Adweek has an interesting article about sponsored blog posts and sites like Gawker and Digg “lending a hand with brands looking to fit into their environments without being relegated to the sidelines with run-of-the-mill banner ads”. I think this is a very smart proposition because it is one way for a brand to get access to a section of their audience that would be very difficult to reach otherwise. They mention the example of Federated Media crafting a sponsored blog post for Virgin America, in the design-conscious Apartment Therapy blog, that spoke of Virgin’s plush leather seats and soft lighting. The idea was to distinguish Virgin from low-cost competitors like Southwest Airlines.
Now obviously there could be issues if a post is not keeping with the general tone of a blog, but if the publisher does this on the brand’s behalf, it’s a win-win situation. Obviously there will be critics but hey, there isn’t such a thing as a free lunch. Running a website isn’t completely without its costs.
One thing I can tell you as a reader of multiple blogs is that I just gloss over banner ads. They’re almost invisible to me. This particular Apartment Therapy post isn’t the best example, but if a post was particularly witty and just happened to be sponsored, you’re not going to get me complaining at all. It’s all about engaging the reader. Banner ads are an example of one-way communication and are definitely not engaging. A blog post, on the other hand, can tell a whole story.