Cash For Comment – Is It Really?


In the realm of blogger outreach, the term “cash for comment” comes up a lot when discussing how to fairly compensate a blogger for their participation in a brand campaign. If this is how you feel about paying bloggers then please read on…

Cash For Comment

For most, blogging is a hobby that can quickly become a obsession passion; one they invest significant time and money into. With brands on the scene more bloggers (particularly in the parenting space) are talking about what the dollar value is, or should be, on the promotion they offer brands. It should make a lot of sense; bloggers have a social media presence, social media skills and the target audience – all of which are of great value to a brand.

Supply + Demand = Win.

Or so you would think. But PRs (in particular) can’t get past the idea of paying bloggers as being like “cash for comment”.

Here’s what you need to understand about bloggers. These blogger whose reviews you covet, are investing heavily in creating a space and readership that have a real connection with. Blogger don’t just “write stuff on the internet” but create amazing, vibrant communities. You can’t pay them to jeopardise this – any endorsement, paid or otherwise, is never going to be as valuable to the blogger as their readership. That’s what makes their “gold”. BUT, that doesn’t mean that you can expect it to be free all the time.

It’s been said before, but would you work for bottle of shampoo? Would your PR company accept product as payment for your services? I know the hours you guys works, blogger are working those same hours, crafting posts that are a credit to themselves and great for your brand.

To be blunt, PR if you want to be the main players in this space you simply have to start thinking about how to monetarily compensate bloggers for what they do for you. You need to get over the idea of “cash for comment” and stop applying old media paradigms to blogger outreach. Already bloggers are talking about bypassing PR and going straight to the company to work directly with them. Australian bloggers are savvy, looking to the mistakes that have been made by the bloggers who have gone before and learning from the things that have worked. They want to offer the brands they endorse something of value, but they don’t want to work for free. Are you going to find a way to be part of this?

The simplest way is to start educating your clients that working with bloggers isn’t free and start getting them to allocate budgets that allow you to engage meaningfully with bloggers, treating their knowledge and time with respect.

I am not suggesting that you pay a blogger for editorial comment…Gail makes this point well in her post Is Impartiality in Media and Blogging Even Possible?

Paying Bloggers, Cash For Comment

I would probably change the last line of her comment to “especially such tiny amounts of money because bloggers are not commercially motivated” however they are increasingly commercially savvy.

Bloggers can’t be paid for positive comment, but they can be compensated meaningfully for other types of partnerships and promotional activity.

This doesn’t mean that bloggers should be paid for everything  – I personally think that a product or great content can suffice in exchange for content and that’s there’s something really great about making that work well. What it does mean is that if you want to stay in the game, that this area of compensation cannot be dismissed as simply “cash for comment”.

Don’t just take my word for it though…

The Cost of Free Publicity: How Much Is Too Little If you don’t have time to read the post then just read this excerpt:

Here’s the rub—too many people (brands, PR firms, ad agencies) believe that bloggers blog just for fun. That wasn’t even true in the early days of blogging and it’s patently wrong-headed thinking now. Bloggers with a devoted readership work hard to build the right audience. They take their blogs and content seriously. They attend conferences to learn how to be better bloggers and how to do professional reviews of products and services. They spend time and money on design and functionality, to make their blog search engine friendly. They connect their Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Google+ and other social tools to their blog, in order to offer multiple touch-points to brands they work with.

And if you are in PR and haven’t yet read this post then you really need to do so: Bloggers Are Promotional Partners, Which Is Bad For PR

Bloggers, I know you are wondering what this looks like. Stay tuned, that post is up next.

18 Comments

  1. Great post, Louisa.

    The switched-on PRs are proving to be great conduits and referrals of bloggers to their clients, the brands.

    That seems to me to be the way to go. Build the relationship with the PR, write about what they are pitching IF it editorially fits with your blog (to do this each blogger needs to first get clear on their individual publishing guidelines).

    As that relationship grows, you can raise the possibility to that PR of a sponsorship with that brand, especially if that brand is keen to work further to enhance its presence in the digital landscape.

    That’s generally the companies and brands that will have bloggers on their radar. They’re already dipping into digital media (Facebook, website advertising), so they’re more open to the power of the blogger!

    (Here endeth the mini blog post!)

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    • Hi Louisa

      I agree with most of your post, but I also really like how Nikki has added in this bit above.

      We all know that it works both ways, if you really really want to be paid, you need to segment yourself in some way, have that wonderful niche community that an organisation will be happy to be in. For some, like Nikki, this is kind of the easy bit. She knew from the start that it was fashion, but it has grown to also be beauty and blogging.

      My blog has no real direction, I have a diverse market of mummas, marketing people, bloggers, lawyers, friends, family. I struggle to feel ‘deserving’ of payment. It would make me stressed that I wasn’t delivering enough for the client. Receiving items to review/giveaway makes me feel more in control of what I write and choose. It is easy to say no to a widget I don’t need, not so easy to say no to $200 to write about a widget I don’t need. Clearly, I actually do worship at the god of money and am a shallow blogger! (OK, I do have my limits) but I think it will always be a fine line for PR when working on the ‘cash for comment’ post.

      (and here endeth mini blog post II)

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      • As long as bloggers are willing to work for free and do not value their own abilities and all that went into improving their blogs and growing their audience brands will have no need to offer payment because they will have plenty of voluntary slave labor.

        Clairey, take your non-direction and start adding some content of local interest and building your reach. Think about it this way. Who would recommend your blog out of millions of blogs? Even if it is a great blog there is no real reason to recommend it because there are hundreds or thousands of great similar blogs.

        But what if your blog has content of local interest. Now there is a real reason for people to recommend you because you’re local and you offer information they can’t get from most blogs. That is true regardless of your niche or lack of niche.

        There are hundreds of great gardening blogs so most people aren’t actively recommending them. But when you find a great gardening blog that writes about what grows best where you live, where to buy heirloom plants, where to get compost locally, and has timely content such as tips on controlling grasshoppers BEFORE it is too late or freeze warnings or where to buy shade cloth in your metro area do you suppose people there will actively recommend your blog? Absolutely YES because your tips are accurate and valuable for where you are!

        My solution for improving the world’s economy and monetizing blogs is the same: bloggers need to be able to reach a targeted local audience and focus on SMALL BUSINESSES that need a way to reach your audience. I linked this comment to a post that explains that more completely.

        Big brands don’t need you because a blog anywhere is fine. Small businesses DO need you and the money spent with them stays in your community and creates a higher standard of living there and a real reason why companies should pay you for Blog Outreach and to advertise on your blog.

        Be sure to notice one collaboration of bloggers I mention in that post who went from 44 foodie bloggers in Washington D.C. collaborating together to offering their services directly to businesses interested in their location. Now over 62 blogs and still growing, before their new site at DistrictBlooms.com was even completed they had an inquiry that could turn into paid work for ALL of them.

        P.S. Clairey. Your deserving payment issue has nothing to do with your blog and everything to do with being conditioned not to value yourself. While that $200 may tempt you, if it was something you were morally opposed to promoting I’m sure you would turn it down and on the other hand maybe it is something that interests you only a bit. You might decide you like it after all.

        I have visited your blog and other than the drawback of not being on WordPress on your own domain, the quality of your design, writing and layout there is no reason at all for you to feel you don’t offer value. Look at your active community and keep building and you may end up leading a blog collaboration of your own.

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        • Hi Gail,

          Lots of wonderful advice from you. Truly thank you for it too.

          I am really glad you mention the part about making it local. When I first started out I only wanted to talk about local stuff, then other things got in my ear – don’t let people know where you are, and you are limiting readership if you are too local…But then a local business approached me, I did a post for them, it felt great. I did it for free, with a $100 giveaway for my readers. Afterwards they sent me vouchers to the store to say thanks, it was really lovely, and while I do shop there I felt giving them to our local family services councilling clinic would help out a family in more need than us. That felt good too.

          Sorry, Louisa, slightly off topic here now.

          Post a Reply
          • Hi, I’m the blogger Gail referenced above. Gail has been instrumental in sharing ideas that have made it easy to collaborate with other bloggers and be able to better even the playing field with PR firms and brands.

            From my experience it has been easier to build mutually beneficial relationships directly with brands than with PR firms. PR firms, after getting paid by the brand, try their hardest to get free coverage at all costs. It seems brands are more aware of the value blogs bring and are more used to paying for value. So I think this article was spot on. I won’t be surprised if other folks find more beneficial relationships when they go directly to the brand.

  2. I’ve been pondering this a lot of late…

    My understanding of the ‘cash for comment’ scandals that have been in main stream media in the past are instances where the commenter didn’t disclose that they were paid. It’s not the fact that they were paid, or getting some other kick back, it was because they didn’t disclose that fact.

    Bloggers have that area covered. I don’t know of many (any?) bloggers who don’t know how important it is to have a disclosure statement, and to be upfront about when they are and aren’t getting paid etc. For us bloggers it is not worth the risk to not disclose these things… as you’ve pointed out our readers are too precious to us!

    Maybe I’m wrong but the whole ‘cash for comment’ line that is often trotted out seems a bit off the mark to me!

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  3. As you say, as long as we disclaim our intentions, our readers know where they stand.

    I hope that many PR companies come to understand this way of thinking. Thanks for yet another informative post x

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  4. Great post Louisa, I think sometimes that people also see many bloggers as “stay at home mum” role only and therefore will do things for free. I love writing about products and I think that receiving a product to try is only fair for the time we spend writing about a product for a review and for the product to be worth more then $5 is not asking for much.

    Post a Reply
  5. Hi Louisa

    I love this discussion that’s going on in our niche. It’s really great to hear what people are thinking from the PR/company side too.

    My take on it – A company that refuses to consider cash as part of the fair exchange with bloggers, is missing out. Their competitors do see the value and fairness of it, and will lead the way in this very new, exciting and innovative time of word-of-mouth marketing.

    I had a PR lady leave a comment on my blog last night, expressing the sentiments that your message seeks to respond to. Lively discussion followed. If you’re interested, here’s the link:

    http://mothersloveletters.com/why-we-love-mummy-bloggers/

    Post a Reply
  6. I find most bloggers, Aussies especially, are honest and ethical. And as you say, our opinions cannot be bought, and nor will we be swayed by splashy releases. We need action and a call to action, and partnerships. We are are own publishers, and unlike traditional publishing – say newspapers or magazine – we only have one blog post to fill at a time. So we can afford to be choosy.

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  7. I am loving the energy generated by these posts and comments. A strong set of points made, and I hope, that the people aimed for are reading too. Thanks for the top-notch posts emanating from Brand Meets Blog.
    Now in my Reader… so I don’t miss a thing!

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  8. I worry that by not offering compensation, that the whole blogging market is being undersold. Sure, I’ll write a post for x dollars, but blogger B will write one for y dollars and blogger c will do it for the cost of a product.

    I think it has to be a perception shift on both sides of the coin, from both bloggers and PR/Brands.

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  9. Well said, Louisa!

    I have approached several of the brands/PRs who have participated in the recent blogger events and have found only one that was happy to provide a product for a giveaway. It wasn’t a high value product, but it was something I wanted to write about, so I did. I even manged to outsource the writing!

    But others, just return that standard line “the client has not given us a budget” or “we do not give away our products” (if it’s a high value one).

    I’m a bit over the whole “working with brands” thing at the moment. I’d rather buy my own items for giveaways, because it’s a lot easier than getting anything out of a company.

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  10. I think the first thing PR companies need to do is stop applying ‘rules for engagement with media outlets’ to bloggers. Clearly they are different mediums and should be treated so.

    Nikki has an interesting point in terms of ‘working with’ the brands. Perhaps on a marketing/PR campaign for a particular item/cause. Rather than just being tied to the brand as a whole.

    It’s all very interesting. I’m sure uni lecturers are losing their minds over all of this stuff.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M

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  11. Great post and couldn’t have come at a better time. I have only done one post for a brand and I don’t want to get in to the habit of doing everything for free – they take hours to ensure they are creative and entertaining – so breathing deeply and asking the money question with my head held high – not easy but forcing myself to value what I do.
    Thanks for encouraging what I would have been too scared to stick to,
    Nicole

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  12. Great post but I think there needs to be a bit more of an onus on bloggers to be more professional in the way they conduct the business of blogging. There are some bloggers that do this really well, but there are others who have a long way to go.

    I have no issue in paying bloggers, and will often budget for this in my campaigns, but I always come across a number of issues:

    1. Payment – No, I will not just pay you to your bank account, without an invoice or receipt. No I will not just donate to paypal on your site. I run a business and pay taxes and am at risk of getting audited by my clients and by the tax office if I don’t properly account for my income. If you want to be treated as a business and paid for your time, then take some time to set yourself up legally as a business.

    2. Transparency – If you want to be paid for a sponsor post or other activity then you need to be transparent about your statistics and figures. My clients will ask me for a report on the reach of any activity. Be prepared as to how you’re going to showcase the value for your customers.

    3. Be realistic – I have seen some really varying rates for sponsored posts and advertising on blogs, that often don’t even correspond to the amount of traffic (or popularity) that a particular blog has. Be realistic about what you can charge, do your research and test your pricing structure with brands that are of interest to your blog (it’s a great way to build relationships!).

    4. Not everything should be paid – get behind campaigns for non profits or those that have community benefit. Show big brands what you can do in campaigns, so that they will think about budgeting to pay for you in your next campaign. I get absolutely frustrated when bloggers flat out refuse to consider a doing something on their blog, even though it has a good community benefit (ie. its not about selling a product), because we don’t have a budget to pay bloggers. This is usually because the budget is really small, rather than not wanting to pay bloggers. Conversely, we have had some great support from some bloggers who have really got behind some campaigns and helped us out – there are the ones we will go back to with budgets for sponsored posts.

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    • Thanks so much for your comment Dan – I think you’ve raised some really important points here and I really appreciate you taking the time to leave such a comprehensive comment!

      Post a Reply

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