The other day Joey deVilla (a.k.a. “Accordion Guy
to the ongoing saga
of the free Ferraris w/Vista that Microsoft gave bloggers around Christmas (the Acer, not the car). Microsoft’s intial stance was basically “Do what you think is right” when the bloggers were finished reviewing them ( Suggestions were: keep it, use it for a contest or send it back) – after the initial uproar they changed it to “Uh, maybe you shouldn’t keep it”.
Seems the traditional media finally clued into the story a week or so ago as a columnist from the Sun (should I have put quotes around “Media”?) took him (and bloggers in general I would say) to task for accepting the machines or other perks that are being offered to them occasionally – his suggestion was that the traditional media would never accept such “bribes”.
It’s about trust
At the end of the day the whole debate is quite silly. I think what traditional media forgets is blogging is still much more a personal medium then editorial. The bloggers I read are people I know, know of, or am turned on to by other bloggers/people I TRUST.
Yes, there’s the Splogs etc. out there, and some people are going to generate the PayPerPost crap but at the end of the day consumers need to take some responsibility and consider the source. If it’s just some random blog that I encounter randomly via searching I’ll hunt around for additional sources before coming to a conclusion on something – “I read it on the Internets so it must be true” just doesn’t make the cut.
It’s about Disclosure
I think the key point where this debate hinges on is disclosure. Certainly both bloggers and traditional media share the same obligation to disclose certain facts or events that people should be aware of which may or may not have influenced their opinion.
I think in the bloggers realm that’s more than enough. A “just so you know Microsoft gave me this kick ass system with their new OS on it to review” is more then enough to inform a reader that they need to decide whether or not they trust the source or to keep on moving.
From what I’ve seen there wasn’t any pressure (maybe a “it’d be nice if you could…” but nothing forceful) to post anything, positive or negative, about the system or it’s OS. Personally I trust Joey and will take his review(s) at face value.
Also with a freebie there’s little value attached to it. Yes, the system is worth about $2K, but it wasn’t something Joey decided on – so he has no feelings of having to justify his “purchase” or decision.
It’s Not About Monetizng the Blog
Last but not least I thought it might be good to lay out my own “policy” here on the blog.
Ads – yes I’ve got ads scattered around the page. Right now there’s blogkits, text link ads and adsense powered ads placed here and there – why? Truth is I like to experiment and learn about the different systems/economies that are at work. At current click through rates I may get a check from Google sometime in 2025.
Amazon – yep have the affiliate links too. Again part of it is to just play with the system and part of it is that it allows me to easily grab images of book/DVD covers etc. when I post something that requires them.
In both cases I have no interest in optimizing the blog to increase click-throughs etc. – Like most people I won’t say no to the extra buck or two but the reality is I’ve got no intention about trying to play professional blogger etc. And if you’ve read for a while it’s probably pretty clear I’m not topically driven by what has the highest bounty on click throughs.
Free Stuff – Shortly after this story started I encountered a video blog post (EDITED: Here it is – it was Loren Feldman @ 1938 Media) where he outlined the ridiculousness of the situation and made his disclosure statement which was basically (paraphrasing here) “If you want to send me stuff fine. If it’s something I’m interested in I’ll use it and I may or may not blog about it, if I do blog about it I’ll be honest so make sure whatever you’re sending me is good”.
Sounds like a pretty reasonable policy to me – like most I’d never say no to free stuff but as you can probably tell by my disgruntled consumer posts I’m not the kind to pull punches. So on the notion of disclosure/review policy I think I’ll simply end with a “What he said” – if you make something that you think is up my alley I’m happy to try it / play with it but I’ll also be honest about it. Perks / Free Stuff & enough money for half a can of Coke all all just side effects of blogging, none of them are primary motives (at least for me).
Disclosure: “Free beer won’t guarantee a better review but it certainly might cause me to forget some of the negatives” – I’ll be sure to disclose if free beer was involved in the process of reviewing.