Thursday, September 09, 2004

Blogs go Legit, Again

The evidence continues to grow that blogging is evolving into more than a disconnected world of informal discussion. yesterday published Net Notes: Companies turn to blogs to track buzz, in which reporter Michael Bazeley explored how blogs are now being used by companies to more effectively tune into their respective markets.

It also touches on the whole pay-no-pay discussion that's made the rounds in recent weeks. I initially wrote about it here last month. To make a long story short, would you trust what you read in a blog if you knew the writer was being paid? Does commercial gain necessarily compromise editorial bias? Will any move toward increased commercialization of this medium fundamentally change the way it works?

Lots of food for thought here. As Linda Richman would say, "Discuss."


Oz said...

Well, I think you know my feelings on this topic, but I thought I would chime in again anyway. I decided that it DOES change the tenor of blogging. How could you not be influenced by the idea that you're getting paid? If a person didn't care about getting paid, that person wouldn't have signed up for the ads in the first place. And let's say, just for the heck of it, that the person, in fact, was NOT influenced by the ads. There's the other side of the blogging experience that's just as important--the reader. As a reader, when I see a blog with ads, I am inherently suspicious.

So what am I saying? It's impossible to make money from advertisements in your blog? No, I'm not saying that. I think the way to do it is to have random adverts that are NOT content related, and then give the bloggers payment through that. That way, if your blog draws a large crowd, you'll get some money. However, since your content is NOT influencing the ads, you can't tweak your blog with an eye towards making money.

Even that is not a perfect system, as it could make people want to write about things that will draw a large audience specifically for the purpose to having them click on the ads. But I think that's a lot less dangerous than having the ads be content related.

carmilevy said...

Very good point. I face that conundrum every time I write for a newspaper or other commercial medium, and I don't think the issue will ever move away from the varying shades of grey that exemplify its existence.

To the credit of the media outlets with which I've been associated, I've never been asked to slant my coverage one way or the other. The Chinese Wall has always been unbreached. Indeed, the only paper that ever had the temerity to have its reporters write so-called "advertorials" doesn't even appear on my resume any more. I refused outright, then quit before my journalistic integrity was dashed forever.

It's a fine balance, because something and/or someone has to pay the bills to keep free speech operating. And even then, it's not completely free. I have to watch what I say because I post under my own name, and anyone - a reader, an editor, a prospective purchaser of my work - can surf on in and determine that I'm either really good at this writing thing, or a total idiot.

I am, of course, banking on the fact that my blog is sufficiently entertaining and worthwhile to garner a positive opinion, but you never really know. Building that kind of trust relationship takes time, and forces us to toe a certain kind of line. This applies regardless of the site's degree of commercialization.

Decisions, decisions. Regardless of what we decide to do, it's wonderful to live in a part of the world where we still have the right to choose.