According to Virgin Money and Maher, it is the first time a South African blogger has received such an endorsement by a major corporate entity, especially in a sector as conservative as the banking industry. Maher will document his personal financial experiences, and share them with his blogging community.
In SA, blogs were initially dismissed as just another American Internet fad along with podcasts, online communities such as MySpace, YouTube and The Hoff. However, this so-called “fad” is steadily gaining popularity in SA, with Technocrati, an online blog tracking organisation, claiming there are around 20 000 active South African blogs.
“We asked Vincent to blog about personal finance because we believe he can make something relatively complex and often overlooked such as finance, become understandable, less intimidating and interesting. And he’ll tell it like it is,” says Henri Els, online expert at Virgin Money.
“Virgin Money’s feeling was that personal finance information is a little inaccessible and impersonal for the ordinary South African and I have to agree. When I see money in the section head of a newspaper I usually pull the section out and put it aside to line the cat box,” comments Maher.
“The intention of the Money Talks blog is therefore to provide information about personal finance issues and banking in general in a way that makes sense to people who aren’t financial advisors,” he says.
There is definitely a right and a wrong way to do something like this, explains Maher. There have been cases in the US where large consumer product companies paid a number of bloggers to set up blogs to write awesome, over-the-top things about their products to look honest and impartial - plans that backfired horribly and caused a terrible PR crisis for two large US companies in particular.
Virgin Money acknowledges that when a business decides to sponsor a blog, both the blogger and the business run a risk of dragging their reputations through the mud because the issue of impartiality and editorial integrity will be questioned.
For this reason, Maher has license to take on Virgin Money if he feels they aren’t up to scratch, and he has no limits on what he can say as long as it is relevant, makes sense, and is true, objective and constructive to his readers.
“My perception of the blogging community is that it is self-policing, and if the blog isn’t valuable, it won’t be read. Ironically, I’ll probably have to be even more objective than I might normally be,” he concludes.
To read the blog, go to www.vincentmaher.com/moneytalks.