In a couple of recent posts on this site (here and here) and on other sites (here, here and here), the issue of bloggers reviewing for reward has come up. Discussions have varied but most people seem to agree that if a blogger reviews an item but fails to reveal any benefit accruing to them for the review that there is an ethical problem there and that the bloggers readership are being mislead.
Who cares? Why is this important? This is important because traditional marketing is changing and is starting to embrace blogs. Up until now, marketing has been broadcast in nature – marketers interrupt our television viewing with ads, they interrupt our skyline with billboards, they interrupt our Internet experience with banner ads and email marketing.
However, we are getting better at avoiding ads – both technically and subconsciously. On the technical side, we have the likes of TiVo and Sky+ to help us skip over the ads on tv, we have spam filters and Adblock to help us avoid the banner ads and email and our subconscious helps with the rest. Walk down any street today, and try to remember how many billboards you passed and what they were for – chances are you’ll remember very few, if any.
What does this have to do with blogging? Blogs are a trusted medium – as we read someone’s blog, we develop a relationship with that person. We can converse with them, we come to know them, and largely, we trust them – they become friends.
And as Robert Scoble and Shel Israel noted in Naked Conversations:
Our friends are more influential than any advertising or marketing campaignâ€”always have been and always will be. They influence what we watch, read and wear; where we live and travel
Word-of-mouth marketing perpetuates because of our desire to tell people when we find something new. We come across something innovative and just have to tell family and friends about it. We like to be first and to have influence.
Previously – word of mouth marketing had a very limited range – but with the advent of the Internet and blogs in particular, word of mouth marketing and conversations have gone global. For instance, Skype used instant messaging and blogs to market their product and they achieved 25 million downloads just 19 months after starting up. Firefox reached 25 million downloads less than four months after launching exclusively from a blog!
Marketers are having to adapt to meet this change and they are adapting – ergo Damien’s original question about using bloggers for product reviews. More and more we will see bloggers being used to
push review products – hence the importance of the original discussion and the need to agree the ethics around ‘paid’ blog posts.
I see Jeff Jarvis has blogged about blog posts for hire as well and he also recommends disclosure.