Are blogs becoming paid thoughts?

For a while now, I’ve been trying to explain to my roommate what Twitter is, and why these social media tools aren’t really as useless as she thinks – they’re actually pretty fun!  She continues to be critical and simply unimpressed, reacting each time with a casual “oh, I guess that’s cool.  I just don’t get it.”  Then, last week, her reaction left me stumped.

It seems to be a topic of conversation every time I walk into my PR Campaigns class now.  “Did you see what Shaq posted today on Twitter? He’s so hilarious, you need to follow him!”  I found a blog by Niki D’Andrea  of the Phoenix New Times describing a Twittering Shaq story that I found particularly cool.  I was sure it was just what I needed to draw my roommate into the Twittering world.  Instead, when she finished reading the story, all she had to say was “Twitter must be paying Shaq for all of this publicity.”  I was speechless and, honestly, a little annoyed.  After all, how can someone be so critical and skeptical?! But, could she be right?

I came across a blog today by Steve Rubel all about the ethics of sponsored blog conversations – A.K.A. – bloggers who are paid to discuss certain topics.  Rubel discusses the controversial issue in conjunction with a Forrester Research study that said this sponsored sort of blogging is becoming more popular.  While Rubel discusses some ways to manage sponsored blogging, he also argues that this type of communication needs to be handled carefully, with a lot of disclosure and credibility.

I’ve always viewed blogging as independent thoughts.  People share what they’re thinking, without being guided by their employer or anyone else.  Is it just me, or does the idea of sponsored blogging/social media make things a lot more confusing and less reputable?  For some reason, a comparison to infomercials keeps coming to mind – people being paid to say they like a certain product.  I guess those aren’t all that bad, but then again, I don’t usually take what I see on infomercials very seriously.

I’m beginning to think that my roommate’s skeptisism might not be such a bad thing, after all.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still keep using and loving all of this new social media popping up everyday, but I’ll definitely start to keep a skeptical eye out for purchased thoughts.

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10 Responses to Are blogs becoming paid thoughts?

  1. Nancy Flores says:

    I kind of have mixed feelings about the purchased blogging. If they are being paid to write about certain things, would you consider that to be the same as a journalist, say a freelancer, being paid to write about their particular beat? Would the context of the blog play a role?

  2. Christine says:

    I’ve also been following Shaq on Twitter and I think he’s ridiculous. I never thought Twitter would be paying him.

    I think the problem with purchased blogging is that a lot of people, myself included, see blogs as a more opinionated media. We read blogs for opinion and analysis and if bloggers are being paid than that could (or at least would appear) to sway their opinions.

  3. tmpace says:

    I have the same issue with blogs. If I were a professional I may think about offering free tickets, dinner or merchandise to a blogger if they would talk about my product. Is this ethical? I am not sure. Some theater critics, travel writers and various features writers have no problem taking items and then writing about them. Blogs are not unbiased media. They are closer to controlled media than a newspaper. Bloggers write what they choose, and that may not always be the majority opinion.

    By the way Shaq is fun on twitter! I am glad you put this in your blog!

  4. viancavv says:

    I guess for me the idea of paid bloggers makes more sense when it is a celebrity situation. It’s ridiculous how interested people tend to be when a big time celebrity shares his/her personal opinion on ANYTHING. The celebrity factor plays a huge difference in my opinion. Blogging is an amazing media and I especially enjoy it when I know the blogger wrote it simply to share the news and opinion. If I knew they were being paid to discuss the topic, I highly doubt I’d be as interested.

  5. kristenih says:

    To be honest with you I did not even know that purchased blogging existed. So I find this post incredible. Ethics is a huge issue in this situation. Being paid to write about something inparticular can have sway on the way it is written. Blogs are based on opinion and independent thought. So involving that third party that pays to have you blog just doesn’t seem right to me. It’s funny how what started out as a simple way to communicate opinion is now being twisted to promote products.

  6. allund says:

    Shaq is hilarious on Twitter I love reading his posts. I hate the ideas of people paying people to blog. I like to think that they are blogging becasue they want to and not becasue they are being paid. I feel like it almost makes messages tainted.

  7. Mickey Siegel says:

    I can definitely see both sides of the argument. People seem to forget that blogging isn’t always just about one person giving their own opinion on a subject matter. Many companies use blogging in ways to communicate more directly with the public. Even though I feel that this form of blogging should still be very open, it is obvious that the people writing these blogs are specifically writing about positive topics involving their company. In its truest essence, blogging shouldn’t have allegiances, but that is an ideal world that we do not live in.

    Also, Shaq might just be the funniest person alive with his twitter account.

  8. sbushaw says:

    Good post! I agree with the fact that being skeptical isn’t such a bad thing, especially now with society being so media savvy. I’m going to go add Shaq on twitter now…haha!

  9. mjcavaleri says:

    I feel like this extends beyond blogging. Companies pay people all the time to improve their business. Salespeople pay customers for their business (be it through gifts or even giving them kickbacks).

    The thing that sucks with blogging is that company are basically paying people to influence US when this happens. If we want it to stop, don’t take blogs to heart.

    I feel like all this social media is getting out of hand, too. When are we going to say enough? I’m going to need a Rolodex for all my stupid user names and passwords if it keeps up.

    Oh and Shaq is perhaps the greatest Twitter. Got to love those “Kazaam!” quotes.

  10. cafuller says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments! After reading all of your feedback, I’m starting to think a little more positively about the paid blogging issue. It’s just a new way for companies to communicate and use opinion leaders. I think new methods just keep “popping up” all over the place, and sometimes they take us by surprise. I’m glad we’re all realizing, though, that it is important to keep a critical eye on the things we read, no matter the medium.

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