Bloggers Criticized for Microsoft “Spokesblogging” Ads

    June 25, 2007

If you’re reading this post on Monday morning, boy did you miss a flare-up over the weekend. I don’t even know where to begin!

Blog StormThe summary is something like this. Some well known bloggers provided quotes for Microsoft ads run by Federated Media. Valleywag jumped on the opportunity to question the ethics of said bloggers. Some bloggers, such as Om Malik, apologized, while others stood their ground. Federated Media’s John Battelle apparently tried to explain his actions and apologize, which annoyed the heck out of TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington.

There’s so much more to this story, but it’s Sunday evening and, well, it would take a huge post to summarize everything. I’ve not read every detail, but here’s what I’m thinking.

It should be obvious that a quote in an ad unit is a paid endorsement. It should be, but it isn’t always the case. There should be a hard line between editorial and advertising. There should be, but that’s not always the case. Perhaps you should make a disclosure statement, any time you sign a deal with an advertiser – regardless of whether the ad appears on your blog or some other site – although that’s not always practical. A general blog disclosure statement is a safety net for any blogger who accepts advertisers or paid endorsements. Having a disclosure statement tells your readers, “hey, listen I may actually have my unbiased blogger’s hat on right now, but you should know that I do, at some point, receive money from the company I’ve just discussed.”

If you’ve read the blogstorm, leave a comment and let me know where you stand in the debate. In the meantime, here’s our disclosure statement. We link to it whenever we mention an advertiser and it’s linked to from every blog page, in case we forget or you’re just curious.