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Sponsoring Social Media: A Solution or Problem? March 20, 2009

Posted by billyburnettgbc in Uncategorized.
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One of the most enjoyable and influential blogs in the UK, Mobile Industry Review, announced last week it was to become a research service following consistent failed efforts to monetise its 300,000+ users. Upon the formal announcement, regular visitors provided comments ranging from support to sadness to annoyance that the site was closing its doors (unless you are willing to depart with 12k for a corporate subscription).

From a personal viewpoint I have lost one of the few sites I visit on a daily basis, but this move raises the question that if sites like MIR can’t create a blog business model that works, what hope is there? The readership, content and community aspects of the site made it an extremely attractive target for both PR and marketing professionals, so are marketers simply still hesitant to invest in new media?

There are numerous blogs that talk about the ethical obligation that is at the core of the blogosphere and that sell outs betray this ethos, however even online entities need to pay the bills. In its final months, MIR visited Rome, Barcelona and Paris, and delivered hours of HD quality video to its audience all of which were paid for by Ewan himself. So what options are available to today’s bloggers and who is implementing these tactics successfully?

Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research has a great blog resource which tracks some of the ways that bloggers are funding their sites and also provides examples of successful implementations of these “services”, such as TechCrunch, Gizmodo and Adrants.

Demonstrated by the success of the above blogs and also the brands that are investing in them, such as Disney, Microsoft and Panasonic, the sponsored social media conversation can provide a legitimate revenue resource to the blogger community. The challenge faced by these bloggers however is ensuring that these remain open and honest relationships, whilst also meeting the demands of the sponsor.

Can blogs ever be 100 per cent independent when covering a sponsor? Also, how do influencers ensure they do not lose that trust that their social relevance has been built upon? I think the jury is still out on this.