I entered the wonderful world of blogging in 2006, full of enthusiasm and wide-eyed innocence. I still have the enthusiasm, but the naivety is fading fast.
Over the years I’ve seen so many scams and dishonest “partnership” propositions that I’m beginning to wonder if the Internet is an exceptionally seedy place. The medbloggers I know are genuine, caring people – and that’s probably why they are regularly targeted by unscrupulous people trying to make a buck off blogger credibility.
Take for example an online salesman who contacted me recently. He began the conversation with, “Better Health has such great content. My online network has 5 million unique viewers per month and we’re looking for more high-quality content, so would you like to talk about a content partnership opportunity?”
Silly me, assuming that he meant he’d like to syndicate our content and understood the value of good writing. Here’s how the conversation actually went:
SalesGuy: The Better Health bloggers are fantastic writers. Your content is so timely and insightful. I’d be really interested in working with you.
Dr. Val: I agree. Our bloggers really are exceptional. I’m very proud of their work and am always interested in discussing syndication.
SalesGuy: Yeah, but we don’t actually have budget for syndication fees. We have a better arrangement.
Dr. Val: Oh, do you want to sell ads on our network?
SalesGuy: Yes. But not banner ads.
Dr. Val: What other kind are there?
SalesGuy: Well, we do lead generation for companies who want to reach specific patients with specific problems.
Dr. Val: So you want ads to appear in a more targeted way, based on demographic data on our readers?
SalesGuy: Well, sort of. We’d like to embed some links on your site.
Dr. Val: You mean ads that have links in them?
SalesGuy: Not exactly. The problem is that people don’t really click on advertisements that frequently. They tend to ignore them. So we want to put them in the blog posts.
Dr. Val: So you want me to attach ads to the bottom of individual blog posts – with links embedded in the ads?
SalesGuy: Yeah, except we don’t want the links at the bottom of the posts.
Dr. Val: You want the ads to break up the writing, right in the middle of it?
SalesGuy: Yeah, except we don’t want them to look like ads per se.
Dr. Val: Well, what would they look like?
SalesGuy: Like links.
Dr. Val: Like links to what?
SalesGuy: To our clients’ web pages where patients fill out information about themselves.
Dr. Val: Why would they do that?
SalesGuy: For coupons.
Dr. Val: Coupons for what?
SalesGuy: Products… and medications.
Dr. Val: So how would the blogger introduce these links to sites for product coupons in the middle of their writing without disclosing that it’s an ad?
SalesGuy: They don’t have to disclose that it’s an ad.
Dr. Val: [Silence]
SalesGuy: Hello? Are you there? You sound less interested.
Dr. Val: Well, isn’t that illegal? The FTC would like bloggers to disclose all sources of monetization so that readers aren’t misled.
SalesGuy: You can disclose it.
Dr. Val: Like with a label?
SalesGuy: No. Just somewhere on your site.
Dr. Val: Like somewhere that the reader won’t find it?
Dr. Val: So let me get this straight, you’d like me to ask my bloggers to embed links to product sites without directly disclosing that they’re paid to do that, leverage their trust and credibility to get people to click on the links – and once they get to the product site you’ll be collecting personal information about them so you can target them more effectively with offers for drugs and other products? …And how much would you pay the blogger?
SalesGuy: About $7 per completed survey.
Dr. Val: So that’s how much it costs to sell a soul these days? We’re not interested. [Click].