in Marketing & Media

Some Bloggers Can Be Bought, But Not Me

ProstitutionI disagree with the FTC’s idiotic new requirements that bloggers must now disclose payola or material exchanges of goods with marketers. I agree with and live by the principle of liberal disclosure on this blog and in my personal life, but I don’t like government meddling in my speech.

Furthermore, these regulations fall apart in execution and manifest as a can of worms and contradiction. For example: Why is it that mainstream media journalists can accept payola or freebies and chose to not disclose, but I, as a blogger, can’t? I occasionally experiment with advertising technology systems that place contextually relevant ads next to my posts. If I mention a camera and trigger a Canon ad which brings in some revenue, must I disclose that? Or is it not necessary to disclose that revenue from a Canon ad because, with advertising revenue, this blog officially becomes professional? What about legacy, mainstream sites that have morphed into blogs? Indeed, most news sites now look more like blogs with all the same commenting and interactive functionality.

Regardless, as noted above, I try to live by the principle of liberal disclosure when material relationships or exchanges may bias my views, or appear as such. I say “try” because as a human, I’m imperfect and disclosure is a subjective behavior. The Globe And Mail’s Simon Houpt interviewed me on this subject the other day, in reference to my participation in the Sony Digidads project:

“Disclosure is good,” noted Max Kalehoff, one of the Digidads participants and an executive at a New York search engine software firm who says he has never taken any money to blog about a subject, and would not do so because it could harm readers’ perception of his integrity. “I have to live with that digital bread crumb for the rest of my life.” He added, “I would look much more to my reputation and the court of public opinion as an enforcer rather than government.”

For all readers of this blog: First, thank you for your kind attention. Second, the FTC rules are kind of a joke. Third, my promise to you and myself is that I will always strive to be transparent and authentic. Fourth, I can’t be bought.

(Photo credit: MarkHaertl)

  • http://twitter.com/robleathern Rob Leathern

    there are definitely double standards about online vs. the offline world in many things including behavioral targeting, data, and now this. But remember that in a sense, everyone compromises themselves by NOT writing about certain things that would go against their client/partner/company's interests, and so, in that way, everyone I believe sells out in their blogging. My point, apart from the pedantic, is that there is no such thing as objectivity (really), just degrees of transparency in our subjectivity.

  • http://www.attentionmax.com maxkalehoff

    I agree 100%. Similarly, that's why I always say I will “try” to be transparent and authentic. The fact is that I'm human and therefore imperfect. I sometimes make mistakes and get things wrong, even if my intentions are good. Moreover, disclosure is dependent on materiality, and that's certainly relative and subjective.

  • MaryAnnHalford

    Max, great post and right on . . . you also zero in on the hypocrisy of what goes on in mainstream media versus bloggers. If we require bloggers to disclose all of their affiliations, why shouldn't mainstream journalists be required to do the same?

    Furthermore, bloggers only can build a real following based on authenticity and not the perception of authenticity that mainstream journalists can bathe themselves in.

  • http://www.attentionmax.com maxkalehoff

    The principles are good, but the FTC regulations are messy and full of contradictions. Btw, what about email subscribers to my blog? Do they need to be informed as well?

  • http://socialmedianetworking101.com Ed Bisquera

    Max, you bring up some great points in the post and one that I've had questions and concerns about.

    Journalists are looking more like bloggers and bloggers more like journalists everyday, IMHO. I think, why do EITHER have to be bothered with all this worry over “selling out” or whether or not the FTC is going to “tax your words?!”

    Max, I need your help in dealing with an opportunity to connect with and speak to the Journalism school and professionals here in my neck of the woods. What is the future of “self-publishing” or “citizen journalism” and does the blogger have a role in influencing the future of journalism? I know you as a blogger have a role to be authentic and transparent. I appreciate that a ton.

    But, in reality, can't we all be “bought” somehow? What constitutes being “bought?!”

    Ed

  • http://www.attentionmax.com maxkalehoff

    I think legally, the issue is deception. But personally and practically, the issue is trust. I think citizens will play a greater role in journalism, and journalism as a profession will be redefined. By definition, a profession is comprised of professionals, who uphold a standard that not everyone else can. Citizens are encroaching on traditional standards, so journalism will need to create new standards that others can't so easily achieve — if it is to remain a profession.

  • http://bondsocialmedia.com Ed Bisquera

    Max, you bring up some great points in the post and one that I've had questions and concerns about.

    Journalists are looking more like bloggers and bloggers more like journalists everyday, IMHO. I think, why do EITHER have to be bothered with all this worry over “selling out” or whether or not the FTC is going to “tax your words?!”

    Max, I need your help in dealing with an opportunity to connect with and speak to the Journalism school and professionals here in my neck of the woods. What is the future of “self-publishing” or “citizen journalism” and does the blogger have a role in influencing the future of journalism? I know you as a blogger have a role to be authentic and transparent. I appreciate that a ton.

    But, in reality, can't we all be “bought” somehow? What constitutes being “bought?!”

    Ed

  • http://www.attentionmax.com maxkalehoff

    I think legally, the issue is deception. But personally and practically, the issue is trust. I think citizens will play a greater role in journalism, and journalism as a profession will be redefined. By definition, a profession is comprised of professionals, who uphold a standard that not everyone else can. Citizens are encroaching on traditional standards, so journalism will need to create new standards that others can't so easily achieve — if it is to remain a profession.