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?