Laurence Borel

Should bloggers get paid to write blog posts?

3-4 PR pitches land in my inbox each week; I don’t mind being pitched and will happily write about brands and products provided the content is relevant to my blog.

An agency recently offered me €70 to write about their latest social media campaign; this made feel somewhat uncomfortable as I don’t think that bloggers should be paid to write about brands/products and I think this is a worrying trend…

I am very much pro-incentivising bloggers for their time but favour product-based incentives, thus giving bloggers the opportunity to experience the brand/product in question first-hand.

What do you guys think? Should bloggers get paid to write blog posts?

UPDATE 17th November 2009:
- Matt Churchill: PR agencies must not pay bloggers
- Ben Cotton: The business of buying off bloggers
- Peter Sigrist: Blogging could disappear as quickly has it has risen
- PR Week article 25.11.09: PR community split over paying bloggers in PRWeek poll

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30 Comments to "Should bloggers get paid to write blog posts?"

  1. Mr Omneo says:

    As much as I appreciate cold, hard cash I don't agree with bloggers getting paid to write as it removes impartiality. There is a world of difference between getting a product/service 'free of charge' and then writing about it honestly and being given a bundle of notes and being expected to write a positive article even if that's not what you would write. After all, if you are being paid, you are being employed and you are usually expected to do as your employer asks.

    So, by all means, give me €100 worth of stuff but don't give me €100 cash unless you're willing to accept that I may not write what you would like to see…caveat emptor!

  2. Agencies paying bloggers to write about their product or event is highly unethical and akin to bribery – that agency should be ashamed of themselves.

    I imagine that they didn't ask you to disclose who they were or that they offered to pay you in their pitch either, and why would they?

    They are obviously under pressure to achieve results and desperate to keep their client happy – if they were to get a slap on the wrists from a blogger who exposed them, they would totally ruin their relationship with the blogosphere and be very quickly forced to change their ways.

    Imagine being in a pub and a stranger comes up to you offering you cash in exchange for you going round to each other person at the bar and telling them how wonderful his/her product or service is… it just wouldn't be right.

    Any PR agencies who undertake this sort of work are undermining the work that other ethical and transparent PRs do.

    I find this sort of behaviour disgusting and is setting our industry backwards, would they still pay you if the blog post was negative? I don't think so.

    What they are doing is fraud – they're lying to their client. It's the same as Saying 'we'll make your video viral' and sitting on YouTube all day pressing refresh. It's lying and corrupt.

    I have no issue being pitched if the product/service is relevant to the people who read my blog – if i'm being asked to talk positively about something with the promise of monetary reward at the end of it despite not having tried it out, I am lying to my audience and treating them with contempt and it damages my credibility as a blogger.

    I wonder if agencies who work on this basis realise that what they are doing is wrong but go ahead anyway, or if they are simply so maladjusted to the current rules of engagement that they are completely unaware?

    Yes – bloggers should be incentivised to write content, be that through product, trials.. memberships or event invitations

    No – bloggers should not receive direct payment from a PR agency to write content

    This may be a little bit ranty, but it is an issue I feel very strongly about.

  3. Agencies paying bloggers to write about their product or event is highly unethical and akin to bribery – that agency should be ashamed of themselves.

    I imagine that they didn't ask you to disclose who they were or that they offered to pay you in their pitch either, and why would they?

    They are obviously under pressure to achieve results and desperate to keep their client happy – if they were to get a slap on the wrists from a blogger who exposed them, they would totally ruin their relationship with the blogosphere and be very quickly forced to change their ways.

    Imagine being in a pub and a stranger comes up to you offering you cash in exchange for you going round to each other person at the bar and telling them how wonderful his/her product or service is… it just wouldn't be right.

    Any PR agencies who undertake this sort of work are undermining the work that other ethical and transparent PRs do.

    I find this sort of behaviour disgusting and is setting our industry backwards, would they still pay you if the blog post was negative? I don't think so.

    What they are doing is fraud – they're lying to their client. It's the same as Saying 'we'll make your video viral' and sitting on YouTube all day pressing refresh. It's lying and corrupt.

    I have no issue being pitched if the product/service is relevant to the people who read my blog – if i'm being asked to talk positively about something with the promise of monetary reward at the end of it despite not having tried it out, I am lying to my audience and treating them with contempt and it damages my credibility as a blogger.

    I wonder if agencies who work on this basis realise that what they are doing is wrong but go ahead anyway, or if they are simply so maladjusted to the current rules of engagement that they are completely unaware?

    Yes – bloggers should be incentivised to write content, be that through product, trials.. memberships or event invitations

    No – bloggers should not receive direct payment from a PR agency to write content

    This may be a little bit ranty, but it is an issue I feel very strongly about.

  4. [...] in Blogging. Tags: Blogging, Disclosure, PR, Social Media trackback Laurence Borel published Should bloggers get paid to write blog posts? this morning, andit set me off on a bit of a rant, which you can read in the comments [...]

  5. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by blogtillyoudrop: Should bloggers get paid to write blog posts? | blog till you drop! http://bit.ly/1d8jTr

  6. Sian says:

    Hmmm… I'm not sure it's a simple as “yes they should get paid” and “no they shouldn't”. Because for this kind of practice to become the norm, means it's happening already. So bloggers are taking money to write press releases and mention products and companies.

    That doesn't sit well with me either, but if a blogger already likes the product, and would have written about it anyway, why not take the money (disclaimer – I wouldn't do it, I'm just playing devil's advocate).

    Every now and again, someone offers to send me a product I know I like. If I already know I like something, I don't actually need the freebie, but I still want it because I really really like the product. I didn't need the freebie, although I did appreciate it.

    The fact that this line is becoming blurred shows that PR and online advertising is changing. Because PR companies can finally see that blog posts about a product can be gold dust on a blog with a strong community. I'm not sure that this is necessarily a corrupt way of working, it's misguided yes, but I don't think it's always a bad thing. When more and more companies are using advertorial as part of their advertising, doesn't it make sense that PR companies would go the same way? Even if it is misguided I'm not shocked this has happened.

    Money for editorial content is something I'll never feel good about but I don't think it's as cut and dry as yes and no. But as a professional blogger, I can understand why someone would accept the money. I still need to pay rent, but I still value my readers and integrity more. The way bloggers and advertisers work together is changing, so is the way PRs deal with bloggers. maybe we just haven't struck the right balance yet.

  7. @mr_omneo @geetarchurchy @sianysianysiany – thank you guys for adding to the conversation!

    @mr_omneo I totally agree with you – getting paid to write something removes impartiality. Blogging is about freedom of speech and we should be able to review products as we see fit. If I were to invite you to one of my event *wink wink* I would expect you to share your truthful opinions with your readers, even though my client may not like what you have to say!

    I also find this sort of behaviour disgusting, and such practice could potentially damage the digital PR industry; one can hope that this does not become the norm.

    As a Social Media / Marketing blogger, I'd rather be given a freebie thus giving me the opportunity to write a truthful review of that product.

    To be continued …

  8. [...] Social Media, Transparency trackback On Sunday, Lolly published a post on Blog Till You Drop Should bloggers get paid to write blog posts? where she shared how she’d been approached and asked to write about something in exchange for [...]

  9. It's really important this practice does not become too widespread, IMO. Bloggers enjoy a credibility premium because there is a perception that they are not affected by vested interests. The power of social media is to allow people to say what they really think (and long may that continue). But this power could quickly disappear if it becomes apparent that bloggers have vested interests – worse, *secret* vested interests!

    In fact, this seems to be such a risk, I would support something I normally don't agree with – naming and shaming companies indulging in this practice. As all companies and politicians discover in the end, an entire industry or party can be dragged down by the bad practice of a few. Well done for calling this out Laurence.

  10. chris_reed says:

    No! relevance and transparency have to be at the top of the list for bloggers, and for blog readers I'd say.

    Fair play to you for raising the issue.

  11. Chris and Peter – thanks for commenting and I am glad that you agree. Peter, I am playing catch up at the mo with my blog commenting but will comment on your blog posts.

    I think there are two different types of bloggers – professional bloggers such as Sian who lives of her writing, and casual bloggers such as ourselves who blog just for fun.

    I wouldn't mind paying someone like Sian to write about something as I am sure she would write a truthful review of the product/service I was PRing to her.

    I however wholeheartedly disagree on paying casual bloggers as the quality of their content could be compromised.

    I can't believe that 62% of PROs (PR week survey) think it's OK to pay bloggers to write blog posts. Appalling!

  12. Simon Turner says:

    Interesting topic – As an online brand trying to get blogger interaction, we would always rather give product for an honest review, rather than pay for a sponsored post. We've sometimes found blogs asking for a cash payment which we're not actually interested in. If a blogger hasn't experienced the product then their review will be meaningless and their readership will be savvy enough to realise it's a 'sponsored post'. On top of that, if cash changes hands it brings up the whole paid link debate.

    Relevance should be the key for both brand and blogger.

  13. Simon Turner says:

    Interesting topic – As an online brand trying to get blogger interaction, we would always rather give product for an honest review, rather than pay for a sponsored post. We've sometimes found blogs asking for a cash payment which we're not actually interested in. If a blogger hasn't experienced the product then their review will be meaningless and their readership will be savvy enough to realise it's a 'sponsored post'. On top of that, if cash changes hands it brings up the whole paid link debate.

    Relevance should be the key for both brand and blogger.

  14. I couldn't agree more with you – how can a blogger write an honest review of the product if they haven't experiences the brand?

    Thanks for the comment Simon

  15. [...] some more background you can read two good posts on this topic by Laurence Borel who spoke out after being offered £70 in exchange for some kind words in her blog, whilst Matt [...]

  16. [...] a nice post last weekend, Laurence Borel asked the question – should bloggers be paid to write blog posts? It’s a multi-layered [...]

  17. [...] Should bloggers get paid to write blog posts? | blog compartment we drop! [...]

  18. Srinu says:

    Agency must be paid for there articles because there are working so hard ..!

  19. Bruce Bird says:

    You also need to take into account that this whole subject is going to become subject to the new FTC Compensation Disclosure Guidelines (http://ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005endorsementguid…) if you have any visibility in the USA. Given that the USA is the largest market then what happens over there is bound to spread over here too.

    In real terms there is no difference between cash and goods or services received. You only have to look at the MPs register of interests to see that a benefit in kind is seen as being as much of an inducement as is cash.

    So eventually, we may end up with the sort of situation envisaged by the rush of solutions to the FTC guidelines which require suitable disclosure statements to identify when the writer has received some benefit. Hence, a clear demarcation between those who write for profit and those who write to express their opinion. There will be no room left for the 'occasional benefit' to pay for a good night out.

  20. Mr Omneo says:

    I agree Bruce that whether a blogger receives cash or goods/services it is still an inducement. I think the difference is however that if you receive the goods or services you will be blogging about your experience of said inducement. If you are just getting cash without ever experiencing the product then you're merely ghost writing for your employer.

    As a non professional blogger I have always stated clearly whether I've been given an inducement or not because I would rather be up-front with my audience rather than have them read it, suss that I'm acting like a brand PR and then never return because they think I've sold out.

    Also, as a pedant it's very rarely that I ever like something 100% and I like to be able to throw in my criticisms (constructive of course!) without worrying I'm going to have some angry brand on my case insisting on a re-write because I've deviated from what they expected for the money.

  21. [...] it fails A capital debacle Social Media Challenges Social Rules PR, bloggers and the dirty dollar Should bloggers get paid to write blog posts? PCC to regulate UK bloggers? TIME Magazine Launches Its Own Tech Blog Possibly related posts: [...]

  22. Simon says:

    I can't see any problem with being paid to write blog posts. Copywriters and others do this kind of thing all the time.

    It then becomes a question of whether the blog post you are asked to write would compromise your personal principles and goals and if so, are you prepared to compromise for the money ?

    Personally, I wouldn't compromise my principals for money – although I accept that as a friend of mine once said, ethics are for those people that can afford them !)

    I would expect most paid blog post offers (I've never had one :) ) would actually be for products that you, the blogger and your audience would be interested in. If being paid to review a product, no reason why you still can't be honest about the product ?

  23. [...] on the thoughts of bloggers being paid to favour coverage. The question was initially asked by the Blog Till You Drop Site after it revealed that money had been offer to blog about a specific PR [...]

  24. Simon says:

    I can't see any problem with being paid to write blog posts. Copywriters and others do this kind of thing all the time.

    It then becomes a question of whether the blog post you are asked to write would compromise your personal principles and goals and if so, are you prepared to compromise for the money ?

    Personally, I wouldn't compromise my principals for money – although I accept that as a friend of mine once said, ethics are for those people that can afford them !)

    I would expect most paid blog post offers (I've never had one :) ) would actually be for products that you, the blogger and your audience would be interested in. If being paid to review a product, no reason why you still can't be honest about the product ?

  25. [...] Matt Churchill in Social Media. Tags: PR, Blogging, PRWeek, Douwe Egberts trackback Triggered by Lolly’s blog post about getting approached by an agency looking to pay her to write about thei…, and the resulting debate that took place because of this, PR Week commissioned a [...]

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  27. [...] a product perhaps an invitation to an event, some may even ask for cash (I think we all know about how I feel about bloggers getting paid, so we’ll skip this [...]

  28. [...] an international PR agency they should have a) enquired about this blog post (because quite frankly, as an international PR person, it is YOUR job to know how things work [...]

  29. Dan Thornton says:

    Hi,
    Only just spotted this post – I’ll blame an RSS overload oversight…

    Should bloggers get paid? It’s down to the blogger, noone else. Some people blog for fun, and others are trying to make a living – and paid placements are one viable revenue stream for bloggers.

    The only hard rule is that any paid placement has to be disclosed honestly as a sponsored post or similar, and links should always be ‘nofollow’. I’ve experimented with paid placements in the past, and will do so again in the future, as it’s pointless talking for me to talk about the future of blogging and the blurring between traditional media, pro bloggers and others without actually experiencing what happens.

    I’ll only ever write about things which are relevant, and I won’t let it consciously affect my writing any more than the endless incentives that professional journalists receive on press trips from PR people…

  30. [...] whilst smaller bloggers live of advertising, affiliates or the occasional sponsored post (I am not a big fan of these but hey [...]

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