If there is a hot topic in the blogging industry right now, then this is it. One of the interesting things about the blogging communities is the variation in just about all aspects of work. From the different styles of writing, to the varied ways in which bloggers work with brands. In this you also see countless opinions on the subject of paying bloggers. What follows this are just my views, not those of WTM, Traverse, BlogStock or any bloggers in general.
So, bloggers, do we pay them? For me, this depends on how exactly you define payment. I would say that yes, bloggers should be paid for trips, but no, that payment doesn’t always have to be financial. When you’re starting out in blogging, there can be huge value from going on a press trip just to see how they work and experience what being part of a press junket is really like. The exposure to brands and shareable content is something else that has value, and that’s before we even start to look at the trip itself.
One of the arguments I hear a lot on why bloggers should be paid is to do with the amount of work that goes into the post they write. For me, this doesn’t matter, brands couldn’t care less how much time it takes you to do it the work, they just want it done. And if a journalist can do it and have more eyes see it, for free, who do you think they should go for? Yes, a lot of bloggers can’t work for free, but that is shouldn’t be the problem of the brands and destinations paying for the trips.
There has always been a bit of tension between bloggers and journalists, the reasons for this could be an article by themselves, so I won’t go into them here. Some of the tension though does come from bloggers wanting to be treated like journalists, not all, but some of them. Well, journalists don’t get paid to go on press trips. Not by the brand or destination sending and hosting them anyway. If you want to be treated more like a journalist, then build your blog up into a site that can pay you. Use the content from press trips to enhance your website and make it something that is attractive to advertisers, that’s how The Guardian do it, and it seems to work for them.
My advice to bloggers is this, if you want to be paid for the trips you take and the content you produce, then don’t act like a journalist. Journalists don’t get paid to go on trips, so bloggers need to do something to enhance their participation in the campaign or project. This is for the newer bloggers or ones that are just starting to look at taking their blog up a level: If you’re a good photographer, why not offer 50 shots of the destination, or 20 great phone photos for the brand to use on their own in their own time? If you can shoot decent video, offer them this, or maybe even just raw footage. These are some of the benefits are what make bloggers worth paying money for, it has to be above what journalists offer, if you’re just offering a write up on your blog, then be realistic, you’re lucky to be asked on the trip at all, journalists usually have their content seen by many more pairs of eyes, and they’re not charging brands for their work.
Brands, agencies and destinations need also to look at the above paragraph, if a blogger won’t do the trip or campaign without being paid, and you still want them, see what else you can get from them that would justify their fee. Ask them about photos, video, social media etc, if that’s something that you can use.
Everything mentioned above is pretty basic, and this is where it gets more complicated for the brands who are deciding who to work with, how to work with them, and whether to pay them, so pay close attention.
What a brand needs to do when looking at a blogger is find where their value lies for you. Bloggers will often speak of the fact they have more skills than just writing, or other than writing in some cases. I touched on that above. One of these skills, or selling points really, comes from the fact they have a dedicated and target audience. I have been speaking to several bloggers with regards to this post, and Sabina Trojanove, who runs Girl vs Globe had this to say:
“Blogging is much more personal than writing for a magazine. I have a community of dedicated readers who trust my opinion and follow my travels to find inspiration for their future journeys.
Here’s what some research shows – 52% of Facebook users said their travel plans were affected by seeing friends’ pictures of trips, 48% stuck with their original plan after checking out what was being said on social media channels – 33% went on to change their hotel and 7% altered their entire trip by changing destinations.
As a blogger I am like that friend, but I have a big social media following and a much bigger reach. Also, no journalist actually works for free.”
These points are valid, for some. Some blogs, Sabina’s is one of these, have that personal touch that means people will be more trusting of them and what they say and treat them like a friend when making holiday decisions. I don’t believe this is an argument that all bloggers can use though, as many blogs have now gone the way of magazines, rather than the personal diaries they often started out as.
Peter Parkorr, from travelunmasked.com, also has similar points to make to Sabina, “Size of audience does not equal quality or interest of audience. Print publications offer very little metrics on interaction and readership other than circulation. Individual bloggers have deeper knowledge of certain topics than a mainstream journalist.”
So how do brands decide when it’s worth paying a blogger and when it isn’t? I would say that if you’re in any doubt, ask the blogger to justify the fee. This is not condescending, and you can be up front about why you’re asking, explain that you’ll need to justify the extra spend and like it if they could help with this. If a blogger can’t come up with a good reason to pay them, there probably isn’t one.
It’s hard from a purely business point of view to make these decisions, much like in advertising, tracking the ROI of a blogger campaigns is never going to be easy or accurate. Bloggers, agencies and brands who tell you otherwise are, to be blunt, full of it. As a brand, what you need to do when sending bloggers on a trip is to make sure that you are getting what you can from them, that, again, is enough for a different article, and I have spoken many times on how to work with bloggers, feel free to get in contact if you need some advice here.
So, going back to whether or not you should pay bloggers, well, yes, sometimes. What you have to do when making the decision is to make sure it’s justified. Make sure that you are utilising the blogger and playing to their strengths. If another blogger will do the trip for free, this doesn’t mean you should go with them, you just need to make sure that the more expensive option is worth the extra spend. As I said right at the start, there are countless opinions on this, as there are on most things in the world of blogging. I realise that you may have read this expecting definitive answers, but as someone who has worked closely with bloggers for years, I still don’t have them to share, sorry!