There has been a lot of controversy lately over sponsored blog posts and how it affects the integrity of bloggers who accept money in exchange for posting about a company. This began on Saturday when Chris Brogan, a highly respected member of the social networking community posted on Twitter that he had written a sponsored post on his Dadomatic blog and on his own blog. I don't want to pick on Chris here because he is someone I greatly admire as I wrote in I want to Be Like Chris Brogan, Oh Yea, but because he is who he is, he's as solid example as you are going to find.
All Bloggers Aren't Journalists
I told Chris I found such an approach distasteful and I wondered if it would water down his carefully crafted personal brand. Shannon Paul wrote a spirited defense of Chris in her blog saying among other things that it's important to not apply journalistic ethics to social networking in a dogmatic fashion.
To some extent I agree with her. As a journalist, I would never write these types of posts because I see it as unethical behavior and it would compromise my journalistic integrity. Why should you ever believe what I write if you feel I might be paid to write it. As such, I recoil at the thought of this approach.
Could it Affect Your Personal Brand?
But Chris (and others who have done this) is not a journalist and we shouldn't treat him like one, but he is a person with a strong, hard-earned reputation as one of the beacons of social media. He has tens of thousands of people who follow him on Twitter. He has people who hire him for his expertise. He still has a reputation to uphold, even if it's not a journalistic one.
Chris in fact wrote his own thoughtful analysis on his own blog where he addresses some of the concerns I'm raising here. I'm just not convinced that I agree completely with his justification of why he chose to do it.
Where's the Line?
Now, I want to be clear here, that this is different from advertising. Advertising pays bills for many sites and sites like Mashable and ReadWriteWeb, fine sites all, could not exist without sponors, but being a sponsor shouldn't ever guarantee editorial coverage, favorable or otherwise.
Whether you accept money for writing a post about a company is entirely a personal decision, and for some bloggers it might be acceptable, but understand for some readers, it will have an impact on how they perceive you in the long run, and how valuable your information is to them. And you have to ask yourself if whatever fee you get is worth what you could lose