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Todd Sheppard


Blogvertorials – How NOT To Sell Your Soul For $200

The value of journalism lies in the information presented and the credibility of the information. Those define the quality of the “product” being presented. Product is devalued of either of those suffer.

This is a key reason why respected newspapers and magazines have long made sure that readers have no doubt that advertorials — paid information with a vested interest — are seen as such from the outset.

Two methods address this: Immediate and visible disclosure and format.

Disclosure must be “in your face” and presented even before a headline is read. Slipping it in later doesn’t cut it. After all, if journalists (and I include the best bloggers in this category) build up a high credibility and trust factor, they’ll suffer if one of their loyal readers gets a paragraph or two into a piece before they realize the trusted journalist is now a mouthpiece for a product.

By that standard, Bordeaux is all about anticipation, is a damn good effort that almost works. But while the disclosure is there, the reader still gets suckered into reading things before realizing this is a paid ad. I enjoy this blog. I trust the author. But I felt duped.

Format matters as well. Quality print publications prohibit typefaces and other design elements of an advertorial from imitating genuine editorial information. And ethical television networks prohibit their anchors and reporters from promoting products.

Format matters because the fonts and design form a psychological bond, make an impression, create the sense that the advertorial feels like the editorial and is, therefore, just as believable as editorial.

Length also matters as a format consideration. For example, if blog posts regularly run 250 to 500 words, then a blogvertorial that goes 1,000 or 2,000 words is off-putting. Time is an issue. Nobody has enough of it. Readers are a lot more likely to read a 250-word blogvertorial than one which runs on and on.

Readers who click away from a blogvertorial because it is too long or because they feel duped into reading do disservice to the advertiser and damage blog credibility. Readers who do return will do so with a skeptical attitude they did not have before.

Lack of credibility not only damages the editorial product and blogger’s reputation, but also damages the site as a suitable venue for advertising.

Some of the very best journalism online comes fromĀ  bloggers, but to continue elevating the respect for the craft requires the ability to handle the blog-vertorial in a way that maintains credibility and still provides an income stream. Immediate and prominent disclosure and a format that differentiates between ad and editorial can accomplish that.

It doesn’t matter whether a blog gets 100 visitors a week or 100,000 per day. Devaluing credibility devalues the information and sets the stage for a long-term decline in credibility. It’s not worth $200 to flush your credibility down the toilet. Unless your self-esteem is so slow that you feel you’re worth about $200.