Mike Manuel points to a great article by J.D. Lasica over at the Online Journalism Review which looks at the ethical challenges facing bloggers as weblogs become more popular and ultimately more influential.
“But credible publications always demarcate advertorial from editorial content. (Sony Style magazine would not fall under the umbrella of ï¿½credible.ï¿½) All reputable publishers require that such content be set off in a different typeface, and they put out the word that their covers and content are not for sale. In other words, you donï¿½t need to read the fine print to know youï¿½ve just read an ad. But Ratcliffe makes the important point that with advertorials, the advertiser controls the content of the message ï¿½ something that doesnï¿½t happen with the paid-bloggers program.
Wherever there are eyeballs there is money, and no matter how much starry-eyed blog purists may not like it, the power of the dollar sign is going to become a bigger part of the blog landscape.
I think the question here is credibility. While you are reading a blog you will make a conscious or unconscious decision on whether the blog:
- a) Is interesting
- b) Is relevant
- c) Is trustworthy
As soon as the writer fails to meet those criteria, readers will vote with their URLs. This is the challenge for bloggers.
On a personal level, I have no problem with bloggers making the most of their site with supported advertising, where that advertising is clearly flagged and there is clearly no undue influence on the content. I also have no problem with bloggers promoting their clients or employers – again as long as that connection is clearly highlighted.
The Internet is a small, connected place. Writing glowing posts for back-hand payments is a sure way of growing your readership to zero. It’s blogger beware.
There’s an interesting example of this over at Tom Foremski’s Silicon Valley Watcher.
Tibco has become one of the first sponsors of the blog, and in return Tom has posted an advetorial on Tibco. It is effectively an advetorial. At least Tom has flagged that Tibco are a sponsor of the blog, which should alert most people to the fact that what follows is an advertising message.
If I had one complaint, I think Tom should have flagged the post formally as advertising.
“We are very pleased to announce Tibco as the first of an elite group of Founding Sponsors of SiliconValleyWatcher. There will be others announced over the coming weeks, but Tibco stands out because it was one of the first to understand what we are trying to achieve: to deliver a high quality online business news magazine about Silicon Valley, featuring top journalists and enabled by the latest media technologies.
Tibco is a model company: the first Silicon Valley company–and only the third in the US after Disney and Qualcomm–to have achieved compliance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This is immensely difficult and it is an impressive achievement.”