Sponsored Content or The End of Believability
Posted on January 17, 2016
Last week, at the conclusion of our Fitting Trilogy, I wrote a glowing review of Edel Golf. I wrote about them because I truly belief they are onto something when it comes to fittings. I even purchased the products. However, I feel compelled to leave a note in the blog to assure readers that the review wasn’t paid for. Why? Because you simply can’t trust an online review anymore. This issue isn’t just with golf. Tech blogs, auto blogs, shoe blogs…. the deception is everpresent.
I’d like to think this wasn’t always the way. I fondly remember the good ole days of 2010, where a review was legit and not influenced by under the table, back room deals to push product. This is almost guaranteed naïve misremembering. However, I’ll continue to cherish the days when “sponsored content?” wasn’t the first question that came to mind while reading a review.
So just what is sponsored content? Sometimes it’s obvious. Uncrate does a wonderful job of displaying what is, and what is not sponsored content. Sponsored content in its simplest terms is paid advertising, designed to be an everyday post. The idea is to trick you into thinking it isn’t an ad. Some sites are exceptionally good at this trick. Some sites aren’t. Regardless, everyone suffers. Sponsored content challenges the credibility of everything you read online. Any time someone claims to exceptionally like a product, or exceptionally dislike a product, you have no way of gauging the authenticity.
So how does one navigate the new wasteland of online reviews, knowing the writer may or may not believe what they are saying? I wish I had an answer. Unfortunately, I don’t think an answer exists. As consumers, our best bet is to challenge the media, be them new or old, into offering more transparency. A website or magazine simply claiming to be “independent” is no longer enough. The term “indepenent” has too many loopholes to hold and sort of weight. As far as transparency goes, a few questions would be a nice start. For instance, “was the product your reviewing purchased or sent freely?,” “what will happen to the product after you’ve reviewed it?,” and “Will it be resold, stay in use, or returned to the company?”
Offering more transparency will only strengthen the media’s credibility, especially if one claims to be transparent and can actually back that up. The media asks the consumer to trust their opinion. This is an explicit portion of the consumer-media relationship. In return of the trust the media provides, the consumer rewards them with viewership, which in turn allows the media increased circulation and more advertising profit potential. However, that advertising doesn’t have to poison credibility. The exposure from advertisements is more than enough without adding surreptitious content disguised as genuine opinion!
Use your voice! Demand more transparency from your favorite media source. If they refuse, question your own reasons for continuing to support them. You owe them nothing and they owe you honesty.
BestGrips.com does not rely on sponsored content for advertising purposes. Our only media relationship is with GolfWRX.com, which openly acknowledges it’s advertising relationships and what they entail. BestGrips takes advantage of only acknowledged parts of the advertising relationship (1 social post a month, 1 contest a quarter, 1 article a year) and nothing else.
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