Last week Small Business Technology Coach Vernessa Taylor wrote about the controversy over blogging for pay and cited several high profile examples of people who are adamantly against bloggers being compensated for their time because they apparently do not know anyone who has sufficient integrity to not let their judgement be clouded by their love of money.
I know many bloggers whose opinions are NOT for sale and they make it quite clear up front to brands and PR people that they better expect a REAL review – not a fluff piece about how wonderful something is – even if it isn’t. This all comes down to the same thing it has ALWAYS come down to – and that is integrity.
An ethical blogger certainly can – and many do –
write impartial reviews even when they are being
compensated for their time or given the product.
The wise among them make it VERY CLEAR to PR folks and brands that they better expect an HONEST evaluation.
An ethical blogger will NOT risk their reputation for you!
And their opinions are NOT FOR SALE.
Those who believe that when most journalists were paid a salary that they were totally unbiased are naive indeed. I guarantee you that great story you want to get published is NEVER going to see the light of day when it casts any major – or probably even the smallest advertiser – in a bad light because the overhead and salaries were covered by paid advertisers. I can prove that in the horse industry if anyone doubts what I’m saying here.
There is NO SUCH THING as impartial –
only opinions that ARE aligned with the general
belief system at the time or that are NOT.
Those who believe their conditioning THINK those
who agree with them are “impartial” and those
who don’t are “biased”. They’re wrong.
I explain why in Is Impartiality in
Journalism, Media or Blogging Even Possible?
Does Margot Finke believe that bloggers should devote so much time to acquire skills, pay overhead, write and promote – all for free forever? What model of monetization does she suggest bloggers use?
Perhaps those who are opposed to bloggers earning a living were born into the world of Guy Kawasaki which may as well be on a different planet than the rest of us: a lifestyle of champagne and caviar where women of luxury spend their time fund-raising for charity because they don’t have to be concerned about keeping a roof over their head, their families fed, and the electricity, Internet and phone on.
Most bloggers need to find a way to generate an income
in order to keep blogging – and they DESERVE
to be compensated for what they do.
Louis Gray’s dilemma points out what is obvious to me. I write about what I recommend and LATER they may become clients because I have been recommending them so long. Does the fact that they are now clients color my opinion? NO!
I have an entire AAA Recommended Brands page in my blog that contains the few brands I can endorse. Not one of them that is on that page was a client first. Most I have recommended for far longer than they ever finally started an affiliate program – if they even have one today.
Do I want to become their brand advocates? YES!
But I do because they’re great brands – NOT because they
have deep pockets and can pay me to lie for them.
We need to be totally clear on this. As long as we recommend only what we sincerely believe is worthy of our recommendation and do not allow our judgement to be clouded by money, status, fame or bling, earning an income does not make us corrupt. Anyone who reads my blog should be able to clearly see the difference between my mentioning a person or company and my recommending them.
I am not alone in this. Kelli @3boysandadog wrote a three part series on my request to share her opinion on this exact topic: Should Product Review Bloggers Be Paid? In the first post in that series she wrote,
“If you want to “advertise” then you should be
paying for it and if you want opinions you shouldn’t.”
That is how the Mom bloggers in her blogging community have decided to resolve this question. Personally, I believe we are finally going to get to a time when people stop expecting bloggers to work for them for free.
I found it interesting that Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends wrote in a guest post on my blog on What it Takes to Be a Successful Internet Publisher:
PR firms and marketing representatives sometimes think we are an extension of them and will work for free. Now, don’t get me wrong — I actually welcome getting press releases and news tips from PR reps. After all, writing about real news is part of our job.
But that’s different from people wanting to get your site involved in holding product giveaways or conducting surveys, without compensation. In the beginning you may need to blog for swag just to grow your audience.
But after a certain point, when your site starts to grow, be conscious of the value of the audience you’ve built. Make sure that you are TRULY getting valuable marketing exposure for participating, and not just being taken advantage of. We still do a lot of co-marketing arrangements and giveaways, but we evaluate them more carefully now.
And we are much more likely to say yes to helping out other entrepreneurs, than to huge brands that can afford to pay for advertising.
The reason so many are suspicious is because of all the “do anything for a buck” shills in the world – or because they themselves lack the integrity to not let the love of money bias their opinions. Bloggers must decide where they stand and who they will interact with and to that end I wrote a post about Blogging Ethics.
In it I wrote that there are three kinds of people in the world: the ‘Highly Ethical’ on one end of the spectrum, the ‘Anything for a Buck’ types on the other with a huge majority in the middle that are willing to do whatever is acceptable to others – as long as they don’t get caught. If anyone they know is outed for being shady, their fair weather friends will pretend they don’t even know them.
It is high time to make a decision about what kind of person you are. If you’re not sure, now is a good time to figure that out. Then decide whether you wish to be part of the crumbling status quo or are willing to leave the Traditional for a Collaborative World View.
If you are highly ethical, I invite you to join with others in our
CommentLuv community and change the world.
If you want to share why you believe bloggers should or shouldn’t be paid and how YOU see the world, leave a comment. As always, RELEVANT links are encouraged.
FYI: Comments by new commenters and most comments that include links will go into moderation where I will rescue them.
NOTE: This post was originally published March 20, 2012.