Since the paid blogging phenomenon took off about a year ago, the handful of services in the space have experimented with ad formats and ways for advertisers to pay to connect with bloggers and their audiences. The latest format offering comes by way of ReviewMe, and -- straying from the company's original intent to subject marketers to blogger scrutiny -- allows advertisers to control their messages completely. Expecting the service to be more widely accepted by advertisers, the company hopes it also helps assuage the negative impact RSS feeds have had on other forms of blog advertising.
"The review factor is off of the board," said ReviewMe President Patrick Gavin. "Advertisers were a little adverse to paying for an advertisement where they potentially could have a negative review.... We see this as a product we think will be more mainstream."
Through the RM Advertorial service, advertisers craft their own blog posts and add in their images and links. They also determine which blogs they'd like the ads to appear on. In keeping with ReviewMe's disclosure-driven approach, the advertorial posts will be marked as advertiser-supported in a standard format requiring full capitalization of the term "Sponsored Post" in the title. Paid posts can be a maximum of 250 words; ReviewMe is also providing full impression and click tracking for ROI measurement. ReviewMe has around 20,000 blogs in its system, according to Gavin.
The sponsored post isn't exactly new to the blogosphere, as some more ad-savvy blogs already run advertorial posts that are typically labeled as such. Like special advertising sections in the daily paper, they're meant to blend in seamlessly with their editorial environment.
The sponsored post approach could counteract the negative effect RSS feeds have had on blog advertisers reliant upon users visiting sites and viewing their ads rather than simply perusing posts via newsreader applications.
ReviewMe's initial offering, still available, allows advertisers to choose which bloggers they want to post about their wares. Once they've settled on a wish list, ReviewMe puts out the call to chosen bloggers, who can accept or reject the review opportunity. Another product launched in May lets advertisers place offers in a marketplace for bloggers to accept.
When ReviewMe started, the service aimed to set itself apart from what was and perhaps still is the best known pay-to-blog firm, PayPerPost, by requiring bloggers to provide some form of disclosure that review posts are compensated. Eventually, after spawning much criticism for not requiring any form of disclosure, PayPerPost came around to a limited degree, requiring bloggers in its network to feature a disclosure policy on their sites. In less than a year, PayPerPost has scored two rounds of funding totaling $10 million.
Bloggers who place sponsored ReviewMe advertorial posts on their sites will be paid a flat fee for each entry determined in part by a blogger quality ranking system. The company gauges fees according to a blogger's Alexa ranking, the amount of links leading back to that specific site and the number of subscribers to its RSS feed. The ReviewMe system was built on the technology behind MediaWhiz Holdings's Text Link Ads, another advertising network popular with bloggers.
Reactions from ReviewMe bloggers to the advertorial offering have been mixed. In a comment left in response to a sample sponsored post on the company's own blog, one blogger praised the service, noting, "The best part about this is the advertiser writes the content so publishers just need to accept or reject any advertorials purchased."
Still, lack of control by bloggers, many of whom have gravitated towards services like ReviewMe because they enable more editorial control than other blog advertising, such as Google AdSense or Blogads, appears to be a deterrent for some.
"I don't think I would want to participate in something like this as it completely removes the person from the post, but it has the credibility of the person. The idea of reviewing something, where you are free to voice an honest opinion is great. This I'm not so sure about," wrote another blogger.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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