Sponsored Reviews Now Live – In Depth Review

 

Yep this is a sponsored review, though it was something I was intending to write about anyway, to announced that Sponsored Reviews is now live and available for both advertisers and bloggers.

Whilst they only required me to write 100 words, and they have no requirement to give either a positive or negative review, as always I am going to go into things with as much depth as I can, because that is the kind of content I write, and that will never change whether I am paid to do a review, include an affiliate link or not.

In fact here is the “contract” I just accepted to review their service:-

Sponsored Reviews

Ok lets look at what you see here :-

  • Rating – I will show you how that works later
  • Bid Price – that is the price I decided to set myself for reviews, though as you will see later there are methods to negotiate prices for reviews to have a win/win situation
  • You Get $98 – yep that is one of the nice parts, a 65% share of the earnings.
  • Min Words 100 – I am ignoring that, and I am pretty sure the advertiser knew I would anyway, so I take that as an indication they want me to write a normal review… go to town as always. If they set a maximum I would actually be upset and would never accept it.
  • Status / Date – I get a full 7 days – I decided to write the review immediately because I had a chance to look behind the scenes a couple of days ago. I could probably delay the acceptance by a couple of days to stretch things out beyond a week.

Total Transparency

I think it is important to make things absolutely transparent with this review, so here are the remainder of the instructions I received

Requirements
# Please provide a link to our homepage. We also strongly suggest that you link to your blog profile page in order to notify your readers (and potential buyers) that if they want to buy a review from you they can sign up at SponsoredReviews. You can find the link to your blog profile page by clicking on the blog in your “manage blogs” tab. Here is what a profile page looks like. http://www.sponsoredreviews.com/blog-190.html

Description
# SponsoredReviews is Officially Launched! Monday, 12th

We would love to have you review SponsoredReviews.com.

Here are some facts that separate us from the competition:

We have a low 35% transaction fee. This is the lowest out of all of our competitors.

Our Hybrid system is the only one that allows both advertisers and bloggers to search for each other.

Our bidding system allows bloggers and advertisers to negotiate pricing.

Bi-Weekly payout for bloggers means your hard work pays off quickly.

Accepted Review Information
# You have until 3/19/2007 10:57:55 AM to provide us with the URL to the completed review on your blog. If we do not receive the URL by the due date, the review will be cancelled.

They asked for a link, but technically it wouldn’t I suppose have to be a followable one ;)
I am sure someone would pick holes in them asking for a link, but if someone is looking for buzz and to drive traffic to a website, a link is a logical thing to have on a review.
I doubt I would ever review a site that I wouldn’t link to, and if I did, that is one viable use of nofollow or true dynamic links (but this review isn’t the place for nofollow and links are a pointer not a vote discussions)

They make a suggestion of a way to turn this review into more cash by including a link to my order page – very smart, and something similar could be done with affiliate links. In fact as reviews can be negotiated, the possibility of additional monetization down the road is a good incentive to do cheaper reviews.

Sponsored Reviews In Depth

When submitting a new blog you have to make sure it conforms to the Sponsored Reviews minimal requirements.

Requirements and Important Information:

* Your blog must contain at least 10 posts with 200 words of unique content each.
* Your blog must not be completely automated or appear to be created solely for search engine traffic.
* Your blog must have at least a 3:1 ratio of non-paid to paid content.
* You must complete all accepted reviews within 7 days, or your account will be suspended.
* Foreign Language blogs (non-english) must clearly state in the title which language the blog is written in. i.e. “Jose’s Blog – Spanish”. You must also state (in the description) whether you will write the review in English or another language.
* Blogs with very little traffic and/or links, may be rejected .

They are looking for real blogs, not made for Adsense sites. Blogs that have subscribers
Blogs are not automatically approved, there is a manual check done on each site, and that might take a day or so (at least it did for me though that was during beta)

Information is gathered about your blog when you sign up

Register

I just entered my WordPress Plugins site to grab a screenshot, I won’t be doing any reviews on that site of 3rd party products.
Unfortunately I haven’t found a way of refreshing the stats for a site, which hopefully will be included in the future. Site statistics change over time, and there is no mention of a refresh interval.

After you have waited a few seconds you are presented with the following screen.

Sponsored Reviews Setup

When I first signed up I believe the price they suggested for a review was $30 – now if my typical review was just 100-200 words, with the 65% payment that might be almost workable, provided there was an affiliate link available or other way to monetize the content. But I get the choice to set my own price, so I set it to $150, and I will probably increase that to $200 the same as I have promised for ReviewMe.

With paid reviews you aren’t just buying links, buzz and traffic, but some may only be looking for that, and if that is all you are after, then please don’t buy a review from me.

What I hope I can provide is:-

  • Expert (?) opinion – or I just fake it extremely well, maybe I should become a Wikipedia editor
  • Targeted Highly Qualified Traffic – I have very few tire kickers in my readership
  • More than just the typical buzz – if there is something right or wrong with your service, from my perspective, which might relate to the perspective of my audience, you are going to hear about it, and so will my readers.

So $150 it is – bah I am worth it

On the screenshot you will also see “Status: Public” – you can also set that to private, or what I would call “Lurker Mode“.

Lurker mode would allow you to be included with the system, but not have your blog on public display for everyone to grab screenshots and point a finger at you. It would however prevent advertisers finding you. You would have to make approaches to advertisers who have posted a review opportunity.

I prefer being in a strong negotiation position with advertisers, so not having to approach them I believe is of benefit.

Category Selection

Here are the available categories:- (alongside is the current tag list)

Sponsored Reviews Tag List

Art
Autos
Baby
Books
Business
College
Current Events
Education
Entertainment
Environment
Fashion
Food
Gadgets
Games
Health
House & Home
Humor
Kids
Law
Marketing
Media
Money
Movies & Film
Music
Personal
Photography
Politics
Programming
Real Estate
Religion
Science
Sports
Technology
Travel
Web Design
Women

In bold are the categories I write about among others, yet I can only select one category. My blog is actually fairly well niched on specific topics that tend to branch into other things quite naturally, yet the current category selection system doesn’t allow for that.

A saving grace is that the system also supports tagging, and I included lots of tags. I think I will have to increase the number of tags I used to cover some more of these broader topics.
Tags are used within the blog browsing section heavily, and in fact I think they are merged with the categories, so whilst you can only include one category currently, if you include tags for the categories you can’t select, you effectively get the same.

Sponsored Reviews Available

Already there are a few reviews available with a great variety of prices.

One of those listed was actually for Sponsored Reviews, and it had been there for a couple of days with a lower price than I eventually received, though I didn’t have to haggle for a higher price, which would have been fun and a good test of the system, or it might have highlighted one of the current flaws.

No Messaging

Sponsored Reviews Bidding

Negotiation is a discussion process, not just firing prices backwards and forwards. There are all kinds of aspects to a deal that might require some additional form of contact, and it would be best to have that on record within the interface.
This would actually be of benefit both to Sponsored Reviews and to myself – for me to ensure things are all in one place, and for Sponsored Reviews to ensure that negotiations take place there, and not off-site where private deals could be negotiated for more favourable terms.

Advertiser Advantages

I love the 2 way negotiation concept, and it allows advertisers to negotiate a review based on other factors. That could just be the advertiser providing a sample of the product you could keep should you wish – yes I know that the blogosphere was up in arms about Microsoft and review units of nice laptops, but that was unwarranted. This system does require true messaging to be viable however.

I would love to be able to offer a showcase to advertisers for reviews I have completed for others in the past – not just for Sponsored Reviews, but also other services. They don’t want to see the general type of blog content, but the type of review you would write for them.
If they are looking for reviews as consultation in some way, rather than just buzz marketing or links, then some idea of what they can expect would be great.

Attention To Detail

I am actually amazed to have found so few bugs or missing features with the system. There are a few things hidden away that are very good touches such as a support ticket system which should be available with all such systems, but aren’t.

Here is something I like, a configuration for notification of new review opportunities hidden in the Account Settings.
Sponsored Reviews Account Settings

Payment

Brand new service, so how can you tell?

They are not unknown however, because they are a sister service to Text Link Brokers who have a good payment reputation.

Billing Cycles are every 2 weeks, which sounds great to me, and payments are made by Paypal which also gets a thumbs up.

Disclosure

You have to disclose, though I think they need to be a little more specific on how, where, why.
As an example I believe my general disclosure might be enough for legal purposes with the FTC, but Sponsored Reviews might prefer a disclosure as I have done here, in the first line.

Comparison To Other Services

PayPerPost – currently only have fixed price opportunities, but a lot more of them. Whilst many would say that PPP have different disclosure terms, I believe the required disclosure for PPP is within the law, and is far beyond what most affiliate networks require, and the disclosure most affiliates use on a day to day basis (I don’t count “(aff)” as full disclosure for casual visitors)
PPP do have higher value gigs, up to $1000 currently, but they are really aimed at buzz marketing and possibly just link acquisition. I believe they have over 15,000 reviewers, so certainly have first mover advantage and economy of scale. I am not sure of the exact percentage of review fee that goes to reviewers, but I seem to remember it was much more than 50%.
Pay Per Post is very much automated, providing reviewers with exact link code – they even handle fine detail such as rotation of anchor text and destination URL, and for those looking for more precise data, they have tracking of review page views and click-through tracking using redirects.
They have some great concepts of their own such as their “Review My Post” affiliate program, which pays out to both the affiliate and the reviewer. (see my comment section and get paid to review this post)

ReviewMe – I believe it is a very similar program in intentions to Sponsored Reviews. They recently introduced a way for reviewers to set their own prices which was desperately needed for sites like mine that do extensive reviews rather than short buzz articles. They take a slightly bigger cut of the pie (50%) and pay on a monthly basis. They do however have an affiliate program for signing up new advertisers, but that is a one-off payment.
They have an advantage over Sponsored Reviews because they have been on the market longer, but whilst this is only a guess, I would think both services have a lot of work cut out to catch Pay Per Post for the mass market.
It wouldn’t require rocket science for ReviewMe to add the features that currently differentiate them from Sponsored Reviews, such as the negotiation of fees, although a pricing change might be harder to stomach. Get Reviewed At ReviewMe!

Choices

If I am promoting someone to buy a review from my site, it has now become a very hard choice.

  • Sponsored Reviews offers me a bigger cut
  • Sponsored Reviews potentially pays me faster
  • Sponsored Reviews provides some level of negotiation
  • Sponsored Reviews allows me to look for reviews

It is hard for me to judge the difference in quality of landing page and the “feel” an advertiser would have working with each company.

If I am receiving review requests, it doesn’t matter which service provides them. Both companies have their own existing client relationships from selling text links – it is going to be interesting.

Affiliate Program and Mind Share

A lot will come down to the affiliate program offerings.

Affiliates will want (to make a difference)

  • Income from Advertisers
  • Income from New Publishers
  • Recurring Income

ReviewMe currently offer $25 fixed payment for a signup – that isn’t too bad for a CPA program, but I am a greedy affiliate who likes recurring income.

ReviewMe have a lot more of the pie available to share out if they wanted to. Giving out 15-20% of the income on a recurring basis for new sign ups, either Advertisers or Publishers would be quite painful for Sponsored Reviews, but I have a feeling they could still reciprocate, and with the sums of money involved for the higher priced reviews, it would still be profitable for both.

With potentially more than half my audience having already heard of ReviewMe and signed up, Sponsored Reviews seems like the better program to promote for site reviews currently.

So if you want a product reviewed, here is my Sponsored Reviews page.
Yes I wish it was an affiliate link, but it is more of a win/win thing with the advertisers. Customer satisfaction is important, as long as they know they can’t buy my opinion.

Flexibility and negotiation in pricing owns – give it a try.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Nice review Andy.

    As to your PayPerPost pricing question, your foggy memory may be partly due to terminology. SponsoredReviews and some others like to tout their “cut”, a smaller % than discussing their “markup”. For example, ReviewMe’s “50% cut” is really a 100% markup from what the blogger gets. SR’s “35% cut” is really 35/65 = 53.8% markup. PPP’s 35% markup remains the best in the business, creating the interesting reality that advertisers can pay less AND bloggers earn more in PPP’s structure.

    It doesn’t really matter whether “cut” or “markup” is used, but apples-to-apples comparisons are always best. That said, it’s just great to see the growing interest in our space!

  2. says

    I’m not following your math VC Dan,

    In SponsoredReviews if the blogger wants to make $100 for a review, we would charge the advertiser $135. That is a 35% markup not 53.8%.

    That is the same as PayPerPosts 35%. Plus they have a per post transaction fee to boot.

  3. says

    I remembered it being reasonable, but just couldn’t find a reference. I did glance through the publisher pages and the FAQ for publishers, so maybe the information needs to be made clearer on the PPP site.

    The interesting thing is, and I think PPP need to address is that I don’t qualify for any of the higher paying reviews in PPP currently. A lot of that is because this blog is relatively new. Once it hits PR6 I might qualify, but that doesn’t address what I feel one of my reviews is worth to a company compared to buzz marketing.

    The reviews I write are more of a demonstration of how a paid review can be legitimate than for the monetary benefit, but I wouldn’t spend 3hrs+ on a post for a potential $10-$20 reward.

  4. says

    Jarrod

    I think what Dan is saying is that with PPP, if I was being paid $111, the review would cost the advertiser $150, whereas with SR I receive $98 for the price set of $150

    However PPP currently can’t offer me that kind of review opportunity because there is no specific targeting of blogs for a review that I have seen in their interface, and no negotiation facility.

  5. Ado says

    Great post Andy as always you have provided us the readers with a tone of info about SR.

    VC,

    Can you go into detail regarding how calculation for markups? I’m not sure that I follow your numbers there.

  6. says

    Geez, now this just means that my review has to be bigger and better than yours.

    Will be posting it sometime tomorrow, thank god for the 1 – 7 day period. I can’t stand the wolf pack jumping on PPP’s opps and disappearing as soon as they come live.

  7. says

    Thanks for the review Andy, I was thinking of writing one myself but you beat me to it :)

    Anyway.. I just signed up for Sponsored Review. One question: How did you get paid $98 for this review when SR has stated that “This advertiser will pay between $5 – $50 for completed reviews.”?

    Did you just enter $150 in your “Set Your Bid Price” section and submitted it anyway?

  8. says

    I am a sales and marketing guy

    You either start from the high ground in a negotiation, or let the other person make the first move, especially when you know you have something of value to offer, and they know they are probably already getting a good deal.

    In this particular case the advertiser approached me to write a review rather than me approach them to accept their offer, which I had actually seen for a few days and not written about it.

    I should also note this wasn’t the first mention of Sponsored Reviews on this blog, it was actually the 4th, though this was the first I generated income.

  9. says

    Oh.. so that’s what happened… thanks for clarifying. The payout for Sponsored Reviews is definitely attractive, IMO.

  10. says

    The most attractive service will be the one that has enough advertisers to provide someone with one paid post per day, to go along with 3 unpaid at a reasonable rate.
    Things will be mainstream when you can cherry pick between 1000 different advertisers for the product that is lazer targeted to your audience, with all of them having a decent affiliate program as well.

  11. says

    Maki,

    I paid Andy his full asking price because I knew I would get my money’s worth. I have seen his work in the past.

    The feedback alone was worth the cost.

    This post is also very buzz-worthy. I would guess that at least a few people are going to link directly to this post. In terms of traffic and link popularity there is no better place to be cited.

    ——————-
    My advice to all the bloggers who sign up for SponsoredReviews; Include links to examples of reviews/articles you have written before.

    Smart Marketers are going to comb through the blog profiles looking for bloggers that can write great reviews.

    As a blogger, if you are charging $100 – $500 per review you better explain what it is they are getting for their money.

    Hopefully it is a well balanced, thoroughly researched document that will help the advertiser better understand its audience while at the same time driving direct traffic.

  12. says

    @Ado: Let me start by saying I think Jarrod has done a great job of watching the leaders and trying to be different. If he’s anything like Patrick, it will be fun building this industry together.

    To your request for more detail, I will use Andy’s screenshot from above where an advertiser is willing to pay $150 for a sponsored post.

    At RM, that $150 delivers $75 to the blogger and $75 to RM as a 50% “cut” (75/150) or a 100% “markup” (75/75).
    At SR, that $150 delivers $98 to the blogger and $52 to SR as a 35% “cut” (52/150) or a 53% “markup” (52/98). (see “You Get” in first screenshot)
    At PPP, that $150 delivers $111 to the blogger and $39 to PPP as a 26% “cut” (39/150) or a 35% “markup” (39/111). Assuming a sponsor wanted 50 such posts, you should also include PPP’s $5 opp fee which would equate to $.10/post across those 50 posts — a rounding error in these calcs.

    The “interesting reality” I mention is that PPP’s structure allows a sponsor to pay less, say $140 for posts on blogs that meet specific, scalable traffic/influence criteria, AND the blogger makes more $104 in the same transaction. Across a 50 post opp that means sponsors save $500 AND bloggers earn $300 more than with competing marketplaces.

    As I said before, it doesn’t matter whether you compare “cut” or “margin” — you just want to compare apples-to-apples. The same holds true for sponsor goals. Therefore, if a sponsor is looking for one or two sponsored posts, the apples-to-apples comparison is RM and SR pricing for selecting a blogger — although that might be easier accomplished by going direct. However, if a sponsor would like 20, 50 or 100+ sponsored posts, the apples-to-apples comparison is PPP and SR pricing for marketplace opps. If a sponsor wants that many sponsored posts, segmented by traffic/influence then PPP’s segmentation interface is probably the way to go.

    I hope this detail on pricing helps. I hesitated laying it out in an SR review because they deserve their time in the launch spotlight. At the same time, having this detail in the comments may actually drive Andy some additional traffic and SR some additional exposure.

    Again, nice review Andy and good work Jarrod.

  13. says

    I signed up on the back of this review. Had I not read this review I wouldn’t have known about the site. Looks like a good interface too, albeit similar to another site ive seen out there. ;) Cool nonetheless.

  14. says

    VC Dan,

    Thanks for the clarification,

    Part of our model does compete with PPP, part of it competes with ReviewMe.

    So in an Apples to Apples comparison, we would be more like a Caramel covered Apple :)
    ————-

    With that being said, you are right, it sounds like we will be good competitors. I’ve enjoyed a long time friendly competition with Patrick as well. Nothing like good comp to get you up in the morning. Especially when your the bootstrapped underdog.

    I think for my next project though I’m going to focus on raising some cash first. PPP and ReviewMe have us beat in that area.

    If anyone has a few million to spare, give me a ring.

  15. says

    Hi Andy,

    Great post. Seems like a great service. Not having blog for cash before, I’ll be interested to see how it does for you.

    I wrote a little ditty on the general questions about blogging for cash
    here

  16. says

    SR rejected my blog. It meets all the requirements quite soundly, so I guess it’s just because I’m not getting much traffic yet. That was somewhat disappointing.

  17. says

    Garrett,

    I’m sorry we could not accept your site. Your site has very little traffic and only a few recent links.

    We will be reevaluating sites we rejected every so often and will notify you once your site qualifies.

    Thank you for taking the time to apply.

  18. says

    What a great in-depth review. Well done, Andy.
    Thanks a lot for the info.
    Currently we are still not allowed to refresh the site stats, I wondered if they are going to offer that function.

  19. says

    What I like about Sponsored Reviews is the 65% cut and there are many advertisers who need their software reviewed. It’s good if you have a software review site.

    What I dislike about Sponsored Reviews is the advertisers take too long to approve or disapprove your bid. I bidded for 9 opportunities since 5 days ago and so far only got 1 rejected. The other 8… the advertisers are still sitting on it. Probably the quality of advertisers isn’t as good as those from ReviewMe which usually promptly approves your review.

    I guess one improvement Sponsored Reviews could make would be to allow bloggers to write some sort of sales pitch to the advertisers to aid them in making a decision whether to accept a bid. And if more advertisers are actively accepting bids, the chances for Sponsored Reviews to earn more can be improved.

  20. says

    I find something missing from this post, for me at least. You’ve told me what the system is about, what it does, what the competition is like. But for some reason, I still feel a little bit left in the dark. I mean, seriously, what’s in it for me? I can write niche marketing articles all day long about marketing, advertising and building web sites, but when it comes down to it, why would I want to get paid to review a web site? How many of them require you to give a positive rating? How many of them require you to write at least 500 words? I saw the part where you could bid $5 for the post. That seems a little low to me. I make more money writing articles and I get more referrals that way as well. So what’s in it for us when we do this? Obviously you’re very popular but for someone who doesn’t blog full time, this could be a waste of valuable cash-earnings time, which I think all of us need more, not less of, when we’re working from home. Don’t you think?

    • says

      Some people just use the link in my sidebar, other people use my contact form and offer me samples to test.
      Others use the Sponsored Reviews or ReviewMe service

      I only review stuff that is of interest to my audience and generally I need to be able to turn the review into some kind of cornerstone content.

      Despite what is stated in the PayPerPost interface, reviews cannot be requested to be positive in tone, though I don’t accept reviews to then totally slam them. Expect warranted constructive criticism and advice.

      Links are editorial, not guaranteed.

  21. says

    “there are methods to negotiate prices for reviews to have a win/win situation” So care to tell us more about your negotiation for the review Andy? ;o) I’d be fascinated to hear how you determined what value you offer to would be advertisers, and how you persude prospects.

    • says

      Actually most people don’t bother, they accept your price. I don’t initiate negotiations for reviews with potential advertisers.

      When someone orders a review through Sponsored Reviews, often they also contact me by email. Very few of requested reviews actually happen, I am very selective, and don’t write reviews for a living.

  22. art gift portraits says

    We have tried to outsource this kind of work or service to some people. What we usually expect is a positive review. Do you ever give a negative review or something against?

    If we request a review for our site or for one of our products, will you include some of the url or anchor text that we will give you? Do you think that’s possible or should we just leave it all to you?

    • says

      All reviews I now write are blocked by robots.txt

      That doesn’t mean they won’t rank in the search results, but it does mean that unless the content is syndicated (which does happen) you won’t benefit from anchor text links.

      My philosophy on editorial links is the same, if you request specific linking, I am more likely to refuse to review your product, and I am extremely careful over what products I review so that they are suitable for my audience.

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