By Darren Gilbert
It also prompted the Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA) to host a debate at Quirk headquarters in Cape Town on 17 July to discuss the ‘rules of engagement’ between bloggers and agencies. Should bloggers really charge brands; and if yes, what are they entitled to? It was a discussion that unfortunately didn’t have any clear-cut answers. But it did provide a few points that need to be considered when, as an agency, you decide to approach a blogger to cover a campaign or product.
While Retroviral owner and regular blogger
, Mike Sharman was unable to attend the discussion, he made an important post-debate point that needs to be mentioned first and foremost: “Bloggers are a media channel.” That means, according to him, that the quality of their audience (as well as their engagement) should determine the value. Now, while he is right – and Quirk MD, James McKay agrees, adding that “paying bloggers means buying their channel,” it is a little more complicated than just handing over money to those with the most popular blogs.
According to Dan Nash of Bangersandnash
, it firstly needs to come down to education. “[Agencies] need to know what they are looking for, how they want to measure it, and how they want to use the information. Are you looking at reach? Are you looking at exposure? Are you trying to get a positive brand association? Audience, engagement, loyalty, and the correct brand alignment should always be taken into account when considering a blogger or blog.”
In saying this, it’s about ensuring that you always get the most bang for your buck. “You can get 10 people with smaller hits but these [are] people [who] know what they are talking about,” says Nash. “They have an audience that is very responsive and want that kind of content. I’d rather spend my money there than look at someone with a large following. Going back to education, I think if they are educated, there won’t be this issue of how we are paying.”
In thinking along these lines, there could be the perception that the question of whether or not brands should pay bloggers has been answered. It hasn’t. According to memeburn
editor, Michelle Atagana, one needs to first define what ‘paid’ means. “Do you want to get paid for advertising? [Or] do you want to get paid for mentioning brands?” Atagana has a problem with the second, adding that it could conflict with one’s ethics. Nash is a little more forthright. “It doesn’t matter how the blogger thinks he/her should be paid. Its rather how [much] the PR and ad agency [are] willing to pay for things and how much they are willing to offer.”
Nash agrees with the philosophy of Cape Town Girl: “‘I’ve made something. You want it. Pay for it.” However, while he certainly agrees with it, he also believes it’s quite broad. “It all comes down, again, to the specific blogger. Some can be paid in product, others in cash.” It’s a point which McKay believes could lead to an interesting future and further debate. “We could be looking at blogging as a channel that moves out of the earned space and into the paid space instead.”
If that were to occur, then certain “terms of engagement”, as Quirk social media strategist, Catherine Scott puts it, need to be adhered to. “There needs to be a conversation beforehand. Certain things need to be in place first.” One such thing that needs to be in place is a rate card. Unfortunately, as Scott continues, whenever she approaches bloggers and asks for it, they can’t supply it because they don’t have one.
Another thing that needs to be understood, according to Sharman, and this is something which Nash agrees to as well, is that while blogger can charge for content, advertisers don’t necessarily have to pay. “Advertisers don’t have to pay – this is the same scenario in traditional platforms,” says Sharman. “It’s how you develop that platform and whether or not you have a real engaged audience that will determine the value of your musings.”
“Bloggers have worked for their audience, whatever size it may be, and if agencies want to use that channel (their blog) then they must be prepared to pay,” concludes Nash. No channel should be free, no matter what people say.
What do you think? Should brands pay to feature on someone’s blog?