Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is the Answer Disclosure or Context?

Another follow-up—this one to a post on compensating Mommy bloggers that I recently wrote for Reaching Women Daily. In that post, I argued for disclosure of any compensated blog post and suggested some guidelines for marketers who want to reach out to the vast blogosphere of mommy bloggers. (If you’re not aware of the vast network of connected moms or are looking for data, you might find this recent report by Razorfish and Café Mom useful.)

So I was interested in today’s 3-minute Ad Age video, an interview with one of the founders of BlogHer.com. According to the interview, they have a different approach to disclosure. It’s not on a post-by-post basis but requires the creation of separate blogs for compensated posts and those that are purely personal opinion. View the video here.

I searched the site (I’m not registered, but I didn’t find any parts I couldn’t enter) and I didn’t find an example of what Elisa Camahort Page describes in the video. I also couldn’t find a community rule that specified it exactly. What appears to be the newer BlogHerAds section may be the execution of the “context” policy, although what it says in the editorial policy is:

Contains editorial content that has been commissioned and paid for by a third party, and/or contains paid advertising links and/or spam. Every opinion expressed must be the true opinion of the author.

They certainly are concerned about blogger compensation; so is the FTC, which is still in the review process but intends to issue guidelines that will affect bloggers as well as other endorsers.
However, I wonder about the context issue. Thinking about how people read (or perhaps how much they often ignore), it seems to me that a disclosure policy like the one I reproduced in the post or a segregation of compensated posts still may not be enough.

If each post that had compensation (including “freebies”) associated with it had a simple disclaimer statement, wouldn’t that be better? That way it’s precisely where the content is located, not in a disclosure or an about this blog statement that might not be read.

That’s where it would be most visible and most meaningful. That would be good for readers; less good for marketers? Maybe, although in the long run, I still believe that transparency rules!

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