his points is based on his current business model

> which has the same structure as print advertising, with all of the

> intermediaries, departments, and the same tired metrics used for print,

> which is the only way these folks currently have to keep the status quo

> ante.

Couple of things to make clear reading this paragraph:

1. My arguments are based primarily on a) maintaining the integrity of blogs and bloggers and b) allowing readers to

clearly know what is content and what is and advertisement. I’m not worried about losing advertising, I’m worried about

blogs losing credibility. The advertising is secondary to those fundamentals.

2. We don’t have the same structure as print advertising, as much of online advertising online is based on CPC and CPA

concepts that don’t even exist in print!

3. The CPM/CPC/CPA advertising models are not mine, they are the models that the media industry has developed and

refined for over 100 years. Also, they don’t use “the same tired metrics used for print” ” not even close!

4. Advertising models have advanced tremendously over the past ten years of Internet development. No one is keeping

the status quo. Tens of billions have been invested in figuring out how to target ads, make them more effective and

maintain the editorial integrity of the publications and their writers. There have been more advances in advertising in

the past five years then in the history of advertising!

> The idea of giving a company direct access to people is a terrifying concept

> to the world of advertising supported marketing. If companies can connect

> directly with people interested in their products/services, the whole

> advertising/marketing/placement/public relations/ departments everywhere

> will undergo a downsizing almost to the point of elimination.

No it’s not, not at all.

I talk to advertisers all day long and they thrilled with blogs and embracing the idea of companies talking directly

to their customers. It’s making marketing and PR *more* effective. In fact, people are spending MORE money and hiring

MORE people in order to deal with the increased pace of marketing!!!

This isn’t going result in “downsizing almost to the point of elimination” at all, quite the opposite. This is going

to result in PR, marketing and advertising folks having even more work and bigger budgets to deal with!

That is what is really happening in the marketplace”trust me I’m in the thick of it every day.

> The BoingBoing site is an example of blogging for dollars that is

> instructive for a couple of reasons. They thought long and hard about

> advertising. They first called for donations, after posting their distress

> in the amount of money required to keep their site running, they then

> detailed what they were doing to defray the cost of continuing. They were

> aboveboard in every aspect of their situation, and the feedback was positive

> enough to allow them to proceed. Advertising has not turned them into

> whores, nor has it compromised their postings. This is not a true blog in

> the sense of having open commentary, but it does put to rest the most

> vociferous arguments regarding blogs becoming shills or lapdogs of the evil

> advertising empires.

No one is saying running advertising makes you a whore. Boingboing added traditional advertising units that are

clearly labeled. I think that is great and I’m psyched that the hard-working team over there is covering their costs

and getting paid for putting together a very unique product.

What we’re saying is that if you mix advertising into your editorial, and have the writers getting paid to promote

products, you are a whore.

> If a company wants to give me money to have a ‘dialog’ with my 17 readers,

> mail the check today. My independence is not in danger, my integrity will

> not suffer, as I can accept or reject any or all offers.

I believe you. In your heart you may feel that you have 100% integrity, and you might even be correct! However, when

the readers look at every post you do wondering if you’re getting paid or not your integrity will sink like a

stone.

When enough bloggers start getting paid to write about products then readers will look at all blogs as corrupt.

Then there is no industry, and blogs get put in the same bucket as spyware, spam and other evil industries on the

Internet in the mind of consumers.

That is why I’m fighting this meme so hard… it is not for some self-interest I have in the CPM model. In fact, I could

make a lot more money in the short term if I took money from our dozens of existing advertisers to do product-placement

blog posts.

However, taking the quick money would mean that our brands would loose the trust our readers have in them. Once we

loose that trust we loose the audience, and no audience means no advertising. Game over.

> The blogging format also represents the greatest danger that a company can

> engage in. Bloggers as a group are opinionated, independent, motivated, and

> can smell bullshit faster than you can type. We can be your greatest

> advocates or your worst enemy.

I agree! What makes bloggers unique”and dangerous”is they are not in the on the take. They can call bullshit any time

they want. They are unfiltered, and readers love it.

Engadget.com will never have a Sony advertisement on it after what our writers have written about them. As a publisher

I don’t really care, we’ll find someone else to advertise. I know that the reason Engadget grew so quickly was because

they can’t be bought. Loosing advertisers is the price you pay for that high-growth based on honesty.

If we want to maintain blog integrity we need to have standards as an industry about the Chinese Wall, and guess what?

Those rules are really basic and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

> Jason and Stowe can relax for a few months. The inertia of the current

> system will continue until the large companies begin to loose market share

> to the young nimble companies who will try this.

Wrong.

The “nimble” companies that sellout will never have a large trusted audience. The folks with integrity will become

even more sought after by the readers.

Unfortunately, these “nimble” sellouts you talk about will damage the reputation of blogs in the short term and make

life hard on the bloggers and publishers with ethics.

However, I can guarantee you that the force of good”those who don’t sell out”will be around in five years and the

sellouts will be forgotten by the readers.

Sure, you can fool your readers in the short term. However, readers are really smart and they will catch you. When

they do your name will be worth nothing to them and they will go find someone they can trust.

Take the high road, it’s more work but at least you can look yourself in the mirror and be proud.

best jason

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