In a post today entitled “How To Make Sponsored Conversations Work“, Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang explains how sponsored conversations–whether through blogs, Twitter, or some other online social medium–can be done right.
He excerpts the following requirements from a report prepared by his fellow Forrester analyst Sean Corcoran:
“1) sponsorship transparency and 2) blogger authenticity.
Sponsorship transparency means that both the marketer and the blogger must make it absolutely clear to the reader community that they are reading paid content – think of Google Adwords “Sponsored Links.” Blogger authenticity means that the blogger should have complete freedom to write in their own voice – even if the content they write about the brand is negative.”
I have mixed reactions. I like the idea of sponsors as long-term advertisers for blogs and aggregators, e.g., the way that several companies sponsor posts on Techmeme. I’m a lot less keen on the idea of paying a blogger who normally writes unpaid content to bestow his or her reputation on commissioned posts. That crosses the line between advertising and editorial, at least for me. And I can’t imagine how any of this would work on a micro-blogging medium like Twitter.
I find that the bloggers I like reading and the tweeters I follow are people who communication their passion as text with minimal loss in translation. Maybe I’m just projecting–I know that I’d never want to find my readers questioning whether I’m writing what I really feel.
In any case, my gut reaction–much like Steve Hodson’s–to sponsored conversations is to see them as advertorials. I can see how they might play a key role in an ad-supported revenue model, and they have the potential to be much more interesting than other ads. But I don’t think that independent bloggers should be writing them. As Steve points out, you’ve got to ask yourself: how much is your integrity worth?