In last week’s Reader Poll I asked bloggers whether they had ever written a paid review on their blog.
Paid reviews on blogs have been something that have been going on for numerous years – however it’s only been in the last 18 months that they’ve become more mainstream as a result of the launch of numerous paid review services (including PayPerPost and ReviewMe).
The launch of these services (particularly PPP) caused a lot of controversy around the blogosphere – particularly because PPP launched with a policy which stopped bloggers disclosing that their post was a paid review) – but also because some bloggers didn’t see how a paid review fit on a blog at all.
PayPerPost and ReviewMe have both evolved in their services, changed policies and added features and many bloggers have made considerable money from the writing of reviews – however the debate continues (although has perhaps become less prominent.
My hope with this poll was to look at Paid Reviews 18 or so months after they rose to prominence to see how many bloggers had experimented with them.
The Poll Results
The results were illuminating (read below for both the opinion of 10 ProBlogger readers and myself):
Keep in mind that this is just a survey of ProBlogger readers (just over 500 of them) and will not be representative of the whole blogosphere (I’d say that the ‘yes’ vote is probably higher here than in the wider blogging community as this blog is read by people actively experimenting with different ways to make money blogging).
More interesting to me than the actual results of votes was the conversation around the poll. Let me pick out a few of the common themes mentioned in the comments thread there that highlight some of the debate:
Readers Pro Paid Reviews
“I see no problem in doing a “paid” review as long as you’re actually honest and upfront about whether you liked the product or not. And of course state in your post that it is a paid review.” – Sue
“I would write about products and services anyway so I’m happy to get paid for them. I’ve never done one yet that I wasn’t allowed to disclose as a paid review though. That sounds underhand to me.” – ChisB
“I make a significant amount of money doing paid reviews. It also helps me brush on my writing skills. I want my review to be accepted well among my readers, as well as, the sponsor. This has made my writing skills progress in a positive direction. My reputation for honest reviews is starting to take off too. All this equals respect, which is why I started doing reviews in the first place.” – Lori
“They allow me, as a mother of three, to work from home – and have more control over my working life. So I would say that – yes, I love them!” – Lisa Marie Mary
“I write paid reviews occasionally but I ‘bury’ them in between good, relevant posts so I will not scare readers off. The ratio is maybe at least 7:1. Seven good posts and one paid review.” Grace
Readers Anti Paid Reviews
“I think in the grand scheme of things, there is uncertainty about a blogger being paid to review items. Really, the uncertainty comes from the unscrupulous few that write anything to make the product presenter happy, rather than writing honest reviews, though sometimes the payment is based upon the writing writing what the prodcut present wishes them to write.” – Bill
“I do not do paid reviews. I worry that if I started doing them, it would taint the perceived credibility of my other posts. Even though I would not write falsely positive review, and even with full disclosure, I think that credibility questions remains for many readers.” – Carleenp
“I think paid reviews are biased, bloggers just write to please the who is paying, and hardly touch the truth on things. but heck; if you can please the shepherd, why would you care about the sheeps right?” – Nelson
“Just a hypothetical question: Would you want to eat at a restaurant where the reviewer/recommender was paid by said restaurant? Not saying I wouldn’t do them, just….” – Mark
My Thoughts on Paid Reviews
My own opinion on paid reviews has not really changed in 18 months. Here’s how I quickly summarize it.
- I’m not anti paid reviews – but I choose not to do them (and never have).
- I don’t mind other bloggers doing them as long as they disclose that they are paid and as long as they are free to give a true opinion of the product or service being reviewed.
- I would advise bloggers who do paid reviews to be aware that there are potential ‘costs’ of doing paid reviews on a blog. As mentioned above in numerous places by others – the issue of trust and credibility come into play. Some readers will not appreciate them and some will even react against them. This is of course the same for other ways of monetizing a blog (ie some bloggers react against advertising and affiliate programs too). I see some bloggers particularly hurting their reputation with paid posts by either writing too many of them, writing obviously biased reviews and/or writing reviews of products and services that are not particularly relevant to the normal content of their blog.
As I’ve written previously on the topic:
“The key with successful paid reviews is similar to the key to successful content of any sort – make it worthwhile for your readers and you’ll not only earn a few extra dollars for your review but also help grow your blog into something worthwhile.”
I’m sure the debate will rage on though – if you’ve not yet had your say – you’re welcome to continue to discuss the issue below.