As a soon to be graduated master in communication science (shame that doesn’t really sound very impressive) I thought I’d dedicate this week’s post to a media-related subject. The word blogvertorial might not ring a bell for everyone out there, so I’ll explain briefly what I’m actually going to talk about (social media and advertising connoisseurs, you may skip this part). A blogvertorial is the blog equivalent of an advertorial: a paid advertisement that is made to look like an editorial piece. They can usually be recognised by the word ‘advertorial’ or something similar in tiny writing somewhere on the page.
Now blogs have become a popular platform for people to vent their opinions about products and brands and some blogs have a vast audience reading those blog posts, they have become an interesting addition to some brands’ marketing plan. Some blogs don’t only sell advertisment space in the form of banners or small text ads but also write articles requested and paid by marketers. Some make this clear by adding a little ‘*this article was sponsored by’ disclaimer, but others fail to do so, which makes it very difficult for the reader to distinguish advertisements from editorial content.
This phenomenon came to my attention while indulging in my ultimate guilty pleasure: watching beauty videos on YouTube. After a while I started noticing that a lot of these so called Beauty Gurus’ ‘fell in love’ (their lingo, not mine) with certain products at the same time. Hmm odd, I thought and when reading through comments on those videos I noticed several people saying they were ‘sponsored’. After a little bit of research I realised that these sponsored blog posts or YouTube videos are quite a common practice. You even have websites that function as online brokers for companies that want to buy blog posts and bloggers who are willing to be bought. Oh the sense of outrage (slight exaggeration) I felt when I realised I was being tricked!
After some more research I found out that these so-called blogvertorials without a disclaimer are technically illegal in Belgium. Following the example of a directive from the European Commission any form of advertisement has to be disclosed as such so that the reader can’t mistake an advertorial/blogvertorial for an editorial article or blogpost. The Federal Trade Commission in the US has similar guidelines that also apply to the blogosphere.
Selling your blogging soul?
I’m speaking purely hypothetical here, no way any advertiser would pay me to write a sponsored article for my modest (but dearly appreciated) audience, but I think that apart from the legal objections you should think twice before writing a sponsored blog post. To me being paid to write blog posts seems a bit like selling your blogger-soul, maybe the copy writing should be left to actual copywriters. I also think that when you don’t disclose the endorsement, but your readers find out anyway this will probably be very harmful to your blog’s reputation. If you want to be a full time blogger writing blogvertorials might be necessary to pay the bills but I still believe you should make it clear to your readers when it’s just you talking and when you are being paid to love a certain product or brand. Blogvertorials: for me a definite nay.