I meet lots of food bloggers at conferences who are writing sponsored posts. Here are two stories of their first experiences that didn’t turn out well:
1. Prioritizing the brand over readers.
In the Q&A after my talk, a food blogger wanted to know why readers suddenly unsubscribed from her blog after she wrote sponsored posts.
She said she usually buys a years’ supply at a time from a particular nut company. Eventually she pitched the company, saying how much she loves their products, and could they pay her to write a few posts? They said yes, paid her in nuts, and readers started unsubscribing. Why, she wondered?
I asked how many posts she wrote and over what period of time they appeared. She said she wrote five posts, one after another.
The audience audibly groaned and slumped in their seats. I may have seen a few bloggers slap their foreheads.
Yet she had no idea that five sequential love fests about one product would annoy her readers.
So think about your readers, not just the brand. After all, the brand is hiring you, at least partly, because of your readership and reach. Readers come first, not the client. You don’t want to annoy them.
2. Writing sponsored posts for peanuts.
(Ha! This could apply to the previous blogger too.)
At another conference, I met a food blogger who took home a plastic kitchen product from a blogging conference and loved it. She called the company to say she wanted to write about it. They sent her three products and requested three posts. She agreed.
I asked the price of the products. She said about $45 retail (less if you consider what it cost the company). That comes to three posts for payment in kind of $15 each. She said it takes about four hours for each posts, so that’s less than $4 per hour.
If you must write about products for pay or payment in kind, value yourself. It’s not just about being thrilled by the opportunity. Companies won’t value your time and effort unless you do. And you can help bring up payments for all other food bloggers by charging a reasonable amount.
The subject of sponsored posts is nowhere near as cut and dried as people make it out to be. And I’m still an old-fashioned journalist who doesn’t like the idea at all. Still, if you’re going to do it, there are best practices like the ones I’ve mentioned above: put the reader first; and don’t work for peanuts.
Please yell at me in the comments below.
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Here are a few of my other posts on ethics. You might like, for example:
- Blogger Blackmail Surfaces as a Trend
- It’s Official: Readers Don’t Like Sponsored Posts
- New FTC Rules on Writing Reviews, Affiliations, and Sponsored Posts
And in other news, The New York Times included the cookbook I co-wrote with chef Craig Priebe, The United States of Pizza in its online holiday roundup of best 2015 cookbooks, and so did the Chicago Tribune and NPR. Best Christmas present ever!