Internet journalism. It’s pretty big business these days, everyone’s doing it. Hell, we’re doing it right now. It’s come to the point where the scales have definitely tipped away from print being the bastion of journalistic power, and this is especially true in the tech world. If a company wants to get its product out there and heard of thee days, they know that they have to get in with the tech journalists. If they blogs are saying good things, we’re all more likely to consider the product on offer.
This is where sponsored blog posts come from, companies offering cash for blogs to look at their products. Now, there’s a difference between a sponsored post and a paid review. Sponsored reviews and posts are the company offering the blog money in return for their opinion on the product, regardless of whether they say it’s any good or not. That’s the risk the company takes, that the blog may take their money and then end up not liking what they’re reviewing. The paid review on the other hand, is more of the slip the cash under the table and get a good review regardless of whether the product is any good.
The line between the two is hazy at best, and even then, some are of the opinion sponsored content is akin to paid review, some think they are separate entities.
The article, posted yesterday, details an email he received from LG:
“So enjoy this, LG. The G2 is now tainted and will probably sink. I’m no crusader nor am I innocent of past crimes but this is terrible form.
Hi TechCrunch team,
This is REDACTED from Burson Marsteller Korea and we currently represent LG Mobile as its PR agency, handling the global PR for LG Mobile.
I’d like to inquire possible options on media tie-up opportunities with TechCrunch as LG is launching its new smartphone, the LG G2 in August.
To briefly explain, what kind of topics we are looking to put out:
1. Overall product review on the LG G2 (Display, Design, UX, etc): This can be a series of feature articles
2. In-depth review on a specific feature of the phone (For example – Battery or Display)
3. Product review of the LG G2 in comparison with competitor’s products: 1:1 comparison or 1 against many, including a torching test
It would be great if you can propose the types of sponsored packages as well as a rough pricing information on them.
Please let us know if you have any questions!
The comments section on the article is, predictably, riven somewhere down the middle, but the whole thing just brings to light a certain trouble with internet journalism. It’s such an open forum, and now has so much real power over the zeitgeist, that it’s becoming difficult to work out where the hack journalism stops and the real journalism begins. Like we said, everyone and their dog is blogging these days, the internet is awash with usually well written, but unidentifiably researched articles.
The question remains, we all know that companies want coverage, and are willing to pay for it, so where is the line? If an article is clearly labeled “sponsored” is it still a “paid review”? Is the writer of the above mentioned article practicing his own form of internet policing, or is he actually breaking his own journalistic integrity because he’s posting what are probably assumed to be private emails in public to name and shame the company he feels has done things wrong?
It’s tricky, but at Kumulos we’re going to have to come down on LG’s side. Asking for content for your new product, paid, is not wrong. It smacks a little of wanting a cheap ad, which is essentially what a review is, but there doesn’t seem to be anything in that e-mail that stipulates that the writer do any more than they normally do with new products anyway.
The big irony here is of course, if TC want to be current, they’re going to post a review of the new LG phone anyway.