Sponsored Posts

I was reading a bit about ReviewMe today. It’s an interesting service.

The concept is sponsored blog posts. Reviewing a product, service, website, etc. and getting paid for it. You may or may not be familar with PayPerPost. PPP has been catching heat (and rightfully so, I believe) because they don’t require a disclosure (meaning, you don’t have to say that you are paid) and they can (or maybe they just do?) require you to write positive things. To be honest, I have little experience with PPP. Maybe they’ve changed their policies, I don’t know.

Anyway, where ReviewMe has improved is that you are required to disclose that you are being paid and you are not required to write positive things. So, you are paid to write an honest review. You are not paid to write a certain thing. This is a monumental, important difference. I wouldn’t have used something like PPP, but I am thinking about RM.

Another reason I am considering is that they are affiliated with Text Link Ads. Michael Arrington says RM is “backed” by TLA. Whatever the backing is, it’s a good thing. I like TLA and I think they run a good business. I am thankful for them, even, because they are helping me to make money in an honest way and they run very efficiently. In fact, I got an e-mail today from them saying that my sites are pre-qualified for RM. I assume all TLA publishers got this. :)

My friend Jeremy was doing sponsored posts long before this was a big issue. My friend Chris even paid him to write about one of the sites. I sell ad threads on my communities. Basically, they are a thread that is an advertisement. It is closed and they choose the message. It is marked as an advertisement in the subject and in the post. The topic is closed and stickied. I’m happy with how that has worked out in the few sales that I have made.

Where this differs is the perception of being paid to have an opinion. No one will pay me to have an opinion. I’ve done many, many product reviews. To do these, I have requested and received products from many people. Microsoft, O’Reilly, New Riders, SitePoint, others. I’ve never really disclosed that they sent me products before I didn’t feel the need. I’m going to be honest. I told them that before they sent me the product. And if you don’t think I’m honest, so be it, but I don’t really care all that much. Most of the product reviews were at least reasonably positive, but that is because good companies make good products. Do you know how big a process that an O’Reilly book has to go through? There is no way they are gonna go through that and release a complete piece of garbage. They aren’t that stupid. Maybe it’s not great, but it at least has some value. But, that doesn’t mean I won’t tear something apart when it’s the truth.

I also use affiliate links. I use them pretty much whenever I mention a product on my blogs or a product, service or site where I am signed up to their affiliate program. The TLA link above is an affiliate link. I don’t really feel the need to disclose that either for much the same reason. If things are sold through my blog, it’s not unreasonable to try to get a cut of that. If I can’t, fine. If I can, fine. But, it doesn’t effect what I write. Never has and never will.

Is receiving a product with the expectation of writing a review the same as being paid to write a review? Maybe. Like I said, I told every company I ever accepted a product from that I am going to say the truth and it might not be pretty. No one had a problem with that. I worked with good companies – good companies don’t have a problem with that. That’s just the way it is. But, if a company ever told me I had to write something nice or pressured me (or my writers, when I had WebDevReviews.com), I would have told them that we weren’t going to work with them. I don’t have a problem with a blog post that is an advertisement, as long as it is billed as such. I don’t have a problem with someone being paid to review a product if they honestly review it.

The only problem I have is when they get paid to review it in a specific light and pretend that they are giving their honest opinion. That’s where a problem comes in with me and many others, I’d say.

So, where was I going with this post? Hmm. I’m considering using ReviewMe or, at least, trying them out. If they are properly labeled, if they are not done more than a couple times a week, they could be a nice source of honest income. Maybe there are some things I could do to make them less impactful, as well. Maybe they don’t need to show up in feeds, maybe the entire body of the post can only be viewed “after the drop” with just the headline or a short blurb on the index page, maybe comments can be turned off on them so that they don’t become a focal point of the site. I don’t know. I’m gonna think about it a bit.

Anyone have any opinions on this sort of thing?

Edit: I was doing some more reading and I saw that Patrick Gavin, one of the guys behind TLA said that you can even no follow the links. Wow. That surprises me. But, at the same time, I wouldn’t do it because I don’t use no follow. If I’m going to link to someone, for whatever reason, it should count. That’s the way I feel, anyway.

Edit 2: Also, if you disclose that it is a sponsored post at the beginning of the post instead of at the end.

Edit 3: Another idea: they can have some sort of special border around them to make them stand out as different. Jeremy did this, if I recall. (At this point, I’m putting any ideas into this post, just incase I do want to do this, so that I can come back to it and see them all :)).

Patrick O'Keefe

Managing online communities since 2000, I publish a collective of websites known as the iFroggy Network. I wrote the book Managing Online Forums and, as a public speaker, have presented for organizations like CNN, institutions like Australian National University and conferences like SXSW. More about me.

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