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The Case For Paid Reviews

As I’ve said in the past, I’m not a fan of the term “Web 2.0.”  I’ll take it a step further and say that there are many aspects of the “Web 2.0″ movement that I dislike.  There are enough aspects of the movement that I find silly that I can, and will, fill a post (but not now.)

Contrary to popular belief, I am a fierce capitalist.  Granted, I do love the open source movement, but I also think that there are ways to monetize open source, working within our capitalist system.  Much of “Web 2.0″ seems to be anti-capitalist.  Users want everything free (no registration, no paid memberships, etc…) and in many cases don’t want site owners/bloggers to earn directly from their endeavors.  It should be a labor of love, right?  Any money earned should be earned indirectly, the 2.0′ers say.

Chris Johnson hit some great points in his recent post, and I agree with 95% of what he says.  However, I don’t reach the same conclusion.

In the past, paid blog reviews were fantastic for SEO, but with Google’s call to turn in paid links, and with the proliferation of the nofollow tag, this isn’t the case any longer (for white hats.)  However, Paid Reviews are still fantastic ideas for many vendors.  Why?  Highly targetted traffic.  Traffic that can, and will convert.  When was the last time you clicked on an ad when reading a blog?  However, would you follow a link to a vendor, if a blogger you respect wrote a thoughtful review, and the product pertained to you or your business?  Many people do…even when they know the review was purchased.

I disagree with Chris’ conclusion that all Paid Reviews are bad for blogging.  However, I do agree that paid reviews can, will, and should evolve.  He’s correct that Ratespeed could possibly have become better, had an intelligent conversation occurred, and all aspects been discussed.  How much more valuable is honest criticism over blanket praise?  If the community you’re targetting recommends you change, and you make those changes, how would that community respond?  There’s real value in that discussion – value that many vendors would pay for.  If a blog owner has developed a wide, valuable readership, I see nothing wrong with the owner earning for that hard work.

Contrary to Chris, I don’t believe that paid reviews are the “stamp of a moron,” or that they make you a whore.  I read many, many, many, blogs that have done paid reviews.  This tells me nothing except, “these bloggers like money.”

One aspect of “Web 2.0″ that I do love is transparency.  “Web 2.0″ paid reviews should be (and often are) transparent.  Just as you should nofollow and tag all advertising on your site, paid reviews must be disclosed, and the links must be nofollowed.  Genuine discussion should be allowed, and your advertiser should welcome it.  Otherwise, you can, and will look like a…

Related posts:
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  • MLS ‘ad’ crackdown a waste of time, expert says
  • The Case Against Paid Reviews: Why Agents & Vendors Should Never Use Them.

  • 17 comments

    17 Comments so far

    1. Thomas Johnson December 28th, 2008 5:16 pm

      Genius?

    2. Tom December 28th, 2008 5:38 pm

      I have always accepted paid reviews. As I do not earn any other income except from my blog it just makes sense.

      However, I do not accept all paid reviews. I turn down about 90 percent as they have very little interest to my readers. Moving companies, poorly done sites, and aquarium makers do not fit the profile of my readers, so they get denied.

      But if there is a product that would be of interest to me first, my readers second, then I will most likely do the review and help pay my power bill. Otherwise I will pass as it does not help the conversation.

      Oh, and I always disclose that they are paid reviews.

    3. Jeff Brown December 29th, 2008 10:48 am

      Being paid for a review doesn’t equal a dearth of integrity or credibility. The idea itself is absurd.

      For years I was a paid expert witness for real estate lawsuits. The court, without exception, accepted my testimony to the extent of ruling in my employer’s favor every case but two. One was reversed on appeal.

      Money doesn’t buy or repeal integrity.

    4. Halfdeck December 30th, 2008 12:56 pm

      Hey Eric,

      The reason I wrote my paid review isn’t money. The money I made off that one review couldn’t buy me a blue ray player. Plus I like scalable business strategy (e.g. spend 30 minutes setting up an Adwords campaign, let it rake in thousands of bucks on auto-pilot for the next few months).

      About that time, there was a big nasty debate going on about Google penalizing sites’ toolbar PageRank for publishing paid reviews, lead by Andy Beard. I was one of the biggest attackers of Andy’s views and his insisting that paid reviews were legit, non-manipulative, and shouldn’t be penalized by Google. But I knew my views were biased because at that time I never did a paid review. So I accepted a paid review to see things from the other side of the fense.

      There’s nothing wrong with recommending products you love and making money, as long as readers are convinced your love for a product is genuine.

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    6. Eric Bramlett December 30th, 2008 4:54 pm

      Hey Half –

      Honestly, I just remembered reading that paid review a while back, and it stuck with me b/c it was so “meh, here’s the product, don’t know much about it.” It makes sense now why you did it.

      There’s nothing wrong with recommending products you love and making money, as long as readers are convinced your love for a product is genuine.

      I agree 100%. I also see nothing wrong w/ being paid to review a product, and reviewing that product negatively. As a vendor, I would find that criticism valuable, and take it into account as my product evolved.

      I see big problems with, and I don’t think it’s sustainable to espouse love for every vendors’ products who are willing to give you a buck.

    7. Chris Johnson December 31st, 2008 7:35 am

      There is nothing wrong with helping out great products, caling them to the top AND making money. I could sell, credibly, Basecamp, Heap, Tim and Julie’s real estate coaching.

      Money though doesn’t lead, it follows. And 90% of the time it’s a grave mistake, and as currently in practice, paid reviews suck, and are written by and for morons.

      The bigger deal to me is what it changes your blog into. You go from fiercely independent to a pandering ninny.

    8. Eric Bramlett December 31st, 2008 7:38 am

      The bigger deal to me is what it changes your blog into. You go from fiercely independent to a pandering ninny.

      Not if you disclose, give an honest review, and allow genuine discussion.

    9. Chris Johnson December 31st, 2008 7:42 am

      See, I think it does. I want to make money connecting with people and creating things. It lowers my rate too much to accept and link and deal with the dimentia of advertising. It makes me second rate. I’ve done it, considered it and concluded that I’m not going to be second rate.

    10. Greg Swann December 31st, 2008 7:47 am

      > Not if you disclose, give an honest review, and allow genuine discussion.

      You have no control how you are perceived by your readers. The only thing you can control is your own behavior. Many people will give you the benefit of the doubt — unless you introduce too many doubts.

    11. Eric Bramlett December 31st, 2008 7:50 am

      I want to make money connecting with people and creating things.

      So you’re 2 degrees from a “pandering ninny?” I don’t understand why it matters how you make money from your site/blog. If your blog is written with integrity, and has good content, it will be a good, honest blog, regardless of how you monetize it.

      What if you pandered to your client base, but refused advertising money? Does that make you any less of a pandering ninny?

    12. Eric Bramlett December 31st, 2008 7:51 am

      — unless you introduce too many doubts.

      Which you will, if you consistently LOVE everything you review.

    13. Chris Johnson December 31st, 2008 7:56 am

      –What if you pandered to your client base, but refused advertising money? Does that make you any less of a pandering ninny?

      Ah, sure. There’s a radical difference. An ad is trying to hit a single. I want to meet, connect and work with the best people available. That’s not hitting a single. That’s not settling for–at best–$500 bucks.

      You don’t want to get off base–if you’re a Real EState agent, clients are the goal. ANYTHING ELSE diffuses, dilutes and destroys your efforts and distracts you from your mission, and puts you on the express train to mediocrity.

      Is it possible to take ads and retain integrity? Sure.
      Does it make it more or less likely? We have enough damn distractions. Why have another.

    14. Eric Bramlett December 31st, 2008 12:59 pm

      You’re assuming that all real estate blogs are aimed at consumers, and that RE blog owners all sell real estate or mortgages for their primary income. They aren’t, and they don’t.

    15. Chris Johnson December 31st, 2008 1:14 pm

      Not really. If I’m going to look at a site, I’m going to look @ one that doesn’t coopt its space and attnetion and doesn’t distract me.

    16. Eric Bramlett December 31st, 2008 4:36 pm

      I’m going to look @ one that doesn’t coopt its space and attnetion and doesn’t distract me.

      Purely personal preference. My contention here is that monetizing your site/blog doesn’t automatically mean a lack of integrity.

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