Steven Groves is founder of Social Marketing Conversations and co-author of 'ROI of Social Media', publishing around the world by Wiley & Sons. Subscribe to my blog feed for stuff I decide to blog about.

RWW_Logo ReadWriteWeb just posted a high and mighty proclamation about blogging for a fee vs. blogging for the love of blogging or for people who get paid to just read, write and blog.

They were commenting on a Forrester Research Report titled ‘Add Supported Conversations to Your Tool Box‘  by Sean Corcoran, Josh Berhoff and Jeremiah Owyang. I am pretty sure Marshall Kirkpatrick read the report; I have not.  His post went on to state “We respectfully disagree with Forrester’s recommendations on this topic.” and then went on further to uncover that the staff at RRW are discouraged from accepting vendor-provided favors to maintain the appearance of complete impartiality on the topics they cover. 

The coup de gras to the RWW integrity question for me was the part where he stated that they too have some pay for post entries at RWW, but they go the other way where vendors pay them to make a post at RWW vs. RWW making a post about them and suggesting that they may have a good product and the vendor THEN pays them.  If that little back and forth made you dizzy, don’t worry – I got dizzy writing it; it’s bewildering.

This sounds a lot like the journalistic credos of the print media of old and maybe the blog-sphere needs this kind of professional policing.  Heaven knows Chris Brogan will forever be explaining his role in the “Great K-Mart Shopping / Blogging Scandal of 2008” – give me a break. 

He explained his reason for writing the post in the post, during the post and after – they paid him; OK now it’s in the realm of paid entertainment. There are new media people everywhere just trying to pay the rent and get some bandwidth – but if I read our friends at RRW correctly, because they at RWW have monetized the model they can now sit in their well-heeled Ivory Tower and make these kind of proclamations to the rest of us with halos over their heads.

Chris has just posted on this at his blog BTW and Marshall has proffered a beer at SWSX to make sure they on even footing – I suspect Chris and Marshall understand each other well enough that this public firestorm will not be the end of a friendship, but I especially like Chris’ comment that “…[Marshall at RWW is] approaching it as a journalist who relies on the advertising to get paid and I’m a marketer who blogs.” 

The metamorphosis we see the media in right now, as it transitions from the old media model to a new media model (or whatever phrase you wish to use here), or from a centralized staff of journalist being paid to write what their masters hand them to write and the citizen journalists who will write pretty much what they damn well please may make it a bit more difficult to discerned truth from hogwash, but I’m not sure we did not have a bigger problem with that now with centralized media. 

We, as media consumers have to look for credibility to be able to see through the smoke and mirrors of the unscrupulous social media blogger’s / posters who intentionally try to mislead a reader base.  I suggest that in the self-policing realm that is social media, when these charlatans are uncovered and held up to the light of day, they will lose their readership promptly as the readers go to someone they believe has more integrity in their writing. 

Verdict – Pay for post, ‘supported conversations’ or what ever you wish to call them are perfectly acceptable in the social media space.  If you see integrity in the process, if they’ve provide the proper disclaimer and make it plain about the fact a fee is being paid – I think readers will be fine with it.  My issue I think is RWW’s pronouncement that makes them inappropriate is a bit sanctimonious.


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  • Chris Brogan

    You know, Steve, you summed up things better than my own post. Maybe I should just post THIS next time:

    [Marshall at RWW is] approaching it as a journalist who relies on the advertising to get paid and I’m a marketer who blogs.”

    That's really the nut, isn't it?

  • Steven Groves

    Yep – I think it is. I suspect Marshall might get a clue on this, different people, different applications – neither wrong, both just different. Wish him well for me at SWSX – not there this year; maybe next!

  • Ben Kunz

    A fair take. I've been very critical of sponsored posts and arm-wrestled Chris Brogan (whom I respect) over his Kmart bit in a BusinessWeek column — in which I suggested that if paid posts are OK, why not go all the way and sponsor paid thoughts in everyday offline conversations?

    “How was work, honey?” “Great, my Kmart outfit went over super in the board meeting.”

    There are two problems with a sponsored post: (1) it inserts brands via payment into the opinion of the writer, a clear conflict of interest, and (2) it is a form of spamdexing, an attempt to manipulate the relevance of a topic inside a network by creating a paid link structure around it.

    While we argue about (1) the ethics of the opinions posted, I find it most interesting that Google has reminded bloggers that (2) will not be condoned — paid posts need no-follow tags or bloggers may have their rankings lowered by Google. Intriguing that in this ethics debate, Google has voted that paid posts are garbage and should not influence real organic search results.

    I'm sure the practice will continue, like telemarketing in phone networks and spam in email networks. In every network there is a market push too far, until eventually people rebel — with DNC lists for phones, junk mail filters for email, and soon — I hope — a filter to erase any blogs that shill from our searches for real opinions on the internet.

  • StevenGroves

    Ben, Good info re; our friends at Google and their vote on this most contentious issue. I get the point about how the medium is expanding in this way and yes, I may rue the comments about it being an acceptable use of the technology. The filter is a great idea…

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  • StevenGroves

    Hey John- thanks for the visit and the comment!

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