Robert Scoble posted over the weekend about whether there should be more debate or critique over the use of ad programs like Adsense or Chitika by bloggers (as there was earlier in the year with Marquis paying bloggers to post about them. His post caused a bit of a stir among some publishers who didn’t feel the comparison was fair.
I’ve been mulling the issue over in my mind the past few days since reading his post and would respond with a few brief points:
Firstly I welcome the debate, critique, discussion and feedback on all types of income earning possibilities for bloggers. I think the professional blogging community is strong enough to take a bit of constructive robust discussion on the topic and would probably grow and be strengthened through more talk on ethical topics.
Secondly as I’ve reflected upon Robert’s comments (he wrote “no one complains about bloggers taking a similar deal from advertising companies like Google and Chitika.”) my mind goes back to the many times that I’ve seen discussion, critique and complaints on the topic over the past two years. Now this could just be that I write on the topic and have keyword alerts on terms like Adsense – as a result I see quite a bit of debate and critique that might go under the radar of other bloggers.
Thirdly – Part of Robert’s critique is that there is pressure to give advertising networks what they want to hear if you’re chasing dollars on your blog. I would respond to this by agreeing with him in part – every day I see bloggers doing things that I believe compromise themselves in the chase of the dollar. I constantly see certain bloggers recommending products that they show no evidence of using and reviewing products that they could not possibly have had a chance to get their hands on (recently I saw a ‘review’ of a camera that hadn’t even been officially announced yet).
Having said this I would argue that all media that runs advertising actually face the pressure of presenting content that panders to advertisers. Last week I watched a lifestyle show on TV that had a segment was so obviously just a marketing spin for a particular product – it gave a glowing review with no critique or downsides mentioned. Of course in the next ad break there was an advertisement for the very product.
In fact it’s a problem that goes beyond media and advertising. How many businesses feel the pressure to recommend certain products above others because they get a higher commission or because their profit margin is higher on those products. I know of one camera sales guy who admitted to me recently that his boss tells him to recommend one brand of camera because of the increased profitability of it even though it’s not as good a quality as another brand.
Bloggers who don’t run ads fall into the same temptation – how many smaller bloggers pander to the opinions of larger ones in the hope that they’ll get the attention of the big blogs and possibly get a link.
I guess my point is that Robert makes a fair point but that it is not just entrepreneurial bloggers that face these types of pressures.
Robert himself has been accused numerous times over the past 12 months of pandering to his employer in his blog. While I don’t agree with the criticisms he’s been on the end of – I’m sure at one time or another the temptation to put a spin on something might have entered his mind if he’s human.
So we all face such pressures to compromise from time to time – it’s part of life. I’m not arguing that this means we shouldn’t discuss it as it pertains to blogging (or that just because some people do it we all should) – just that we need to do it acknowledging that it’s something that most people struggle to find a reasonable place on in life – not just those pesky unethical bloggers with ads.
I’ll be honest and say that I’ve felt the temptation to give advertisers exactly what they want all the time over the past couple of years. It would be a lot easier to write glowing reviews of every camera that comes my way and put an affiliate link next to all my false recommendations – however I have come to my own position on this and have chosen to only give genuine recommendations and critiques (I doubt I’ve ever reviewed a product that didn’t have something wrong with it) of products or services. This decision is based upon both my ethics but also business sense. Readers see through one sided reviews and it’s not in my best interests to only give the positive spin.
I’m still thinking this one through (in fact it’s been something I have pondered on a regular basis since I started blogging – and maybe even before) but would be interested in others thoughts.