Blogging For Dollars- Is It Ethical?

The LA Times has an interesting story running in the business section today. It is called:

Blogging for dollars raises questions of online ethics

Here is an excerpt:

“Blogger Colleen Caldwell rants and riffs about whatever strikes her fancy — a run-in with her child’s school principal, the rising price of Girl Scout thin mints, an upcoming movie that caught her eye.

“Has anyone out there read a book called ‘The Ultimate Gift’? I just heard that a movie is being made of the book (which sold 4 million copies),” she wrote in a recent post on her site, Simple Kind of Life.

The 30-year-old software analyst from Brooksville, Fla., went on to praise the inspirational message of the Fox Faith film, which opens today, about a trust fund baby who discovers the joy of giving. Caldwell noted that each member of the opening-weekend audience was being allowed to direct a dollar of the ticket price to a charity of the filmgoer’s choice.

One thing Caldwell didn’t mention: She was paid $12 to build buzz about the movie’s opening and the charitable campaign — bringing her blogging-for-dollars take to more than $7,700.

Thousands of bloggers are writing sponsored posts touting such diverse topics as diamonds, digital cameras and drug clinics. The bloggers are spurred by new marketing middlemen such as PayPerPost Inc. that connect advertisers with mom-and-pop webmasters.

Some of their fellow bloggers are critical, saying the industry is polluting the blog world and misleading consumers by blurring the line between advertising and unbiased opinion.

“The problem is the advertisers are trying to buy a blogger’s voice, and once they’ve bought it they own it,” said Jeff Jarvis, a City University of New York journalism professor who writes about technology at BuzzMachine.com.

“PayPerPost versus authentic blogging is like comparing prostitution with making love to someone you care for deeply. No one with any level of ethics would get involved with these clowns,” said Jason McCabe Calacanis, an entrepreneur who co-founded Weblogs Inc., a network of blogs that includes popular technology site Engadget.

The bloggers who take assignments from the likes of PayPerPost, ReviewMe, Loud Launch and SponsoredReviews.com call the hubbub overblown. They say the services provide a way to make a profit or keep their blogs going. Technorati, a search engine that tracks 71 million blogs, says 175,000 are created daily.”

In concept I am quite fond of the idea of being paid to blog. I love doing this. I find blogging to be easy, interesting and enjoyable which seems to me to be the ideal recipe for the perfect job. It is no secret that I have spent time trying to figure out how to make money off of this medium. Up until now I haven’t done much to try and make that happen.

Two years ago there a mild flirtation with Google Adsense that didn’t really go anywhere. After I broke that off I stayed away from any sort of ads on the blog. It was only a couple of months ago that I decided to try it again with WebAds which is still clearly different from the pay-to-post model discussed above.

My dream of being paid-to-blog is different from the paid-to-post model mentioned in the article but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t considered it. I can’t say that I have strong feelings about it, at least not yet. I need to think about it some more. The one thing that does strike me is that for whatever reason the attraction was not strong enough to make me sign up.

I am not sure what is causing the uncertainty as I have had it for a while. I need to spend some more time considering this.

What do you think?

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9 Comments

  1. Jack's Shack March 12, 2007 at 4:53 am

    Shoshana,

    If you don’t blog for yourself your blog won’t survive.

    Miriam,

    Full disclosure is important.

    Irina,

    Again, full disclosure is important.

    Paula,

    Makes sense to me.

    Babka,

    They should say so. As I said earlier full disclosure is so important.

    Mark,

    I follow what you are saying.

    Ezzie,

    Makes sense.

    Misanthrope,

    Good question.

  2. The Misanthrope March 11, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    B2 has learned to make a couple of bucks from our blog. I haven’t found the right opportunity yet, if ever.

    As far as the article is concerned, plugging products for money is sexless prostitution. Or is it politics?

  3. Ezzie March 11, 2007 at 10:26 am

    I have no problem with ads per se… as long as they’re clearly ads. As for the rest, what Miriam said.

  4. Mark March 10, 2007 at 12:49 am

    I’d sell out like a two-bit whore in a quarter factory.

    Why not? It’s what we all do and call work, anyway. If I hire someone to do anything, I expect them to be ethical. But I don’t pitch a fit about it unless they prove not to be.

  5. The Babka Nosher March 9, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    I don’t think I have a problem with it as long as the blogger is very up front about it. It would certainly shade how I read their writings… would they say different things if they weren’t being paid/sponsored by a specific company?

  6. Paula March 9, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    If a blogger reveals that she’s getting paid for a post, I don’t have an ethical problem with it, but I probably won’t be much interested in reading it either. As far as ads, I don’t have any and don’t like ’em, but I will tolerate them on blogs I like. I never click though. To me, the blogging thing is about conversation and interaction, not money. If I want to pay to read something, I’ll buy a book.

  7. Irina Tsukerman March 9, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Although personally I’m not inclined to do that (for a variety of personal reasons), I’m not sure why paying per post can be considered unethical. It’s just another blogging choice/use of blogging for advertising.

  8. miriam March 9, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    I don’t mind ads, as such. I do mind bloggers recommending books or movies for money without revealing the fact that they are being paid.

  9. Shoshana March 9, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    I don’t know exactly how the model of PayPerPost works. In general, I’m against ads on blogs (or at least my blog) because I don’t really do it for the money, I blog for myself. However, I can’t deny the attraction of being paid to blog, especially if you were still given the freedom of what to blog about. If the PayPerPost thing gives you the option to choose what to be paid to post about, then I don’t know that I would have such a problem being paid to promote something that I might have chosen to blog about regardless. But if it doesn’t you give you such an option, I would probably pass it up and keep my credibility and integrity to blog about whatever I want.

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