I was a tad horrified at a recent conference to hear someone on a media panel say ‘why would anyone want to pay a blogger?”
The panel discussion was angling at the ethics of paid contributors to review sites that don’t disclose their relationship with a company or organisation.
For example, a tech blogger gets flown to Sydney to the Samsung Galaxy SIII launch.
That person should disclose that they are an invited guest of Samsung. Any payment or gratuity that person receives should be made clear to their audience.
In my experience, most quality bloggers are very open with disclosure and most audiences can smell a kickback a mile away so the whole thing self-regulates.
What the ‘why would anyone want to pay a blogger” statement doesn’t factor in is the difference between a ‘vanity’ blogger and a paid journalist or contributor.
One example is the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post has salaried editors and journalists that form the backbone of their content. Those people are expected to work certain hours, attend meetings and meet deadlines with quality contributions. Those contributions can come in the form of articles or blogs. Advertising revenues pay for the wages of these people. Are Huffington Post employees paid bloggers?
So why would anyone want to pay a blogger?
Because there is a global market for quality content and people should be financially remunerated for producing good work.
The Huffington Post also has people that contribute content that aren’t paid by Huffington Post but are paid by their respective organisations to share ideas and get a viewpoint across. HuffPost provides a microphone for interest groups and politicians to speak to an audience. So John Kerry obviously isn’t paid to write a blog post but his motivations for contributing should be very clear. Consultants and figureheads often ‘vanity blog’ to get their brands in front of people and demonstrate thought leadership. Nothing new there.
Sometimes I will write a post on this blog and have an editor contact me to produce a paid article for their website or magazine on the same topic. Does that make me a paid blogger? Or does that then make me a freelancer? What’s the difference and does it really matter? If I write an article for a magazine do I have to declare that I was paid x cents per word?
The overarching business model of media is quite straightforward and a blanket assumption that blogger’s contributions should never be paid for or that paying for blog content is in some way unethical is a bit simplistic.
A more useful question is why would anybody not want to pay a blogger?