With enough readers, a blogger can turn their online hobby into a source of freebies and income, by selling advertising space on their websites or featuring certain products and services for a fee. Like other media outlets, however, a blog’s audience expects its publisher to maintain certain standards of quality and credibility, especially when money or other incentives are involved.
Carlos Palma, Nuffnang Philippines country president, started blogging as a college student in search of budget-friendly restaurants for himself and his peers. As he developed a following online, establishments began to offer him meals and other goods in exchange for favorable features on his website, www.foodiemanila.com. This allowed him a taste of many menus he might have otherwise ignored, but it also required him to outline some personal principles.
On his blog, Mr. Palma separates his posts into two different categories: review and feature. The former constitute “an unbiased opinion of your restaurant or food. This cannot be bought or asked for. The only time I review a restaurant is when I visit a restaurant on my own.”
A feature, on the other hand, is written after an establishment offers to treat Mr. Palma to a meal. He then limits his post to the restaurant’s specialties and strengths. “I just highlight the positives of a certain place, which I wouldn’t have known about had the owners not told me about it,” Mr. Palma explained in an interview.
It is not uncommon, however, for a restaurant to consider the complimentary meal a license to the blogger’s compliments. Mr. Palma usually ensures that his hosts know of his principles ahead of time. “I always tell them before I even say yes, ‘I don’t sell my opinions. Even if you feed me, [if] I don’t like it, I won’t blog about it,’” he said. This setup thus takes the pressure off the blogger and puts it on the restaurant, which after all is expected to serve all patrons to the best of its ability—regardless of whether they write reviews.
The same principle follows when Mr. Palma receives product samples to feature. If a marketer pressures him to make a good post, he responds with honesty. “I tell them what’s wrong with the product and give them a chance to reply—‘This is what [I would] say; do you want to fix it first?’”
As Nuffnang country president, Mr. Palma has also been in marketers’ shoes. He maintains that the multinational blog advertising firm respects bloggers’ integrity and does not buy anyone’s opinions. He also shares that the bloggers who reap rewards from blog marketing are often those who do not compromise their voices or values.
Because blog advertisers are attracted to sites that have more readers, some bloggers use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques that may change their own writing styles just to improve their rankings.
“We’ve had some bloggers who tried to maximize traffic by SEO blogging. But in the end, if you stick to your content and your content is good, people will eventually go to you,” Mr. Palma said.
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