Blogging for money — ethical?

Is the blogging world becoming polluted? Is the line between paid advertising and unbiased opinion becoming blurred?

These are the questions being asked in today’s Los Angeles Times (p. C1).

Several companies, including PayPerPost, ReviewMe, Loud Launch and pay bloggers from $5 to $20, and sometimes up to $1,000 per blog review of products. The concern, I suppose, is not that there is the advertising in blogs, but that sometimes there is no disclosure that the blogger is being paid to write a review irrespective of whether the blogger actually believes the statements of the review.

These companies generate lots of dollars to pay bloggers; they are middle-men for the new industry. In fact, some of these companies are actually raising millions of dollars from investors to advance their business interests.

I wonder how this (paid blogging) is different from stars being paid to stand next to a car, or a product being inserted in a film’s background — for a cost to the promoter/advertiser? Or, for legal technology gurus-consultants being paid (in dollars or in kind) to promote certain products?

There is no "disclosure" requirements in these areas. What is unique about the blogging world? Isn’t it caveat emptor anyway? Don’t readers know this is "opinion?" Who would believe everything written, just because it’s in black and white?  Are bloggers journalists? And, if so, do all journalists make full disclosures of sources and reliability?

Apparently, the FTC, as of December 2006, has gotten into the act — saying that it "…would be on the lookout for deception."

Oh, and not to leave lawyers out of the picture, the article concludes with reference to a law firm that told bloggers to "’get creative, have fun with your post, and help spread the word’ – the word being that the (birth control) patch was killing and injuring young women."

I could have handled the argument, pro and con, in the article … until mention of the law firm. While advocates, it does seem unethical for a law firm to get involved promoting the interests of a political perspective (or client) in this fashion. Perhaps, I’m old-fashioned, but I do hold lawyers to a higher standard. But, then, why should I?


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