Friday, March 09, 2007

Dear online blogging community...

So, you want to be part of the journalists' club? Well, let me tell you, that will happen over my dead body if your fellow bloggers continue to prostitute themselves to commercial interests.

I was shocked to read an L.A. Times piece by Josh Friedman entitled, "Blogging for dollars raises questions of online ethics." The article calls out marketing middlemen like PayPerPost Inc. who solicit popular bloggers on behalf of advertising companies. The bloggers promote a product or service in their blogs in exchange for money. The article is not clear whether the blogger is paid for every page view or for every visitor who clicks on a sponsored link, but the payout can amount to thousands of dollars.

PayPerPost's Chief Executive, Ted Murphy says the majority of bloggers don't consider themselves journalists, so they don't need to follow that profession's practice of separating editorial content and advertising.

Still, the Federal Trade Commission sees a problem with this practice. In December the FTC said it would be on the lookout for bloggers who fail to disclose these kinds of advertising agreements.

PayPerPost responded by requiring bloggers to inform readers of their sponsored status.

This practice may not seem at all controversial to the housewife who bloggs about her children's latest encounter with head lice or a school bully -- but it is extraordinarily damaging for aspiring journalists using this medium to make a name for themselves.

The FTC was right in saying that bloggers being paid to promote a product must, at the very least, disclose this fact.

The question is, do we stop there? Should we try to erradicate this phenomenon altogether? It seems impossible to regulate -- and probably is. But perhaps we could establish a "certification" ... a kind of seal of approval ... for those blog hosts or individual bloggers who agree not to partake in this practice. It would tell readers: this blogger isn't full of s*it. Anyone who violates the agreement, would be fined.

Ultimately, if bloggers want their opinions to be taken seriously in the future they must consider lobbying for stricter regulations.

Blogging for dollars raises questions of online ethics



At Sunday, March 11, 2007, Anonymous LA said...

Ewwwww. I just feel icky now. But, thanks, TB, for posting this!

The disclosure needs to be strictly enforced by the FTC.

At first - I thought this practice was like the small sponsored ads on some blogs - but after reading Friedman's article, I was appalled. It's one thing to support your blog with side ads (hey - that's what all major media outlets online do anyways) but it's clearly another to be paid to post.


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