How could I possible think I could get away with mentioning 'product placement' in the same line as blog and think I could avoid revisiting that age old debate surrounding it?
I couldn't of course, but this is all down to me as I haphazardly talked about two different 'blog profit models' in one and the same post without making a clear distinction between the two. Hence Charlie Beckett asked me to clarify, and I'll do my best to oblige.
The other day I blogged about how Swedish media seems to be waking up to the profit to be made from niche blogs. The business model here is simply to get top niche bloggers to blog on your platform so you can benefit from their in-depth coverage of a particular issue, the traffic their dedicated readers brings and offer your advertisers very specific, and often very attractive, target groups (you know: 17–22-year-old fashonistas, 25-30-year-old fashionistas, political geeks, hip hop geeks etc etc). I've written more about this trend here and here.
Now, at the end of that post, I happened to mention how one clothing chain found Blondinbella (aka Isabella Löwengrip), one of Sweden's most read bloggers, especially useful in its marketing strategy. However, Blondinbella's business model is not only based on selling advertisement space, but also on being paid to write about products.
In an interview with Stockholm City, she explained that despite receiving products and being paid to write about them, she didn't feel she was deceiving her readers as she felt she would have bought these products even if she wasn't paid to promote them. To Dagens Media, she said:
"When a company contacts me we write a contract about how many times I will write about the company on my blog, and if I will say something about it on TV if given the chance, or when I'm interviewed by newspapers and magazines."
In other words, not dissimilar to the kind of deals some celebrities strike with cosmetic companies, nutrition companies etc, and certainly a kind of setup that some may find ethically challenging.
For my own part, I can only say that I'm not really in Blondinbella's target group (I mean when I was her age, I was mostly wearing black, hanging out in the local press club discussing philosophy; these days I'm mostly wearing black, hanging out online discussing the philosophical aspects of media trends), so it's not a blog I'd normally read other than out of curiosity.
In general though, I tend to see the internet a bit like a virtual pub or coffee bar, and just as I'd distrust, and quickly loose interest in, anyone who'd walk into a real life pub or coffee bar and start talking about products they'd been paid to promote, I don't see that I'd treat this much different online (but it always helps that advertisment is clearly signposted, if nothing else so you can stay clear of it, and Isabella is quite open about her business model) ...