There is good intel and bad intel out there. Good intel puts an end to epidemics and shows us how to find our way to Mars. Bad intel gets you things like war in Iraq, or a Zune for Christmas. Intel is everywhere. It is our most common commodity. Good intel is very valuable, bad intel is worse than value-less, it is harmful. The problem is: how do we figure out what is what?
I’ll digress for a minute and then come back to that.
I used to always tell people that they should only blog for themselves. Don’t do it for readership, don’t do it for dollars; do it because it means something to you. Do it for yourself, and the rest will follow. Lately, I haven’t been taking my own advice. I have been blogging for dollars rather than myself. This very post, in fact, is paid.
This raises questions. What are my motivations? How honest am I being? Should you believe me? Do I even believe me?
There was a time when any advertising on blogs was seen as a Very Bad Thing. And there are still bloggers who espouse that philosophy today. However, the practice has become commonplace. It is accepted. It is, even, blessed by many of the biggest names in the blogosphere. The influence-makers.
And it then becomes not so far of a leap to go from advertising to sponsored posting. In one case, you take money from advertisers who want to promote their products on your blog with copy they have written. In another, you take money from advertisers who want to promote their products on your blog with copy you have written. Same-same, but different, right? If it’s marked as a sponsored post, the reader knows it’s an ad. Just as they realize the Adsense box in your sidebar is an ad, right?
Or maybe the reader does not. Maybe the reader can’t discern between the authentic and the inauthentic. Maybe this is due to the reader not paying attention, or a post that isn’t completely clear, or perhaps even a deliberate act on behalf of the blogger.
What does that say about the wisdom of crowds? About bloggers as information providers? There is a huge fight right now, being dragged through the courts in a variety of cases, attempting to sort out whether or not bloggers deserve the same protections as journalists. Some have made the case that they do not deserve to enjoy those protections as they do not play by the same rules. I'm not so sure about that.
Mike Wallace was a pitchman for cigarettes. Advertorials appear in everything from your local 6:00 news to Time magazine. Rules? I’m just going to allude to a song about rules by the band !!! here, and let you Google it on your own.
If anything, paid posting represents yet another maturation of the blogosphere. Another sign that it is catching up with mainstream media. That it is the equal of mainstream media. Today’s blogger is not the blogger of 1999 or 2001 or even 2003. Broadband, free hosting driven by cheap storage, and remarkably easy to use software tools have come together to remove any vestige of techno-elitism that once served as a barrier between the everyperson and blogging. Motivations have changed. Your notions of purity are laughably quaint. The best we can hope for is transparency.
How do you know who to trust? How can we sort things out?
I don’t know. But I do know someone who can serve as a guide when you need help deciphering agendas. When you need to try to determine the answer to the question: is this intel I’m looking at good, or bad?
That person is your local (or net-based) librarian.
I think librarians are awesome. I like how they help you differentiate good from bad information and how they can help you make sense of a confusing world where information providers have all sorts of differing agendas based on all sorts of things. A librarian will not steer you wrong. They are the real deal.
This has been a sponsored post.