Walden, Justin, Bortree, Denise and DiStaso, Marcia. (2015). This blog brought to you by … exploring blogger perceptions of a product endorsement policy and reviews. Journal of Communication Management, 19(3), 1-17.

Summary

This study investigates how bloggers produce product reviews and their views on the quality of their relationship with firms that pitch products for review. The study was prompted by a 2009 change to U.S. Federal Trade Commission policy that required people who receive compensation for writing or producing product reviews on social media to disclose this connection. Findings indicate that bloggers’ decisions to accept compensation for a review may influence how much control they feel they have over the organization-blogger relationship. The study also indicated that even as bloggers seek access to products to review, they seek editorial control over the product review process.

Method

The research team conducted a survey of technology bloggers (n=173). The survey contained close-ended questions about the perceived quality of the organization-blogger relationship and bloggers’ decisions about whether or not they accept compensation for producing reviews. Open-ended questions asked bloggers to describe any changes that they made to their sites after the 2009 policy went into effect and the process by which they have interacted with companies that seek to have their products reviewed.

Key findings

  • A majority of bloggers reported not accepting compensation for reviews (n=83), although a small segment of the sample (n=22) had accepted compensation. Also worth noting is that only nine bloggers made changes to their site in response to the policy.
  • Those bloggers who accepted compensation for reviews tended to believe they have more control over the organization-blogger relationship than those who do not.
  • Qualitative data indicated that bloggers seek a close relationship with some companies that seek editorial coverage and not others, while the bloggers maintain full editorial control over their reviews, regardless of who pitches them.

Implications for practice

The study argues that public relations professionals should be clear with bloggers in describing what is expected from bloggers when (and if) the blogger accepts a product for review and bloggers should be encouraged to disclose if they accept even a nominal product or gift. This is important for both ethical professional practice and to avoid running afoul of the FTC policy. Strategic communicators are also encouraged to be mindful of bloggers’ preference for control over their content.

The article is available online at: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JCOM-08-2013-0065?af=R

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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