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The Economy, Ethics, Blogs and Marketing

There's a hot debate over on Twitter this morning today regarding the K-Mart/IZEA/Blogger campaign and the ethics of bloggers taking money to write posts. Marc Meyer's Direct Marketing Observations blog has a good post documenting the discussion. I'm re-posting my response to the question here:


It’s definitely a slippery slope. Does anyone *really* know the bloggers their reading? Probably not. Ultimately it’s up to the reader to make that call. Bloggers have to make a living, and readers should understand that, but as Chris is finding out it’s about expectations of the reader from the blogger.

Ultimately Jeremiah is right - it does lessen the credibility of the blogger over time. Want evidence? Celebrity endorsements still mean something to some people but ultimately are met with skepticism. In this case the objective of the campaign was reach, and that was achieved. Will KMart see an uptick in sales as a result? It’s going to be impossible to tell because of the economy and benefit that bargainesque stores, including KMart, are seeing.

As someone on the WOMMA Member Ethics Advisory Board, the bloggers disclosed that they were paid. I’m not sure what more you can ask of them.


I want to know from you, as a marketer or blogger (or both): Is this the type of campaign you would engage in? Would you consider it ethical or unethical? Taking it a step further, does it diminish the credibility of the blogosphere and, as John Bell from Ogilvy theorizes, turn the blogosphere (and social media) into yet another media channel for the media buying agencies?


Comments

Tonja said…
Paying bloggers to review isn't the best idea. However, what is the answer? Advertising as it exists now is dead. Newspapers are dropping like flies, TV viewing is down and banner ads? Yeah, try to get the ROI on that one. Advertising needs to change it's model, but I don't know what that model will be. However, if bloggers don't get some sort of payment (ads, etc.), they won't keep publishing for free, at least not full time. Obviously I don't have all of the answers but I feel like we're headed towards a big change ...
Jim Wagoner said…
This economic mess started with the housing market and likely won’t recover until the housing market recovers. Why can’t the banks/lenders drop mortgage rates to the 3.5% area, keeping them in line with the historical margin (1%) above the 10 year treasury? Maybe use some of the $350 billion+ bailout money to help subsidize it, if needed. Maybe get some useful help from the government.

If homeowners could refinance their mortgages and save hundreds of dollars every month on their payments it would have a much greater affect on the economy then a one-time check for $500 (which really does nothing), and it wouldn’t cost us taxpayers anything. If people saw rates at 3.5% and knew they were only going to be there for a few months to a year, I believe we would see people stampeding to buy houses.

The other thing that could/should be done regarding refinancing is figuring out a way to allow just about everyone to do it. No more Loan Modifications. Just let everyone get their payments to something they can afford and hopefully create extra income for most. Spending would pick up, saving many businesses, creating additional income and ultimately additional tax revenue.

Why wouldn’t this work? What am I missing?
This is a great topic to debate and like Marc says, "Bloggers have to make a living, and readers should understand that..."

So I think it is ethical and unethical. If you are trying to make a living and honestly review a product and offer up your opinion, I see nothing wrong with this idea. Conversely, if you just write a glowing review of a product to get a paycheck and you do it on a consistent basis, this seems unethical. Again, it comes down to the blog readers to make a decision for themselves. Are they going to purchase a product based solely on a blogger's opinion or are they going to conduct their own additional research.

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