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Tech Blogging & Transparency

September 4, 2012

The Guardian has an interesting story up that raises issues of blogging and transparency:

The incidents have exposed a dark underbelly to technology reporting and blogging – in which companies offer rewards to bloggers, who often do not acknowledge that they are writing posts not for their news value to readers, but because they want to get free products and even trips. Not disclosing such motives is against Advertising Standards Authority rules laid down in 2009, as well as the consumer protection law, as shown by a 2010 investigation by the Office of Fair Trading against a company called Handpicked Media.

Quiqueré, who has been a “brand ambassador” for Samsung since 2010, was told she had won a competition to come at the company’s expense to the Olympics in London in August, along with a group of bloggers. She went expecting to be a guest at events, because Samsung was a major sponsor of the Olympics, for which it paid more than $100m.

Instead the group found that the six-day trip involved barely any visits to events. Instead they were meant to create promotional videos and photos, and fill out daily reports on what they had done. They were also instructed to upload videos of promotional events to their personal YouTube accounts – an instruction that Quiqueré resisted strongly. She says that by the end of the five-day trip she saw two events – a table-tennis semifinal and a volleyball eliminator. “We didn’t have the chance to see the Olympic stadium or participate [in] other festive events related to the Olympics,” Quiqueré complained. “The most embarrassing thing is the surreal feeling of being trapped.”

People blog for all sorts of reasons; fun, money, interest. Mine is a mixture of interest and work, in that my blog is a window into who I am and I use it to promote projects I do. I’ve always been very clear about that and I have a disclosure section at the bottom of the About page covering this. But regardless of what I’m working on, my blog is my voice. I only blog about what interests me and I’m the only editor of what I choose to run. I do get approached by companies and individuals asking me to run stories and my general policy is to turn them down, as this is my space. I have no problem with bloggers advocating for things they care about or like – indeed that is the point of much blogging I see.

The key however is transparency. Readers need to know where you are coming from and so understand what you write in that context.

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