Sponsored Content and Paid Reviews

Okay, Jim Sterling is stirring up a little dust. Shocking, I know. He has apparently received an email offering him money in exchange for a review. Probably not the wisest PR move. He had quite a lot to say about in on twitter:

I take exception to this particular assertion though. Payment exists in many forms. While I expect individual writers don’t often receive third party monetary compensation, I’ve always assumed that the media companies for which they produce content do. I mean, advertising is advertising and they go to great lengths to disguise it’s nature. I’ve seen plenty of magazine ads that mirror the look, style, and content so well that it’s easy to miss the “advertisement” text.

As a gamer, though, the ability to play some of the titles out there at no personal cost, sometimes before release and under NDA, is a form of payment in and of itself. Giving a known reviewer a Steam key for your game is also a form of payment. That key has a cash value that you have to hand over in order to receive, and they’re just giving it to you.

That doesn’t make it wrong though. I personally find it to be a perfectly acceptable practice, as long as it’s above the table and clear about what it is. I’ll just remind myself that your perception may be colored by the fact that they didn’t have to sacrifice the amount of money that I would.

I associate this sort of content pretty strongly with certain individuals as well. YouTuber boogie2988, whom I follow, does quite a lot of sponsored content. I don’t know if he receives monetary compensation, but I do know he sometimes receives goods and services for his videos and makes an effort to inform his viewers of this. Not always though, he does sometimes obtains these products with his own money as well.

I imagine it’s frustrating to receive messages like this when you have made a point to say you won’t do it ahead of time. Would that we all had our cup overflow with such a problem.

It’s easy to see how it would happen though. If I was going to try marketing a game myself, creating a list of prominent YouTubers would certainly be on my list of things to do. Yeah, it would be wise to at least do a little bit of background on each one, but there’s just so many that I would probably resort to the same tactic they did. Just email everyone on the list and see who bites. It takes a lot less time and effort to send an email to everyone than it does to look into the details of each and every one to see if they’re a good fit. Not saying it’s the best way, but I get it.

To each their own, though. It makes sense for Jim and his brand to call this out so strongly. I just find the notion of paid reviews as a conspiracy theory somewhat misleading. Then again, my argument is one of semantics and relies on his usage specifically implying direct monetary compensation to the review writer, and that’s what seems to be proposed in the email he received. Either that or they want him to pay them to review their game. While amusing, I didn’t get the impression he was reading it that way.

Think I’ll wander off now though. Y’all take care, try not to accidentally get paid for writing.


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