Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This Blog Is Not Looking For A Sponsor

Forbes magazine recently debuted AdVoice, its new sponsored blog platform designed to "allow marketers to connect directly with the Forbes audience by enabling them to create content." Immediately, the blog came under fire for bearing too striking of a resemblance to the site's editorial blogs.

The American Society of Magazine editors weighed in saying that if the page was in fact paid for then it violates the basic principle of clear separation between advertiser content and editorial content. In addition, the Public Relations Society of America said to be wary of this practice.

Obviously, this is a problem for Forbes. A lack of transparency and separation between paid ads and news content will over time negatively affect the its credibility, trust and overall brand.

However, I'm positive Forbes will make the necessary fix; they will tweak the page and make it even more obvious who's words are being read.

But the root of problem goes deeper. The challenge to monetize internet properties is constantly getting more difficult, resulting in entities like Forbes to experiment with giving advertisers more. Consequently, some entities will walk an ethical tightrope trying to survive online.

AdVoice's first sponsor (SAP), defended the tactic from critics saying its an opportunity for "practitioners to share real life experiences and insights" and that it's about "conversation, not conversion."

Under normal circumstances I would agree with their take on blogging; however, the sponsored blog is a bit different. SAP pays Forbes to share its target demographic and let SAP speak to them; a transaction that makes it no longer just about conversation. Payment is not needed for conversation.

Perhaps most interesting is each has something that the other wants. Forbes has credibility and trust of an important audience. SAP has a need to advertise. Forbes wants those ad dollars. SAP wants that audience. So they share.

The problem is the more they share, the more they contribute to each others' problem. As Forbes sells more to SAP, consumers will find them more annoying and be less trusting. Conversely, the more SAP buys from Forbes the worse their advertising model becomes. The clutter builds, the ads become less effective, driving down price and creating the need for more ads.

And the cycle will continue.

As always, thank you for reading. Comments are welcome by clicking below.

No comments: