Corporate Sponsorship: Blood and Wine

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post outlining some of my thoughts about corporate sponsorship. Shortly after that, wine blogger Steve Heimoff wrote a good follow up post musing about what corporate sponsorship for a wine blog might look:

"This may work in the entertainment industry, but it’s not clear to me that it can succeed in wine. For one thing, why would a non-wine industry corporation sponsor a wine blogger?"

I don't know a great deal about wine, but I do know that there are probably plenty of companies that would like to be aligned with a wine blog. For as long as there have been people reviewing things, there have been people providing them with free versions.  Movie reviewers get free passes to opening night, car magazines are frequently invited to test drive new vehicles and I'm sure that video game magazines and blogs are given consoles and games for free.

What I like about Steve's blog post about wine sponsorship is the discussion it created, particularly one comment by Charlie Olken: "An online blog with sponsorship is a magazine."

While part of me wants to disagree with Charlie and say "a blog is a blog, not a magazine," I'm also inclined to agree with him.

As I've mentioned above, magazine editors and writers frequently receive free goods to review in their publication. They have to be ensure that their reviews aren't unduly influenced by the swag, as they have a responsibility to their readers. Similarly, I think that Charlie is saying that a blogger has a responsibility to his readers as well.

He also makes a good point that unpaid bloggers blog for the love of it, adding that...

"....When someone is paying you to reach a set number of eyeballs on a schedule with minimum number of words, your world will change. For guys like Steve and me and others of us who comment here, we are already in that boat with out day jobs. When you get paid to blog, that becomes your day job."

Related is the tale of Gawker Media allowing Blood Copy, an adverblog created by a PR/Advertising agency working on behalf of the HBO Television series True Blood, to "join" its network. This is clearly advertising content, not represented as such and generally seen as a huge fail by both the editors of the various Gawker blogs and their readers.

Annalee Newitz, the editor of i09 ("strung out on sci-fi" - part of the Gawker network and by far my favorite blog these days), writes of the debacle:

"I know it is wearying to see ads masquerading as editorial, and it's especially difficult for us at io9 since we've been covering the show True Blood for over a year without any incentive other than the fact that it's part of our beat...Blood Copy's ads, however, are not clearly marked as advertising and that is the problem. We're not happy with that, and you shouldn't be either. But that isn't going to stop us from covering a show that we think is worth critical attention. Please learn to be a critical reader yourself...The point is, we're not going to change our coverage of a media property just because somebody paid to put an ad on our site."

Gawker as an organization clearly agrees with this, writing that "Gawker the editorial staff and Gawker the advertising staff don't tell each other much about what they're doing. And they shouldn't."

I understand why some readers might be upset advertising copy making its way into their favorite blogs. But I also understand that someone needs to pay for the cost of keeping the lights on at these blogs and if HBO wants to foot the bill as a way of promoting their show, I'm glad.

Does this change your opinion of the way corporations should sponsor blogs?