The Boston Globe raises concerns in "For a fee, some blogs boost firms" about businesses paying bloggers to tout their products without either party disclosing the relationship.
Blogger transparency is
It's a valid issue, but the Globe's piece on Boston.com doesn't offer the ability for readers to post comments, one of the best mechanisms for making journalism transparent. So, unless you go hunting, you won't see that some of the bloggers are responding on their own sites to the Globe's story:
Susan Kaup, a blogger who has some complaints about the story, says on her own weblog, "At least we have our blogs to set the record straight." Whether or not Kaup has legitimate gripes with the story, why not let her respond directly with a post that Globe readers would see?
Jeff Cutler, another blogger featured in the story, also responds on his own site. His blog has the same shortcoming as Boston.com, no ability for anyone else to comment.
More critical comments about the article here at pc4media.
So, the blogosphere is buzzing with discussion about the Globe's article. But none of that discussion is happening on the Globe's site, costing Boston.com some potential traffic. More importantly, should the Globe wish to respond to the criticisms of its article, it doesn't have a visible vehicle for doing so.
The Globe story quotes Ed Shull, the CEO of USWeb, saying, "'In our opinion, paying bloggers is no different than Tiger Woods getting money to wear the Nike logo."
The difference, of course, is that the public is well-aware of the endorsement deals that athletes have. Most people know that when Tiger Woods wears a Nike cap, he's being compensated to do so. I don't think that most people would assume that a blogger who mentions a florist is being paid for the reference.
It's all about disclosure: that the payment is being made and what, if any, control the business has over what the blogger may say.