Should Brands Pay Bloggers For Media Placements?

June 30, 2015
blogger compensation

Photo credit: Jay Peroni

Blogs have grown to become a major marketing and PR channel. Some blogs are highly influential, with readerships that rival those of major media outlets. Many bloggers have attracted enormous social media followings and their posts can hold substantial sway.

PR and marketing are now reaching out to bloggers as a new channel for publicity and advertising. To many brands, the rules of engagement with bloggers, the expectations of bloggers, and the roles of paid and unpaid media placements in blogs are unclear.

A new study by Yomego, a full-service digital agency reveals some helpful insights into bloggers and their relationships with brands and their agencies.

Out of 250 bloggers and publishers in 86 categories who were polled, 46% enjoy being approached by brands, 21% don’t mind and 26% don’t mind it “from time to time.” Only 7% don’t like or hate it.

Show Them the Money?

That data doesn’t answer the key questions of brands about media placements in blog.

Do bloggers accept advertising?

Answer: Yes, an increasing number of bloggers do take paid advertising placements. Those that do accept advertising usually follow established formats for online advertising and often provide information on their websites about rates and terms. Some bloggers accept barter in the form of free product or services instead of cash payment for advertising.

The more difficult question is: Do bloggers expect payment for editorial placements by PR – known as earned media?

Answer: Here the rules blur. The generally applied rules are similar to the rules of traditional media in the past. Many brands, for instance, provide bloggers with sample products for review. While journalists at traditional media are now usually required to return testing samples, that’s not usually true in the blogging community. (The brand should require the blogger to acknowledge donation of the sample product.)

Paying Bloggers for PR Placements

It’s also generally acceptable for brands to pay for placement of sponsored editorial content (including guest posts) on blogs, provided that the blog labels the content as a paid placement – much in the same way that traditional publications now label native advertising.

Bloggers rarely require or request brands to pay for mentions of products in articles conceived and written by the blogger – and most brands forbid such payments (which some feel are a kin to the old radio disk jockey payola scandals).

If, however, the brand approaches the blogger about a writing a product-oriented post or otherwise promoting the product, many bloggers expect payment and will specify the amount of their fee during the placement discussions. Fees vary between $ 25 and $ 250 depending on the type of placement and the reach/influence of the blogger. Most bloggers view the payment as a fee for writing services and do not publicly acknowledge the payment if the blogger retains editorial control of the post.

About a quarter of the bloggers polled in the Yomego study say they always expect to be paid for their services. Younger bloggers tend to be more amendable to editorial changes in return for payment; older bloggers are more likely to prefer their editorial freedom.

Lines in the Sand

What’s a reasonable line in the sand for payment for editorial content? How about this?

  • Payment to the blogger is appropriate if the editorial content is product focused – more a benefit to the brand than to the blogger’s audience — and the brand, not the blogger, has final editorial control of content. In this situation, the blog should acknowledge payment for the placement and editorial control by the sponsor.
  • Payment to the blogger is not appropriate if the requested placement serves the interests of the blogger and the blogger’s followers more than it does the brand. Education or entertainment, not product promotion, is the core purpose of the piece. The blogger functioning as an independent journalist has full editorial control of the content. The blog post, therefore, is a traditional earned media placement.

Obviously, there’s still a grey area subject to interpretation, but most bloggers will recognize and publish without charge stories that reflect well on them and benefit their followers.

How to Please Bloggers

The Yomego poll also reveals what brands do to annoy bloggers and what PR and marketing can do to cultivate relationships with bloggers.

Get to know them. Getting to know bloggers and personalizing the relationship are essential for successful blogger outreach. Over 65% of bloggers say they are contacted by brands or agencies several times a week. Marketers who “go the extra mile” to develop a personal relationship stand out and are better remembered.

Find each blogger’s preferred contact method. Over half the bloggers prefer email communications, with Twitter direct messages a distant second. Unlike journalists, most bloggers do not publish a phone contact.

Be relevant. Irrelevant guest post pitches, scattergun PR distribution and a lack of understanding of a blogger’s core audience are common annoyances to bloggers.

Be clear upfront. Bloggers appreciate knowing what brands expect from them upfront. They like to learn in the brand’s initial outreach exactly what type of placement the brand expectsand what they’ll receive in return.

Bottom Line: Many blogs are extremely popular and influential in their niche. Blogs will probably become more important as traditional media outlets struggle and consumers increasingly ignore advertising. Brands that embrace blogger outreach as a main element of their earned media strategy will gain a competitive advantage. Brands should be willing to pay bloggers for advertising and for advertising-like editorial content. Brands should not pay bloggers for traditional earned media placements.

This post was originaly published in the CyberAlert blog.

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