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I'm having a hard time thinking that the type of people who most companies are probably going to target to write 'sponsored' blog pieces - aka 'buzz agents' - really get the fine lines here.

When you talk about an analyst firm, a reporter or a top-tier blogger, I think these people get the ethical line. In fact, firms such as Forrester are absolutely sponsored content ... it's just it's a scale sponsorship that spreads it across everyone in the industry who participates and, thus, ensures that no one is getting an unfair amount of attention -- scale multi-client research. Newspapers basically do the same thing. But you're talking about a sophisticated few percentage points at the top of the total population in terms of the people who write for these channels.

The issue becomes grey when you talk about a much broader segment, which probably is more happy to take the cash than they are compelled to maintain their 'journalistic' convictions. Frankly, the reason the 'sponsoring' companies won't comment on these post is because they would prefer to disavow that they actually sponsored them.

I'm also worried when I see systems that are pay-per-post -- i.e., you've sponsored a specific post, versus just sponsoring a site. I'm not at all concerned about that type of 'banner' sponsorship advertising, but it should come without any strings attached for coverage.

Valeria, I appreciate you've tried to provide a blanced picture here, but I feel that what we're talking about is a big deal -- one that gets at the heart of authenticity and brand reputation in the modern era. I can't simply be okay with Chris Brogan's 'it's here' so deal with it, comment. And I'm not sure that I find Forrester's report sufficient.

Thanks for driving the dialogue. This is an important one to have.

Hi Valeria,

I agree. I am a big proponent of simple campaigns. Far too many campaigns wander off into oblivion by trying to be cute.

Let people know if you have a bias and then they are far more likely to let their guard down and accept your praise of a product.

Very interesting topic. I wonder if 'sponsered conversations' are so effective in a marketplace like the Italian one. My feeling is that Italian customers are not so confident, even though the blogger is a great influencer. However, I don't have any data to support my opinion.
What do you think? Do you believe Italian customers are ready for such a marketing innovation?

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