Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sponsored post: Review Me

This is a sponsored post about the Review Me service. It's not like I need the $15 USD I'm getting for this or that it's even adequate money for the sign-up effort and writing the post; I'm doing this simply because I think this is a great idea. I came upon this via GameProducer.net.

The problem is that old-fashioned mass marketing or even targeted marketing like Google AdWords is just not cutting it for some products. To get that community interest you need to engage people. Review Me features products which need community exposure but don't work well with mass marketing. They pay bloggers to discuss their products: it's essentially a global media agency for reaching bloggers.

Of course I'm thinking here that videogames could work very well in this context. I know I can rely on Penny Arcade's coverage of the games they play. Even at the risk of sounding much more influential than I am (and I really have no illusions: I've got a total of 2'000 visitors), it's the old ethos of reaching the opinion leaders.

Take the online RPGs I discussed earlier today. You can use banner ads to reach potential customers for Eve Online and D&D Stormreach, since they have popular imagery and USPs you can throw at the audience. But what about the real niche games, like A Tale In The Desert? Games which are too out there to be explained in a single sentence? You can't tell about them if people don't talk about them. Review Me might be just the thing to help get the word out there about these more obscure games without excessive PR efforts.

So there you have it, a way to get bloggers to discuss your product (or site, or service, or...). The only requirements for the sponsored reviews are to write 200+ words (this post is 444 words) and be clear about the fact that it's a paid-for post. There's no need to be positive about the reviewed thing.

As a blogger, I feel good about this. The products it's good for are the kind of stuff I'd likely write about anyway, and since the advertiser hand-picks the sites they want to feature in, the content I'm proposed should fit my line well. Since writing a post is a relatively big effort anyway, I don't think this is "easy money" - it's a bonus, sure, and if you've got a popular site, you can make $50 USD per review.

Now, this is all theoretical. I don't think I'll see many propositions from the Review Me advertisers, but I just want to be clear that I wouldn't categorically say no to them.

Update 15/11/06: We broke the 50 visitor threshold yesterday. Nice, that.


Kai said...

Interesting concept, for sure. I remember sometime in the late 90's, when chat rooms and internet forums were burgeoning up, reading about people who were hired to do viral marketing online. Essentially, they had to be hip and cool in their own chosen group and relentlessly push the advertiser's agenda and products as if they were genuinely interested in them.

This is a much more positive concept, in that it requires the reviewer to announce that he is being paid to write. I am not familiar with the service, and do not exactly know the mechanism of choosing reviewers, but I hope it does not allow an advertiser to choose based on statistics of favourable previous reviews or something like that.

I can't help feeling a little wary about the concept, though. In a way, ReviewMe circumvents the traditional advertisement channels, injecting what is essentially ad exposure into a channel of material that is, in the best case, relied upon by a set group of readers. Sure, I see how you can compare this to Penny Arcade - they get a lot of games from companies to test and they say exactly what they feel about them. They know this, we know this - it's all good. While I applaud your keenness in highlighting less-known products in this way, how far is it useful information (in general) and how far would it just decrease the signal:noise ratio that's already cracking on the internet? How well do you see little-known players being able to pay for reviews like this?

Joonas said...

The shady practice of hiring corporate plants to spin tales of upcoming games on forums is something I do not approve of. It just undermines the value of the community. It's done in considerable volume today, which is a shame.

There's certainly reason to be wary of Review Me and I'm sure we'll see all kinds of sad attempts at making quick cash out of it.

But that just damages your own blog. I've spent a lot of time building what I have here; I ought to think twice before risking my credibility in any way. Precisely the advertiser's need to trust the blogger and the blogger's own reputation that is on the line is what I think makes this an interesting and potentially good setup.

Anyone can go shop for a blog on the service, they've made it pretty transparent. There are hardly any statistics up for evaluation, save for their five-star grade which is an approximation of how popular and trustworthy the blog is (currently I rate 2/5).

I'm sure EA and the other bigshots will pick this up, but so will the small players. The reviews are cheap compared to, say, banner ads. And yeah, I'd imagine we'll see a flood of these things soon, from both big and small publishers.

I probably wouldn't touch a soccer game regardless of money, but an indie game I'm somewhat interested in anyway? Sure. It's all about taking the effort to find your natural audience, and then talking to them. In the past you'd need to contact the bloggers individually, which is a lot of work.

Mind you, I most likely would take up individual offers and requests to discuss products, whether there was a Review Me or not.

I'd liken this to Kotaku's "Sponsors thanks" posts, which are weekly. It's essentially a post in which their editor mentions the companies which have given them money at the time. I'm not sure, but their "This week's games" is a lot like an advertisement, too, although it isn't labeled as such. As these things have become a part of the blog over time, they don't stand out in any way or decrease the value (questionable as it may be...) of the work.

Commercialism is seeping into blogging, that's for sure, and I'm thinking I'd rather see blogger-edited content than everyday banner garbage. If a given blogger can't keep it straght, well, that's his loss.