Monday, May 19, 2008

Blogging to the Bank? - May 19, 2008

Should companies be offering bloggers money to write about products or brands the company represents?

I recently checked out Social Spark, a company run by the same people who started Pay Per Post. Social Spark’s holding company is Izea.

Overall, I think that Izea has a really smart business concept, but in actuality I’m not sure it works. Essentially, in order to qualify as a blogger that can pick up stories from Social Spark, one must have at least 100 readers a day, at least 20 posts every three months, and the posts written about the topics must be neutral. I see three major problems with this.

First, any blog that has a solid readership and frequent activity (posts and comments) is less likely to write a paid post. It would alienate the readers, and cheapen their blog. There’s nothing worse than a sell out, right? However, if the author of the blog acknowledged somehow that they are going to occasionally write a couple of paid blog posts in order to offset the cost of hosting fees, it might be okay with the readers. It seems like this would be really hard to accomplish, since blogs gain new readers all the time, and having to reiterate the point of having to write paid posts to offset the cost of hosting would get old fast. For this reason, this is probably why Social Spark offers an “interstitial” like-ad instead of a paid post, which is more popular amongst the “a” list bloggers. If a blog has enough readers, it must have good content that gets people to come back again and again. If it has those two things, wouldn’t they just use a traditional online ad channel to make money?

Secondly, since the blogger has to write in a neutral voice, it takes away from the blog’s typical tone. I mean, the whole point of a blog is to get someone’s take on something, right? I think that by forcing bloggers to remain neutral, the product or brand’s post won’t appear to be more interesting than if one had just read a description of what the product or brand is all about.

Finally, the idea behind offering bloggers cash to write about products or brands that they might have anyway written about is a good idea. The way pay-to-post opportunities work is by providing the blogger with a variety of things to write about on their blog. The blogger then chooses things that they would have probably written about without the cash incentive. While in reality this seems perfect, many of the things that offer the most money (the primary driver for bloggers) have restrictions and requirements that prove too undesirable to take on. For instance, one might have to create a video, or include pictures, which adds to the complication of the post.

All in all I feel that the concept behind Social Spark sounds great, but executionally it is flawed. It seems like a big one-off. In the end when dealing blogs, it’s more beneficial for a company to approach social media content creators and build a relationship with them that they can utilize over time, rather than pay them to write about them once or twice. The latter is more likely to create and ignite evangelists.

Also, one quick point, does Social Spark have a plan for other social media? Video, Twitters, podcasts, etc? I think not.

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