‘Influencer Programs’ Likely to Spread screams the headline. “…bloggers gotta eat, and marketers gotta market,” wrote Josh Bernoff on his blog Groundswell.
With all due respect to Josh, I take exception. Buyers are the very beginning of the blogging economic ecosystem and they value credible sources. Accepting pay for play undermines that credibility. Once that sense independence is compromised, and that credibility is in question, I believe readerships will vote by absence, which for bloggers will be a point of no return.
We’ve seen this before in other segments, such as technology industry analysts. Remember the audacious growth estimates that came under fire when the dot-com era collapsed? It is a black label from which Aberdeen Group will likely never recover.
You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.
The Wall Street Journal’s continued success, despite the hard times facing the newspaper industry, is a prime example. The WSJ is a fiercely independent and credible news source. It hires the best writers and in my opinion, publishes the best material of any media outlet in its class. This is why despite a recession, the WSJ saw an increase in subscriptions in 2008. Online subscriptions for example were up 7 percent last year.
A credible reputation takes time, perhaps even years to develop, but it can be lost in a single bad move. This is a big part of what makes a reputation so valuable. As Henry Ford is attributed as saying, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” Readers will see through a sell-out: marketers beware.
Photo credit: Flickr, Kenny Louie (CC BY 2.0)
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