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Paid Reviews On Blogs – [POLL RESULTS]

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):

Picture 2-17

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.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I think that there is a place for paid reviews, and a lot of people abuse them by posting them so frequently. One on occasion is ok, but one a day or every couple of days is too much in my books.

  2. Hyder says:

    I just had a discussion about this with another blogger and both of us agreed that , “You need to utilize the power you have credibly.”

    Power meaning your written word here.

  3. Lori says:

    I think it’s important to have an established readership before doing paid reviews and make it clear from the start that sponsored posts will be a part of your blog. I have said this over and over again to my readers and they all seem to understand that paid blogging is just part of what I do. As a matter of fact, I recently told my readers (on my personal blog) that there would be an increase in paid posts through the holidays so I could earn some extra Christmas money. There were response was very accepting and appreciative of the heads up. I think it all boils down to what kind of person you are. You can still be a super nice person and do paid reviews, you just have to let you readers see that. That’s my 2 cents;)

  4. Darren, I really like how you have quotes from commenters/respondants, followed by your own take. I will be blatantly copying that on my own blog! :D

  5. Dan Schawbel says:

    Paid reviews are only worthwhile if they are honest and not swayed by compensation. That is from the readers standpoint though.

  6. I don’t currently do paid reviews although I am considering doing so. I think most people are okay with it for the most part as long as there’s plenty of quality content to go along with it.

    Most blogs I visit or subscribe to publish articles occasionally that do not interest me anyway. I simply skip over those articles. I think the paid reviews are like that for a lot of people. If they aren’t interested they just skip over it. It doesn’t bother them because they know we’re just trying to earn a few bucks.

  7. Joe says:

    I’ve just started with paid reviews on the website and I have to admit that you can earn a lot of money from it. I can see how it would be distracting and not good for your long term readers though, I try to post as frequently as possible so that people will get their content and not just reviews.

  8. pete says:

    I was anti-PPP for some time until I read this post:

    http://veganmomma.com/blog/2007/11/06/stephen-kings-the-mist/

    This is an excellent example of paid posting. A good balance of personal experience and product promotion. I didn’t even realize it was a sponsored post until the end.

  9. Michael Woo says:

    Ah~~ I missed the polls..

    My online income largely comes from paid postings – 95% of it

    The recent slap by Google was pretty severed, I lost 2 PR4 blog and 1 PR3.. I think my next month’s paid posting income would be reduced by 50%..

    Nevertheless I’m trying to diversify, paid postings have become something useless – especially with PayPerPost..

    If I may ask, how is your income broken down Darren? :)

  10. bmunch says:

    I have just started doing paid reviews on my site. But as my blog is still small, I think the impact is not too much.

    My take is the same with ads on a blog. You do it from the start, let your readers decide to read your blog or not. Those that stay will be your loyal readers.

    As always, don’t overdo it.

  11. Genesis says:

    I do write paid reviews on occasion, I personally feel that if the blogger takes care, they can be a good addition to a blog. For example, if you write about a website that is actually helpful to your readers and get paid for it, I don´t see a problem.

    The issue is when a blog on “how to clean your house” suddenly starts sporting ads for Ferraris or business loans.

  12. Etienne Teo says:

    Just don’t overdo it, i always think 2 reviews on a monthly basis is enough. Not more than that.

  13. Ginene says:

    I have done about 20 and I see it as no different as someone adding an affiliate link in their post disguising it. They are still blogging for money.

  14. Ryan says:

    I think that paid posts shouldn’t be frowned upon as much as they are. Comparing blogging to print media there are only a few magazines (only Consumer Reports comes to mind but there may be more) that do not accept advertising so that they retain legitimacy for their reviews. I have had a few friends work for our small town newspaper and ads are what drive the number of pages of the paper – the articles just fill in the space. And you can bet none of those articles are written to irritate an advertiser.

  15. Kelli says:

    Yes, 1 or 2 reviews per month is maximum and staying honest.

  16. Bill says:

    Wow, thanks for including my comment Darren – I just wish I would have proofread it better before hitting the submit button when I posted it. That act has led me to write a post at my blog about commenting on other blogs, writing good, and proofreading before you hit the submit button. This also led me to read the featured post this week, which led me to read your post titled 10 Ways to Hurt Your Blog’s Brand by Commenting on Other Blogs here at Problogger. See point number 4 about poorly thought through (in my mind = not proofread) comments.

    Thanks again, happy blogging!

  17. ChrisB says:

    Darren, one thing: I’m not the one who said that. It was “about blogging.” No harm done.

  18. Colin King says:

    If people see a problem with paid reviews, then what about when an affiliate reviews a product that he/she is trying to sell? If either type of reviewer lies or bends the truth then it’s only their own reputation that gets tarnished. Most of us can spot it a mile off, and that type wont be around for long or be successful in real terms. So no, I have no problem with paid reviews.

  19. I’m not sure 2 reviews a month wouldn’t earn you enough money to make it worthwhile.

  20. Turkey says:

    I think most people are okay with it for the most part as long as there’s plenty of quality content to go along with it.

  21. Michael Beck says:

    I’m certainly not turned off by paid reviews unless every review by a particular author is absolutely glowing and obviously full of press release glitter and inaccuracies.

    For example, I’ve been tuned in to John Chow’s blog for the past couple of months and in the paid reviews I’ve read by him I haven’t seen him pulling any punches on the good, the bad, or the ugly of each site/product he reviews.

    I liken it to a magazine or newspaper that has one of those ads that look like a featured article but are clearly labeled “Advertisement” at the top. Sometimes they’re interesting, other times they’re nothing but PR fluff. Either way, they’re paying the bills and as long as they are clearly labeled for what they are, it is up to the reader to read the piece or not.

    The big difference between the two is instead of a PR person from the company the review (ad) is for doing the generic writing, the writing is being done by one of the blog’s major contributors and will tailor the review with the blog’s voice that the readership has come to know and expect.

  22. Gala says:

    I’m sent free merchandise & products by companies all the time. I have had companies ask me if I’ll mention their product in exchange for some free stuff, & I always tell them my policy — which is that if it’s not something I would spend money on myself, I won’t recommend it (or even mention it) to my readers. That having been said, American Apparel sent me some clothing recently, knowing my policy, & because I love their stuff, I reviewed all of it. I think the real key is transparency & TRUE integrity. It can be easy to get swayed by the ego-trip of free stuff, but really you just have to focus on what is most important — & I think that tends to be building & maintaining the trust of your readers.

  23. Mauro C. says:

    Hey friends…

    Something is going on again in Googleplex?

    I was cheking my Pagerank and all the datacenter was down!!!
    Some are off… and others display PR N/A

    Anyone knows whats going on?
    I’m newbie here :)

  24. heelcandy says:

    No paid reviews for me!

  25. Brad V. says:

    While I didn’t vote in this poll, I’ll add that I fall into the “anti paid reviews” camp. If someone is paying you to “review” their product/service, then it’s not really a review – it’s more of an endorsement. There’s a big difference.

    Even if a blogger is very creative in how they write the paid review, I guarantee they won’t be saying many bad things about it. As the old saying goes, you never bite the hand that feeds you.

  26. Nick says:

    I signed up for an account with Pay Per Post and some of the other review sites. However, I have yet to write one. None of the opportunities appear to be relevant to my blog. Most of the opportunities are spammy.

  27. I still haven’t monetized my site with paid reviews.

    I hope to do it once I reach around 200,000 hits per month. It looks like I’ll be pushing to monetize it by late November or early December after I just reach the same amount of traffic as last month and its only the 9th of Nov!

    Cheers,
    Carlo

  28. Missy says:

    Brad V:

    I’ve read many reviews on a variety of blogs, and what i notice is that the type and style of reviews varies wildly. John Chow does regular reviews on his blog, and he tells it like it is, and the advertiser is not going to lose in any way shape or form. Why? Because he brings in traffic for an advertiser, whether the review is positive or negative, it will fulfill its intention.

    Some folks will gloss a product or company, while others will be more objective. Some will write one 1 a month, while others will write 20. Some will disclose, while others won’t, etc

    Paid reviews vary alot by blog and blogger.

  29. I think it depends on what the subject of your site is. If you are teaching about finance and do paid reviews of financial services, I’m sure I would wonder what the true relationship is between the blogger and the advertiser.

    If their is no disclaimer about being paid for the review, I would have to build up trust of this blogger over time.

  30. Kelvin Kao says:

    You know what would be interesting?

    It would be interesting if the policy was that every reviewer is not only required to indicate that it’s a paid review, but also to disclose how much they were paid to write that particular review. I think it would be interesting to see the “he’s so cheap that he would write a review for just $2″ or “this product must be good that he’s willing to write a review for it for $2… almost free!” effects.

  31. Thanks so much, Darren, for posting my opinion on the subject – I appreciate that! And I’m glad you brought it up – I think it is a very important time for us to be talking about these things, as so many of us have been in the mindset of possibly seeking a new approach to things.

  32. Mike Huang says:

    Dang…it’s because of all the sites charging for “REVIEWS” that I finally couldn’t take it anymore and had to open up my own blog.

    I think that getting paid to review someone else’s blog is not an humane thing to do. We’re all bloggers, we should help each other.

    -Mike

  33. David says:

    I was not aware that Paid Posts existed. It seems like a good idea for those that want to advertise their products, but I think that it would lead to what has already been mentioned; distrust of the blogger and dishonesty by the blogger. I think that it would be hard for me to trust the blogger when they are being paid to write about something in particular. I would like to be paid for my opinion of a movie on my blog. I want to get paid by atracting people to read my reviews and enjoy them and in turn click on advertisements on my blog. I do not want people to feel that what I am posting is swayed by money and I think that I am acheiving that currently.

  34. Prince John says:

    Well,

    I was totally against this paid to review thing, but has since changed mind and now a pro-paid-reviewer.

    I’m a full time website content writer in a small company and I get very little time for blogging, forget about any promotion.

    Once I reviewed several magazines that I have never heard about, which went into a great website that offers magazine subscriptions.

    Similarly, I have also reviewed some software I have never used. See, my reviews appear in credible, professional websites with thousands of customers.

    I know people buy products because of my review.

    The money I get for writing those 500+ word reviews are too cheap to tell.

    On the other hand, I get paid 5-20 dollars for a 50-100 word paid review post.

    I think it does me at least better, in the financial front.

    I’ve put aside the concept of credibility, a long time back. No website in the internet is that credible.

    Whenever I write a paid review, I always make sure I include a line – This post is brought to you by – businessname.com

    I think that line does better than the thousands of affiliate websites that pile up fake testimonials, reviews and pass them as ‘real’ thing.

    Take it or not, it is the thing. But, bloggers are under scrutiny, because you know who the person is behind the blog.

    And people tell at your face you can’t accept payment for writing something in your blog, but will head straight to the ‘professional review’ websites.

    now, I don’t care.

  35. 66tx says:

    I don’t currently do paid reviews although I am considering doing so. I think most people are okay with it for the most part as long as there’s plenty of quality content to go along with it.

  36. firmanwy says:

    I just want to do the paid reviews… maybe I’ll be thinking again.!