What Price Integrity?

As an interesting follow on to the previous session on blog monetization, I attended a panel on maintaining integrity on blogs when you do advertising or promotions on your site, featuring Danny Brown, Gini Dietrich and Eden Spodek. A lot of this is about transparency and disclosure; one audience member said that she writes paid reviews on her blog but that although you can buy her review, you can’t buy her opinion: there’s a fine line here. This is particularly an issue for lifestyle bloggers, since they often receive offers of free product in exchange for a review; this might be seen as being less of a “payment” than cash, although it still constitutes payment.

When I write a product review here, I am never compensated for that, although arguably it can impact my relationship with the vendor and can lead to other things, including paid engagements and conference trips. That’s quite different from being paid to blog about something, which I don’t do; I’ve had offers of payment from vendors to blog about them, and they don’t really understand when I tell them that I just don’t do that. Of course, you might say that when I’m at a vendor’s conference where they paid my travel expenses and I’m blogging about it, that’s paid blogging, but if you’ve ever spent much time at these conferences, you know that’s not much of a perq after a while. In fact, I’m giving up potential paid time in order to spend my time unpaid at the conference, so it ends up costing me in order to stay up to date on the products and customer experiences.

By the way, my “no compensation for blogging” doesn’t go for book reviews: it is almost 100% guaranteed that if I write a book review, the author or publisher sent me a free copy (either paper or electronic) since I just don’t buy a lot of books. I currently have a backlog of books to be read and reviewed since that’s not my main focus, so this isn’t such a great deal for either party.

The key advice of the panel is that if you do accept free product or some other payment in exchange for a product review, make sure that you remain authentic with your review, and disclose your relationship with the product vendor. In some countries, such as the US and the UK, this is now required; in places where it isn’t, it’s just good practice.

I was going to stay on for a session on webinars but the speaker seems to be a no-show, so this may be it for me and PodCamp Toronto 2011. Glad that I stopped by for the afternoon, definitely some worthwhile material and some food for thought on monetization and integrity.

2 thoughts on “What Price Integrity?”

  1. Good points, Sandy – I agree with you about the fine line “getting paid” versus “getting paid to have a particular opinion.” – it is just too hard for readers to trust that, and there are too many examples of people who write reviews, who become affected by who butters the bread.

    No one pays us for what we blog at BP3, and no one has ever offered to : )

    But we do have some clear biases, based on products we work with that we think work well, that hopefully are obvious to the reader. I think you can have a bias and still write critically about both products you like and products you don’t – if people understand your bias it may cause them to give more or less credence to particular opinions, but this is a judgment they can make for themselves.

  2. Hi Scott, for some reason your comment was dumped in the spam folder, I just fished it out 🙁

    I know that you used to work at Lombardi and now run a business that focuses on Lombardi implementations, but it might be a good idea to disclose that (and any other vendor partnerships that impact your revenue) on your blog so that all readers will understand your biases. I disclose all my vendor customers on my Legal page.

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