I approach several bloggers and offer them some money for a review, but the cash is contingent on them writing a positive review. This is where it gets murkier – as a blogger continues to exploit the credibility that he has built with his audience he risks alienating them and losing the source of his revenues. Consumers usually vote with their feet, but in the blog world they vote with their eyeballs. So, as with most things in commerce, I propose that market forces will keep the actions of a few rogue bloggers in check. The same problem exists today with traditional advertising vehicles. Bloggers who choose to jam their page with ads and stuff them in their rss feeds will soon find that they are without an audience. Credibility is the key to success with a blog and bloggers will learn to use blog inclusion sparingly and err on the side of caution by disclosing all potential conflicts of interest or advertiser relationships.
Can opinions be bought? Many of them can, but they will soon be worthless. With the recent explosion of blogging (Technorati has 22.2 million blogs indexed as of this writing), bloggers and advertisers are increasingly more eager to take advantage of this new medium for commercial gain. Influential bloggers stand to make quite a bit of money from the commercialization of their blogs while advertisers, who are traditionally opportunistic, are eager to reach segments of the market previously difficult to engage. Working with bloggers who tend to be opinion leaders in their own right offers this possibility. As the inevitable commercialization of the “blogosphere” moves forward, we will have to deal with issues that arise from such commercial opportunities. “Blog advertising” ranges from the widely accepted (but formerly very controversial) practice of including pay-per-click (PPC) ads on a blog to the more controversial, divisive practice of accepting payment in return for a “plug” without disclosing the relationship with the advertiser. Between the relatively transparent
PPC model and the cloudier waters of influencing bloggers financially, there are many flavors of blog advertising. Some of the revenue opportunities available to bloggers include in-post sponsorships (currently a practice of Engadget and Slashdot in their RSS feeds), fully-disclosed paid inclusion plugs such as the famous Marqui experiment and completely objective product reviews solicited by market research teams. The purpose of this blog is to discuss some of these difficult issues and receive input from various people regarding the implications. All opinions will be considered, but ultimately bloggers and advertisers need to decide for themselves which tactics are likely to engage their target audience and which will result in offending their demographic. Hopefully this blog can serve as a guideline to help people form their own opinions on this matter.
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