Over the last couple of years, there has been a lot of talk about sponsored posts, freebies given to bloggers (and traditional journalists), and (more recently) about the recently-mandated FTC disclosure guidelines for bloggers. I've written about this stuff before - here's my December 2008 post about how Loren Feldman and Julia Roy handled disclosure in their Izea/KMart sponsored posts. And I've also linked to this comment on a Mashable post about the forthcoming FTC disclosure rules.
Steven Hodson recently posted his views about some of the doings reported in a Los Angeles Times article about the ways in which major companies are trying to woo the mommybloggers. Hodson's ire was particularly raised when he saw this quote in the L.A. Times article:
Christine Young, owner of the From Dates to Diapers blog, has a closet full of free baby products she never liked. She hasn't mentioned them in her blog.
They're still there, sitting on the shelves, waiting to be donated.
"My business is not to bash companies," said Young, 32, who lives in the Sacramento area. "My business is to create buzz for the products and services we enjoy."
Apparently Hodson wasn't the only one who reacted negatively to Young's statement, because Christine's husband, Ray, has posted a rebuttal. Here's an excerpt:
Christine will only talk about products, brands or services that she enjoys and trusts personally. If she doesn’t like it or if it fails in some way, she won’t talk about it. In fact, she has put together boxes of products to donate to Goodwill after deciding not to endorse them for one reason or another. You’ve never heard anything about these products from her. That’s because she’s decided not to brand bash – this site is all about our family and what we like and enjoy, not what sucks. For that, she gets criticized by some.
And it should be noted that Young does disclose. For example, if you look at her October post about the upcoming FTC guidelines, and scroll to the lower right of the post, you will see a disclosure statement, as well as a link to a disclosure page.
This policy is valid from 22 May 2008
This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. This blog does accept forms of cash advertising, compensated giveaways, and sponsorship. We will and do accept and keep free products, services, travel, and event tickets from companies and organizations. The acceptance of such gifts will never influence the content, topics or posts published on this blog.
While I am compensated to provide my expertise (in the form of my consulting services), I am not compensated for reviews of products or services. I always give my honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on any topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider, or party in question.
This blog may contain content which might present a conflict of interest. This content may not always be identified.
For questions about this blog please contact me at email@example.com
To get your own policy, go to www.disclosurepolicy.org
For my part, I have disclosed in the blog posts themselves, and although I sometimes joke about it a bit, the point remains that I am disclosing. In fact, the next time that I write about a particular northern California-based company, I'll need to make another disclosure.
But back to the Los Angeles Times article. The article also made a brief refrence to an organization called Blog With Integrity, so I went and checked out its website, which includes this pledge.
By displaying the Blog with Integrity badge or signing the pledge, I assert that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is important to me.
I treat others respectfully, attacking ideas and not people. I also welcome respectful disagreement with my own ideas.
I believe in intellectual property rights, providing links, citing sources, and crediting inspiration where appropriate.
I disclose my material relationships, policies and business practices. My readers will know the difference between editorial, advertorial, and advertising, should I choose to have it. If I do sponsored or paid posts, they are clearly marked.
When collaborating with marketers and PR professionals, I handle myself professionally and abide by basic journalistic standards.
I always present my honest opinions to the best of my ability.
I own my words. Even if I occasionally have to eat them.
The About page tells about the four people who had the conversations that resulted in the creation of the pledge. And what were they conversing about?
After a spring and early summer of polarizing debates about blogger compensation, sponsored posts and product reviews, an alarming increase in ethical lapses and idea theft, and a growing backlash against poor blogger relations practices, we believed it was time to refocus on integrity.
The Blog with Integrity pledge recognizes that there’s no single right way to blog and more than enough room in the world for different approaches.
What matters is the relationship with our readers. Meeting our commitment to them and to our community. Clear disclosure of our interests so they can evaluate our words. Treating others with respect. Taking responsibility for our words and actions.
Now voluntary pledges and FTC enforcement won't result in a perfect world. For every Liz Gumbinner or Chris Brogan or Loren Feldman or Julia Roy or (I'm eating my own words here) Christine Young, there are going to be people who take money or goods on the sly and don't mention it in their glowing praise.
But it's a start.
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