Crazy Pills

Selling Conversation by A Milder Despot
April 7, 2009, 3:13 pm
Filed under: A Milder Despot | Tags:

A good blogo-buddy of mine has brought up an intriguing development in the blogo-world: sponsored blog posts.

There are certainly pros and cons to this idea. But I’m not too worried. We’re fortunate that the blogospherozoid world has remained a relative meritocracy to this point and I can’t see “sponsored posts” becoming too corrupting. Readership is gained in the blog world either through quality of writing, mainstream establishment of character, shameless self-promotion, amongst other popularizing factors.

Yes, there’s the obvious likelihood that sponsored posts would to a certain extent be an impossible-to-ignore influence upon the writer. However, the responsible and trusted established bloggers would surely be honorable enough to follow Forrester Research’s suggestion and have a contract that said that they would have to post that their writing was being sponsored and that they could be able to write whatever they want.

I see a few things happening. The most gold-standard-inclined of the bloggers would reject “sponsored posts” out-of-hand as a necessarily corrupting influence and never have writing of the sort. There will be another tier of, as I said, trusted and established bloggers willing to either shill for a product in the way that someone would act as an advertising spokesman and with the clear caveat that they were being paid for said writing. There would also be that group of writers completely willing to sell themselves for the dollar, effectively becoming ad spokesmen. These would lose their credibility within the honest blogging world and be almost marginalized as effective voices. Obviously there will always be people willing to do this, but I’m unconcerned that those blogging types would retain any kind of real credibility or audience.


4 Comments so far
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Thanks for the link!

I see this as pretty much non-threatening to the political blogosphere (although who knows, I guess.)

Also, saying that the blogosphere is a meritocracy is a pretty controversial claim. I’m in the middle of an interesting book that lays challenge to that claim:

Comment by Movers&Shakers

I also don’t see this as a problem, since to be a “blogger” doesn’t really require much by way of journalistic standards. So if you’re being sponsored, you’re essentially an advertiser. In my mind, its no different than if GE started a blog on their webpage talking about their latest products. Its a blog meant to shill for GE, and you take it for what it is. Isn’t one of the big things about the internet that it increases transparency (though not really because people are still anonymous in their posting, but stay with me on this one), so if somebody is running a corporate blog like that, you would know. I don’t think anybody goes to a blog though looking for the gold standard in journalistic integrity. Most of them are just opinions anyway.

Comment by fluffly

Henry Farrell considers some related topics here:

Scroll down to “How could the norms structuring the blogosphere be disrupted by money?”

Comment by Movers&Shakers

Interesting stuff. I have, of course, been considering strictly political blogs in this context and the example described in the waltfrick blogpost (that is, a political blog explicitly writing about something vaguely nonpolitical, like K-Mart). The “astroturf” blog becomes a problem in terms of authenticity though not necessarily message. If an astroturf blog is ‘reporting’ blatant lies or misinformation, legit blogs should be able to point this out and overcome. Additionally, would an astroturf blog in the Thune-Daschle case be covered under campaign finance laws? Seems like they may be if the money is coming from the Thune campaign or the RNC itself… but I could be wrong.

Comment by A Milder Despot

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