Paying bloggers to write about products, services

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(Note: This post is not part of the ReviewMe program). I got an e-mail early this morning from the people behind Text Link Ads (referral link). The e-mail said this site was pre-approved for their newly launched ReviewMe advertising program.

I was intrigued because I never signed up for the program. I was set to just ignore it and continue playing with Drupal but I found that Abe Olandres, one of the country’s top bloggers, signed up for it. In his blog post, people were discussing the rates for their blogs and I got curious how much ReviewMe will be charging for reviews in this site.

ReviewMe REVIEWME VALUATION. My blog’s rate for ReviewMe when I signed up to check the service. I’ve since signed out as I only wanted to know my blog’s rate. Click on image to enlarge.

I signed up to check their service and found that if I join the program, advertisers will have to pay $100 for reviews in this blog, half of it will go to ReviewMe and I get to collect the other half. It was ego-boosting to note that I had the same valuation as Abe’s blog and even Pinoy Tech Blog, the country’s top technology group blog.

I signed out of the program after getting screen grabs of my blog’s valuation. The program isn’t for me.

In my work, accepting money from a subject of an article is anathema. I was among the Sun.Star Cebu reporters and editors who signed the Code of Ethics and Standards in front of then Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. The code explicitly prohibits me from accepting anything from subjects of articles. I am, in fact, only allowed to accept gifts during Christmas and my birthday and nothing substantial.

While this blog is personal, you cannot be schizophrenic as a blogger-journalist. Journalist Carlos Conde, during a PCIJ forum on blogging, warned journalists against having different standards in their work and their personal websites. Compartmentalization won’t stick.

ReviewMe, unlike the much-disparaged PayPerPost, requires disclosure on the arrangement from bloggers. ReviewMe also does not allow advertisers to require positive reviews.

ReviewMe accounts page REVIEWME LISTING. My listing in ReviewMe when I signed up to test it. I’ve since signed out. Click on photo to enlarge.

Still, I’m uncomfortable with the idea. For me it is getting paid to influence your editorial judgment. Writing is an act of editorial judgment.

The fact that you are reporting about something means you think the subject is worth writing about. This isn’t as evident online, because of its infinite news hole, as it is with printed publications. Stories are displaced on print and the fact that one story is printed while another isn’t shows editorial judgment on the news value of the articles.

The length of the article is also imbued with editorial judgment. The fact that you wrote at least 200 words about the subject, the minimum requirement for a valid ReviewMe post, gives it a higher news valuation than your other shorter, link-type blog posts. Article length, after all, is one way of communicating news value.

I’m also concerned with the effect of the solicited review on blog posts. Sure, you can tell yourself and your readers that despite the payment, you’re doing an unbiased review but the fact that you’re being paid for it by the subject of the article affects the credibility of your post.

If a product you’re reviewing is worth raving about you might be stingy in its praise for fear that readers will see you as having sold out.

I’m not saying that ReviewMe is bad. But it is bad for blogger-journalists because of the nature of their main job. It’s bad for bloggers who subject their site to journalistic standards.

The arrangement with ReviewMe can be viewed as similar to that of being paid to participate in a product test–by a company that wants to improve its offering–and then sharing the experience in your blog.

It might work for some bloggers. Abe, for example, created a special category for sponsored posts so that you’ll know, by its categorization, whether an article is a solicited and paid review.

It will certainly work for advertisers, as Migs Paraz points out. The links from reviews will improve their listings on search engines. ReviewMe screens blogs based on traffic data and feed readership. They also get important feedback that will help them improve their products or services.

If I were an advertiser, I’d go to blogs for promotion and feedback on top of my usual media diet. I’d give top bloggers sample units of my products or access to my services to evaluate. Feedback by bloggers is both an effective online marketing and product evaluation tool. Heck, I won’t even require them to post, the feedback alone is worth the amount I’ll be paying them for the test.

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8 Comments

  1. “Still, I’m uncomfortable with the idea. For me it is getting paid to influence your editorial judgment. Writing is an act of editorial judgment.”

    I agree completely. I also checked my site’s price with the program. It was about $40 (I’ve been blogging for less than 2 months). Attractive enough amount, but the idea disturbs me. Caloy Conde (a friend and a one-time colleague at the Manila Times) is right. There’s no way we journalist-bloggers can get away with one set of standards for print and another for the Web. Otherwise, all our pieces would end up being suspect.

  2. […] Another perspective I just realized was that of journalists turned bloggers, like Max Limpag. He explained that paying bloggers to write about products, services: I’m uncomfortable with the idea. For me it is getting paid to influence your editorial judgment. Writing is an act of editorial judgment. The fact that you are reporting about something means you think the subject is worth writing about. I’m not saying that ReviewMe is bad. But it is bad for blogger-journalists because of the nature of their main job. It’s bad for bloggers who subject their site to journalistic standards. […]

  3. […] I suppose it’s more than just a coincidence that the issue of blogger endorsements is being discussed nowadays, now that Philippine bloggers are exploring more ways to monetize their blog content beyond the usual Adsense/Adbrite/Text Link Ads advertising model. Blogger-journalist Max Limpag who recently reviewed ReviewMe’s business model of brokering between clients who want to pay bloggers for product or service reviews, isn’t comfortable with that idea: “I’m also concerned with the effect of the solicited review on blog posts. Sure, you can tell yourself and your readers that despite the payment, you’re doing an unbiased review but the fact that you’re being paid for it by the subject of the article affects the credibility of your post.” […]

  4. Max,

    I think you should go ahead and do it. Just be transparent. After all, they are paying you to review the article. If you have something nice to say about it, say it. if you don’t like it, then say it is no good. What they are paying is not your endorsement, it is your objective valuation of the product.

    If I believe right, Joel on software a famous blogger, reviewed the item that was sent to him for free ( it was a celphone), and he wrote in his blog frankly how he did not like it.

  5. Hi Max,
    Good for you. If this were applied to traditional print journalism, the choice would be crystal clear. I agree with your analysis 100%.

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