Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

About This Blog

Josh’s Tweet Stream

  • More tweets

« Forrester Groundswell Awards -- I love the diversity | Main | Who are your best customers? »

August 04, 2009

To Augie Ray: Thanks for the offer, but we don't take sponsorships

By Josh Bernoff

Augie Ray offered us $500 to write about his blog. But as he figured out, Forrester doesn't allow research or blogs to accept sponsorships. So I'll decline.

There's a little confusion here, part of it intentional on Augie's part, so let me clear things up.

We've only written about what marketers should do. They already provide samples and other exchanges of value to bloggers. We say it's ok for them to pay bloggers directly, as long as they require that the payment be disclosed, and allow the blogger to say whatever he or she wants about the product. That's sponsored conversation.

We haven't written about what bloggers should do, so I'll do that now. Bloggers should do whatever they want. If you want to be a blogger that doesn't accept any sort of sponsorship or payment, that's fine. Many bloggers are like this since they want to avoid any sort of suggestion of undue influence. This includes Forrester blogs and Seth Godin.

Some bloggers allow ads to appear on their site, including news outlets. That's fine.

Some bloggers have posts on their site that talk about sponsors, which is clearly noted. This is fine.

Some bloggers will accept money in exchange for posting on a topic with disclosure and authenticity. This is sponsored conversation, and it's what Chris Brogan did, for example. We think that's fine, others disagree.

Some bloggers will take money to do anything, regardless of disclosure or authenticity. I don't have any to point out to you, since such bloggers have no credibility and generally, no audience. If you are a marketer and you find one like this, avoid him. If you are a blogger like this, good luck to you, but we want nothing to do with you.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference To Augie Ray: Thanks for the offer, but we don't take sponsorships:

» Forrester and the smell of "sponsored conversations" from www.josschuurmans.com
Augie, you wrote in a comment to Josh's piece that he saved you $500. How come? Now that Josh delivered, aren't you going to hand him the $500 you promised? [Read More]


Augie Ray

Josh, Thanks for the response and the clarification. It probably is a relevant and necessary clarification to make, since you did tell bloggers they could retain credibility under certain circumstances (http://ow.ly/j12D), which gave the impression that Forrester was furnishing guidance to bloggers on the topic of paid blog posts.

I think this is an interesting conversation to have, because I believe we're discussing two sides to the same coin. At face value, I agree with you--bloggers can and will do whatever they want. But brands thrive on trust and affinity. For decades, brand managers and media planners have agonized over the right place to put advertising, because being associated with the wrong magazine, TV show, or newspaper could be damaging. If the blogosphere is to be a wild and unruly place full of diverse and often dubious practices, is this really a place where brands should play (even if disclosure and the illusion of independence is maintained)?

While I agree with you that the BEST way for brands to buy attention on blogs (other than via traditional online advertising) is with complete disclosure and transparency, is this really enough to protect brands? Can bloggers be truly independent when being paid, and what does this perceived conflict of interest do to blog reader's perception of the brand? Is a blogger inclined to write honestly (and negatively) when being paid? If they do, will the brand pay again? Will other brands pay this blogger once they see a paid blog post that diminishes rather than enhances the brand? And since readers recognize the potential conflict of interest, doesn’t this denigrate the value of the paid blog post?

I'd love to see Forrester take a stronger and more cautious stand on this, for both bloggers and brands. You've built an enormous and well-earned reputation for deep thought and insightful guidance. On the topic of "sponsored conversations," I believe there remain huge risks that exist even if marketer assure disclosure and independence. (Also, I hate it when the government steps in to enforce limits that marketers, media, and consultants won't develop and adhere to themselves. Do we really want the FTC to take the lead on this?)

Thanks for the fair, helpful, and informative response. I appreciate the ongoing dialog on this important topic! And I guess I owe you a debt of gratitude--you saved me $500!


Josh Bernoff

We'll be publishing more on this topic.

We haven't changed our stance, but it's become clear that more detailed guidance is a good idea. Clients are asking about it.

Jos Schuurmans

From: 'Forrester and the smell of "sponsored conversations"'

I think Forrester is making a mistake by taking such a laissez-fair stance on the issue. As Augie implies, the firm does somewhat appear to apply double standards by, on one hand, not objecting against bloggers taking money for "sponsored conversation", while on the other hand ostensibly refusing to take money themselves.

If Forrester thinks it would be bad for their credibility to be paid for "sponsored conversation", then why don't they point out this credibility problem to bloggers in general? Why not advise bloggers against it?

For that matter, doesn't this practice tarnish the brand of the sponsor as well? I mean, how credible is Kmart after this stunt? So, shouldn't Forrester advise brands against this practice, too?

Josh Bernoff

Jos, Your double-standard argument is just silly.

I think people should be allowed to drink alcohol. Does that mean I have to drink alcohol?

I think bloggers should be allowed to take money and then disclose it and write authentic posts. Doesn't mean I need to do it.

We don't even take ads. But I'm fine if other people do. If you take $500 from a company to run an ad, does that tarnish your credibility?

The readers will figure out where the objectivity problems are in a blog pretty quickly, if there are any.

Anthony Dayal

Quite strange that you are having to post this. It has been clear for quite some time.
While some bloggers are very rich by and large they have to struggle. It's good if they advertise once in a while in the form of a full disclosure.
By allowing bloggers to do this we are giving them further encouragement, and it is not only the advertising company which benefits.

Matt R.

Josh - great follow up. Some people have to realize that blogging is a utility for businesses, not THE utility.

In other words, (to Jos and Augie), Forrester earns its money otherwise.

My only advice: read Chris Anderson's latest book (Free: the Future of a Radical Price).

Jeff Lazerus

I am reluctant to point this out at the risk I might be accused of snarkiness, but didn't you just write about his blog for free?

The comments to this entry are closed.