(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.
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.
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.