Bloggers asked to sell their souls to Capital One

25 June 2010

Bitterwallet - Capital OneBlogs are power. As the world's population consumes more comment and opinion online, choosing to align themselves with digital voices, popular blogs now have as much sway, if not more than printed publications.

Unfortunately, the rules that attempt to keep newspapers and magazines honest, are nowhere to be found on the internet.

For example, there are rules to keep offline advertising and editorial separate and distinct, because selling messages shouldn't be presented as factual, neutral information. That's why so much money is spent on PR that generates "news" stories, regardless of the true facts - it isn't cheap, but compared to the price of an advertising campaign, it's a bargain and potentially more powerful - will be find more meaning and value in editorial.

Because those rules don't apply to blogs, you don't have to bother with all that spin and bullshit - and so PR companies simply try bribing bloggers to write about a company. And many will be successful - lots of eyeballs reading your posts doesn't necessarily translate into a steady income, so plenty of bloggers take what they can get. Some of it is done so poorly that it's easy to spot, other times it's not immediately obvious.

Bitterwallet receives around a dozen emails from PR people, all suggesting we write about their product in return for favours, usually hard cash. Here's one we received yesterday afternoon from a PR company called The 7th Chamber - they're really keen for us to do it, because they're already chasing us for an answer;

I was wondering if someone from your Editorial team could get back to me re-writing a piece for us? We’re working on a campaign for Capital One (around personal finance) and we’re looking for 8 prominent Finance blogs to write a short piece on either of these topics:

  1. How will credit be managed in the future?
  2. Which audiences will most need better information on credit during this economic downturn?

We’re not looking for something that would shamelessly plug Capital One in every sentence, all we would ask it that you link through to their site and mention the campaign they’re running at the moment. We’re looking for something subtle and I’m sure that suits all parties.

Please check out the YouTube channel that we created for Capital One, the campaign is genuinely interesting to consumers (hence the massive views on YT) so we’re confident that your audience will find it engaging and relevant.

We have around £350 per article.

Please let me know asap if this is something that you would be interested in working on.

"We’re looking for something subtle and I’m sure that suits all parties" - or to put it another way: "We know misleading the reader into believing this is the point of view of somebody they trust won't go down well, so just take the money and keep it on the QT, yeah?"

So let's have a think about this - the blogger wins, because they're better off; The 7th Chamber wins because they're paid handsomely by Capital One; Capital One wins because they've exposed their products on a blog that consumers choose to read and are loyal to. The only people to lose are the consumers - a trusted source of information is corrupted and they're unduly influenced into making a financial decision. PR isn't always about bullshit, but in this case it's secret bullshit in a mask and cape.


  • Spongebob
    So did you get paid?
  • Paul N.
    I told Paul S to put a link in this article to Capital One, send it to 7th Chamber and demand our £350. If that isn't subtle linking what is?
  • The B.
    "offline advertising and editorial separate and distinct, because selling messages shouldn’t be presented as factual, neutral information." That's assuming that editorials aren't biaised of course which pretty much rules out every major media provider in the world (including the BBC). "The only people to lose are the consumers – a trusted source of information is corrupted" Much as I hate to say it, I wouldn't take financial advice from you chaps, I like your exposes and waffle but trusted source of info, I'd say we were on shakey ground with regards to yourselves.
  • Jonny S.
    So who sent you a message asking you to discredit Capital One and how much they paying you? :P
  • Bob
    Its a good job no-one trusts your opinion...
  • Paul S.
    Bob, there's a world of difference between an editorial agenda and providing editorial coverage for cash. The point concerning trust and loyalty is that while you won't live an die by a blog (although plenty do), you choose to be exposed to its influence and will trust our comments to our own, however ramshackle or half-arsed they are.
  • Rob L.
    Damn, they only offered me £300, I feel cheap. Still considering it though.
  • Howard M.
    The only chamber I trust is the 36th Chamber.
  • Kevin
    They didn't do their research, did they?
  • Sir T.
    It's paid content on a blog? It's been going on for years. I look forward to tomorrow's article on the outrage over paid advertising on Google's search results.
  • Paul N.
    Dear Sir Tit-Staples, I guess while busy reading our draft for tomorrow's Google expose you missed the release of the EU Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices. You'll be happy to note we have decided not to cover murders like other news outlets as, you make this point succinctly, they have been going on for years.
  • Ian
    Someone is getting sacked. Way to go to lose a client.
  • Ian
    Although saying that, I'm sure they were speaking about a nofollow link ;)
  • Another A.
    Diamond Geezer regularly does anonymised exposés on people who want him to pimp their wares
  • The L.
    If they had a product that was any good, wouldn't Bitter Wallet be writing nice things about it naturally? How low can they get?
  • Gimpazoid
    @Rob Lewis - Maybe that's because your website looks like a dodgy spam site.
  • Pat S.
    Wonder if we'll see CapitalOne articles appear on Which and Moneysavingexpert...
  • dunfyboy
    Am I the only one who thought " we’re looking for 8 prominent Finance blogs to write a short piece" was going to be followed by "can you recommend any?"
  • Jo
    Does MoneySavingExpert really get paid for it's content? I had the idea Martin Lewis was on our side :( The layout does look very spammy, and ad-ridden but most of it is actually very useful content. I found the flight checker especially good.
  • martin l.
    capital one are fantastic. they really look after the customer. now where's my £350?
  • Bill B.
    @Jo Read "The most important thing to understand is that has no advertising and is completely free to use. Guides are written purely from a ‘what's the best way to save money?' stance. Yet, once they're finished one of the team has the job to see if any 'affiliate links' to the top products can be found. The MoneySaving articles are written, then totally separately, paid links are looked for. If no paying link is available, nothing in the article changes."
  • Jon
    Oh yea's articles specifying a host of biast as hell links ! Published research needs to be up to date & correct, the pensions part is crap & very wrong. It also essentially gives people the chance to make some BIG costly errors which are not even mentioned. I propose the site name is changed to 'save money on pizza & stuff, but don't do anything'

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