Opinion

It’s okay for brands to pay bloggers for their time

IHannah Demiltan this guest post, Hannah Demilta draws the line between “cash for comment” and paid blogger reviews and asks why brands think they should get free advertising on blogs.

We’ve seen a lot in the media lately around paid reviews and cash for comment. I have an issue with bloggers being rounded up and placed in this same group. What articles like this recent piece in SMH imply is that bloggers are choosing to not disclose payment.

While there will always be instances of this, I would say that more Australian bloggers are quite aware of the issues with transparency and up-hold a code of personal ethics.

In the US bloggers are required by law to disclose payment for sponsored posts. While this isn’t the case in Australia yet, savvy bloggers know what they risk by not disclosing payment, gifts or product. It’s not only in the bloggers’ best interest, but also the brand’s best interest to be transparent online. We can look to recent examples such as the backlash from South Australia Tourism Council paying celebrities to tweet with no-disclosure to understand this.

However, if both parties are clear and open to their audiences regarding sponsored reviews or paid agreements, it’s my view that this is an acceptable exchange for bloggers and brands who want to work together.

This is very different than the manufactured paid listings littering user review websites. These are not only created to seem organic, but are often from anonymous sources.  Bloggers who have their own name and reputation to risk are not willing to make this mistake or deceive their readers.

The next question, beyond the issue of transparency, is the question of ‘Why sponsored?’  I’ve spoken to some marketers who shrug off the words “sponsored content” as if they were almost dirty.

I believe we pay our bloggers for their time, but we don’t buy their opinions. Bloggers still write and share in their own words and in a voice that’s their own. That authenticity is what readers connect with and helps drive engagement. We welcome that genuineness and recognise that it’s part of the reason why a brand may want to work with online influencers in the first place.

I question why marketers think that a blogger should work for free to advertise a brand. While PR professionals can still be a source of information, bloggers don’t necessarily depend on press releases to tell their story.

Bloggers are content creators and online community builders.  It’s a privilege to take part in these online conversations with influential opinion leaders and their niche communities. It’s also important to remember that bloggers don’t have an employer paying for their cab rides to events.

The reality is that many of these bloggers brands want to work with are ‘hobby bloggers’ meaning their blog is not their full-time job. Bloggers are looking to be compensated for their time and effort.

It’s worth remembering that brands and bloggers working relationships are still relatively new development to Australia. This specialised segment of marketing is still finding its feet in the media landscape. There is a line to be drawn between cash for comment, and paying bloggers.

As long as bloggers and brands can respect the importance of transparency and disclosure with their audiences, there is certainly a role for sponsored posts.

While some will still shy away from the idea of paying bloggers, I think it’s something worth speaking up for and I see a future for this in Australia.

Hannah Demilta is general manager at Rocketman Media.

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