Freebies, Disclosure, and Monetizing the Blog…

The other day Joey deVilla (a.k.a. “Accordion Guy“) added 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.

Flickr – The Next Stock Photo House?

Photo by GAVATRON @ Flickr, Some Rights Reserved - See Flickr Page
Yesterday a well known restaurant here in Toronto, Sassafraz, quite literally went up in flames. 29 fire vehicles & 135 fire fighters worth of flames to be exact.

Being the news hound that I am I immediately checked out one of the local TV station sites where, about an hour after the fire started they finally had exactly three photos up, all pretty much showing the same thing.

Unsatisfied, and in a whim of “I wonder if….”, I pulled up Flickr and typed “Sassafraz” into the search field. Up popped a dozen photos of the fire, some of them far superior to what the media had released up until that point. (See current results here – there’s now 2 and a half pages of photos). If I were a professional news photographer this would send a shiver down my spine.

I brought this incident up last night at the TorCamp get together as, what I considered, a good example of just how much things are shifting in the media space. Some discussion was had around Scoopt, who takes consumer/non-professional photos and try and license them to mainstream media – They also have just started making a push to try and get Flickr users to proactively start feeding them photos.

Then someone asked the question that had never occurred to me – “Why hasn’t Flickr gone down that route?”

When you stop and think about it Flickr is sitting on top of a gold mine of material – what would it really take for them to essentially add a “License this Photo” to the photo view (alongside the “Blog This” etc.). There’d be some upfront work in sorting out license agreements (Exclusive/Non-Exclusive/Length of Terms etc.). People could opt out or not enable the feature on their photos if they wished but if they distilled it down similar to what the Creative Commons guys did it could be a really sweet addition to their suite of products that allows both themselves and the users earn some extra bucks. I know I’d be more inclined to try it out.

(Photo by Gavatron)