In this article, DailyTech did some undercover work, posing as a fake hardware company in Taiwan, asking several hardware sites whether they will accept payment/advertising in exchange for content.
According to their 3-month long investigation, they found that at least 20% of the sites agreed to some form of payment in return for some form content. Unfortunately, they did not go on to name anyone, nor were they very clear on the details of the ‘content’ that was agreed upon. In many cases, paid content is perfectly acceptable. For instance, a banner ad can be considered ‘content’ and is certainly paid for. Also, many advertisers will expect plugs on the news pages of the sites they advertise with. It’s just another way a site can offer value to their customers. The latest trend in online advertising is for blogs to offer paid plugs, but with full transparency that the content is advertising, and not an editorial review.
The real issue is whether a site offers editorial content in exchange for money; in other words, are they agreeing to a positive review for cash? Or even an Editor’s Choice Award? If so, then there is definitely something wrong with that site.
But because DailyTech didn’t name any of the sites, or the terms that were agreed upon, we won’t know for sure who is shady, and to what degree. They did single out The Tech Report, one site that has earned a good reputation in their long history. Their ad salesman clearly stated that their content is completely separated from their advertising, and there’s no way they will do any sort of content/advertising deal.
One stat that is useful is the fact that the older sites tend to be more on the up-and-up. We’re proud to say that we can be considered one of these sites; HCW was established in 1999, and in those 8 years we have never offered editorial content in exchange for money, nor will we ever. And yes, we have turned such things down before. For instance, if you see a site giving an unusual amount of awards to Samsung products, you might want to think twice about visiting that site again ;)