Sunday, October 31, 2004

Now, I Agree This Money-Making Idea IS a Bad One

I know I just posted that I didn't think ads on blog would necessarily indicate the sky was falling and that the blogger involved would lose all credibility.

But Marc Canter has come up with a money-making scheme for bloggers that I do think will bring in short-term cash and long-term trouble.

Basically, he proposes signing up influential bloggers to talk for three months about a product. (So, note, again, this may not be an opportunity for any but the most widely-read bloggers, in other words...probably not you or me.)

The blogger can "say anything."
The blogger can admit they are being paid to say the "anything" that they say.
The advertiser guarantees to pay for three months, even if the blogger bad-mouths them.
The advertiser is free to renew or not renew with a blogger after the three months.

Why would this work at all?

You are incented to speak highly if you truly want ongoing revenue.
You run the risk of losing your revenue stream if you speak badly about a product.
You run the risk of being considered a shill by your readers if you speak highly of it.
You run the risk of losing your revenue stream when you've lost enough readers to make you not an influencer anymore.
Sounds like a vicious cycle to me.

I'm not going to get all motherhood and apple pie about the integrity and transparency of blogging. But one of the beauties of blogs is that the writer writes about what they want to write about. It's that sense of informality and authenticity that keeps readers interested.

But, here's my alternative, radical idea: if advertisers wants to take advantage of blogs, they should have their company start one. Then people know what they're getting. And if they're interested in the product/service, they'll come back anyway. Especially if you let them participate in the conversation.

I do think it's entirely possible to have an interesting and ethical corporate blog. I write blogs for theatre companies. My most active one currently is for 42nd St. Moon, a musical theatre company in San Francisco. It's their blog. But I write it. I write about the company. I interview the artists. I get inside scoop on why they chose Show X, or the historical background of Show Y. Sometimes I simply write about other Broadway Musical-related stuff going on in the world. If I see one of their shows, yes I write about it. but I'm not posing as an objective reviewer.

It's a marketing tool. There's no secret about that. And yes, I get paid. And I see little room for people to question the ethics or wisdom of this company hiring a blogger to tell their story.

Can't say the same thing about Canter's idea.

Source: Marc Canter's original post on his proposal.
Source: Red

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