I’ve been talking to many bloggers over recent weeks, but two particular conversations have stood out in my mind. One was with a ‘mom blogger’ based out of Atlanta, the other a political issues blogger from the Boston area.
The mom blogger based her business on commercial partnerships with companies willing to ‘pay for play’. She told me that on her ‘About Me’ page – though I have to say buried pretty deep down – was a short mention of how she encouraged commercial organizations to send her relevant products ‘to review’ or to directly pay her for product mentions. She also said how she was keen to work with the increasing number of influencer platform agencies whose job it is to broker relationships between their clients and bloggers like herself. She wouldn’t mind me saying she’s a ‘gun for hire’. And she sees many new opportunities to be paid for her endorsement.
Two days later I found myself in conversation with a very different type of blogger. He took his opinions much more seriously, despised the ‘pay for play’ approach and hoped the new ‘blogger broker agencies’ would go away as soon as possible. He was adamant that people like himself had to very quickly differentiate themselves from the type of blogger described above. He was furious about the commercial relationships now being encouraged.
I remembered back to 2006 when our company was commissioned by a no-longer-existing marketing software provider to identify who their market influencers were. They had previously initiated a controversial, but in fairness to them, very overt and well-publicized, pay for play blogger relationship program. This move put them on the map to the extent that they soon became known more for that campaign than for their core business.
Eight years on and we’re back to the same issue. The genesis of bloggers was that they could write when and what they wanted, their truth-telling appealed to the grass roots, and they had no commercial axe to grind. They were anti-marketing and they were believable. Credibility plus an audience gave them influence.
It’s easy to say that those pay for play bloggers commissioned by the influencer platform agencies soon will lose any credibility and with it any chance of exerting influence. I only hope that’s the case. Do we really want to follow bloggers when they’re just channels for somebody’s marketing department?