Paying bloggers for coverage: a good idea?

Blog-money

In social media, you can buy a Twitter background, or get your name into an iPhone app, or slather yourself all over a YouTube clip. But it's all fun and games until you whisper the phrase "sponsored post." Companies paying bloggers for coverage remains a taboo in many circles, as research firm Forrester learned this week after publishing a report called "Add Sponsored Conversations to Your Toolbox." The $795 write-up (which admittedly I haven't paid to read) encourages companies to consider buying up positive coverage from respected bloggers. ReadWriteWeb responded by calling the practice "a dangerous and unsavory path for new media and advertisers to go down." (I agree, though I find it strange coming from a blog that features sponsored posts.) As Brian points out on Adweek.com, this paid-blogging approach is often recommended for smaller, "low-buzz" brands like mufflers or batteries. And yet the case studies usually focus on companies like Disney and Kmart. Personally, I think there's nothing wrong with giving bloggers free samples, even if the products are pricey. But when there's a direct quid pro quo for coverage, you've got a recipe for eroded credibility on both sides. That said, I know plenty of hardworking bloggers who subsist on paid reviews and other sponsored projects. It's not a clear-cut issue, but I do know one thing: If the folks at Forrester are serious about their stance, they should have tried to pay guys like me to cover the report. But if you notice, they didn't have to. Photo: voxeros on Flickr.

—Posted by David Griner