With Forbes allowing advertisers to blog amongst its editorial content, is the growing trend for online ‘advertorials’ damaging trust in internet journalism? Mike Grehan at Search Engine Strategies considers whether paid-for blogs are as bad as the industry is claiming.
One of the major issues revolving around advertising and promotion online is about transparency. Business magazine Forbes’ recent move into allowing advertisers to blog in amongst the editorial content they produce with their new AdVoice product is a prime example.
It’s blurring the line between church and state. These paid for blog posts have the look and feel of the content submitted by regular Forbes journalists, but it is actually paid placement. If you look hard enough, you’ll discover that it is really a form of advertising. However, is the average reader looking that hard and , if the content is good , does it matter that it’s paid for?
It’s the same with celebrity bloggers. If they’re satisfying their fan base with their tweets and blog posts, do the fans care if they’re getting paid to do it? They’re certainly used to seeing the likes of Tiger Woods and other sports stars sponsored from head to toe. Of course, online or offline the danger with celebrity endorsements is when their halo slips off (as with Tiger Woods).
But the next question is, what constitutes a celebrity? In the social-mediasphere anyone can be famous to some degree. You don’t have to be rock star to be a celebrity blogger. There are many thousands of social media celebrities in just as many niches online. Would I be bothered whether Gary Vaynerchuk is paid or not to endorse his favourite wine? Probably not.
In fact, there’s a lot of research going on in the online space on how to find these “authoritative” voices in niche markets for the very reason of getting them to promote targeted and specific products and services in one way or another. It’s not new for marketers to want to find “opinion leaders” to endorse or promote new products and services. As the current consumer changes and becomes the connected consumer, then this approach to finding authorities inside Facebook and Twitter (as well as the newer location based services) for instance, is an obvious move.
As for actors’ profiles and conversation streams turning up in search engine results, you can’t pay to influence where they appear anyway. This is purely algorithmic and based on what happens to be trending at the time. If everyone is tweeting about a certain movie or actor, it’ll turn up in the results naturally.
There’s no short answer, but I think that the younger generation audience, connected 24 hours a day with one device or another, one app or another, is used to seeing everything from product placement in their online gaming through to sponsored Tweets. The audience is changing and advertising and promotion will change with it.
I’m sure we’ll have some interesting debates on this at SES London 2011 which rolls into town in Feb.
By Mike Grehan
Chair SES Advisory Board
Global VP Content