When the diary becomes a marketing channel: The commercialisation of blogs and its implications for blog readers’ perception of credibility We are currently experiencing an increase in the popularity of Web 2.0, with blogs playing a major role in this trend. Whereas blogs started out as private weblogs with a high level of credibility, today the medium has become increasingly commercialised and companies are eying this opportunity to reach a more savvy and diverse audience. This thesis sets out to investigate the implications of the commercialisation of blogs on the reader’s perception of credibility. The theoretical framework for the thesis is based on three concepts: transparency, credibility of the sender, and match. The theoretical foundation for the investigation of transparency is based on Carr and Hayes’ (2014) types of disclosure, and Metzger and Flanagin’s (2013) criteria for measuring online information credibility. Theories concerning ethos, opinion leadership, and parasocial interaction set the framework for the exploration of the credibility of the sender. Finally, the theoretical basis for the examination of match is based on Aaker’s (1997) Brand Personality Scale. Two pilot studies were used, a focus group interview and a qualitative interview. These insights, combined with the theoretical framework, laid the foundation for the primary data collection in the form of qualitative interviews and netnography. The findings suggested that blog readers ultimately do not regard one type of disclosure as the most credible, indicating that blog readers are generally sceptical towards commercial content on blogs. Personality, coherence, inspiration, and the higher mention of several brands were found to serve as credible elements, whereas lack of personality, coherence, and time as well as shallow content resulted in a loss of credibility. Furthermore, the analysis of ethos, opinion leadership, and parasocial interaction demonstrated that the commercialisation of blogs partly influences the credibility of the sender. With regard to ethos, some blog readers question the judgement of the blogger and experience the blogger’s goodwill towards the blog readers as an expression of personal gain. Moreover, the blogger’s role as an opinion leader has changed, as the commercialisation of blogs has consequences for the perception of the blogger’s knowledge and expertise as well as influence. Furthermore, the analysis demonstrated that the blog readers experience a parasocial interaction with the blogger. However, commercialisation appears to hinder their attempt to contact the blogger. Thereby, these findings suggested that commercialisation partly influences the blog readers’ perception of the parasocial interaction. Lastly, it appears that blog readers’ perception of credibility in a commercial collaboration is highly influenced by the match between blogger and brand. However, the findings were not able to identify exact definition of match in a commercial collaboration. This thesis discusses the implications of these findings and sets the direction for future research concerning the commercialisation of blogs. Based on the abovementioned, this thesis found that the commercialisation of blogs does not affect the blog readers’ perception of the sender’s credibility to a high extent. However, the thesis also found that transparency and match play a central role. These findings enable us to conclude that the commercialisation of blogs does, to some extent, have implications for the blog readers’ perception of credibility.
|Educations||MSc in Organisational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis|
|Number of pages||133|