Today, Jeremiah Owyang posted “A running list of sponsored conversations”. He has a laundry list of sites and products that engage in various forms of advertising and paid content.
The article and its comments bring up the ethics of paying for supposed user-generated content. With user-generated content, the assumption is that objectivity comes from personal experience unhindered by conflicts of interest. If someone pays for a post, there is an immediate and obvious conflict of interest. As a reader, you start to lose trust in the blogger and her content.
This ethical question isn't a new one, to blogging or any other form of communication. All writers and all media have found themselves dealing with this.
Pick up any magazine and there's a good chance you'll find an article that turns out to be an advertisement about half way through. Other publications run press releases, slightly edited, as stories.
Watch the morning “news” and you’ll find your NBC news staff telling you about new NBC programming.
I agree, Jeremiah, this is growing - it is an obvious win for both marketers and bloggers. The bloggers are the ones who have the questions to ask of themselves. How far along the shill-line are you willing to walk?
This is a personal question.
As readers ... do we wish to read these? If not, we'll vote with our links and our attention.
Update: Read Write Web has an excellent response to all this.
We respectfully disagree with Forrester's recommendations on this topic. In fact, we think that paying bloggers to write about your company is a dangerous and unsavory path for new media and advertisers to go down. We recognize that it's a complicated question, but we don't feel convinced by Forrester's conclusions regarding those complications.
Defenders of the tactic argue that it doesn't differ substantially from traditional advertising, that it's effective for advertisers, that bloggers want to profit from their writing and that with proper disclosure there's no loss of credibility for either party.
Blogged at Modus Cooperandi, in Seattle