Taiwan blogosphere recently resumed the hot discussion about bloggers’ advertising / marketing post — but the topic goes hotter this time.
richyli[zh] started the debate with a blog post “How to insert product ads more effectively via bloggers / journalists : using Junket“[zh]. He highlights Weblogs Inc.'s rejection of “junket” practice. (Junkets are free trips that PR firms and the companies they represent provide to journalists in the hopes of getting favorable reviews for their products.) However, he wonders if such “noble” stand really works as junket is really attractive and effective:
其次，拿人手短乃人之常情，人家招待你去外地旅遊，現在很多招待部落客的 Junket 甚至還有「車馬費」，你能不寫嗎？通常答應參加的同時就已經默認稿子會被處理了。如果參加了 Junket 之後不乖乖寫稿，除非真的夠屌，夠大牌，媒體夠響亮，否則下次絕對不讓你參加。這對於旅遊線的記者沒什麼，但一般線的記者，或者部落客，「損失」就很大 了。還有，人家的好意，你再怎麼「平衡」，老實說都是騙自己的。
It is quite normal that you would say something good about a person if that person is good to you. When they offer you an opportunity to go traveling for free, or even give you subsidy in the junket package, it is highly unlikely that you won't blog about it. Let alone if you promise to go for the trip they treat, you also tacitly promise to write something. Suppose if you join a junket and don't blog for them, they will not let you join again unless you are a A-list blogger or famous enough. This may be not so attractive for travel journalists. But for other journalists or bloggers, it is too good an opportunity to be missed. Besides, when people treat you nicely, even though you keep reminding yourself to be “balanced”, eventually you are just cheating yourself.
DearJohn[zh] holds a different opinion. In a post entitled “Other bloggers’ articles are advertorials, is it your business at all?“, he argues that the ethical regulations of bloggers should not be the same as that of journalists. Moreover, readers do not pay for reading blog posts. In this sense, bloggers have the right to select what they want to say and write. It does not matter whether the posts are PR ads as long as the contents are compelling:
My conclusion is that it is not the point at all whether bloggers take advantage of the blog to write advertisement or whether blogs insert product promotion! What really matters is whether these blog posts are well written and compelling. If the articles are poorly written or the photos are poorly taken, no one will be interested in reading them, even though the blogger tries hard to promote the product, right? In other words, even if some bloggers accept the treat or the remuneration for writing a product ads, as long as the article is well written and received, what's wrong with that? There is no fraud at all. If the writer and reader are fine with it, why others should be mad at it?
For the debates regarding sharing / marketing and disclosure / conceal, Portnoy used a two-dimensional diagram[zh] to “disclose” his position, with one axis from “complete disclosure” to “complete conceal”, and another one from “personal sharing” to “pure marketing”. Then, wenli writes a similar post entitled “Dear friends of blogger, I am here“[zh] to mark his position.
Apart from the discussions about the issue, some debates are directing to individuals. In the post “So many coincidences in the world[zh],” SpinalCord mentions that Tina[zh] is not just a blogger who “shares good things with her good friends,” but also a Yahoo! auction seller with more than 1,000 ratings[zh]. In response[zh], Tina and her supporters emphasize the point is, “the blogger shares good things and orders them for us.”
SpinalCord also talks about another famous blogger in Taiwan in another post[zh]. He questions it's really unusual that amarylliss[zh] has so many bottles of yoghourt drink[zh] in her fridge. He assumes the post is advertising, not sharing. TSUBASA[zh], her husband, writes a post[zh] with a list of grocery stock at home, including 15 kgs of flour, two boxes of coffee, and dozens of red wine.
It may be the same situation, same invitation and the same ”utilization”, but the respect they showed made me feel that I can write articles as a professional commentator, not as a blogger who writes advertising articles under the pressure of returning a favor or making a profit. As for this PR firm and its clients, I think they got something that money cannot buy.
This post is co-translated from Chinese by GV chinese team, the author would like to thank the help from Leonard, H. Y., and abstract.