Digital Marketing

All About the Benjamins: When Bloggers Moved to Sponsored Posts

Our media relations team here at CRT/tanaka held a roundtable this past week to discuss our current blogger relations practices, and I thought it would be a great topic for a two-part series. In this first post, I’ll take a look at the evolution of blogger relations during the past 10 years. This timeline applies to independently owned blogs, not those owned by larger news organizations.

2003-2005

The Rise of the Blogger

When I first started in PR, I was terrified of pitching bloggers – specifically mommy bloggers. I’d read horror stories of bloggers throwing PR professionals under the bus, publicly shaming them on their sites.

Soon, I discovered a little research on the front end and a targeted pitch was the right combination for receiving editorial coverage. When I pitched recipes, I found that providing the right assets like excellent food photography, simple dishes and food to sample was the key to success. Bloggers just wanted to be treated like journalists, not second-class online citizens – fair enough! There appeared to be two types of bloggers at this point – some were just individuals who enjoyed writing and having an outlet they could share with friends and family. Others were hoping to use their blogs to lead to a book deal, or make it as a journalist for a print or online publication. Perhaps their sites could even become popular enough to sell.

From a blogger relations perspective, respect was the name of the game.

(Why 2003? Check out these time capsules – OSAfoundation, TechDirt)

2005

Blogger Conferences are on the Rise

Bloggers start meeting, mingling and sharing best practices at top blogger conferences like BlogHer and BlogWorld. In addition to content tips, best practices, building readership and SEO they start to discuss the possibility of monetization. Could advertising be the way to go?

Even bloggers who were in it just for fun – not initially interested in monetization start tuning in, ready to leverage their influence for cash.

2005-2010

Advertise to Monetize

Bloggers start upping the ante, using SEO to drive more traffic to their sites. They receive advertisers. OK, so no book deal, but this might pan out. They wait to start raking in the ad dollars… and they wait… and they wait… still waiting…

At this point, they’re still taking our good, relevant pitches for post ideas. They are still maintaining an editorial approach to their blogs, using them as a features new site – a resource for other interested in the products, recipes and other items they are reviewing and writing about.

On occasion, I would receive an email back asking for $50-$100 in return for a blog post. At this point, our clients were still looking at blogger relations as “earned” editorial, so we usually passed on these opportunities.

In addition, companies like MomCentral cropped up, creating mom blogger networks that brands could tap into for a fee.

2012 – Present

Turning to the Sponsored Post

Having 1) Not sold their blogs for the big bucks and 2) Not received nearly enough money for advertising, the bloggers switch tactics, moving to the “sponsored post model.” It happened in the blink of an eye… and those days of $50 posts? Long gone. We recently had a client offer a group of bloggers they had identified as ambassadors $1,000 and product in return for three sponsored posts and a smattering of tweets, Facebook and Pinterest updates. The bloggers’ answer? No. How about $1,000 for one post.

It’s official, we’ve witnessed the end of the earned blog post.

Like it or not, the age of blogger advertorial is ON, and it’s working for them. Brands are buying in, and bloggers are seeing more money come in from their blogs than ever before.

Next time, we’ll take a look at best practices for navigating these sponsored blog post to ensure you’re getting the most for your clients.

(image courtesy of redtri.com)

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About Rosalie Morton:

As a senior account executive, Rosalie leads PadillaCRT clients’ traditional and social media relations initiatives and provides crisis counsel. She has successfully placed speakers at high-profile industry conferences, submitted winning award entries, planned events and media tours, managed social media campaigns, served as editor for client blogs and garnered placements in top-tier traditional and social media. She can often be seen on the third floor of the Richmond office, trying to find her dog, Petey, who has most likely snuck into someone else's office to beg for food.

4 Comments on “All About the Benjamins: When Bloggers Moved to Sponsored Posts

  1.  by  Jeremy
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    It is true that established bloggers are able to ask for more money now, but for every company that is legit there are dozens of new ones that are sketchy.

    We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the last year of new advertising companies demanding free or cheap posts, cussing us out when we decline, and generally ruining the advertising method for all involved. In fact, a year ago I’d say we would come to an agreement with 50-75% of everyone who emailed us. Now, with similar rates as before and a much larger site, we only are getting 5-10% conversion.

    The new companies are, quite literally, wasting our time.

  2.  by  Kristy Sammis / @kristysf
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    This is a really succinct summary of how the “monetized blog” phenomenon has progressed — and hopefully helpful to those who don’t know! We run into clients all the time who think “paying bloggers” is a new and totally wacky thing to do!

    For what it’s worth — and I say this as a founder of a company that helps brands find the right bloggers to work with, having come from BlogHer myself — the industry is still changing pretty dramatically. Plenty of bloggers HAVE made considerable incomes from ad network rev-sharing and sponsored content over the last five years. But as display ads produce crap results and CPMs continue to diminish, it seems everyone is jumping on the “native advertising” bandwagon without much of a roadmap.

    You know, where “native advertising” is the newest way to say “advertorial.”

    Bottom line, this whole industry is moving toward a scalable, affordable model that gives brands the benefits of user-generated content (from bloggers) without fleecing either the brand or the content-producers.

  3.  by  Rosalie Morton
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    Jeremy – Thanks for your comment! Are those advertising companies you refer to agencies? or blogger marketing companies like MomCentral? Just curious as to who has been approaching you, because it can help us do our job better.

    Kristy – “Native advertising”… isn’t it funny all of the names we come up with that mean essentially the same thing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I’m glad you found the post useful.

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